Once upon a time, there was a box. However, this box was literate. So, one day this box decided to read a book. The book was called The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. Box started reading it. At first, box wasn’t very impressed. As the story went on, Box just hated it more. One of it’s many problems was one so dark, so gruesome that I can barely mention it’s name. It is not exclusive to The Da Vinci Code, however. It has struck many books. Even in good books, right when box would feel snug and comfortable, box’s hopes would come crashing down.

Box had experienced this many times before. The feeling of a book that starts out great, that enthralls the reader, that has great potential, yet fails due to a tragic flaw.

However, it is especially wrenching every time. For some books do not fail because of something unavoidable. The usual bad prose, rushed ending, disappointing plotline were not here. No, those were absent.

This was something much more sinister.

It was easily avoidable, yet still, a dark, creeping beast lurking in the heart of every author—

It was the Forced Love Interest.

Many authors have suffered from it. Truth be told, it is not an easy thing to escape. After all, it has such a prominent role in the media – where, in most popcorn films, the guy always gets the gal (regardless of whether or not they have any chemistry), or the gal always gets the guy, or something like that.

Its rules are simple, yet malicious, and many writers fall for it. It does not care whether or not the two people in question have known each other for a significant amount of time, whether they go together, whether it makes any sense for them to fall in love. No, it does not care. It will match the two characters up immediately, regardless of these necessities. Its only rule is: if it will help the book sell, it’s good.

It will usually strike right for the heart of the story — the protagonist, most often, it so happens. Right where it will have the biggest effect.

Now, one may think, “So it is a love interest. Why care should we? Love is a good thing, no?” Well, you should care. Deeply. This fiendish creature will affect all aspects of the story- the prose, the plot, and, most importantly, the characters.

Oh, yes, the characters. It will change the very fabric of their being, every little aspect, and forcibly, to make them fit to the image of the Forced Love Interest. One may think “Oh, but the characters may do whatever they feel, it is just natural!” But it is not! It is not natural for characters to forcibly fall in love with someone they are not in love with! It will destroy your story! Your characters will not actually feel this way, of course, and thus they will seem fake.

Because this usually happens to the main characters, whom are in most scenes of the book, this will destroy your book. The fakeness will leak into every scene, every nook, every cranny of your book, until it overtakes everything.

But this is a cynical, withered out old box — it is not surprised when it sees a Forced Love Interest. However, it hurt so much, seeing such a promising book soiled by this, this dark, evil, beast.

And such an easily avoidable one, too.

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  1. SlyShy on 14 September 2008, 16:13 said:

    It is always surprising to me that authors think that they can get away with this. After all, other books will be entirely about a romantic relationship, and the characters still aren’t together. So clearly, romance is a more complicated issues than a lot of fantasy gives it credit for.

  2. Elanor Sarralyn on 14 September 2008, 17:28 said:

    Aaw. I liked Touchstone and Sabriel; from what I remember, they didn’t yell, “FORCED!” at my mind. But then again, 1) I’m biased, and 2) I’m the approximate equivalent of a pile of squee-mush when it comes to these things.

    Have you read the other ones?

  3. Lady Stardust on 14 September 2008, 23:00 said:

    Elanor: No, I haven’t read the other books.

    SlyShy: I was actually considering changing what i wrote to fit a Dan Brown novel (just pick and choose at random- they’re all the same novels with differently named characters) and I also find that fantasy is by far not the only genre this is of. And yeah, I really hate when authors think they can get away with it. It happens in movies all the time, too.

  4. SlyShy on 14 September 2008, 23:15 said:

    Come to think of it, this does happen in all sorts of places. Dan Brown was a good example… I think part of the problem is how much you can fit into a single book. If you want to write a book about an epic good vs. evil struggle, that can take up a whole book. And if you want to write a book about the deep relationship between two people, that can also take up an entire book. Now, for the people who happen to want to do both, this poses a problem. It can be hard to do both in full depth. JK Rowling has both… and it took her seven books.

    Maybe I’ll explore this idea some more.

  5. DrAlligator on 14 September 2008, 23:30 said:

    “Now, for the people who happen to want to do both, this poses a problem. It can be hard to do both in full depth. JK Rowling has both… and it took her seven books.”

    And yet, she still managed to have a forced relationship in Ginny/Harry. Ron/Hermione worked well, but they’re not the main characters…

  6. Lady Stardust on 14 September 2008, 23:54 said:

    I’ll be flamed for this but upon rereading Ginny/ Harry didn’t seem too bad.

    Granted, it wasn’t very cool for them to end up with eachother but maybe something happened and it just worked or whatever, I mean, there is alot that must’ve happened in the 19 years between DE and it’s epilogue.

    (Harry and Cho was very well written, though)

  7. Lady Stardust on 15 September 2008, 00:49 said:

    Because in real life, stuff does tend to happen in 19 years. During that time their relationship probably got much deeper.

    And knowing Rowling, she probably has a full bio for each.

  8. Lady Stardust on 15 September 2008, 01:04 said:


  9. SlyShy on 15 September 2008, 12:12 said:

    Elanor, you should write articles. That way you don’t have to dance in the comment section. You can dance in the article section. :P

  10. Snow White Queen on 7 October 2008, 22:24 said:

    eh…i didn’t like the ginny/harry match up either. i guess it was just me though…although i think rowling should have developed her (ginny’s) character more. she just seemed a little too ‘perfect’ for my taste, and maybe that’s why i didn’t like the couple.

    and yeah, i liked touchstone and sabriel too…still have to read the last book in the series! so far, i think lirael was my favorite.

    (digression over)

    anyways what are some examples of really GOOD love interests? that might be helpful to know too…but great article all the same.

  11. RandomVisitor on 7 October 2008, 22:46 said:

    Thanks for the great article Lady Stardust! It’s always nice to have one of those nagging, insistent can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it pet peeves pointed out…

    It’s very true that most stories (not even novels, necessarily – anyone seen Jumper? What a LAME excuse for ‘love,’ eh?) can’t seem to create truly believable, real love interests for their stories. It’s almost gotten to the point where I want to just leave the whole complicated business well alone for the movies to deal with.

    If I had to pick a genuinely good love interest novel, though, it would have to be Magician’s Ward, by Patricia C. Wrede (second in the series). The character chemistry in that book felt so natural that I wonder if the author herself was taken by surprise when it happened.

  12. SlyShy on 7 October 2008, 23:15 said:

    Good love interests: Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. But I’m one of those weird guys who has read P&P…

  13. Virgil on 7 October 2008, 23:20 said:

    I felt Ron / Hermione was ok, but my love interest sensor probably isn’t as sharp as the rest of you guys. You could tell it was there through most of the books, but it was only outright in… HBP? I haven’t read them in a while. Anyway that one seemed normal and realistic.

    And on Harry / Ginny, you realize how mutilated Rowling’s carcass would have been if she messed them up? I get the feeling she might have slipped up there, but who knows.

  14. SlyShy on 7 October 2008, 23:29 said:

    I was very miffed by Harry/Ginny. Although I won’t say she didn’t lay the foundations, because it was clear Ginny had a crush on Harry way back in the day. I think all that serial dating she did gave her some confidence, I guess. So she realized she was, in fact, in Harry’s league.

  15. Virgil on 7 October 2008, 23:37 said:

    It’s all really debatable. We can agree, even with the smallest of stretches, the various HP love interests are realistic.

  16. Snow White Queen on 11 October 2008, 19:51 said:

    no, slyshy, i love darcy and elizabeth too! i’ve read pride and prejudice thrice at least. it’s one of my favorites. stupid of me not to have thought of that, actually.

    anyways, i always thought that ron and hermione were meant to be. i mean, they bicker so much, they might as well be married!

    but this article has only reinforced my view that love interests need to be carefully done…

  17. Morvius on 18 October 2008, 09:11 said:

    Ron and Hermione being together was quite obvious…but for Harry and Ginny? I really felt that that came out of nowhere. Harry felt nothing for Ginny for most of the seven books and Ginny’s crush seems more like something that would fade away quite soon. (seems more like a girlish crush for a famous guy). In fact it was only in HBP when, all of a sudden, they started getting closer and by the end were apparently in love.

    At least for Ron and Hermione their constant bickering set the tone earlier on and in GoF Hermione shows obvious jealously when Ron goes out with another girl for the Yule ball (or was it the other way round?).

  18. Virgil on 18 October 2008, 09:12 said:

    It’s the other way around. But then Ron dates what’s-her-name in HBP, and Hermione is all huffy.

  19. Snow White Queen on 18 October 2008, 17:19 said:

    in any case, it’s fairly obvious that they would have ended up together eventually…we were just waiting for it to actually happen.

    (and virgil, i think you were referring to lavender brown?)

  20. Rhaego on 18 October 2008, 17:28 said:

    I don’t like Harry Potter.

    Before you pick up your stoning rocks, I have a good reason.

    In West Virginia, they make the elementary school children read books for bonus points. It’s called accellerated reader or something like that, and I don’t know if it’s national or not.

    Anyway, I was forced to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerrors…Sercorors…Flamel Guy’s stone instead of The Count of Monte Cristo because Harry Potter was worth more points.

    :/ go reading teachers

  21. Virgil on 18 October 2008, 17:36 said:

    Well, the rest of the books are much better than that one. I’m sure you’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo since then, so go back and relive childhood traumas.

  22. Rhaego on 18 October 2008, 17:39 said:

    I’ve read them all, I just don’t like them. That little episode just made me lose faith in the public school system.

    Especially since I still don’t know how to spell sorcerror…sorcerrer…damn magicians.

  23. Snow White Queen on 18 October 2008, 17:44 said:


    your school really did that?

    that’s weird. how’s dumas worth less points than harry potter?

    but you were reading (or were interested in reading) the count of monte cristo when you were in elementary school? dang now i feel stupid! (i was reading the boxcar children books)

    anyways, i’m surprised an elementary school would even include a book like that on their reading list.

  24. Rhaego on 18 October 2008, 17:52 said:

    I wanted to read it in sixth grade because my Uncle said it rocked and he watched the movie with me. (the old one in V for Vendetta, not the new one)

    It wasn’t that it was worth less points, it wasn’t registered at all because it was more advanced than a sixth grader was supposed to be interested in. I, however, had an uncle in college who thought that I needed to read instead of watch television, so by sixth grade, I had an eighth grade reading level.

    Now, however, I realize it was a little freaky to them for me to try and read it. I didn’t end up reading Dumas at all until like eigth grade or so.

  25. Snow White Queen on 18 October 2008, 17:56 said:

    well, i guess it’s understandable that they wouldn’t include dumas on the list.

    i mean, i bought the three musketeers in what, seventh grade, and quickly lost interest. maybe it was just that it wasn’t my type of book. i don’t know, i want to try it again though, if i can find it. (we moved a year ago, and half my books are still in boxes)

  26. Creature_NIL on 16 June 2009, 13:11 said:

    Hey Rhaego at my elementary school we had accelerated reader also, but I think Harry Potter wasn’t on the list. Or if it was I wouldn’t have been prohibited from reading it any way. Parents…Yeesh.