Since I’ve started dating again, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into love, romance, and everything else that makes that 11 ounce organ in your chest beat like Keith Moon.

Sorry to be stating the obvious but people love love. There’s a reason why it’s got it’s own genre in the writing world. Writers write about it, poets wax poetic about it, and there’s more literature about it, condemning it, celebrating it, agonizing it, and analyzing it than any other subject in human history. Love is a many splendor thing and it is complicated as hell when it comes to writing it.

When I write romance or have my characters fall in love, I often struggle with how to let the reader know that these two characters are in fact totally in love. Does the audience know that they’re in love because they spend so much time together? Because they’re affectionate? Because they have a lot of sex? I freely admit that I’m a cynic and an asexual to boot. Me writing sex and overly romantic behavior is a struggle. I mock romance novels for fun and as for sex itself well, that part is self-explanatory. Still, it does raise a good question as to when we, the audience, identify when two people are in love. For most novels, it’s when they’re having sex. They feel comfortable enough to be completely naked and incredibly intimate with their SO. Again, as a cynic and an ace, sex isn’t the greatest indicator for me that two people are in love. If anything, it just shows that they find each other attractive enough to fuck. Love is more than physical attraction, I think we can all agree on. Love is patience and kindness, support, and pushing you to become a better person. But what is the threshold that all of us can point at and say, “Yes, they are in love!”

With shipping all it takes is one prolonged look and some soft music playing in the background before everyone puts on their shipping goggles and then fics and fan art pop up. Sometimes, they don’t even have to have any interaction, they could just be the only other two single people left in the series and people put them together because, hey, pair the spares. People ship characters because of one off sentences, a headcannon, a piece of fan art, or whatever. It doesn’t take a lot for people to just accept that those characters are in love. But is there a better way?

I’m not complaining that people write over the top romances that are sheer wish fulfillment. Those writers are providing a much needed service and everyone needs some wish fulfillment sooner or later. Rather, I want to know from you, the audience at which point you identify that a set of characters are in love. For me, personally, it’s when they are so enmeshed together that all it takes is one look and they have an entire plan figured out. Communication skills are essential, people. I love a couple that knows each other so well that they’re on the same wave-length.

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