Writing Tips

Insta-Love isn’t Instant


Everyone can expect a cover reveal of Death Before Daylight on November 6th – this also means I will not have a blog post on the 5th. I need an extra day to prep everything, but I hope your excitement will make the wait!

My latest interview and review has been posted on the Book Gannet! I talk about future works, current works, and why I dislike prophecies despite having one in The Timely Death Trilogy. Click the links to check them out!

Insta-Love isn’t Instant

The other night, I was browsing Facebook when a few readers brought up the discussion of insta-love. If you are unfamiliar with the term, “insta-love” is more-or-less love at first sight, and it is becoming widely debated among book blogs, readers, and authors alike. There are even entire lists on Goodreads dedicated to insta-love books. (Funny fact: “Instalove” started as a hashtag on Instagram for new couples. The reason I’m using a dash will make more sense as we continue on.)

Now, I may be sticking my neck out by saying this, but I don’t really think “insta-love” exists. But – please – hear me out.

I think insta-love is sometimes confused with insta-lust and insta-infatuation. Yep. I said that. Just because two characters are interacting, holding hands, kissing, or even sleeping together, does not mean the book is full of insta-love. I would even go so far as to say just because two characters say “I love you” does not mean they are, in fact, in love. How many people do you know that were in a long-term relationship, said, “I love you” a hundred times, and eventually broke up only to say they knew they didn’t love them? How many people get “swept off their feet” or think, “that’s the one” only to later realize that neither were true in the first place.

Before calling it “insta-love”, let’s talk about real life scenarios that happen in books. In fact, I’m going to give three:

Scenario One: (The meet-and-greet love)

Two characters walk into a bar. They meet, hookup, and go on for the rest of the book loving each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean it was insta-love. It just means it started off as insta-lust and turned into love eventually. I feel like this happens often in books – two characters meet quickly but they are not seen as characters that grew over time because they did something that society deems inappropriate for two strangers to do. This happens in various forms, but I think the most common “insta-love” complaint is when two characters immediately open up or lean on one another when they are complete strangers. Why? I know plenty of people who open up to strangers the second they meet someone. In fact, I’m fairly certain there are entire groups of people out there that are more likely to open up to strangers than friends. Trust me. I used to ride the city bus every morning and evening. It happened more than I could ever explain.


Scenario Two: (One-sided love affairs)

A guy is head-over-heels in love with someone who barely cares about him back. One might call it love, but many people label this as infatuation. I think this happens a lot in “insta-love” scenarios – where one character has very intense emotions for another character without it being reciprocated until later on. Think Fifty Shades of Grey. Many people have said it is insta-love, but in reality, he literally pushes her away emotionally for most of the novel until she breaks up with him. That isn’t love. That’s lust, infatuation, and confusion mixed with novel-drama.

Scenario Three: (Love Triangles)

Oh, the all-too common emotional toll in books: love triangles. This is when one character (generally the protagonist) is confused about their love toward two different characters. This might be a personal thing – I can admit that I am not a fan of love triangles – but I cannot fathom calling it “love” when a character cannot pick between two people. To me, that is something else. That is having very strong and caring emotions about two people but not love. (And perhaps having one word in the English language for romantic love is the major problem here.) But I’m aware that this is a personal opinion of love, not necessarily everyone’s opinion, but that brings me to my next point:

In the end, I honestly believe insta-love is based on the readers’ personal preferences of what love means to them, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I want to clarify that I believe there is nothing wrong with mentioning insta-love in a book review, especially if the reasoning is explained for future readers to contemplate. It’s a widely accepted term, after all.

People fall in love differently, at different times, and often with different people or even without knowing who they have fallen for. We’ve all heard of the couple who saw each other from across the room, fell in love at first sight, and seriously stayed together for the rest of their lives. And we’ve met the couples that thought they were those couples until they became heartbroken and separated. Love shifts overtime. It changes and morphs and grows and – unfortunately – dies for many, but love can be a wonderful emotion to read about because it resides in hope and trust. Love is an emotion of acceptance. So why should we judge love at all?

Insta-love or not, love is different for all, and perhaps, that is why it is so beautiful.


14 thoughts on “Insta-Love isn’t Instant

  1. I think ‘love at first sight’ is a weird turn since that’s really instant attraction and only on the physical love. Maybe ‘love at first interaction’ since love is a very fluid and fickle thing. The reasoning ‘I never loved them’ after a break up always struck me as a defense mechanism to rationalize the time spent with the other person. We always talk about falling in love, but that also means it’s possible to fall out of love. After all, people change and evolve as they get older, so one could have been in love with the previous version of the ex. I’m diverting from the topic.

    I think love at first sight is a little bit of an author cop out. If it starts perfect and has no bumps along the way then it isn’t that appealing to most readers. Still, I know many people who hate love stories where something goes wrong or there’s a challenge because it’s too close to reality. So, as you said, personal preference plays a major role in writing and reading these things.

    1. I agree! I think it is a cop-out – I guess, I was just more along the lines of talking about instances where I think more and more readers are starting to think everything is insta-love. For instance, I read a book review of a book that many are saying is insta-love because the characters meet in the very first scene, but – what I thought was strange – the characters never even show any emotional depth for each other for over half the book. I agree that there are some books out there that probably don’t handle falling in love well, but I suppose I don’t feel as if that many novels have insta-love in them. Like “love at first sight.” In many novels I think characters are simply “attracted at first sight” but readers automatically think it’s love at fight sight if they end up together eventually. Then again, that’s my little ol’ opinion.

      1. I do think a lot of readers are wanting their romances to be clean from the start. I’ll admit I don’t read those kinds of books, so I’m not sure how it works exactly. I like stories where the characters are friends at first and stumble into the romance. Honestly, the insta-love thing really is hard to wrap my mind around because it feels so empty in terms of character development.

  2. What a brilliant post on this topic! I always worry in my books people will think the characters have insta-love, when in fact a lot of the time it’s just instant physical attraction which has nothing to do with love or feelings.

    When you see an attractive person, you’re going to notice that instantly and your behaviour will change. That’s just how it is 😀 So I think a lot of these situations where people call it insta-love can be confused, as you say.

    Great post!

    1. Glad you like it! It’s a really difficult topic to cover while trying to explain that the problem – in my opinion – just rests in confusion of physical attractiveness, time spent together, and emotional depth.

  3. Great thoughts here. I don’t believe in insta-love, either. Or love triangles. Or loving someone and not knowing it. So much in novels is already artifice. Maybe it’s actually a kind of stereotype, a quick reference that readers can hang their hats on and move forward without stopping for inconvenient reflections.

    As you may guess, love affairs can be difficult in my books!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! I was nervous to post it because I thought many would think I was strange for not thinking insta-love was a “thing” but it seems that I’m not alone in this.

  4. But Shannon, hearts are shaped like triangles! Where there’s two in love, they make a whole. ❤ Then again, that's actual love, or, if you're a surgeon performing a bypass, this month's mortgage.

    I'm reading "Sway", by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman. It is about irrational human behavior. One understanding is "value attribution," where we place high/low value on something before we understand the objective data. This is the lust / infatuation you may be looking for.

    What happens from a guys point of view often is this: sexy girl equates to highly valued. Many of us are influenced to believe one of two things: out of your league or Helen of Troy and you actually stand a chance. Either way, it could be irrational.

    The guy who puts a lot of low value in himself, though he's incredibly infatuated with the girl, and doesn't take a chance, could be missing out on something great.

    The guy who has no chance, takes the chance, and totally fails, often goes all bitter like a child refused a cookie. "But mommy, I want a cookie now!"

    Wow, usually I have better jokes to write. I'm totally off. Anyway, the too-long didn't read summary (and god forbid, since this is an author's blog): Insta-love is irrational, so, of course it belongs it novels. 🙂

    1. Oh, I didn’t say it didn’t belong! I was trying to convey that I think it’s often misunderstood or unidentified as something else, because of personal preferences. But it’s a complicated topic to cover in a short amount of time.

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