There are some tropes in fiction that can be done right, but in my experience, the ubiquitous ‘Love at First Sight’ cliché is very rarely ever done well.
Some writers try to explain it as ‘destiny,’ or even as something magical/supernatural; like a love potion, the work of Cupid, someone finding their magical soul mate and just knowing them the moment they see them – I call it lazy ass writing.
This tired old cliché is most commonly found in romances, and it pretty much takes all the romance out of a romance. Everyone is in love with the concept of falling in love. It’s why you rarely ever start a love story with a couple that already has a happy, established relationship. We want the beginning of the story. Not the middle. Not the end. We want to vicariously enjoy the journey of two people meeting each other, being attracted, overcoming obstacles, resolving their conflicts, and living happily ever after.
Is that overly formulaic? Yes. It’s pretty damn predictable, but to be fair, it’s believable. Most people meet someone; perhaps they’re attracted to that person, perhaps they share an emotional connection, they spend time getting to know each other, perhaps overcoming differences or other barriers to their relationship (literal or emotional barriers), then they become a couple. That’s how love usually works.
How love DOES NOT usually work is gazing into some sexy stranger’s eyes and instantly knowing they’re the one. Your soul mate. Your missing other half. Your future husband/wife. You might see someone and fall into lust, but I’m sorry, you’re not in love.
That initial attraction/lust might cause you to pursue that person, and perhaps in the inevitable process of getting to know them better (if they allow you to get to know them better), you might find each other to be genuinely compatible. Congratulations! But the love wasn’t real until you knew that person better, no matter how intensely you desired them at first sight. What if you get to know that person and they’re an asshole, a serial killer, a sociopath? You might find that that initial lust fizzles out pretty fast once you realize that you and Mr/Ms destiny have NOTHING in common.
At the end of the day, love isn’t just what you see with your eyes (or feel with your tingly bits); it’s knowing someone, understanding them, getting along with them, sharing similar dreams and outlooks on life. You can’t have that kind of connection with a complete stranger no matter how hot they are. You may want that kind of connection with them, and if you’re lucky, you may obtain that level of compatibility, but love is a process that takes time.
So why do writers rush love? As I stated above – lazy ass writing usually. Perhaps they want to thrust their star-crossed lovers into some great epic conflict that threatens to pull them apart, and they think that coming between those who are already together, makes the drama so much more exciting, and I won’t deny some people like that. If they didn’t, people wouldn’t keep writing it. But it’s hard for a great many readers to emotionally invest in a romantic pair that basically has their love handed to them on a platter from the start of the story. We want to see people in the ‘getting to know each other’ stages. We want to see couples overcoming internal and external obstacles BEFORE coming to the conclusion that they’ve found the one. Seeing a couple grow together as both characters and as romantic interests allows the reader to root for them, and then when they get thrust into some epic conflict that threatens to pull them apart, it makes the reader think; “Hey these two fought just to get this far, don’t break them apart now!” The stakes are higher because all the victories were harder won. We like seeing characters earn things; by growing as individuals, by overcoming insurmountable odds, by achieving great things. If you just hand them love, it feels hallow. It feels forced. It feels fake.
Please, give us REAL love.