Sunday, February 14, 2016

What Makes a Great Fictional Romance?

Happy Valentine's Day! It shouldn't come as a surprise that I love my OTPs. Watching my adorable ships sail makes me happier than a baby elephant in a mud puddle.

But what exactly is it that makes a ship so . . . shippy? I have a few ideas.

(And yes, I will be using actual ships as examples to each of my points, but I won't give any spoilers as to whether they've sailed or not! So don't worry if you see a couple listed that you think is spoilery, chances are I've covered my ears and gone "lalala, you can say it won't happen all you want, I BELIEVE IN THEM.")

1. They make each other laugh

THIS IS A BIG ONE. The fictional world can be so dark and dreary sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), and these characters are little balls of broken cloudy days. (Is this true of all stories? Probably not, but I primarily read/watch things that make me cry. Fangirls are gluttons for pain!) So when the couple of one of my many OTPs can get each other to crack a smile or burst into laughter despite all the crap they're going through, it makes my little shipping heart squee.

Ships that make each other laugh (and me, too):

-The 10th Doctor and Rose from "Doctor Who"
-Chandler and Monica from "Friends"

2. They can be total dorks together

This goes along with #1. If you can find someone who gets your weirdness and wants to be weird right along with you, you've found a special someone, whether that be romantic or platonic. Adorable dorks make the world go 'round! What's more fun than pulling faces and making stupid jokes together?

Ships that are adorable dorks:

-Nick and Jess from "New Girl"
-Barry and Lainey from "The Goldbergs" (well . . . Barry more than Lainey, but still)

3. The slooowww burn

Don't get me wrong, the slow burns are sooo frustrating. All of those almost-kisses and longing looks when the other's back is turned and secretly confiding in friends and family about their true feelings for person A or B is enough to make any shipper insane. BUT. If/when those ships finally start thinking straight and get together, you know it'll be that much more satisfying. Plus, all those years they've known each other as friends means they already know most of each other's quirks/flaws/likes and dislikes!

Ships that just need to freaking kiss already:

-Sherlock and Molly from "Sherlock" (and this is ten-thousand times worse because we only get an episode like every two years!!)
-Niles and Daphne from "Frasier"

4. You know they'd do anything for each other

This can be anything from cooking a favorite dinner just because to diving into a burning building to save the other to person A watching a show person B loves despite A knowing he/she's going to hate it. No matter how small, each gesture is another shove of the ship out to sea.

Ships who would probably fight a dragon with a toothpick for love:

-Four and Tris from Divergent
-Hook and Emma from "Once Upon a Time" 

5. They excel at driving each other crazy one second and making them giggle the next

I don't know what it is about this that I find super cute, but endless teasing from one or both of the people that makes the other roll his/her eyes (even though they're totally amused on the inside) is something I love in a ship. It's the playful banter I'm always a huge fan of in dialogue. They may pretend to be annoyed, but you know they miss it whenever they're apart for too long..

Ships who love to drive each other up a wall:

-Castle and Beckett from "Castle"
-Lilac and Tarver from These Broken Stars

6. They challenge each other

My least favorite fictional couples are the ones where the characters are basically the exact same person or completely and totally different. If they're the same, they're bland and boring and overall just "meh." If you have to go into a ship with the "opposites attract" belief, you usually end up with a lot of angst and friction and a couple that isn't right for each other at all. Instead, there should be a good balance where the differences work to help each person change in a good way. (And I'm not talking about a ship where one of the characters becomes a "project" for the other person. Those are awful and never end up well. The ship should have mutual respect for who each person is right then and there, above all.)

Ships who challenge each other:
-Simon and Isabelle from The Mortal Instruments
-Steve and Peggy from "Captain America"

7. There's actual chemistry

There's nothing worse than forced romance. I've heard the good rule of thumb is to never go into a story with the mission to eventually set two people up with each other (unless you're specifically writing a romance!). The best fictional couples emerge on their own along the way because they just can't stand not being together any longer. There are definitely some ships with chemistry so strong, it's like a buzzing in the room that makes you flail with the hopes that they'll eventually realize their true love for each other.

Ships with palpable chemistry:

-The 11th Doctor and River from "Doctor Who"
-Hazel and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars

8. They're friends, first and foremost

Some of my absolute favorite ships are the best-friends-turned-romantic-couple. That doesn't mean all of my favorite ships have to fit the criteria, it just means underneath every date and kiss they care most about looking out for each other, like any good friend would. They're honest with each other, caring, thoughtful, always there when you need them, etc. etc. etc.

Ships who are best friends:

-Luke and Lorelai from "Gilmore Girls"
-Eleanor and Park from Eleanor & Park

9. They make a great team with everything they do

Whether they're making breakfast or catching criminals or saving the earth from destruction, they do it best together. You know two people are made for each other when their best (and worst) traits mesh together to form an awesome team.

Ships who should wear matching outfits and become a superhero dream team:

-Dean and Jo from "Supernatural"
-Jack and Ianto from "Torchwood"

10. They love each other for who they are, no matter what

The most important thing you need! There's not much more I can say about it other than I think once a ship has this, everything else I've listed above will follow.

Ships who love each other unconditionally:

-How can I even pick between them all?!?! Basically everyone I wrote down earlier. Plus more. Every single one.

What do you look for in a fictional romance? What are your favorite OTPs? Leave a comment!


Geraldine said...

I don't know how...but you pretty much have a list of all my favourite ships here!! :D
Caskett, TenxRose, Nick and Jess...the list is endless! I LOVE THIS POST <3

Boquinha said...

I love the cute baby elephant!

Another OTP for "The Slooooow Burn" section is Jim and Pam from "The Office." But Niles and Daphne are one of my favorites. :)

And I think my favorite thing that makes a ship so shippy is #8 for sure. Best friends.

The Magic Violinist said...

@Geraldine Woot for shipping twins! ;)

YAY, I'm glad you like it!! <3 We definitely have lots in common.

@Boquinha Baby elephants are so adorable. There were tons of gifs I could've used.

Ooh, that's a good one! Niles and Daphne are great. :)

I'm glad the word "shippy" is catching on. xD That was Cait's wonderful invention.

Cait @ Paper Fury said...

I SPY A SUPERNATURAL GHOST SHIP. *CRIES* Actually I never quite shipped Dean and Jo?? Idek why...he always felt too "older brotherly" but OMG I MISS JO SO BAD. THANKS FOR REAWAKENING THOSE SAD MEMORIES.

Ahemmmmm. hehe, But basically I love all these types of ships FOR SURE. I think my favourite are the bickering ships. Like Lilac and Tarver. I can never get enough of them, tbh. So much chemistryyyyy. And I also really like the ship that are good friends. (Can I put in Hardison and Parker here?!?! <333) Because it feels like if they go the whole way and have a romance, they're not just going to dump each other at the first hiccup because they already KNOW each other.)

OMG BUT SHIPPING IS A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD. I get far too invested than one half always goes and dies. *glares at Teen Wolf*

Taylor Lynn said...

So here's the thing: I used to be a romance cynic. Like, I got really annoyed with YA books where romance was a huge focus. Looking back, I think of it as me just being snobby, but it just goes to show that my tastes have changed and they probably will continue to evolve. THAT SAID, I like romance in my books much better now, and some of the things I currently enjoy reading are: slow burn romances, and friendship-turned-romance. I also tend to get invested in doomed ships, and by that I don't necessarily mean ships that aren't canon, just ships that end in tragedy. So that's a thing. And couples who are dorks together are such fun, aren't they?

Some examples of favorite ships: Alina and Mal in the Shadow and Bone trilogy (friendship), Gemma and Kartik from the Gemma Doyle trilogy (slow burn), Blue/Gansey and Adam/Ronan from the Raven Cycle (both ships are friendship AND slow burn, which makes them doubly awesome!), Puck and Sean from The Scorpio Races (friendship AND slow burn--Maggie Stiefvater's a pro at that combo), Lisa and Leila from Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel (friendship AND slow burn), and Simon and Blue from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (sort of friendship and slow burn, I guess?). And I've been focusing on books, but I also love Sheldon and Amy in The Big Bang Theory. They're awesome.

Anyway, though--this was a fun post! And it seems like it was probably fun to put together, too, because come on. Analyzing characters is what fangirls do, amiright? ;) Thanks for sharing!

Siths and Jedis said...

Nice post, I like seeing what goes on in your writer brain.

The Magic Violinist said...

@Cait AGH, WHY DID YOU HAVE TO CALL IT A GHOST SHIP?! *cries with you* I know that particular ship is one that's verrrry split in the fandom, some love it, others feel the way you do. xD BUT YES, SAD NONETHELESS.

I knew you'd say that! xD They're so much fun to simultaneously ship and get frustrated with. And now that I've read Carry On, Simon and Baz?! Oh. My. God. So fantastic. (And yes, Parker/Hardison!! I definitely see what you mean about them now. <3) You're absolutely right! They're already invested, they're just taking it to another (adorable) level.

WHY MUST THEY DO THAT?! Oh gosh, Teen Wolf is the worst . . . nothing is safe when it comes to that show.

@Taylor Lynn Ha ha, I was the same way a few years ago! I couldn't stand when a fantasy book took away from the adventure to let the characters kiss. Why in the world would anyone want to read that instead of watching them slay a dragon or something?? But you're right, tastes are always changing. That's a good thing, too, it allows you to branch out and find new gems.

We're all bound to get way too invested in a doomed ship at one point or another! I've sobbed way too many a time over ships like that.

Eee, yay for Raven Boys relationships! :) I really need to read The Scorpio Races, I've put it off far too long. Sheldon and Amy are a great TV couple!! Super funny and sweet, if frustrating at times.

SO much fun! You're definitely right. ;)

@Siths and Jedis Thank you! :) I'm glad you like seeing what's going on in this crazy brain of mine.