Time Travel Romance: Math And Psychology

Time travel romance is a kind of romance novel (or better yet, a contemporary romance novel), a love story with optimistic ending, in which one of the main protagonists travels for some relatively long distance in time (and quite often in space too).

Speaking mathematically, time travel love stories should evenly represent the following four plot variants:

  1. the heroine goes from present to past;
  2. the hero goes from present to past;
  3. the heroine comes from past to present;
  4. the hero comes from past to present.

But in real life we do not see that the plots are evenly distribute between the above options.

Anne Marble in her article about time travel romances noticed, that much more often it is the heroine who travels from present to past, than the hero who comes from past to present. Probably, Mrs. Marble is right. It seems that the option #1 in the above list is the most popular among romance authors, then comes the option #4, and the options #2 and #3 are almost neglected. So why the authors’ fantasy is not distributed evenly? The answer may be found in the readers’ psychology.

Let us assume the following common sense rules:

  • Fiction becomes successfull if, through author’s efforts, allows its readers to subconsciously associate themselves with the protagonists and to experience the same emotions as protagonists do.
  • The main audience of contemporary romance are contemporary, modern women.

Ergo, a successful romance must give modern women an opportunity to associate themselves with the heroine of the story.

This conclusion completely eliminates the possibility of options #2 and #3, because they both assume that the heroine belongs to the past. But the present day woman does not really associate herself with, say, a lady of Medieval England, all her life experience is completely different from that. The modern woman tends to associate herself with a modern woman. But what she wants is to taste something different from the present day everyday life.

The desire for something different explains the lag of option #3: when a present day woman meets a man from the past, the daily life around her remains the same, it is just her emotions that change, and it may be not enough for a female reader. And actually, there is not much intrigue in the option #3: simply a girl meets an awkward boy, who is more gentle, more courteous than others, and besides, can fencing with sword, but does not know what a fork is. But anyhow, quite many lady readers are willing to find themselves in such an affair.

The best option is when a novel pictures a modern woman travelling in the past and meeting her love there. The female readers are ready to associate themselves with the heroine, and also their desire to get out of everyday life into exciting adventures and to experience new emotions is completely satisfied.

So the explanation of strange math of love seems to be that savvy authors just tailor their romances to the subconscious needs of their readers.

Actually, since time travels involve travels from and to future as well, there are four more plot variants for time travel romances. These variants seem to follow the same logic, but novels of this kind belong to the other subgenre — sci-fi romance novels, which is some another story.


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