Romance is fun to read about, it's fun to write about, it's fun to play about. It's very pervasive in the culture I live in and all forms of my entertainment. Often, it's my favorite part of the story! The ones that really pull me in though usually fit into one of these three molds, and that's because they just work. They make for interesting, but believable dynamics with plenty of sexy tension for flavor.
Now a quick disclaimer, while the tropes/scenarios themselves aren't restricted by gender and can easily be applied to polyamorous relationships, all of my examples do involve cisgender, canonically heterosexual, monogamous couples. There are other amazing examples out there that involve different gender combinations and don't fit into the one-to-one relationship model. I only used the ones below because they were iconic to my personal taste and preferences.
*And last but not least: POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING! If you haven't read/played/watched these, they're all complete and I highly recommend doing that before continuing with this post. If you don't mind potential spoilers, then read on!
Best Friends/Partners-in-Crime to Lovers
There is no Shepard without Vakarian. Mass Effect series (Bioware).
I firmly believe that best friends of all gender combinations can keep it platonic, both in real life and in fiction. However, I can't help but root for them to get together (in fiction at least). There's a good foundation and very often some nice flirtatious chemistry already there. The progression through the romance just makes more sense and comes out so much more naturally than a lot of other situations. It's something that's built to last.
Take the optional couple of Commander Shepard (left) and Garrus Vakarian (right) seen above. This is a trilogy of games, but through all of them Garrus is constant and has Shepard's back with unquestioning loyalty. They hang, they kill the baddies together, they can even go through parallel character arcs! There is absolute trust there and it culminates into a relationship that is stable, healthy, and never boring.
Ambitious hard worker meets fun-loving prince and sparks fly. Princess and the Frog (Disney).
In this scenario, the differences work best when they compliment each other and the couple manages to find a healthy balance between their opposing extremes. Yes, the tension-filled arguing and the hurry-up-and-kiss moments help make it spicy. The question of "how can they possibly make this work?" always hangs over the couple, but that just makes me want to see them try! Conflict may be the start, and may make bumps in the road after the happily ever after, but it has that puzzle piece effect where two halves make a whole.
The above example, Princess and the Frog (Disney's last hand-drawn animated movie to date unfortunately), has a great lesson that money and ambition/success aren't everything without love (not necessarily romantic, but it's a fairy tale retelling so there's gotta be some romance in there). We have the money with Prince Naveen who gets cut off by his parents for having too much fun, then the ambition/success with Tiana, who would've gotten that restaurant one way or another, but might have worn herself too ragged to enjoy it once she got it. Naveen has no work ethic, but needs it, and Tiana forgot how to have fun while going after her dream. They get to know each other and end up a cohesive unit by the end, both better because of the other. That's how the opposites attract couple is supposed to work!
Love Triangles (Balanced)
This one can feel overdone because it has been, and not always well. It has a few sub-categories, but I'm not going into that. It works when it has a balance and a story that's more than just "Who will they choose?" The point is to get to know both the options for the love interest caught in between, and grow to love both of them so that there's a dread when the end does come because somebody you like is going to get their heart broken. That adds a whole new layer of tension on top of it! Anime/Manga has some real great examples, especially in the Shojo genre (also a lot of bad and harmful ones, but we're not covering those today).
Fruits Basket is a classic. Tohru (the middle) has had a big crush on Yuki (the cool-headed popular one with the silver hair) since they've been in school together, but she starts to get close to Kyo (the hot-headed loner with the orange hair) and finds that she's starting to warm up to him too. Both guys have their charm and their issues, and yes they fight like a cat and mouse, but they're more like weird brothers by the end. Tohru develops solid friendships with both of them, so no matter who she chooses, you know the other one will be okay.
Hana-Kimi has a weaker triangle, I feel, but still has the kind of resolution I love from them. From the beginning, the main love interests are the undercover Mizuki (the little one in the middle) and the talented high-jumper who quit, Izumi (Mr. Black hair to the right). Originally, Shuichi (blonde on the left) seems like he's supposed to be a goofy bestie meant to throw a wrench between Mizuki and Izumi, but he earns his spot by the end. Biggest spoiler here, but it proves why Shuichi works so well. Izumi accidentally discovers that Mizuki is a girl in disguise early on, but keeps her secret and helps her when it gets her in trouble and she risks discovery (and expulsion). Shuichi never finds out until the end. He questions his identity, endures teasing, but decides that it doesn't matter. Mizuki and Shuichi stay supportive best friends throughout all of this.
This turned out longer than I expected, but it's a big subject and I only scratched the surface! What are some of your favorite relationships and romantic set ups? Have any suggestions of stories that fit into these tropes? Disagree at all? Let's start a dialogue! Great love deserves to be shared.
Brie Tart writes fantasies in which she draws the mythical from the mundane. She spends the rest of her time dabbling in languages and prepping for her next adventure.