For a lot of people, myself included, the point of fiction is to depart from reality. I like stories with happy endings, where at the end everything is wrapped up in a nice little package and there’s no what ifs. I grew up on fantasy novels and Nancy Drew mysteries and I wanted nothing more than for dragons to be real and to grow up and become a detective. Despite being older, the basic premise behind this still stands for me. I read to escape everyday reality, to have a story that takes me elsewhere and that gives me a content feeling life sometimes can’t. And now I’m rambling. The point of all this is, oddly enough, a coffee shop. I’ll explain.
I read a lot of fan fiction and perhaps the most popular and loved Alternative Universe is the Coffee Shop universe. By all accounts this is a normal universe, not a huge departure from current life, nothing fantastical to it, no great big mystery. So why do people love this relatively simple thing? It’s because it’s realistic. It’s so simple and so sweet and so possible that it could actually be real. It’s bringing romance into a slightly more realistic frame.
A lot of romance stories think big. The characters have some secret background, they’re famous, theres a mess of drama that most people can’t hold a match to. People like this because it’s different and dramatic, but in the same breath they like the coffee shop AU because they look at it and think, “That could actually happen.” You could meet a cute barista and strike up a conversation and end up out on that date to the movies or with a free cookie.
It’s not even just that. The coffee shop AU is sweet, it’s fluff, it’s feel good. Sometimes you don’t want to deal with drama and you want something that’s going to make you giggle and cover your face while you blush and squirm because it’s just too cute. That’s not to say the coffee shop AU can’t involve some drama. Believe me, there are some out there that involve lots of it.
On the whole though this is an AU that readers are more able to connect with. It’s a plausible meeting scenario, involving something many people do quite regularly and it normally proceeds to a somewhat normal dating pattern with that much needed happy ending to tie it all up. So, while I love reading a story and being removed from the real world for several hours, sometimes it’s nice to read something that feels like you wouldn’t have to be dreaming for it to happen.