*Ding* “You have now arrived at floor 100. Please enjoy your happily-ever-after.”
I’ve seen quite a few people say they prefer those “building” romances over the “love at first sight” stuff, but it left me wondering why? Why do gradual romances have a generally larger appeal than, “I love you. You love me. Let’s be together.”? Well, today we will try to unpack that.
Now on the surface, there is nothing that really makes one better than the other. Where the comparison really comes in is how the types of romances have come to be defined. Therefore, in an effort to give a new perspective I am going to substitute “building” for “stairway” and “love at first sight” to “elevator,” which I will use to explain a little more of the “why?”
In reality, I don’t think most people have a problem with “love at first sight” if it is being interpreted as “attraction at first sight” (the phrase is never very clear). This is because it is natural to be attracted to some people even if only at your first meeting, but to be head over heels in love/wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone is much, much more unlikely in real life.
Even “stairway” romances can have an immediate attraction, though of course, that is not always the case. The real key though, is what happens after the initial meeting.
I chose the term “elevator” romance because I think it encapsulates what people really mean behind “love at first sight.” Elevator romances have no bumps in the road and they take you fairly short to get to the top, being “We were destined for each other.” It does not have to be as quick as “*blink* they are married,” but it does often feel at least somewhat of a swift movement into full-blown adoration.
Compare that to a “stairway” romance. These romances aren’t as smooth rides. They can be a bit bumpy, and they can take an effort to finally reach the top floor. There are moments were the characters might pause and reflect on how things are changing. And instead of the characters excitedly hopping into an elevator together to ride peacefully in happiness, they may have to help each other along and grow as people together.
Actually, if you really think about it, “stairway” romances apply what makes almost any story interesting to this particular genre. Engaging stories have conflict, which builds anticipation for that problem to be solved. In them, characters likely grow as humans and therefore seem more dimensional. Compelling stories strive for realistic emotions so that the reader isn’t pulled out of the story.
Now, of course, not all “elevator” romances are unappealing and not all “stairway” romances are works of art either. As a generalization though it is better to have a romance that builds than an immediate one.
What makes “elevator” romances unappealing at a face value is:
- They seem unrealistically quick
- There doesn’t appear to be a conflict
- There thus isn’t much room for characters to grow
I believe even some of the best “elevator” romances do at least take some of the benefits from a generic “stairway” romance, and try to add some conflict. By conflict, please understand that it doesn’t mean the characters have to be antagonistic toward each other at first (though it can). It can simply refer to tension or other external push and pull from surroundings and circumstances.
I think Sabrina is a good example of the two romances.
If you haven’t seen a Sabrina movie (1954 or 1995) what are you doing with your life? While there are many factors in play why one romance is more appealing over the other, one factor is because Sabrina and David had a very quick/unmeaningful romance while she and Linus slowly grew to love each other after initially not showing much interest in towards one another (Linus even deceiving her at first), and then advancing morally as people.
Though that is not to say “elevator” romances have no place. I often find them especially effective when they are used comically like Batman and Lucy’s relationship in The Lego Movie and Finn’s obvious infatuation with Rey in The Force Awakens. Though it is very likely that a “stairway” romance will carry a lot more meaning to the audience than an all in “elevator” romance. (And *slight spoiler for The Rise of Skywalker* I think Rey’s later “stairway” romance played out much better…).
What is one of your favorite romances? Tell me in the comments! Bye, for now, everyone!