ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Characters and Romantic Relationships: Are They Always Necessary?

Updated on February 21, 2016

Last week, I was reading a young adult paranormal novel. It featured a group of small-town high school students discovering they might have supernatural powers. I liked that book because the plot was filled with exciting, well-paced twists and turns. The characters were as quirky as main characters in young adult novels could be, but they weren't the story's focus. Part of the way through one paragraph, I had to slam the book down in frustration. It had happened again.

The thing that had caused me disgust was the introduction of an obvious love interest in a book that did not need it. The main character's heart raced as she saw the mysterious newcomer, but I sighed. On one hand, I shouldn't have been surprised. Many young adult novels have romantic plot threads, even if the main plot had nothing to do with romance. On the other hand, I believed that this main character could have been the same person without one. Some of the side characters were already filling that romantic void. To me, it felt like the romance was editorially mandated. It was at this time that I began to wonder: why did most characters in media have legitimate or presumed love interests?

Not every character needs to end up like these two.
Not every character needs to end up like these two. | Source

The Purpose of a Love Interest

A love interest is usually defined as a character that is mainly or entirely created to serve as a romantic partner for another character. This character may have a fleshed-out personality, or may have almost no personality of their own. It does not matter who the love interest is in love with or how the relationship begins. All that matters is that the love interest is in a relationship.

Love interests can help to flesh out characters and add a new dynamic to a story. In dark stories, love interests are able to bring levity. They can inspire fans to create interesting art and stories, getting the audience more interested in the characters. These characters help enforce the positive aspects of the character with whom they are in love. Popular love interests include Lois Lane from the Superman franchise, Theodore Laurence from Little Women, and the prince in a Disney movie.

How Much Do You Know About These Fictional Love Interests?

view quiz statistics

When Love Takes Over

Sometimes, love interests get put in places where they don't really need to be. TV Tropes defines this as a Romantic Plot Tumour. Romance becomes such a major part of the plot that the main plot is pushed to the sidelines. The story We Can Build You by Philip K. Dick, the movie Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, and the musical Rock of Ages all feature romantic plots that eventually override their main plots, consisting of science fiction, drama, and rock music, respectively. There are many more examples found in serialized works. Fans of the Harry Potter series or The Hunger Games trilogy debate about just how neatly the romantic elements of these series were incorporated into their plots. Many other stories have overpowering romance plots that take over their main plots; surely you can think of one.

Insert your favourite couple above.
Insert your favourite couple above. | Source

Inferred Emotions

Even when creators don't put their focus on romantic relationships, fans may latch onto these relationships. This can even occur when there is no canonical evidence for these couples existing. The relationship between Captain James T. Kirk and his scientific officer Commander Spock, while platonic in the show, was interpreted as some fans as more romantic than what was seen on the screen. When the show was first airing, interracial kisses could not be shown on television, so a romantic relationship between two males could definitely not be shown on screen. The fans were free to interpret the relationship in whatever way they wanted. Fans wrote collections of stories featuring these characters. The fans made them one of the most notable non-canon, unofficial, couples in media. It can be argued that Kirk and Spock is the pairing that solidified the idea of non-canon couples.

Another popular non-canon couple is the pairing of Jo March and Theodore "Laurie" Lawrence from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Though Jo and Laurie did date in an early part of the story, they broke up. Readers loved this couple. When the story was first released, readers would write to Alcott asking her to write a sequel so they could read about Jo and Laurie get married. The hundreds of demands for Alcott to marry the characters cased her to state, "I won't marry Jo to Laurie to please anybody." She kept her word.


Romance Subverted

With so many problems for creators, is it possible to create a character that does not need a romantic relationship, and is never overtaken by the audience's expectations for them to find a partner? Yes.

Sheldon Cooper is one of the main characters in the TV show The Big Bang Theory. He is a doctor of physics with a straight-laced personality and inability to understand humour, irony, or humility. In an official poll on the show's website, Sheldon was found to be the most popular character with over half of the vote. The writers knew his popularity would help them bring in ratings, so, for the season three finale, they decided to give him a girlfriend.

The writers could have easily gone with a plot line where Sheldon sees a gorgeous bombshell and is completely infatuated with her, but they knew going that route would never fit Sheldon's character. Instead, they had Raj and Howard create an online dating profile for him as a prank. The dating profile finds them a match. After Sheldon is bribed to the date, he meets Amy Farrah Fowler, a neurobiologist with a very similar personality. Their stiff, formal language helps to offset the notion that this romance will be traditional, including phrases such as "aversion to soiled hosiery" and "buy you a beverage".

Sheldon's reaction to his new relationship is one of confusion. While he clearly enjoys Amy's company, he rarely engages in physical contact with her. He actually seems extremely uncomfortable with physical contact. The majority of his contact is something he doesn't realize is sexual. Amy adapts to the relationship much faster. While she supports and cares for her boyfriend, she is more than Sheldon in a female body. She isn't as interested in nerdy pop culture and is more interested in physical contact. Though she often gets impatient with Sheldon's ignorance, she understands the immense value their relationship provides.

This relationship caused Amy to be one of the fan's favourite females. It has provided plenty of new comedic and dramatic possibilities without sacrificing the character's personality. Amy has a place of her own in the cast, having a clearly defined personality and interesting dynamic with the characters. This relationship proves that characters getting a romantic relationship does not spell death for the rest of the plot, and in fact, can add to the plot. The writers proved that while romantic relationships aren't always necessary, when care is taken, romantic relationships can work for almost any character.

© 2015 Molly Layton


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Molly Layton profile imageAUTHOR

      Molly Layton 

      3 years ago from Alberta

      That's an interesting solution. I'm glad this gave you something to think about.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I actually gave this some thought while I was writing my latest novel. I couldn't decide which way to lean on it....a murder mystery...did it need a romance? In the end I just went with mutual attraction and needs being met....the word "love" never entered into the picture.

    • Molly Layton profile imageAUTHOR

      Molly Layton 

      3 years ago from Alberta

      Faith Reaper, pstraubie48, thank you for voting and sharing this. I can not tell you how much your comments means to me.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      3 years ago from sunny Florida

      Spot on. Most books do have love interests..I have been reading of Mr. Lincoln and his Mary...and even though it is a historical novel, love abounds within the pages.

      Point well taken.

      Voted up+++ and shared

      Know that Angels are on the way this morning ps

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      3 years ago from southern USA

      Interesting topic and you certainly got your point across. I don't think romance is necessary but your great examples here do show how adding a romantic relationship can add much more to the storyline ...if, as you state, done right.

      U +++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

    • Molly Layton profile imageAUTHOR

      Molly Layton 

      4 years ago from Alberta

      Thanks, you two. I'm glad to know I got my point across.

    • Gia Moroe profile image

      Gia Moroe 

      4 years ago from Texas, USA

      You make a very good point. A lot of stories have romance in the nowadays. I like romance in a story - when done right. I could go on about how HP ended up, but that's another story. Anyway, no, I don't think romance is necessary for a story - young adult or otherwise. It can make sense when done right, though (like HP and Hunger Games) or go badly when done wrong.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's an interesting point you make, Molly. I would be hard-pressed to think of a novel that I have read in the past few months that did not have a love interest.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)