I met Hot Stuff my first week at college. One hello from him, one look at his humongous, clear blue eyes, and that was it for me. I was determined to date him.
Two weeks later and he still hadn't asked me out. (I know, what was wrong with him??) Some friends asked me to go to a late movie and, figuring why not, I went and asked Hot Stuff if he wanted to join us--my treat.
Nine months later we got married.
(Umm, for the record, I was a teen bride but not a teen mother. We had Nayna right before our two year anniversary and two weeks after I got my degree. I was just an overachiever is all.)
There were many, many things that made me confident Hot Stuff was someone I could be happy with for the rest of my life. I remember one night, homework finished, we sat next to each other on the couch and...read.
Yup. We read. Different books. But I thought to myself, if sitting next to him on the couch reading makes me this happy, this is right. And after a while of dating I knew I could look for the rest of my life and never find someone who made me happier than just being with Hot Stuff made me.
We never fought. Still haven't had an argument to this day. There was never any uncertainty, never any games, never a question of whether I liked him more than he liked me and how I could get him to like me more. I never, ever felt insecure in our relationship or bad about myself. From that first date we liked each other, and then we loved each other, and then we got married, and turns out we love each other even more now. (And we still sit next to each other on the couch and read, because we're wild and crazy like that.)
For a real life story, I think that's about as beautiful as they come.
However. Can you imagine how that love story would play out in a novel? She liked him! Then he liked her! Then they loved each other! And they read! On the couch! And ordered pizza Saturday night so they could have it for Sunday dinner together! And they walked home from classes together! And sometimes Kiersten thought it was funny to throw berries at Hot Stuff on their walks home from classes, and even though he kind of thought it was obnoxious, she was so cute he put up with it!
Drama-free, which is exactly how real life relationships should be. Fictional relationships, however, need a dash of drama. I could live in my love story forever (and I am!), but you would probably fall asleep. Or claw your eyes out or something.
So all of these things we've talked about--love triangles, bad boys, relationships that use borderline abuse in an effort to be dramatic and sexy--well, they exist for a reason. We want that vicarious thrill, that will-they-or-won't-they-fall-in-love. That who-will-she-choose. That wow-how-hot-is-it-that-he-nobly-refuses-to-rip-her-throat-out-no-matter-how-much-he-secretly-wants-to. (Okay, maybe I could do with a little less of that.)
The trick isn't in avoiding stereotypes entirely. They are common because they work. The trick is focusing not on the cliche or the trope, but on the characters and the relationship. Is it terrible if you have a bad boy? Absolutely not. It's how you make that bad boy into a person, how you make that relationship into one that is gripping and compelling and different. Make that bad boy your own. Make that triangle honest and believable. Make that good guy the most freaking interesting character ever written. Make that borderline abusive relationship...well, on second thought, please for the love don't write one of those. Or if you do, don't tell us it's sexy.
Don't worry about doing anything the right or wrong way. It doesn't need to be like every other story out there, and it doesn't need to be completely different, either. If your romance is genuine, and we connect with and care about your characters, you're doing it exactly right.
And if you want to write fanfiction of Hot Stuff and me reading together on the couch, well then by all means, have at it. (But don't forget his bee powers. And I'd like to be 5'7". After all, this is fiction we're writing, isn't it?)
Thanks for playing this week, everyone. I've loved reading the comments. And Lend would like me to tell you that PARANORMALCY comes out in exactly four months, at which point you can see just what, exactly, I do when writing relationships. For now, tell me: do you worry about cliches and tropes when you write, or do you just write the story that comes to you?