Friday, March 7, 2014

Discussion Question: Favorite Ways Authors Keep Couples Apart?

We all know the story.  Guy meets girl.  But even if they're attracted to each other, there's some reason they can't be together.  Something that keeps them apart and that they have to overcome in order to find their HEA.  And as much as it may drive us crazy, it would be pretty boring if guy met girl, asked her out, she said yes, they get along, and end up living happily ever after. So there's usually something that keeps them apart.  I usually read dsytopian, paranormal, and fantasy YA (although I have read quite a few contemporary) so this applies to those types of novels.

Here's a few I've noticed that authors use (no spoilers):

One is human and one is not.  That usually creates problems.  Vampire and human, angel and human, alien and human.  And it even ramps it up even more if they're enemies, like angel hunter and angel or dragon hunter and dragon.  

Forbidden love.  This can happen because they're different species (like above) or because of some other reason, like student/teacher or trainer/trainee, guard and queen/princess, slave/slave owner, etc.

From different worlds.  Not literally, but examples would be a big class difference or a caste system.  This happens a lot in dystopian and fantasy.  Think Day and June from Legend by Marie Lu or Aria and Perry from Under the Never Sky.  

The rules/government.  They would be together, but they're not allowed to be.  And it may even be that they are on the opposite sides of a war or some sort of struggle.

And then there are more specific ones:
They're attracted to each other but find out they're brother and sister.  Gotta love that one.
They would get together but if they do, but he's been cursed so whoever loves him will die.
Can you guess which books these are??

Then, if they do finally overcome whatever it is and it's a series, usually something happens after book one (this is typical book 2) that drives a wedge between them.  Some examples are:

Misunderstandings.  Their love is new and fragile and yes, they've overcome whatever the main obstacle is but usually they don't know each other very well and the reason that kept them apart rears its ugly head and leads to misunderstandings.

The outside world.  Although they've overcome whatever prejudices and problems exist, they are now having to deal with everyone else and the reaction to them being together, and that creates problems.

A job to do which leads to being physically apart.  Sometimes the author has the couple have to split up in order to deal with the war or whatever the problem is.  

Death (at least that's what he/she thinks). 

Kidnapping.  Or sucked back to hell.  Something like that.

Love interest.  The dreaded love triangle.  Usually another guy comes into the picture because there is a misunderstanding or the outside world has created problems or they're physically apart or the girl thinks her love is dead.  

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but these are some of the main ways I've noticed authors keeping couples apart.  What are your favorites?  What other ways have you noticed?

Posted by:  Pam


  1. This is so accurate! I love this post! It's always so frustrating when they can't just be together, but at the same time, it would be pretty boring if it all just worked out from the beginning.

    1. Yeah, even though that's much more realistic, reading about people being happy is not very entertaining. All of the things that make me crazy and make me want to throw my Kindle across the room is what makes the book so good! ~Pam

  2. So true! And I think I know what book you're talking about for the brother and sister thing and it infuriated me so bad, to the point where I can't finish the series. I always shake my head about some of the things that will keep them apart, but like you said it would be pretty boring if everything was all HEA from the beginning.

    1. Oh, keep reading that series! And yeah, unfortunately, reading about happy people is rather boring. ~Pam

  3. I think you tackled a lot of the major ones. I HATE the sibling twist. It's not just in TMI, it was also in Starcrossed (why I didn't continue with the series), and I am pretty sure one other book that I just can't think of right now.

    I understand why authors do this, but it does getting annoying as hell. Maybe one obstacle, but hurdle after hurdle gets tiresome and is not necessary. Think of something else to write about.

    1. The sibling twist was so ridiculous, especially for the one series because why didn't they just get a DNA test? Problem solves in one page instead of taking another two books. And then yes, one hurdle…ok, but when they just start piling them on, it reads so forced and gets dumb. ~Pam

  4. I love this post! It's very true. YA novels practically ALWAYS have a wedge driven between the two love interests for some reason or another.
    Sometimes, I am okay with this. It makes the romance more twisted, and leaves you wishing for whatever is keeping the two apart will crumble and disappear.
    But other times, I hate it. I just feel like the author is putting it in there to MAKE us wish for the characters to be together - like an annoying incentive to keep reading and find out if they end up together.
    When I DO like this, however - my favourites are probably forbidden love or human/non-human. :)