Sunday, February 15, 2015

Some of the Most Annoying Mistakes in Romantic Subplots

Post by Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley, co-founder

     In honor of Valentine's Day, I decided to compile a list of things that people find most annoying in a romantic subplot. I've gathered these responses from the One Year Adventure Novel forum, so that would be why there are such odd names attached to them.


     The girl who doesn't think she's pretty, but in reality she's smoking hot.

     The guy who says, "You're not like the other girls."

     Love triangles. But a love octagon would be interesting.

     One person always needs to be rescued by the other.


     When they don't belong.

     I hate it when a romantic sub-plot is not relevant to the characters outside of the actual's existing for itself. Plenty of character dev. results from it...but only in relation to romance. In other does nothing to actually do anything to the there's no reason for it. Why should I care?

     Or, when it's the flip. When it becomes all you're supposed to care about. Like...I don't care about if you get the girl or not dude, go stop the Dark Lord...seriously.


     A disregard for what people would actually have time for in the story. Romance will probably not work when you're on a massive all-consuming mission to save humanity and the whole galaxy from a near-unstoppable force. If you have the time and energy to engage in romance, why on earth are you not focusing more on the mission instead?


     Love triangles are demons kill it with fire please.

     I hate when a guy/girl chases someone who doesn't feel the same way for a long time and then suddenly they're like madly in love. That annoys me so much i can't even express it properly.

     Also it annoys me when people fall in love basically at first sight. a week, maybe even a month goes by and suddenly they will do anything for each other and can't keep their eyes off each other.


     Physical expression always being portrayed as the epitome of a romantic relationship, no matter the situation.  This is perhaps more of a moral issue with me, but is that REALLY the only way you can show the recently-widowed Ally's relationship to Ally II (for a random example)? 

     The guy and girl who hate each other and can't stand each other, only to come to love each other desperately by the end of the story.  This annoys me so much, and I've developed a pretty good ability to call it, occasionally even at the INTRODUCTION of Character II.  It can be a good plotline, I suppose, but I've seen far too much of it.

     Turning the Ally into the Love in the second book because the opposite-gender friends are older now, so, of course, that's just how it must work.

     Romantic relationships = best possible kind between any two characters.  Even when they've been firmly established otherwise/ it's forced/ etc.

     Characters in a relationship who nonetheless communicate as well as if they spoke totally different languages, leading to all the conflict.


     Characters that claim they 'need' the other person, and when they would literally let the entire world end just to save that person, and then they do it and it becomes an actual thing that happens in the plot. 


     Number one problem: They're all about The Kiss. Okay, I'm a hopeless romantic and a sucker for cuteness, but love is about more than your first kiss. It's commitment and sacrifice, something that a lot of romance plots and subplots completely disregard. Tangled vs Cinderella, anyone? If you can convince me (by showing me) that these people will stick together through whatever is thrown at them, support and protect each other no matter what, than yes, sure, I'll believe that they're meant to be together. If all you can show me is them making googly eyes and mooning over each other, you can forget it.

     So, there you have it. What a variety of readers/authors think about common mistakes in romantic subplots. Hopefully your readers will be shipping your fictional Valentine's like crazy.

When either person in the romance has no definition outside the other. I.e., they're only there for the other one. They have no thoughts, ambitions, hopes, behaviors, dreams, etc. Ex: Girl is there so the guy has someone to save, but has no purpose. (Not that having to have the guy save her is bad, but it's a negative thing when that's literally all the girl is there for.) Basically the love interest doesn't even have a character outside "the love interest".

Elisabeth TenBrink Kelley is an aspiring author and poet. To learn more about her, see our About Us page. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ElisabethGTK.

We have an art contest open for submissions, see the guidelines here. We also have a poetry contest open, which you can find here. 


  1. That was a perfect post for valentines day! :D
    I agree with a lot of those. I read part of the series: Freedom's Holy Light.
    Big time romance. Like, everyone was falling in love.
    And I only found one of them really believable. That one was that they got time to know each other as friends, went through a lot together, fought bad guys, and THEN fell in love.

    1. Thanks, Writefury!
      Yeah, I think when there's a bunch of people, it gets hard to make them all both believable and unique. (Which is a misconception, because people in real life all tend to fall in love about the same way.)
      Well, at least there was ONE good one. XD