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Thinks Like a Romance Novel
"You don't want to be in love... you want to be in love in a movie."

At its core, this trope transpires when a character's logic and train of thought run on Romance Novel conventions.

In its most severe cases, one character is totally in love with another and the idea of confessing his/her feelings sends said character directly into full blown delusions of grandeur about returned affections. The character tends to think of romance in completely idealized terms, and their train of thought plays out like the summary of a category romance novel.

More innocuously, the inverse thoughts can lead to Oblivious to Love, because the Love Interest does not conform to the romance novel standard, it wasn't Love at First Sight, or any other failure.

Marks of this in animation include an Art Shift, a misty border if not a misty filter over the entire frame, symbolic surroundings (color background, roses, fireworks, etc), and a liberal coating of Bishie Sparkle for the characters to stare at one another adoringly through. Arguably it is much more fun to see characters thinking like romance novels in animation than anywhere else if for no other reason than these overblown delusions.

In Live Action works or Literature it is more common for the mental image to be implied while the character rambles soliloquizes about how the love scene will turn out, or for the other characters' actions to reveal their Romance Novel idealism.

Subtrope of Wrong Genre Savvy. See also Daydream Surprise for the delusion itself. Compare to Imagine Spot, Dream Sequence, and Gilligan Cut.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ˝Rumiko Takahashi not only loves giving her characters overblown romantic fantasies, but also idealized visions of victory, etc.
    • Ryōga certainly thinks in these terms about half the times he dreams about confessing to Akane.
    • During the Gambling King arc, Ukyō made a bet with Ranma that if he lost against the Big Bad, he would become her partner in a business venture... in the Siberian Tundra... where he would inevitably have a Love Epiphany, and midst the desolation of the landscape their love would blossom. If that's not a Category Romance fantasy, we don't know what is.
    • Tatewaki Kunō has these fantasies a lot... usually with two women throwing themselves at him (which, according to his Self-Serving Memory, puts his fantasies in the genre of Nonfiction).
    • Kodachi Kunō as well, though her fantasies appear to be a bit more intimate.
    • Happōsai's fantasies tend more towards erotic fanfiction than category romance, though he's had his moments.
    • Hikaru Gosunguki tends to daydream along the lines of Romance Sitcoms whenever he thinks about Akane.
  • Black Butler has Grelle Sutcliffe, who thinks like this about Sebastian. This has gone to the extent of Grelle yelling that she wants to have Sebastian's babies, complete with roses and sparkles (and a disgusted Sebastian). It's even used to get assistance from Grelle by promising her things such as an entire day to do whatever she likes with Sebastian, or an opportunity to take pictures of Sebastian in sexy poses.
  • In Black Cat, Kyoko has a scene like this where she imagines herself confessing her love to Train.
  • Kyouko from Skip Beat! lives and breathes this trope. She thinks straight out of classic fairy tales, though. Though there might be some overlap.
  • From D.N.Angel we have Daisuke who thinks this way about Risa Harada, and Risa Harada who thinks this way about Daisuke's Superpowered Alter Ego Dark.
  • From Flint The Time Detective, we have the Anne Rice Vampire wannabe Merlock, who has such fantasies about the female lead Sara. Kind of squicky when you take into account that she's about ten, his age as a Dhampyr is skewed, and during an episode where Sara was sized up without Magic Pants he saved her modesty by magicking up a Playboy Bunny costume for her. And took lots of pictures.
  • In Junjou Romantica it happens to a couple of characters. In Misaki's case, it involves Usami being a pervert (and then the exact thing happens), while in Nowaki's case, it was about Hiro-san being acting like a housewife (not a chance).
  • Midori no Hibi: Ayase is very influenced by the shoujo manga she reads, to the point where whenever she imagines her romantic moments with Seiji, he's suddenly a Bishonen and harpsichord music plays.
  • One Piece
    • In the anime, Boa Hancock does this for Luffy at the beginning of every episode while they're on the boat in transit from The Island of Women to Impel Down. Actually a Justified Trope: from age 12 to 16, Hancock (alongside her sisters) was subjected to a horrifying Break the Cutie ordeal that severely stunted her social skills.
    • Sanji also does this during the Water 7 arc when he imagines he and Robin dancing in a fairy tale-esque setting.
      • Sanji does this at all times.
  • In Ouran High School Host Club, the hosts act the way they do because they know this is the way their clients think. Though, Tamaki seems rarely to think in a manner that isn't straight out of some category of Romance Novel.
    • On a related note, Renge seems to have trouble at first in grasping that the world doesn't act like a Dating Sim-Game.
  • In Sailor Moon, the eponymous character has a number of these fantasies about Tuxedo Mask, sometimes involving the arcade guy or the Moonlight Knight for good measure. She seems to slip into these fantasies at least once every couple of episodes in the first couple of seasons.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 0 and the manga, Hiroto Honda (Tristan Taylor) goes into this trope in spades regarding Miho Nosaka. He goes off on a fantasy/rant about them together almost every time he talks about/to her.
  • A Durarara!! April Fools story reveals that Erika's inner-narrative, when it comes to the subject of Shizuo and Izaya, is written entirely in Mills and Boon Prose.
  • In one episode of My Wife Is a High School Girl , Asami simply walks into a store and has a marriage proposal a few minutes later. The shopkeeper certainly saw her in a favorable light—slightly blurry, with sparkles and roses all around.
  • In Fairy Tail, Juvia does this a lot in regards to Gray. Somewhat more understandable than other examples since she's also very naive in regards to social interaction.
  • Literature Girl from Daily Lives of High School Boys seems to think this way concerning her crush Hidenori — in fact, her crush with him is out of her desire to re-enact her love novel. Hidenori, meanwhile, doesn't want anything to do with her — in one skit he prefers Potty Failure to being seen by her!
  • Kiku in Genzo, whenever she daydreams of she and the titular Puppet Master together.
  • May Chang of Fullmetal Alchemist does this in regards to her incredibly exagerated idea of what Edward Elric looks like. After she meets Ed in person and learns how obnoxious he can be, she shifts her affections (And imagination) to Al after hearing a slightly exagerated description of his human body. When they meet again up north, Hilarity Ensues, especially when she meets Winry.
  • Ryoko constantly exhibits this thinking in the manga and OVA versions of Area 88.
  • Misa Amane of Death Note is a rather dark deconstruction of this, and it's rarely Played for Laughs after she manages to fall for the handsome, charming, clever Light Yagami... who is, in actuality, the Serial Killer Villain Protagonist in this Psychological Thriller, and who treats her like crap because he firmly believes Love Makes You Stupid and women are useless.
  • Sayaka Miki from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. She uses her wish to heal Kyosuke's arm, which backfires when her friend Hitomi confesses her own feelings before Sayaka can. It doesn't end well.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU character Flamebird appears to think this way: Themed Weapons + Costume + Vigilantism = Instant Relationship with Superhero Crush!
  • Harley Quinn exhibits this constantly, idealizing and thinking of her abusive, co-dependent relationship with The Joker as a storybook romance.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Rayna and Rayla from Barbie Mariposa. They want to marry the Prince and think his being locked away is romantic.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Jane Austen's Emma is perhaps literature's best example, though her Romance Novel thoughts typically center around the people she's playing matchmaker for. Considering that the novel was a satire of thinking like a Romance Novel, it only makes sense.
  • From Inkheart, literal Arab Expy Farrid thinks this way about Meggie, even to the point of after their first kiss proclaiming they will get married. It doesn't work out. Really, Meggie?
  • One father in Judge Dee blames his daughter's reading of great love stories for her behavior, refusing to take a husband who isn't "just right."
  • Madame Bovary's title character is another classic example. She was raised in a convent where romance novels were passed around by the girls, and she believes love can only exist in the grandiose, sentimental way. She ruins her first marriage (and life) for this.
  • In the Discworld novel Mort by Terry Pratchett, there is Ysabel, who goes into the room with the books of life writing themselves to read all the real-life stories of tragic love that there are, and these stories form the basis of her understanding of romance.
    • While a lot of Pratchett's younger female characters have this problem, it's subverted in Unseen Academicals: Glenda secretly reads pulp romance novels as her only known form of recreation, but she's not convinced and ultimately doesn't let them mislead her in her own life or her advice to others.
    • Also subverted in Wintersmith: The Nac Mac Feegle provide Tiffany with a romance novel to help her with the wintersmith ... and she thinks all the characters should just be more sensible.
  • One R.L. Stine novel involves a heroine with... perhaps a tenuous grasp on reality, as she typically has fantasies about being more assertive and attractive than she is, and stealing her love interest away from his Rich Bitch girlfriend.
  • Mia from The Princess Diaries thinks about her love life (and other people's love lives) in this way a lot of the time. So does her friend, Tina.
  • Too many P. G. Wodehouse characters to name.
  • Michael from the Knight and Rogue Series manages to do this while also being able to use normal logic (or as much of that as he usually could.) He thinks that his love for Rosamund will overcome the barriers between them, but when she falls for another traveler he decides to help her, figuring that when she sees what it's like outside her pampered home life she'll give up on him.
  • In Twilight, Bella always compares her situation to romance novels or theater, varying from book to book (Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights).
  • Deconstructed in A Song of Ice and Fire when Sheltered Aristocrat Sansa Stark is betrothed to Prince Joffrey. She expects everything to play out like a courtly romance, but then suffers a horrible Trauma Conga Line partly because of her idealism. She grows out of it.
    Petyr Baelish: Life is not a song, sweetling. Someday you may learn that, to your sorrow.

    Live-Action TV 
  • From Babylon 5 we have Marcus Cole, who out of idealism for love defied A Man Is Not a Virgin, and then fell in love with Susan Ivanova. Unfortunately, his Heroic Sacrifice and her bad timing is one of the reasons why All Love Is Unrequited.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. has a Historical Romance Novel right in the middle of the plot basically any time the eponymous Brisco interacts with his Love Interest Dixie Cousins. Whether this was the writers or characters thinking like romance novel plots is debatable.
  • For a short period near the end of Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike seems to believe that his relationship to Buffy is the plot of a Gothic Romance Novel. That whole attempted rape thing really puts a damper on their relationship at the beginning of Season 7.
    • And sixteen year-old Buffy with Angel.
    Angel: I'm just tryin' to protect you. This could get outta control.
    Buffy: Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?
    Angel: This isn't some fairy tale. When I kiss you, you don't wake up from a deep sleep and live happily ever after.
    Buffy: No. When you kiss me I want to die.
  • Kaylee from Firefly seems to think this way when it comes to Simon Tam — even trying Beautiful All Along (though it was more for her benefit), Through His Stomach (though she seems to cook for the whole crew a lot, and being his best friend (resting her legs on his lap).
  • In The Magnificent Seven TV series, the character Casey Wells is introduced as an injection of estrogen and love interest for upstart-youth J.D. Dunne. Her crush and idealism are so strong that she enlists the aide of Buck Wilmington, the group womanizer, for a Beautiful All Along gambit.
  • In Roswell, Liz had more than a few elaborate fantasies about her Love Interest Max coming on to her. They were very nice strawberries...
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Who Mourns for Adonais?" the eponymous Adonais has everything lined up to be the Marty Stu hero of his own Romance Novel, pretty little Yeoman and all. It doesn't work out.
  • In the reboot V (2009), it would seem that the heroine's son who's unknowingly dating Cthulu's daughter seems to think that he's just in some cross-cultural successful love story.
  • On Gossip Girl Blair Waldorf Thinks Like A Romantic Movie, or more specifically romantic films of the golden age Hollywood variety. To the point where her ex-boyfriend thinks the most romantic thing he can do to win her back is give her an ultimatum a la An Affair to Remember.
  • In The Office (US), this is one of the main culprits of Michael's personal failures. He consistently tries to live up romantic tropes but ultimately this is doomed because This Is Reality. Until he marries Holly, anyway!
  • Subverted on Hot In Cleveland. In the first season, Melanie's ex-husband shows up and they go out for part of the episode. He decides to go back to his ex (whom he left Melanie for), and Melanie runs to the airport to catch him. An airport employee even lets her through and there's a lot of talk about the trope. She then proceeds to tell him off. Doubles as a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Melanie, who never swears.

    Music 
  • Anytime "True" by Spandau Ballet plays, you can be sure that it's an indication of this.
  • "Love Story" by Taylor Swift is what Romeo and Juliet would be like if it were a YA Romance Novel instead of a cautionary tale. The more you know.
  • Psychostick's "It's Just A Movie, Stupid" features its lead singer discouraging his audience from following this line of thought in the bluntest, most vulgar way possible. It also acknowledges the typical gendered scenarios for the men and women who hope to invoke this trope in their love lives.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The villain Tenderheart from Dark Champions believes in the delusion that life works like a romance novel and her criminal career is based around the idea that a superhero will fall in love with her.

    Theater 
  • In The Man of Mode, Mrs. Loveit thinks this way, despite the fact that the man she's in love with, Dorimant, plays the field and is a trickster. Played for Laughs
  • Fiddler on the Roof toys with this in the song "Matchmaker".
  • In Reefer Madness, the musical, High School Sweethearts Mary and Jimmy have not yet finished their coursework for Romeo and Juliet. They believe that the two will get married, "have a baby, and make lots of friends!"

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • In Step 1 of There she is!!, Doki imagines Nabi in this way, and continues with the mindset throughout the series.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • An experiment in which one group of participants watched a romantic comedy and another group watched a drama found that the group watching a romantic comedy became more idealistic about love and romance.
  • Very few Romance Novel heroines actually think this way, as it would sort of defeat the black moment of the three-act structure. Their authors, however, are literally paid for this trope. Many, if you sit down and talk to them, are just as cynical about love as most people who don't read romance novels. It's all about selling the fantasy.
  • Younger people have little to no real-life experience, so some are more prone to accept what they see in fiction when they have no personal experience to compare it to — which certainly includes romance, among other things. Sadly, since women are traditionally viewed as "more emotional" than men, this perpetuates a VERY misogynistic stereotype about women as a whole: that all young women are INHERENTLY more stupid, naive and easy to influence than men, so they must be patronized and treated like they are incapable of taking their own decisions, whether they're for good or worse — and if a woman fails, she must be censured harder than a man who commits similar emotion-based mistakes. Because it's not like some younger men don't think like a romance novel too, especially considering how media as a whole portrays romance.


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