What is Love in Fiction?

Love, lust, desire, passion. As the selling point of romance fics, subplots, and fanbases, romance has been a strong theme in any tale. With the advent of LBGTQ+, more varieties have emerged. Readers enjoy romance for various reasons, whether they be psychological, physiological, or spiritual.

Romantic Payoffs

As with most stories, a romance promises a payoff to the reader. Satisfaction of seeing star-crossed lovers together, or sibling rivalry resolved. But be warned, an underwhelming payoff can seriously derail the reader’s opinion of the book, even if the rest of the plot was well done. Payoffs are that important.

Elements of Romance Novels

Every romance arc has two central features:

  1. Love Plot: The story, which is centered around the protagonists. In some novels, the love story is a subplot.
  2. Payoff: The climax of the journey between the two lovers. This is the satisfaction as the characters finally find each other without conflict.

A romance arc can vary in its themes: from contemporary to fantasy or sci-fi. The targeted audience can also influence the grades of sensuality expressed throughout the plot.

Often, authors will blend genres with romance to make a niche genre. Niches have grown in popularity with their abilities to target specific groups of readers. Over time, the role of men and women in arcs has evolved. Heroines play bigger roles, and LBGTQ+ opens a wide range of new, curious pairings.

Central Themes of Romantic Fiction

When examined, a love story isn’t much different than what we see in the Hero’s Journey. It has:

  1. An antagonist: This may be a rich uncle that doesn’t want his daughter married off, or it could be a disease that cripples one of the characters. Regardless, it pushes the protagonists onto the journey and keeps the stakes high.
  2. Mentors and helpers: Side characters that advise and aid the lovers in their quest to unite. This could be a magical, talking cat that finds ways to keep the lovers together.
  3. Losses, betrayals, or ordeals: This signifies the sacrifices and hardships of the Hero’s Journey. The more painful and arduous the journey is for the lovers, the more satisfying the ending should be. Remember, don’t undermine the payoff at the end. That’s the selling point.
  4. The Return Home: The classical Hero returns home with the Elixir and the Damsel; in the case of the romance genre, he resolves the conflict within his heart and merges with his love.

Describing Loving Emotions

Love is a complex emotion for us humans. Expression differs between men and women, children and adults, and even between cultures. Love can also overlap with other emotions like anxiety, fear, or joy.

The possibilities are endless with love. Generally, there are some descriptors that fall under the romance category:

  • smiling
  • licking lips
  • sitting on someone’s lap
  • hot flashes
  • joining hands
  • high-pitch voice
  • racing heart
  • horseplay
  • hugging
  • use of pet names
  • weak knees
  • laughter
  • tongue ties
  • trembling hands
  • a light, bouncing step
  • sharing secrets
  • daydreams
  • darting glances
  • bright mood

A Romance with a Thousand Faces

In Joseph Campbell’s work, he goes into depth of how stories are archetypes for us to follow. We all live our personal myths seeking to unite with our inner purpose. Romance is a blueprint in itself; the sexual union of the male with the female.

Sex isn’t necessarily physical, but also abstract and internal. We all hold masculine and feminine aspects within our hearts. We yearn for a fulfilling arc to our personal myths. To unlock the mysteries of our own existence.

Romance provides a blueprint, which reminds us of our own Hero’s Journey. It reminds us of what we strive for: divine union with the opposite polarity—with the rest of the universe.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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