Romance: enforced socializing

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
I love romance and read it a lot, although I don’t write it much. There are two major trends in romance novels. One: my NOT favorite: the insta-lust. The heroes meet and feel an instant, almost irresistible physical attraction. Afterwards, for the rest of the novel, they struggle with the said attraction (or fall to bed right away) and in the process discover that they like each other as persons after all. HEA ensues – usually. The most famous story of this kind is Romeo and Juliet – the ultimate case of insta-lust. And look how it ended! I’m not a fan of this kind of romantic fiction.

The other, much more life-like scenario is an enforced socializing. The heroes start by meeting because of a situation – at work or in the social milieu. Maybe they’re assigned to solve a problem together, or have to travel together, or he is a guest in her house, or they’re even set out to get married through an arranged marriage. It depends on the time-frame of the romance and its sub-genre.

In any case, they don’t like each other at first. They are too different. Their tastes in partners’ outer appearance run in different directions. They come from different social strata. Their personalities clash repeatedly. They don’t trust each other, because their goals are opposite, and so on.

They have to spend time together anyway, no choice about that for either of them. Often, they have to depend on each other in tight spots, and along the way, they learn about each other. More, they start liking each other, as their preconceptions and masks slip away. They develop mutual trust, and with it, at last, comes the all-important physical attraction, even if the protagonists didn’t consider each other pretty at first or thought that the other one is outright ugly. They stop seeing the outer attributes and concentrate on the inner beauty instead. Love flourishes.

For characters in this kind of story, personality is more important than physical appearance or sexual gratification, which could be found without any involvement of heart and soul. Remember the wide spread of prostitution in all the centuries but the current one. (Maybe this one too, I’m not sure.)

The most popular example of this type of story is Beauty and the Beast. It is my kind of story. I enjoy reading it. If I ever wrote romance, I’d go with this approach, but so many writers with a steady posse of fans prefer the other one.

What about you? What do you think of insta-lust? Do you trust it? Do you accept it as a driving force of a romance story? Or is enforced socializing more to your taste? Do your romantic characters experience insta-lust? Or do they follow another path and learn about the personality first, before indulging their bodily urges? Tell me in the comments.






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24 Responses to Romance: enforced socializing

  1. Happy IWSG Day. Interesting question, I don’t have a immediate response yet, will be back after my circus day 😉

  2. I’ve never had this explained to me before, and I’m so happy you did! Enforced socializing all the way, baby!

  3. I believe you’ve just pin-pointed why I hate romance novels. 🙂 That, and the shoddy writing. I like the more realistic approach as well.

  4. I must be on your side with this issue because you pretty much described the plot of my last book in regards to the relationship between the two main characters. The insta-lust thing doesn’t sound too appealing, but I’m sure in the right hands, it could work.

  5. Erika Beebe says:

    Hello Olga. I think instalust May work depending on the social situation and age genre, or even famous person instalust. Such as boy crushes everyone is crushing on in school, or how women are drawn to certain actors or musicians. I know my mom once met John F. Kennedy and said she was so star struck and he had such a magnetic gaze she could see why he had such a large women fan base. I think for me its character though. What a great topic to ponder. Happy IWSG day 🙂

  6. As a romance writer, I enjoy hearing the likes and peeves of romance readers. I agree that insta-lust is not a satisfying impetus for a fictional relationship. Overdone, it makes the story ridiculous. However, I prefer stories in which there’s some sort of spark between the main characters from the beginning. IMO, sexual attraction is a crucial element of romance, but it’s not always evident right away. The good stuff, the kind that alters a person’s life trajectory, takes time to develop. Then comes the forced proximity element, some external conflict that either forces them to work together toward a goal, or pits them against each other. My current project is a rivals-to-lovers story.
    Wishing you a happy, healthy, productive 2019.

  7. emaginette says:

    I never read romance unless it is elements in another genre. Funny thing about Beauty and the Beast that my son pointed out to me… It’s about falling in love with an abuser. He’s not wrong. Not something I would want any child to learn how to do.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    • Olga Godim says:

      I disagree. The Beast is not an abuser. He never hits the Beauty, or her father. He snarls out of despair, but he does the right things in the end. He doesn’t derive pleasure out of hurting someone else, as bullies do. He is a victim in this tale, not a villain.

  8. Great post! I hadn’t heard the term “enforced socializing” before now, though as you say it is a common setup in romance stories. Personally I much prefer enforced socializing to insta-lust, for a couple of reasons. For one, insta-lust stories often strike me as too unbelievable. But more importantly, I love the satisfaction of a slow burn, which is what enforced socializing offers.

  9. Insta-lust is just that – lust. And I don’t buy into it.
    I guess I’m old fashioned. I like ones where there is mutual attraction and common ground from the beginning.

  10. Interesting! Romance is not a genre I usually read or write, although when there is romance in any of the stories I do read/write, I prefer it to be more realistic than not.

  11. Juneta says:

    I like strong characterization and a good plot and world building in all genres, even romance which I read and a lot of paranormal romance types and urban fantasy. Any genre needs that for me to keep coming back for more. Happy IWSG.

  12. mlouisebarbourfundyblue says:

    I enjoy a good romance story, Olga. I think people who write romance stories are very brave. It’s really exposing the inner workings and longings of your heart, and I would feel like I was stripped naked for all the world to see. Certainly one of my favorites, which became quite a long series, is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon ~ Talk about being thrown into enforced socializing! I’ve felt “insta-lust” a few times in my life, but that never seemed like a solid foundation to build a relationship on. I’m solidly in the “enforced socialization” camp. All the best to you in 2019!

  13. Enforced socializing works so well for stories but doesn’t happen often in real life. Usually people like that forced to work together, like at a job, barely come to like each other, let alone fall in love.

  14. patgarcia says:

    Happy New Year!
    I hate those insta-lust books too. I always wonder why they can’t control their hormones.
    Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite. Just love it. I love romance and it is my goal to build a story that draws people in with a plot that has meaning and makes people think.
    Wishing you a great 2019 and much success in your writing.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  15. cleemckenzie says:

    I leave romance writing to others. I’d be a total flop at it.

  16. rolandclarke says:

    Having just had a romance short rejected, I realise that it was insta-lust – albeit with a diversity twist and also more mutual attraction. I need to take your comments/thoughts onboard and re-write it.

  17. I like the same type of romance stories as you or forbidden love. I only write them in other genre stories. That’s what I like to read too.

  18. Diane Burton says:

    All of my books (scif-fi, suspense, mysteries) contain romance, rather relationships. Although I believe in love at first sight, it more likely grows over time. I try to be realistic in my stories.

  19. Loni Townsend says:

    I think it really depends on the book for me as to whether or not I’m okay with the insta-lust. I know I suck at writing romances. The first version of one of my romances had the romantic interest getting killed in the end. Not much HEA there…

  20. I don’t mind insta-lust, but enforced socializing has to be done right for me to enjoy it. Adding vampires usually helps. 😉

  21. CV Grehan says:

    Insta-lust – thank you, thank you, for my new favorite expression. I might be the only person on the planet who hasn’t seen Beauty and the Beast. But ‘enforced socialization’ as you describe it, Olga, sounds like the Bridget Jones plot, and I’m very much on board for those kinds of love stories.

  22. yvettecarol says:

    I think it makes the story compelling if the insta-lust started something but then the relationship is interrupted and the journey becomes overcoming the obstacles in order to come back together and reclaim that state much later in the book.

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