Plot Devices: Love at First Sight

This is one of my pet peeves.  Personally, I don’t believe in love at first sight.  Do I believe two souls can be destined for one another?  Sure.  But I don’t believe that’s love.  You can be drawn to someone upon first meeting them.  You can even feel attracted to them, but I feel you have to get to know them to fall in love.

When it comes to writing, love at first sight is one of my least favorite tropes.  I have more than once seen two characters suddenly both declare their undying love for one another without any preamble.  I’m ranting like this because I just read a book like that.  The MC was clearly attracted to this guy, but he showed little if any interest in her.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, they’re grappling and kissing and going crazy on one another, declaring their love to each other.  And I’m sitting there slack-jawed wondering what the hell just happened.

To me, I think this is a lot like a Deus Ex Machina.  The author wants a specific end, but has written him/herself into a corner.  Do I think there are times when these things can be utilized?  Sure, when the world generated by the writer allows for it.  For example, if you write a species of shifter that recognizes its mate upon first sight or scent (e.g. Christine Warren’s series, Stephanie Meyer’s series), love at first sight is utilized in a realistic and reasonable way which doesn’t seem to come out of left field.  But when it isn’t built into the world design, it can be extremely jarring, and detracting, to the reader.

Photo credit: Lel4nd / Foter / CC BY

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6 Comments so far:

  1. Pat Harris says:

    I appreciate your comments here. I’m working on a love story for New Hope 2 where the characters have a history, but the reader learns about the details of their history primarily through their thoughts, some of which come in retrospect, and in that aspect their love story happens rather suddenly. It’s challenge making it believable while at the same time involving the readers in their lives.

    Thanks for an insightful post.

    • Well, of course, that’s rather different than love at first sight, but it still presents a dilemma. I think the key in that type of situation would be asking yourself what obstacle held them back in the past which is missing now to make the love story progress so suddenly?

  2. Yeah, I don’t think that’s very interesting. I prefer the ‘friends first’ or ‘enemies first’ kind of love stories. 🙂

  3. My pet peeve leans more toward deus ex machina. A couple of months ago, i read a book by a new author. It was really good, (other than some non-native English language issues) lots of action, but about 3/4 of the way through this 500+ page book, the author threw in a deus ex machina. Then, a couple more times before the end of the book. I think it is a result of lack of planning coupled with unwillingness to go back into the ms and set up the scene right. 🙂 Good post 🙂

    • I totally agree. I feel like “love at first sight” is a category of deus ex machina (again, exempting situations where the building of the world allowed for it).

      I think the only situations where deus ex machina are acceptable are in comedies, parodies. You know, things like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or pretty much all the Mel Brooks movies. Something that crazy, it’s almost expected, and can have sizable comedic advantages. Any other time, it’s just laziness.

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