Pride or Prejudice, Literature or Fan-fiction?

Has Wattpad changed our generation's relationship and expectations with romance literature?

Barbora Pacherova
23rd February 2024
Image Source: both from Wikimedia Commons
Enemies to lovers, spice level three, ‘Who did this to you’, slow burn. Sounds like a very immersive read; surely I don’t need to know something as ridiculously unimportant as the plot, for example, when I’m about to read a book. Throw a few tags in my general direction, that is enough to pique my interest.

The romance literary genre has been reduced to nothing but a soulless cash grab that relies on buzzwords, or rather ‘tags’, and the amount of insane sex scenes it can pack into a single book. Love interests are cardboard cut-outs of popular literary tropes. The two most popular ones I could only summarize as ‘meh’ and ‘oh my god, main character, get a restraining order’.

There must have been a breaking point, something that started this chain reaction of releasing books that make me expect notes like ‘next book will be released when I hit 100k on Instagram’ at the end of the last page. It’s all our fault for letting them make fanfiction into serious books, and for making the After series - which I am convinced was the first domino that triggered all the others, popular and most importantly for not stopping there.

We all loved Wattpad, I know we did, those 13-year-old girls were crazy good and somehow managed to spit out whole novels in a concerningly short period of time. The similarity between what we read then and what we read now is not that accidental. Whether it was a fanfiction or original story, we managed to find one type of book we liked and read it over and over again until we got sick of it and then continued regardless. We knew what we were in for even when the font changed and for many people, it’s been their first encounter with easily accessed smut. Exciting.

Now the stories are copying each other, each including more and more of the popular tropes to draw people in and become the next big thing. Still, there is no place for judgement. Yes, Wattpad spoiled us when it comes to books, but after all, reading is supposed to be for fun and enjoyment; and while I do miss the older era of romance literature, sometimes a paper equivalent of a telenovela is just what a person needs.

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