Romance is an experience that virtually everyone has experienced. It’s relatable. Perhaps, and I do think it is probable, this is why it is such a common tool to find in stories today. Our society teaches us that love is what makes the world go round, and this is true to an extent, but it takes advantage of the fact that the English language has only one word to describe something that is incredibly diverse. The Greeks uses four words to differentiate and clarify on the topic of love; many of you have probably heard this and are familiar with it so I won’t really explain it. However, I would make the argument that when people say things like “love is what should guide us” or “follow your heart” they are referring to compassion as opposed to romance, as we commonly see it portrayed. But since our language doesn’t automatically differentiate between the two there has been a lot of confusion, leading to an imbalanced propensity towards seeking romance above all else. Bypassing the many sociological, psychological, and political implications of this statement, as a writer and a reader I find the trend within current writing towards the same to be both unnerving and tremendously annoying.
The truth is that romance should not be the driving force behind virtually anything—especially writing. With a few possible exceptions, if your story could not function without romance being overemphasized then it is probably not a good story. It is for this reason, among many others, that I found myself enjoying the recently released film Pacific Rim. Not only was it a beautiful film to watch as far as graphics, it was a gripping, relatable story that involved virtually zero romance as we commonly see it portrayed. There was not a single kiss in the entire movie. The main character and the female protagonist never really shared a moment. There was obviously some affection and some attraction portrayed between them, but it was so downplayed and realistic that it was refreshing. The story did not revolve around a romance between the main characters, it was a secondary, almost nonexistent story-arch that simply added to the story itself. Too often I feel like I’m watching a romance with a story added in secondarily instead of a story with a romance written in secondarily, and that is why I found Pacific Rim to be such a refreshing movie. And please do not misunderstand me, I’m not saying that we should never include in romances in our stories, but I’ve found that if a story can function without a romance it is usually more enjoyable than a story that revolves around a romance. Likewise, if you start with a good story and add a romance, you will probably have a better story than if you start with a romance and add a story.
As usual, I would summarize this post by saying that moderation is key. Do not write stories that are overly dependent on romance, but neither should you be afraid to add some romance to your story.