Do you know what I love about stories in general? They stimulate my creativity and make me imagine a lot of things, both possible and impossible. K-dramas, in particular, excel in this regard because of their seemingly flawless characters and inevitable happy endings. After watching so many K-dramas, I’ve become familiar with their essential plot points: brooding men, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, temporary amnesia, blah blah blah.
Regardless of my frustration with these tropes, I think about them whenever I feel like writing my own stories. I started working on a YA romance novel last year, and K-dramas were conducive to my ideation process. At one point, I drew from my experiences and embellished them with the tropes I loved. Moreover, I tried to put myself in the shoes of the characters I followed and reflected on how I would do things differently (or similarly). Here are the results of my introspection:
- I wouldn’t be the main character
I know that introverts can be outstanding leaders. Nonetheless, I dislike hoarding people’s attention and being responsible for the success or failure of others. When I was in college, I always sat in the back row. Strangely, that seemed to be the preferred location of genuinely smart students (college scholars/dean’s listers). Hahaha. This simply shows that it’s possible to shine outside the spotlight. Don’t underestimate the extras or secondary characters around you.
- I wouldn’t let love get in the way of friendship
Love triangles are a staple in K-dramas. Usually, the leading man “wins” the girl, while the second guy (his best friend) lets go of the heroine because he wants her to be happy. If I were caught in such a dilemma, I would also give up on my crush. However, I would do it for my friend’s happiness, not hers. That way, I could avoid so much undue stress. Please note that this happened to me in real life. xD
- I wouldn’t be one of the heirs of a conglomerate
Yes, money enables you to buy things that make you happy. Still, I would rather be a middle-class extra than a chaebol with snobbish grandparents and spineless parents. I love the quality of my family life as it is, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s much more fun to witness rich people drama from a distance. Please spare me from petty fights over who gets to inherit what!
- I wouldn’t be a tsundere
Men who are externally cold but internally warm are common in Asian media. They treat their love interests disrespectfully to hide their growing affection. Like what’s up with that nonsense? I’m sick of hearing that love makes men look weak. Isn’t honesty a form of strength? If I had a romantic prospect, I would act like my usual self and not embrace a bad boy persona. But if she found such dudes sexy, I would distance myself from her immediately.
- I wouldn’t break up with someone only to reunite someday
Character development is one of the reasons why I enjoy K-dramas. It’s satisfying to watch the protagonists grow closer per episode. Unfortunately, I know that every K-drama couple will eventually break up. The duration of their separation is unbearable, so I occasionally find myself pressing the fast-forward button. Can’t K-dramas have other forms of conflict? If my fictional girlfriend and I broke up, I wouldn’t be fickle enough to get back together after overcoming my “issues.” Breaking up must be intentional, not impulsive. Taylor Swift’s song is so right. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, and the audience should accept that.
All in all, like many narratives today, K-dramas are formulaic. Producers know the monetary equivalent of each trope, and they use this information to their advantage. I often roll my eyes at this capitalist-driven lack of originality, but I understand that people find comfort in the familiar. Many things in life are already unpredictable (e.g., death), so we like predictable stories that give us a sense of control.