Thursday, October 20, 2011

Three's a crowd!

Can I just say love triangles are NOT my favorite? Maybe I’m crazy—I must be because they are everywhere! I find them more in YA books than in adult books. In fact it feels like they are in every YA book…okay maybe I’m being dramatic.

Here is my question—Do they really happen in real life? They didn’t happen to me. I had boyfriends, but I was never torn between two boys. I must just be ultra decisive. In fact, I am ultra decisive. I’m a “make a quick decision live with the consequences” kind of girl.

These are my problems with love triangles:
  1. The girl (or boy) trapped in the middle, almost always comes across as weak. Just make a choice and get on with it already!
  2. To make it work the reader needs to like both romantic choices, and that means the MC hurts someone you like.
  3. If you don’t make one choice likeable the triangle falls apart, and your MC looks silly for being so wishy washy.
  4. It feels like a female fantasy. Like this is what every girl wants—two guys after her. But I wouldn’t want that. Have you ever read a triangle with two girls and one guy? No? I can’t think of one. Can you?
  5. Triangles almost always leave me disliking the MC. That is harsh I know, but the longer she drags it out the less I like her.
  6. Triangles can leave me disliking the guys who would put up with this nonsense. I can get behind a little patience on the side of a guy. It is sweet letting the girl make a decision, but at a certain point it kind of turns pathetic. I want him to say, “Look if you like me great, but if you don’t I’m going to find someone who does, because this isn’t fair to me.” I would NEVER wait around for someone who didn’t like me enough to pick me.

Sorry, I feel like I am being really harsh. I don’t mean to be. In fact some of my favorite books have triangles, but at least for me they are my favorites despite the triangle. Am I nuts? I think I must be, because everyone is reading and writing love triangles. If you love them can you help me understand why, because I just don’t get it.

Personally I’m a fan of unrequited love. I say let’s bring back that trend. What do you say?


It's been a crazy week, so I'm a little late with this, but--you can hear me rambling about writing over at Something to Write About. The awesome Abby Fowers was so sweet and asked the BEST questions :)


E.R. King said...

I think the use of love triangles is prevalent in YA because that's how it is in high school. Boy 1 likes her, but she's dating Boy 2, yet Boy 2 is a dirtbag. I can see where it has its place, but I agree with you on dragging it out to the point where the reader no longer respects the characters. No one empathizes with a doormat for long.
Great post, as always!

Sara Bulla said...

I concur! I never respect the girls who string one boy along, while they hold hands with another. They give us a bad name and image. But like Emily, I can see where they have their place. Plus it propels the story forward. It keeps the reader turning the pages as fast as they can, if for no other reason, than to just get satisfaction that the MC came to her senses and chose the obvious right choice. :) Great post.

Sarah Pearson said...

Yay for unrequited love :-)

Abby said...

I like love triangles, but I DO think they are getting over done. It was great in twilight, but it seems like they are everywhere now and that gets old. I was sometimes torn between two boys - not that they ever fought over me like in the books - but only because I was boy crazy. haha

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I keep waiting for the love square - best friends who like the same girl, but one is dating another and none of them want to hurt any of the others.

I'm telling you - square is the shape of the future.

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Heidi Windmiller said...

Hi! New follower.

I'm a fan of the triangle if it is done in such a way that it is all pushed aside for the action. Like in the Hunger Games, where the triangle is in the background, and other action is the focus. Or Glow--where there are only a few lines to hit at a triangle before the plot spins off in other directions.

But the back and forth, what will the MC choose--that gets old.

Angela Felsted said...

I'm with you on all those points.

I can maybe see having a love triangle work if the main character falls in love with the second guy after the first guy is out of the picture.

Carrie Jones does this in her Need series. It's more believable and doesn't require the girl to be wishy washy, nor does it make the boys appear weak for not letting "her" go.

In real life, I was in the corner of a triangle when I dated two guys a few months before I married. It was stressful, let me tell you, and it didn't last long AT ALL.

Angela Cothran said...

Emily - I for sure don't sympathize with a doormat.

Sara - You have a great point. It does move the story along, but if that is all that is moving it along, I get bored FAST!

Sarah - Amen sister!

Abby - I will say by the end of Breaking Dawn I didn't like Bella anymore. I hated how she strung Jacob along.

Tasha - I think you have something there with the square!

Heidi - I did like the Katniss-Peeta-Gale dynamic, but I think that was because it was secondary to the story. Very secondary! Welcome!

Jenny S. Morris said...

I agree it's overdone. I think authors might like the idea of Team Jake and Team Edward.

I am treading close to a triangle in one of my WIPS. With mine she meets both guys at the same time, but doesn't know which one she likes. Which I think happens. But, I am aware of ALL the issues you've listed because I feel the same way. I want my MC to come off decisive, and not wishy washy. I want the guys to have strong self-esteems and not let a girl push them around.

Oh, and I am all for unrequited love!

Cassie Mae said...

The only two girls one guy love triangle I can think of is in Percy Jackson...however, it's a little tainted by the fact that there is also a two guys one girl triangle too, but I like it there.

Other than that...I hate love triangles too! I'm a big fan of finding that one person and not having any romantic feelings toward another. In fact, I like Twilight as a stand alone novel, because it erases it.

But then again, my own novel has a very vague love triangle, but it's two girls and one guy.

julie fedderson said...

I think the triangle evolves out of the safe bet and the risk--sort of a metaphor for life. But I have never had the good fortune of having two young hunks both vying for my attentions, so not super realistic. For me, anyway. Maybe other gals have this happen all the time?

Chipper Muse said...

I never had it happen to me either. But I notice that the two girl, one guy seems more common in movies, with the MC as the heroine, and the other girl as a mean girl. I think approaching the triangle in that way is better - the tension is between good girl and mean girl, or nerd guy vs. scum guy.

Jeigh said...

Carrie Ryan has an EXCELLENT post on how to do love triangles right. I wish I had the link, but I don't :(

Oh, wait, I found it!

This is the best part: "To me, a love triangle done right isn't about a female character's affections bouncing back and forth between two men, it's about her internal struggle within herself as she figures out who *she* wants to be and what's important to her. This internal struggle then gets reflected externally as she wars within herself and grows."

Tara Tyler said...

i have to admit, i was terrible into triangles in my 20s. i loved to date around (no sex unless monogomous for a while, mind you) so i would go out w/a guy then meet his roommate or brother and go out w/him. i was terrible! the point is, in real life triangles dont usually come out w/a truly happy ending. its a settling for one or other when you need to find a combo of the two, in one

Shallee said...

Not so much a fan either, for a lot of the same reasons. I never really had a love triangle in my life either. In books, they usually just make me dislike the girl and want to smack her.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I'm with Tara. It is a part of real life (and was a part of my life) and it can lead to serious drama and heartache. And isn't that what we are writing, drama and heartache?

But I totally understand your points. I loved the Katniss/Gale/Peeta thing and not so much the Edward/Jacob/Bella. It has it's pluses and it's minuses and anything overdone is just overdone.

My husband had to help me come up with Jacob's name (and he totally did off the top of his head! Go Chad!) but he mentioned that these are more of love V's not triangles. Because the boys don't love each other. LOL! He's so helpful.

Melissa Sugar said...

I enjoy love triangles in fiction, but not in real life. I was involved in one & I know we appear weak for not making a choice, but I remember the one I was involved in, beginning of college and it was very traumatic and heartbreaking for all of us.

You really can be in love with two people. Well at least I thought it was love back then.

I am a new follower & glad to be here

Raymund Hensley said...

Oh, goodness....That "kissing" picture is hilarious!

David Powers King said...


What about a love pentagram? I'm actually writing one of those. Not easy, but intrinsically fun! :)

Excellent thoughts, Angie! And I agree. I'm not opposed to a triangle if it's handled well, and unique.

Rachel Frost said...

I find it odd that you said you enjoy 'unrequited love' when, guess what, it's often a part of the love triangle.

For instance, Boy and Girl are in love. Girl 2 is also in love with Boy, but she knows that he will never reciprocate her feelings (Okay, so it's more of a V, but so are most 'triangles').

Kelley said...

Hi! New follower!

I've never been in a love triangle, so i guess that's why they don't pop up in my manuscripts...

I agree though. Don't really like them.

MaryAnn Pope said...

I'm extremely late to this post, but I thought I'd comment any way. I've seen a lot of two girls one boy love triangles in the second world fantasy novels I read when I was young. So they are out there, more in the books that men tend to read, so I don't think this is a purely female fantasy.

"The Elfstones of Shannara" by Terry Brooks has two girls in love with the main character. I thought it was well done there.

Also The Wheel of Time has the main character Rand in love with three girls, but they are all happy to share him, so maybe were tapping into a different male fantasy there. :)

That same series has two girls interested in another male mc (Perrin), but these two are less willing to share.

I know there are more, but those are the two examples that immediately spring to mind.

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