For readers who love a love story, and the writers who write them, this is a serious question.

Here’s a scenario for you:

A guy and a girl are good friends. He’s in love with her and she’s blind to it. He suggests maybe they could be more than friends, she firmly friend-zones him. He continues to support her through a series of bad relationships. They have movie nights and he never moves in for the snuggles. His hugs never cross into intimate. He never takes advantage of her when she’s drunk. He’s just there, never giving up that she’ll come around and see that he loves her. And maybe she does. Or maybe he gets tired of waiting, finds someone new, and they stay just friends. Of course in a novel she’d realize he was the only one who ever had her back and show up in the rain, pledging her love to him. Happily ever after.

Here’s another, and this one is true:

Girl gets dumped by boyfriend of roughly a year. They were living together so she’s had to move back in with Mom. A guy friend of hers comes out and says “Hey, I’ve liked you for a long time. You’re single now, maybe we could give it a shot”. She says “I value our friendship to much to risk ruining it with an attempt at romance. And I need some time and space to figure out my life right now.” So, not a total friend-zoning, but definitely asking for time and space. He asks again, and again, every other day. Texts her incessantly. Leaves little blue plastic penises in her jacket pocket (a not so subtle hint that she’s giving him “blue balls” perhaps?). Again and again she says, “I’m not dating anyone for a while, give me some space” and he doesn’t back off. Wants to treat her to lunch. Wants to watch movies and them starts with the hand on her thigh routine. She finally tells him off.

Can you see the difference?

Boy #1 respected his friend’s decision and never pushed. He just steadfastly stood by her. Boy #2 only wanted what he wanted and was not respectful. And this is the difference.

So, is the character in your romance novel a persistent friend? Or an abusive one? Because the guy who won’t take “no” for an answer when the question is “wanna date?” probably won’t take “no” for an answer when the question is “wanna fuck?”. The difference between not giving up and not taking no for an answer is respect.

We all love the idea of the underdog winning. We love to see true love win out over all obstacles. But please, let your persistent admirer the respectful kind.