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Thinks Like a Romance Novel

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"You don't want to be in 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. Often overlaps with In Love with Love. Compare to Imagine Spot, Dream Sequence, and Gilligan Cut.


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    Comic Books 
  • Harley Quinn exhibits this constantly, idealizing and thinking of her abusive, co-dependent relationship with The Joker as a storybook romance.
  • A bit character (the old lady parishioner) in the Immortal Hulk's 3rd issue has this affliction, so her parts of the story Art Shift into a romance comic colored fully pastel, with the villain as a Pretty Boy sparkles included, random flowers, and dramatic posing.
  • The Teen Titans character Flamebird appears to think this way: Themed Weapons + Costume + Vigilantism = Instant Relationship with Superhero Crush!
  • Primaat in Trinity (2008) is constantly talking as though she's a romantic heroine, and the male heroes she's fighting are dashing potential love interests if they can just get past this misunderstanding. Primaat is a full-sized gorilla in a pink and white corset.

    Films — Animation 
  • Rayna and Rayla from Barbie: Mariposa. They want to marry the Prince and think his being locked away is romantic.
  • Princess Anna from Frozen thinks in conventions very similar to most early Disney Princesses: hitting it off with one person after a single night is enough to convince her that they're soulmates. Prince Hans, the guy in question, is anything BUT a good prince, and manipulates this way of thinking for all it's worth in a bid to get his hands on the throne of Arendelle for himself.
  • The Princess and the Frog: Charlotte has wanted to fall in love with a prince and become a princess since she was a little girl. As an adult, she not only dreams of it but is convinced that it will happen. When she finds out that a prince is visiting her city, she immediately starts referring to him as "my prince" before she even meets him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Tom in (500) Days of Summer, who insists on imagining Summer as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl against all evidence to the contrary, and gets his heart broken as a result.
  • Giselle in Enchanted thinks like a Disney fairy tale romance is the most natural thing in the world. But then, she's literally from an animated fairy tale universe and has to spend most of the film adjusting to life in the cynical reality of New York. Said cynical reality is still part of a greater Disney fairy tale, though, so it manages to work out.
  • Hellboy appears to be a big ol' softie for a romantic storyline with his girlfriend like any Romance Novel addict. Arguably, since in the second movie she essentially condemned the world to save Hellboy, Liz Sherman has Romance Novel ideals in the form of "Love at any cost."
  • In High School Musical, Zeke appears to have something like this train of thought — he was true to himself, so of course the girl he likes will return his affections! If not, there's always other ways...
  • Chet Keefer, in the film The Marrying Kind is annoyed by his wife's view on love and marriage, and thinks she is too influenced by romantic films.
  • In The Princess Diaries, Mia mentions that the perfect kiss should involve Foot Popping, like in the movies.
  • In Sky High (2005), the main character has one of these moments when he first sees the Student Council President, that song plays and everything faces away. True love, no doubt about it.
  • Played with in Sleepless in Seattle. It was lampshaded with Rosie O'Donnell's line "You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie." However, little did she know, Sleepless In Seattle is itself a romantic comedy, so it turns out Meg Ryan's character was actually Right Genre Savvy.

  • The music of HIM is all about love, so it's natural this attitude may crop up from time to time in their lyrics. That being said, there are songs that are really just commentaries on this way of thinking (e.g. "Soul on Fire"), or deliberately insert lovesick narrators who do think this way into situations where things obviously aren't working that way (e.g. "The Face of God", which appears to be about a Love Martyr).
  • Gordon Lightfoot references this trope in 1970 Break Up Song "If You Could Read My Mind":
    If I could read your mind, love, what a tale your thoughts would tell
    Just like a paperback novel, the kind that drug stores sell
    When you reach the part where the heartache come, the hero would be me.
    Heroes often fail
    You won't read that book again because the ending's just too hard to take.
  • 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.

  • 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!"

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: Pearl has a tendency to see things this way, spending most of the original trilogy believing Phoenix was her cousin Maya's "special someone". Played for Drama in that she thinks this way because she grew up in a village with a ridiculously high divorce rate - it's implied she's never seen a relationship that worked, leading her to romanticize romance.
  • Contract Demon: It's downplayed, although Eleni was hoping for a romance between her and the demon she summoned, she didn't genuinely expect to develop a crush on Kamilla.
  • Galaxy Angel: Ranpha Franboise loves romance movies, and sometimes she gets a bit too carried away by them. In her route in the second game, watching a romance movie where the protagonist pulled an I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and her wrong assumptions about the recently joined Chitose lead her to temporarily break up with Tact to try and pair them together, thinking that Chitose deserved him more.

    Web Animation 
  • Cancer from AstroLOLogy is obsessed with romantic media and often finds herself engulfed in her own fantasies about dating a guy, only to be disappointed when the expected soap opera or romance cliché doesn't play out like she intended when she tries to get that to happen in real life.

  • Cursed Princess Club:
    • The princesses of the Pastel Kingdom were raised by a stifling dad who rarely let them leave the palace or interact with boys. Thus, their views on romance are heavily colored by the fairy tales they've read. This makes them unusually eager to rush into the Arranged Marriages that King Jack set up between them and the princes of the Plaid Kingdom. While the two older sisters get along well with their fiancés upon first meeting, Gwendolyn is shocked and heartbroken to overhear her fiancé Frederick calling her ugly. She had assumed, based on the stories she was familiar with, that all princesses were inherently beautiful and would always fall into Love at First Sight with a Prince Charming. It takes meeting the eponymous club for her to learn to develop a more nuanced perspective on romance.
    • Frederick himself developed a perspective heavily influenced by his obsession with one particular fairy tale. As a kid at a military boarding school, he was relentlessly bullied and friendless over his cheerful obsession with books. In response, he would double down on his book obsession as a form of escapism. He became especially enamored with a fairy tale about a man stuck in a deep hole who was rescued by a beautiful "Angel of Fortune" and became a respected hero with her by his side. A big reason he reacted so negatively to getting betrothed to Gwendolyn is because she looked nothing like the blonde Angelic Beauty from the story. As Frederick gets to know her better, however, he starts to notice her surprising similarities to the Angel of Fortune — the first of which being when Gwen saves him from a cliffside tumble in a manner similar to the man from the story getting pulled up from the hole.
  • Ensign Sue Must Die: This trope fuels nearly everything Ensign Sue does. She freely imagines everyone she chooses is in love with her, and that she will have a relationship with them that will conform to her expectations. She also happens to be a Yaoi Fangirl, and wants to get Kirk and Spock into a torrid gay romance with each other (once she's "taught them", of course).
  • Jareth in Girls Next Door thinks like a shipping fic when it comes to his relationship with Sarah. So yes. He genuinely expects things like a fight with her ending in an anger-fueled make-out session. Sarah's opinion about this is pretty much: "Eurgh. Whatever you've been reading, you shouldn't be."
  • Girls with Slingshots: Tucker is confused when his love life does not follow the trajectory of a movie. After realizing that repeatedly asking did not cause his crush to change her mind about dating him, his reaction is "But that's how it works in romantic comedies."
  • Kimchi Cuddles: Amalthea's idea of telling her ex she still has feelings for him involves bookmarking a poem with a piece of ribbon torn from her dress, and leaving it out in a bookshop in the hope that he'll notice. Kimchi explains to her that that doesn't count as "talking to him".
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Tsukiko has this mixed with two other tropes — Wrong Genre Savvy and Insane Troll Logic. First, she thinks that because Living Are Bastards, then the Undead, as the antithesis of life, must actually be good and just misunderstood. This makes her act like she lives in a romance novel with strong Twilight overtones, not in a fantasy setting based on Dungeons & Dragons. Because of that, she considers Xykon to be this perfect man who will finally fall in love with her and sees Redcloak as nothing more than his cowardly loser sidekick who gets between them and who she can humiliate without consequences. Finally, Redcloak decides to prove to her that a) she is wrong about the undead and b) underestimating him is a very bad idea.
    • Therkla, Kubota's assassin, falls in love with Elan at first sight, writes about it in her journal, and is willing to betray her master if Elan will become her boyfriend. Her prequel story shows that she is an avid reader of trashy romance novels, even though her job rarely gives her time to read them before someone else spoils her.
  • Ms. Intimidating Cow Monster in Rhapsodies seems to think a relationship can fix a man's problems.
  • In Weak Hero, Lily's got it in her head that her beautiful, aloof classmate Gray is a pitiable soul in dire need of protecting from all of the cram school's bullies, and that it's up to her to be his protector. The truth is quite the opposite. He's a Bully Hunter who instills fear in anyone who crosses him.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Jester in Critical Role does this, especially after she found Tusk Love. She has even taken to referring to Fjord as Oskar, the name of the hero of the story.
  • Even the cynical, broken down Nostalgia Chick can think like this, admitting that she's compared every modern man to the Duke of Albany in Kate & Leopold and found none of them could measure up.

    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.
  • A similar study by a University of Michigan doctoral student found that viewing such movies also distorted people's views on stalking behavior, given how frequently such behavior is portrayed as sexy and romantic.
  • 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 to invoke this trope but only as part of the writing process. Many, if you sit down and talk to them, have similar ideas about love as most people who don't read romance novels. It's all about selling the fantasy. They're very aware of what they're doing. Just because someone can enjoy a romance novel doesn't mean they can't tell the difference between it and reality. Reality has way fewer single billionaires running around waiting to fall in love with the plain girl who doesn't bother with her appearance, but still has great hair and skin.


Video Example(s):


Chiyo and Saiki

Chiyo has a crush on Saiki and tries to initiate a romantic meet-cute (LOVE FANTASY). Unfortunately for her Saiki is a psychic with no interest in her, so he studiously defies this attempt.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / ThinksLikeARomanceNovel

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