By Andrew E. Kaufman, Author of Psychological Thrillers
“I’m so glad the main characters didn’t fall in love.”
This is one of the most persistent comments I see while reading reviews for my books. And while I’m always pleased by positive feedback from readers, I do find it interesting when they feel strongly enough to make note of this.
But to be honest, I’m not sure if I can tell you why my characters never hook up. I don’t think it’s ever been a conscious decision—in fact, most of what I write rarely is. I’m an intuitive plotter, which means I don’t outline, plan, or imagine my stories before creating them. Generally speaking, all I start with is a basic premise (very basic, often no more than one sentence), and then allow my instincts and characters to lead the way. So maybe I opt out of those love connections because they just don’t feel right to me (or should that be, to them?).
Of course, I’m talking about thrillers here, and admittedly, I do find myself having the same reaction as some of my readers, especially when it seems the situation doesn’t require it or appears particularly unrealistic. And when you think about it, people don’t necessarily fall in love just because they’re thrown into a tense situation anyway; in fact, I think the more natural choice would actually be just the opposite.
Then there’s the predictability factor, something that (cringe) we as authors often see in our reviews. But if I'm going to be completely honest, as a reader I find myself being just as critical about this. I can't count the number of times my eyes have started rolling at the exact point in a novel where a male and female characters start falling in love. That’s not because I’m a love cynic, but rather because in many cases it almost feels too easy, and then it's just plain annoying.
I suppose it all boils down to intent. If it’s relevant and moves the plot rather than being disruptive, I don’t think readers mind so much—if not, then they probably will.
Oddly enough, after saying all this, love is in fact an element that drives the plot for my upcoming novel, Darkness & Shadows, but I don't think readers will find it to be anything near typical, but instead, dark and disturbing--just the way I like it.
What do you think? Authors: do you allow your characters to share a love interest? If so, how and why? And readers: do you feel particularly strongly about this either way?