Attention all writers: Before making your characters fall in love, first learn about Stockholm syndrome

There’s a reason why I don’t like most mainstream romances.

Its not their impracticality.

Its not their perfect endings.

Its not the unrealistic sex scenes everyone wants to try out.

Its the (in)direct applications of psychological issues.

How many movies/books have you seen where the girl is kidnapped by the ‘hero’ and after a few days of impromtu-togetherness-time they fall in love?

I expect to be killed by school girls and nostalgic young women tomorrow

“Blogger killed by Disney school girl fans and nostalgic young women” is tomorrow’s headline

A while back I published on this blog the ultimate writer list which had two rules I’d like to follow up on:

“22. Stockholm syndrome does not mean its true love.

23.When writing a romance piece, I will pretend that the male character is not in love with the female and if he sounds like a stalker/murderer/rapist, then I will rewrite the story.” (Myself, THERE APA! HAPPY? YOU WILL NOT HAUNT ME HERE)

Stockholm Syndrome happens when hostages express positive emotions, empathy and sympathy towards their captors/kidnappers. This syndrome has been widely discussed in media and stats show that a majority of victims do not associate with their kidnapper/captor. Despite the criticisms and stats of Stockholm syndrome, I think its important for any author to keep a mental note of it.

Objectively speaking, stories are generally about the exceptional characters in sometimes exceptional circumstances in whatever world the author has built. Many ‘romance’ stories have been built using the trope of kidnapping someone and then falling in love. By definition, these characters are the exception to the rule.

And most likely to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.

If you think tropes like these (among several others) are harmless, think again.

Before writing any romance genre, please read this first.

Before writing any romance story, please read this first.

References and other links to look at:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1920301,00.html

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AbductionIsLove

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Romance-Mass-Media-Communication/dp/0805848320

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2 responses to “Attention all writers: Before making your characters fall in love, first learn about Stockholm syndrome

  • MishaBurnett

    I agree–that’s a trope that really creeps me out. It always reminds me of John Fowles’ “The Collector”. I think the intent is to let the reader put herself in the place of a woman who is “swept off her feet” and is free to engage in desire without responsibility–after all, she was kidnapped, it’s not her fault.

    But for me it doesn’t work–I have this thing about consensuality, and even if the sexual relationship isn’t physically forced, it can’t be truly consensual if one party has a significant degree of control over the other party’s freedom.

    • Writing Ladders

      Thank you for your reply!

      I haven’t read that book, but recently there’s been several books that sort of follows that trend which inspired this post. 50 shades and another book (I forgot its title, despite London’s train stations plastered with large advertisements of it) which took, I don’t want to say similar, but the concept of exploring desire without responsibility as you say.

      There’s also the stigma that many women face today about finding that line between “slut” and being a “free woman”.

      I’m no psychologist, but from my experience culture is still somewhat confused on how to approach female sexuality, specifically, desire which can be easily confused with traditional roles.

      The whole issue is a sort of pandora’s box at the moment.

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