Just like "Mary Jane" was a common buzz word a couple of years ago (meaning a heroine that is immediately likable and able to save the world without possessing the qualities to achieve such), Insta-Love has become a catch-phrase.
But isn't there a difference between Insta-Love and Insta-Attraction? Other than in the Enemies to Lovers trope, shouldn't there be a major (usually internal) reaction between romance protagonists the first time they meet? It's what we call chemistry. A spark. Heat. Sizzle. A slow burn. Sometimes the character misinterprets their feelings as strong dislike (silly romance character), but the powerful reaction is still very much present.
And doesn't that element of strong attraction (or strong reaction) need to be present in romance from the get-go? If the characters' first thought about their intended love interest is "Ho-hum," I don't think the stage is being set for convincing emotional conflict or resolution. But that's just one viewpoint.
So my question to readers is this: If the characters show or think about their attraction upon first encountering one another, does it relegate the story to being a victim of Insta-Love?
Let me stick my neck out a little further. Here's my definition of Insta-Love: If the characters immediately fall in love, show undying devotion and become instantly attached at the hip (or other important body parts) after only an encounter or two, then that's clearly Insta-Love. On the other hand, the characters feeling or showing a strong attraction or reaction is very important to a romantic plot.
So, let me present the beginning of my novelette Farewell Andromeda and ask if you believe the characters have been afflicted by the Insta-Love Bug.
A female charter pilot encounters a renown male astronomer upon first arriving at the very remote Andromeda Station--a deep space platform for scientific research and X-tourism. (This scene has been condensed for brevity.)
I crash landed into Dr. Dante Dane six steps inside the hatch of Trajectory Virtual Pub 7. I knew his name and a good chunk of his bio before he even spoke. I had the advantage.
But he had the element of surprise. “Dance with me, boonie.”
He had me pegged at a glance. Boonie. Independent deep space charter pilot. Good guess on his part, but an easy one with his IQ. You didn’t get much deeper in space than Andromeda Station—perched on the extreme outer fringes of the Milky Way—and I was still sporting my non-standard issue flight jacket and independent star wings. I’d been making my way to the Station Berthing Office when the Pied Piper of a stiff drink called to me.
Running into Tall, Dark, and Smiling hadn’t really been in my game plan.
He settled his warm hand low on the small of my back, inviting me to accompany him to the packed cydosonic dance floor. A heavy bass thumped beneath the trill of a wild counter-melody. My instincts shouted Abort launch! but my curiosity overrode my internal warning system. I was too flattered by his crafty smile and seeking eyes.
On the dance floor, he turned to face me. “What’s your name, boonie?”
“Captain.” He made a slight bow. “Less formally known as?”
“Tiara?” That smile again. “Like a princess wears?”
“Tee-hara. Like the Egponna tree.”
“Ah, the Tiharra tree. Egponna Maximus heraldi angelus. Also called the Angel Willow. Known for graceful, weeping foliage that resembles feathered wings.”
“That’s the one.”
“Angel fits you better.” He gave me another generous smile. Nice, even white teeth.
I threw him my patented lopsided smirk. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was definitely intrigue at first contact.
“This a regular stop for you?” he asked.
“This isn’t a regular stop for anyone.”
“But here you are.”
I nodded. “Fresh out of DEDspace.” My impetuous mission: escape Miko’s bombshell by running to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. “And what brought you way out here?”
He gave a throaty chuckle. “I’m a perpetual resident. Andromeda Station is home. My work is centered on the observatory here.”
Ah, yes. Of course. Everyone knew the Andromeda Galaxy was Dr. Dane’s foremost passion. The last I’d heard, he was working on some universe-shaking discoveries about dark energy in our enormous neighbor.
The rest of the evening was a blur of bodies, booze, and banter. There were a lot of labels I would’ve attached to one of the pre-eminent scientists in the known universe, but party animal wasn’t one of them. So much for pre-judging.
We flirted a bit, laughed a lot, drank even more, and monopolized the dance pad for most of the night. As the music clicked off, the tables emptied, and the exit lights glowed in less-than-subtle suggestion, he asked me the expected question. I mentally punched Miko in the jaw before delivering Dr. Dane—Dante—a regretful negatory.
“Sorry,” I muttered. “Not a good night for me.”
“All evidence to the contrary.” I saw the surprise in his arched brows, which then angled into an unhappy frown. “You had me fooled.”
“You had me forgetting.” I gave a noncommittal shrug and a sad little smile that stood in for a formal apology. “Good night, Doctor.”
He snagged my shoulder as I turned to go. “Are you sure, Tiharra?”
I sighed. Was I? I looked over my shoulder. “I’m sure. It’s…complicated. I enjoyed our time together, but I need some personal space right now.”
Dante moved a half-step closer. “Anything I can do to change your mind?”
I met his hopeful look for a moment then made a general hand sweep of the bar with its ample supply of lonely, lingering females. “There are a lot of other targets here to point your lens at.”
His attention swept over the room before dropping back to me. “I prefer to focus on one subject until I work out all the riddles.”
“This riddle has things she needs to work out on her own, Doctor.”
“Dante,” he corrected.
“Dante.” I drew a deep breath and slowly expelled it. “I’m sorry. This runs deep. I won’t change my mind.”
Though he wasn’t keen on fielding the word no, I didn’t think we’d parted enemies. At least I hoped not.
Side note: It's possible the story earned an Insta-Love tag from their second encounter, where Tiharra's reaction to and perceptions about the good doctor are very different. But her change of heart is an important element and hints at the underlying dynamics between the two. (And for the sake of avoiding spoilers, that's all I can say about that.)
Now I'd like to hear from you.
Readers, is this a case of Insta-Love? Yay or nay? It's totally okay if you say 'yes.' Really! I'm very eager to hear your opinions, so don't hold back.
Writers, have you had a story tagged as Insta-Love and do you think it was deserved or not? Why do you think a reviewer labeled it as such and why do you agree or disagree?
There just might be a surprise in it for one random commenter.
Next time, we'll put the first meeting of the protagonists in Inherit the Stars through the gauntlet.
Have a great week!
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