Ah, February. Love is in the air. Who doesn't enjoy a good romance and all the ways they come to pass - slow burn, enemies to lovers, forbidden love, impossible love, love triangles, instalove... wait right there... did you feel the buzzkill?
It's hard to find a trope with more polarizing views than instalove. Most other avenues to falling in love, including the ones listed above, generate a big thumbs up, or at worst, a meh from readers. But instalove evokes a lot of instahate.
On the one hand, I get it. Two characters' eyes meet for the first time across the room, or the meadow, or the asteroid, and BOOM they know they have found "the one". Moreover, these two saps instantaneously conclude they need to spend the rest of eternity together before even knowing each other's names. In our cynical world, this can be a hard pill to swallow (unless you are a Disney Princess who, for some reason, seem to be given a pass on this one).
I can hear all you instalove haters saying, "It's just so unrealistic. Real love doesn't happen like that!" And part of me, the jaded, Grumpy Cat version, agrees with this assessment and eyerolls right with you. But another part of me has given this some thought and now I am actually going to argue in favor of instalove, if you will hear me out.
First, I believe all tropes became one for the same reason - there is a universal feeling attached to the issue. Whether it's suspense, fantasy, or horror, readers are satisfied when predictable patterns play out. Any kind of romance finds readers savoring the myriad of ways love can unfold in the story. (And how they may wish it would play out in real life). Even if some don't admit it, I think the majority of us crave that HEA conclusion when all is said and done. Our hearts feel lighter when the couple rides off into the sunset together. After all, love is a powerful emotion and elicits a powerful response.
For instalove, when the characters first encounter one another, there needs to be an immediate response. The moment must contain the energy that exposes the rawness and vulnerability of our hearts opening to love. Honestly, if I am going to read a story where two people end up being soulmates, I need a bit of a spark. "Yes, a spark is sufficient," you are thinking, "but instalove is more like a bonfire."
True. But instalove usually applies to young lovers, who not only have discovered an amazing person, but have also discovered love itself. Who among us has not fallen head over heels and lost all sense of reason at the hands of love? That moment when this emotion consumes you for the first time in life can be overwhelming. The butterflies, the giddiness, all the firsts, kisses and otherwise reach a new level of intensity. The realization that your heart can feel such depths for another is intoxicating and the natural inclination is to attach this all-consuming new feeling onto the person who awoke it in you. Thus, these blossoming sentiments become categorized as I have found my one true love by the character, which I find forgivable in an inexperienced heart, even for some lack of grounding in reality.
That is my interpretation of instalove, anyway. Does it always work out? Well, in real life, maybe not, but in the stories we read, usually it does, thus fulfilling the HEA narrative. And since it is generally young lovers who indulge in this type of romance, we finish the book with the characters in that state: youthful and vibrant with love and possibility. The author does not depict them in a decade's time with kids, messy houses, and responsibilities. And would you really want them to? Talk about a buzzkill.
As the Atticus Poetry quote says, "The most beautiful thing about young love is the truth in our hearts that it will last forever."
And so, on this topic, I am inclined to be more of an instalover than an instahater.