Why do authors still go for insta-love?

It’s no secret that pretty much everyone dislikes insta-love in novels. Two characters that just by looking at each other are instantly smitten makes us roll our eyes. There are cases when we can tolerate it or even sort of like it, but that doesn’t happen often. There are endless posts and articles out there talking about this trope and why people find it annoying, yet authors still use it in their books. Whenever I encounter it, I think to myself:

Don’t they know that the book community rejects it with a passion?! Are they writing it on purpose or are they oblivious to the fact that they used it?

No matter how much hate it receives, this controversial trope still makes appearances in many many books. It is especially evident in Young Adult novels, but Contemporary and New Adult books do not fall far behind. So today I thought I would ramble a bit on my thoughts on it and why I think authors still go for it.

I think one of the biggest problems with this trope is mistaking insta-love for attraction. The former relates to quickly becoming involved with a person, caring about them, their needs and feelings without actually knowing them that well. So, pretty much jumping into a relationship with a stranger for whatever reason:

  • They have nice eyes.
  • They smiled.
  • They are mysterious.
  • The characters crashed in a hallway and all the books fell from their arms, making them the clumsy star-crossed lovers of this generation that will save the world and beat the odds to finally be together forever and ever.
  • I might have gone too far with that one… but you get what I mean.

Attraction, on the other hand, is simply that feeling of connection towards someone, which could grow to become something more with time. It’s pretty obvious that a key word here is time. A real relationship needs time to grow so the people involved can get to know each other and actually know if they care about the other person or not.

My biggest pet peeve when it comes to insta-love is whenever the characters meet, feel attracted to one another and by the time they meet again they are already professing their love. They jump from attraction to insta-love! There are no conversations in between, they don’t learn anything about each other, but they still think they are a match made in heaven. However, sometimes authors develop the relationship from there on and I can tolerate it, but others don’t even do that.

As a reader, one of my favorite things about a book is character growth. So whenever I encounter insta-love, it breaks my heart. It’s a missed opportunity to explore the characters! So, why is it so common? Let’s look at some of the reasons I came up with:

  • Writing relationships is hard. Capturing a relationship on paper is not simple and insta-love provides an easy way out. Maybe the problem arises when they want to transform that initial attraction between characters into something more smoothly, but the plot doesn’t allow them to spend too much time developing it.
  • Authors don’t realize it’s insta-love. This might be a flaw in character development or relying too much on what the people involved think of each other instead of actually putting them in scenes together to interact.
  • They see it in other popular books and replicate it. Authors are readers and constantly pick up book in their own genre. Because of this, they all draw inspiration from one another intentionally or unintentionally. For example, the infamous phrase “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding”. I kept seeing in one YA novel after the other – I was baffled. Forgetting to breath couldn’t be that common! It had never happened to me, so why were all these people saying that? Then I realized that, just as I had noticed, authors who read the same books had too. Maybe they liked the phrase, maybe it got stuck in their mind without them knowing, and they replicated it in their own novels. Whatever reason, it had an influence among a circle of similar writers. The same thing can be said for insta-love.
  • They don’t know readers hate it. Maybe they are really disconnected from the online book community and they have no idea how much people complain about it.
  • They truly enjoy it. Maybe they find love at first sight thrilling and including it in their novels is fun for them.

No matter the reason, insta-love is alive and well in literature. Is it what readers want? I really don’t think so. Insta-love isn’t realistic and it’s not a cute fantasy. We love reading fiction and made-up worlds, stories and people, but we expect all of these to be founded on realistic human emotions, motivations and relationships. We want to relate to what we are reading to an extent and insta-love doesn’t allow it. For me, this trope is a shortcut that deprives us of exploring proper interactions between characters and I have to say… I would not miss it if authors never used it again.

Those are my thoughts on insta-love and now I’d love to hear yours! Do you think authors should stop using this trope? What other reasons do you think make writers still go for it?

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45 thoughts on “Why do authors still go for insta-love?

  1. I personally find it annoying too. It’s a reason why I stopped reading YA for a while. I was tired of these flimsy relationships being grown from a glance or some chance interaction. Though, if the author loves the trope and writes it–more power to them. I don’t think authors should stop writing them if they enjoy it, but I think it’s overused and is a cop out most of the time.

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  2. Great post! I’ve always assumed it was because they feel like they can’t create a growing relationship or display the proper growth of a relationship in such a short time. In 200-400 pages etc. But I like your reasonings too and it’s a very good question that I would love to know the answer to! 🙂

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  3. Agreed, agreed, agreed and… agreed.
    I honestly don’t know what more to say, because I totally agree.
    As you probably know, Insta-love is probably my worst enemy in books.
    I honestly couldn’t agree more with everything you just wrote (:
    “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.” – LOL, once you realize it’s there… there is no escaping this sentence. It’s *everywhere*.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha I’m glad you agree! It instantly kills the mood when reading a novel and you find it, right?! In my mind it goes on something like this: “Oh no, please don’t let this be insta-love, please plase ple… Oh it is… WHYYY!?”.
      Oh yes, when I notice that sentence there was no turning back. It was in every.single.YA novel.

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  4. Agree with all of this! I don’t think I’ve read a book with insta-love where I’ve enjoyed the relationship. Also I just don’t think it’s realistic I’ve been with my fiance for four years and I can honestly say he’s the love of my life but I wasn’t instantly attracted to him, it took time and finding out more about him and it’s been the same with past serious relationships too

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  5. Oh my goodness, yes! I wonder this too! I feel like instalove has got to be the #1 most hated trope out there, there is almost no one who likes it (I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who said they liked it, but I imagine there are probably at least a few people out there who do), yet authors just keep doing it. I think the reason is probably what you said about how writing relationships is hard. But like you said, it’s a shortcut that robs the readers and makes me feel less invested in the relationship. Even if the plot only happens only a short period of time and that’s the reason… well, I feel like the characters don’t *need* to be in love by the end if it’s not a long enough amount of time. Why not just let them be attracted to each other start getting to know each other and give a HFN ending that implies the characters will end up together and in love? I’d much prefer that over instalove.

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  6. I have to agree it is a pet hate but I can think of one novel where it actually worked. I am not sure why writers keep doing this but I think its slowly changing

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      1. How to save a life by Emma Scott…but now I wonder if it was attraction or Insta Love but I think it was integral to the story for their love story to happen quickly.

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  7. I love this post, Esther!!

    Instalove is the WORST. I definitely understand when characters have an instant attraction, but when they’re proclaiming their love for each other the second time they meet (or worse the moment they meet) it makes me roll my eyes so hard. I’m not the biggest fan of romance in general because I can’t connect to it, but it makes even harder when the love is instant. I need to see build up. In Stealing Snow, which I read recently, there was 3 cases of Instalove and I just wanted to put the book down and never pick it back up, haha.

    It confuses me why authors keep using this trope too. They must know that the majority dislike it. All I can think of is that it’s for the reasons they mentioned. They either don’t realise or see other popular books use it so they just go with it. It’s unfortunate though because it has ruined a lot of books that had potential to be incredible like The Star-Touched Queen.

    Now, if everyone could write a romance like Maggie Stiefvater did in The Raven Cycle I would be a very happy reader 😅

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    1. THREE? Jesus, that’s an overload of insta-love I don’t think anyone should be the victim of. I’m sorry that you experienced that hahaha. YAS, The Raven Cycle did that so well. I was in awe because by reading the blurb of Raven Boys you wouldn’t think that!

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      1. I started reading it without checking the blurb because someone recommended it to me. After some chapters I was wondering what it was about and when I read the blurb I was like… What? That’s not at all this book! I honestly think they should change it 😛

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  8. I am in minority here, but I like insta love if it’s done right.
    What I mean by that is that the feelings are strong immediately and the character THINK about how they fell in love and can’t imagine how would it be like to be without that other person, but they still don’t express their die hard love to one another like “I’d die if I lose you”.
    Believe it or not, but there are insta-love cases in the real life, so that’s not a fantasy. Maybe those cases are rare, but they do exist.
    And the third thing I want to mantion briefly is that I don’t think that writers actually think about overused tropes when writing, but they write the story that they want to tell. At least if they are writing from the bottom of their hearts and not bc their agent told them to write a certain genre with teens.
    I agree that sometimes authors probably go for over used tropes bc it easy to do so, after all they are tropes for a good reason: they work if done right.
    Also, I agree that buiding sexual tension and attraction that leads to love is harder to do then insta love thing, so maybe that’s also the reason for insta-love trope.
    And ohhh, that holding breath sentence…. I had a phase when it effected my blood preassure bc it was so over used…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohh, glad to see someone who likes it! I love hearing all perspectives. I totally get what you mean. Some tropes really can be done right and turn out to be enjoyable. As for writers thinking of tropes while writing, I think some don’t and other do. Writers are readers, and readers are aware of tropes inevitably. So if I were to write a book, I would know which tropes I enjoy and maybe include them, without forcing it, of course. I think it depends on the author, of course, and their writing style and approach.
      Hahaha, yes, that sentence got a bit annoying. But I did find it amusing that so many used it and then just laughed whenever I spotted it.

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  9. I’ve thought about this before, myself. I get annoyed by insta-love so much. I’m fine with insta-attraction and going from there in a slower get-to-know-you fashion. But I also don’t like the jump from attraction to insta-love. I’m also pretty fine with insta-love that is still developed well after the fact.

    And I’m not a writer, but I know writing relationships is probably really hard. You gotta get the character dynamics working, too.
    That thrill could definitely be a reason. Since it’s a rare occurrence in real life for an insta-love scenario (not to mention one that WORKS), maybe they just want that.
    Maybe that’s just the kind of story they want to write. If I can gloss over it and still love the plot, get along with the characters, I’ll keep reading.

    One thing I find most frustrating is when they do insta-love in a book that is the FIRST in a series… Use the series to build the relationship and romance! That’s what I like to see.
    So I get frustrated with it and prefer my books to have a more slow-burn style, but I’m pretty chill about it as long as it doesn’t get annoying.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t thought of series with insta-love! They don’t have the excuse of not having enough pages to develop the relationship slowly there 😛 Also, I hadn’t thought of it like that, like a rare occurrence in real life they want to explore. If you put it that way, it’s like the Chosen One trope. Obviously, that’s a ridiculous thing in real life, but we go along with it in fantasy books just fine because we know it’s just a book thing. Interesting!

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  10. There have been some instances when I don’t mind it, but for the most part, insta-love drives me insane. Maybe they don’t realize it’s insta-love? For them, it took them months maybe years to write a novel. So maybe in their head it doesn’t translate as insta-love? Or, maybe they’re just super disconnected, or their beta readers and editors are…..hahah I don’t know. But it is super prevalent still for something most people hate…

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

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    1. Like they love them so much they want the characters to love each other too? 😛 Oh yeah, they are always trying to save each other, save the world, sacrifice themselves, etc. I want to read a book with a selfish main character that doesn’t think of others first haha

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  11. ugh i really hate this trope! i don’t mind if the characters feel attracted to each other from the first sight, it’s normal, but when they professed their love 3 pages later… nope nope nope. i agree with you, translating love into paper is a hard work, so maybe that’s why the authors love insta love so much? it also helps to move the plot forwards sometimes, because “getting to know each other” needs a lot of development, and the author can’t to that because the world is crashing and burning around the couple xD great post, esther!

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  12. Excellent discussion post. I am in the majority of bloggers who do not like instalove. I dislike it so much that sometimes I will stop reading the book then and there because I cannot deal with it. I always find this kind of writing frustrating because it feels like the author is telling us about the characters’ relationship instead of showing us. I do agree that I sometimes think that authors don’t realize they are doing this. This is especially true with books with themes like “true-love” and “soul-mates.” The idea that two people are meant for each other must explain insta-love, but I personal think that it’s more rewarding to show the progression of a relationship (whether fated or not). Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you liked the post 🙂 I hadn’t thought of those themes, you are totally right. They want to convey that amazing feeling of connection towards someone, but it doesn’t translate well in most stories and that’s how insta-love is born. I think my wariness towards the Romance genre stems from that, which is a shame because I’m sure there are great books out there that aren’t like that.

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  13. YES! I agree with everything, Esther. I personally like reading a first meeting scene where the characters are very attracted to each other yet can’t explain the feeling to themselves! But when that attraction turns into insta-love, I literally just facepalm.

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