You Tell Me: What’s In A Love Triangle

Posted by on Sep 12, 2012 in Writing, You Tell Me | 32 comments

You Tell Me: What’s In A Love Triangle

Today’s the first day I’ll be doing a You Tell Me post and I’m damn excited. Most of these posts are going to be very short on my end, because what I’m looking for is what draws readers in and I want us all to talk about it. With that said, let’s get down to business.

Love triangles have gotten extremely popular in the last few years and I have always had trouble understanding why. I know there’s the back and forth of who the main character might end up with, and that can be exciting, but in most of the stories I’ve read there was very little doubt in my mind. Often times it was obvious from the get-go and as the story progressed, my outlook didn’t change. For those stories, the love triangle appears as fabricated tension; just another character thrown in the mix to add to the plot, or sometimes to support it. Sometimes however, a love triangle is done really well and it takes the story to a whole new level. So for today’s discussion, lets talk about it.

 

You Tell Me:

What is it about a love triangle that draws you in?

If you don’t like them, what is it about them that turns you away.

Do you feel sometimes that  love triangles are used to cover up a struggling plot?

In your opinion, what makes a love triangle work?

Do you seek out books specifically with a love triangle?

What to you, is the best example of a well executed love triangle?

 

Feel free to answer any, or all of the questions above. If there’s something about love triangles you want to discuss that isn’t listed in the questions, throw it out there in the comments and lets dissect it!

32 Comments

  1. I personally don’t care for a love triangle unless it is done exceptionally well. I tend to feel like adding a love triangle that isn’t truly necessary just makes me dislike the characters involved—and sadly, it’s usually the main female character that receives the brunt of my eye rolling, scoffing, and muttering (because I’m a chick and I like the boys, which makes me biased in a weird way, but I’m cool with it.). But the thing is, I don’t WANT to dislike characters unless I’m truly supposed to! For instance; the love triangle in the Twilight Saga. PUKE. And I hated Bella for her idiocy in not being able to see what was clear to me from ohhh, page 15 of the first book. And Jacob’s shenanigans practically vilified him for me…I don’t know, I just really detested that whole triangle, and it’s probably because when, as a reader, you KNOW what the outcome is going to be but the characters are being dumb and taking their time getting to where they should be, you’re irritated so reading isn’t fun and you feel cheated somehow. Maybe that’s just me, I don’t know, and I honestly wish I could give an example of what I think of as a well-written love triangle, but aside from TV, I can’t think of one at the moment. Anyone have an example of a really good love triangle?

    • The best love triangle I can think of it Cassandra Clare’s series Clockwork Devices. Will and Jem seem to have an equal chance at getting the girl and most readers are quite passionately on one side or the other.

    • Yes!!! That is a great love triangle, though I have a sick feeling in my stomach that Jem isn’t going to make it in the last book.

    • I haven’t even caught up on TMI yet, and I have a few from her other series on my bookshelf waiting for me, but knowing there are multiple people that have now mentioned this makes me want to check it out!

    • Yeah, I read the TMI, but haven’t had a chance to read the rest of Clare’s series. I need to though, because if I recall, I really enjoyed how she ended TMI. I think there might’ve even been some cheering involved.

    • Oh and I remembered another triangle that has been interesting to say the least… The House of Night series by P.C. & Kristin Cast. I don’t want to say who it’s between, though, because that could ruin quite a bit of the initial books for anyone who hasn’t read them yet.

    • I like the House of Night series, but I am actually not a fan of the love triangle in the book. I actually do a lot of tsking and eye rolling. It actually kind of frustrates me. I can’t help but feel sorry for at least one of them, always. I won’t say either, don’t want to ruin it.

  2. I thought love triangles were not exactly welcome by most these days? I am indifferent to them, honestly. There are some that have been well done, but I prefer the emotional output between 2 characters who have to fight for their HEA. I agree that with a lot of love triangles, especially in YA, it is very easy to detect who the choice will be in the end, but I never thought about it covering up a struggling plot. Hmmmm. You could be on to something, because it is very obvious that romance brings the ladies to the bookstores. Sometimes plot is overlooked when the burning passion is in yo face. I do not seek out triangles, but don’t balk at them like some readers I know! A lot of bloggers are pretty much over it. I personally love the triangles in The Hunger Games, Nightshade, The Vampire Academy, Rhiannon’s Law, Shade and Shifter series. They all made me feel strong emotions.

    • All of those are going on my TBR list. I have Nightshade and VC already and my wife loved both, so I’ll have to check them out and see what you mean. I’ve only read a few books with love triangles, but I wasn’t a fan of those I read, so I definitely want to check some others out.

  3. I can’t stand love triangles. They turn me off a book or series. Even my favorite author I will turn the book away if I find out there’s a love triangle. Like you said, it’s usually pretty obvious who will end up with who. That makes it come off to me as bitchy (so far all love triangles I’ve read have been 1 girl and 2 boys) of the girl. She’s leading one on and just needs to let him down so he can find someone else. Stop toying with his heart!

    • I imagine it would be difficult to pull off a love triangle without making the character in the middle look like that in some way. In the end, someone has to end up unhappy, you know?

      I’m not a fan of the love triangles I’ve read, but I’ve seen some good suggestions out here that I will check out. I’d like to be more well read in them before I make a decision for myself.

  4. I like to feel emotion when I read, so if a love triangle elicits emotion then it’s okay with me. I also like it when I have trouble choosing my favorite. However, any plot device can be overused.

    Like Jenn, I couldn’t stand Jacob in the Twilight series, and I became angry at Bella for not seeing Edward was the one for her. This story definitely elicited emotion!

    I just finished a YA with a love triangle (Destiny’s Fire by Trisha Wolfe) where I couldn’t choose which boy would be best for Dez. The author had me bouncing back from one boy to another, and I liked that.

    • That’s exactly what I’m talking about! Doesn’t it work so much better when you really don’t know who it will be? I’ve spoken to Trisha a few times through Twitter, but I have yet to have the pleasure of reading her books. You’ve definitely piqued my interest on them!

  5. Man. This is a hard one. I think love triangles draw readers in because, like any other choice a character makes, it lets you (the reader) imagine two different scenarios. But this choice that the character makes, unlike other choices, pulls on very strong emotions like jealousy, pain, anger, and of course, love.

    That said, I tend to be pulled towards a “love triangle” that involve two possible partners and a choice or emotion that pulls them apart. To me, this is far more realistic and approachable from a reader’s standpoint. That internal battle is fought by all of us. You may lose jealousy by this route, but you can gain so much more.

    I know that doesn’t much resemble a love triangle, but like I said, I read love triangles as just another choice, and to me, the choice between a lover, and say, duty or principle is a much stronger conflict.

    • Very valid point, Darin. I hadn’t considered a love triangle involving something other than people, but looked at in that light, I would have to agree with you and modify my original statement. In that respect (a triangle being between people and a choice), I think most definitely makes for more engaging story telling and elicits the “right” kind of emotion when reading. Thanks so much for pointing that out. :-)

    • That’s a great point. I would argue that their is a conflict and a choice in every plot at some point, but it’s not always about love. Thinking about your perspective here, I have to agree.

      I think when there is only one love on the table, but the potential that someone may have to choose not someone, but something else, would almost elicit more emotion from me than a choice between two people.

      Excellent comment. I’d say you definitely upped the ante on that one!

    • Right? And what I personally thought of as hilarious is that my OWN work has some of this in it and it never even occurred to me to think of it as a “triangle,” but in the context Darin spoke of, it most certainly is. LOL

  6. Not a big fan of love triangles though I do think that Amanda Hocking did a great one in her Trylle series between Wendy, Finn, and Loki. I think I liked this triangle because the person I thought would end up with Wendy all along didn’t. I also have to agree with Patricia that I feel it makes a female character seem fickle when caught in a love triangle and makes me admire her less (Bella). Not with Katniss/Peeta/Gale though, I think that was done very well considering that the romance was really the last thing I thought of during the series. All in all, I can take them or leave them but I don’t like the fact that so many YA books are going that route. I’d like to see just two people having an ever growing affection for each other rather than love being split in half with the constant tug of war romance.

    • That’s a good point. I think a successful love triangle is more easily achieved when it isn’t either a) the main plot, or b) overshadowing the main plot because of the main characters internal conflict. The back and forth gets tiring very quickly. At least in my reading experience it has, but like I said, I’m not very well read in the love triangle department.

  7. Not a fan of love triangles-even when they are done well. Doesn’t matter who gets the girl, somebody doesn’t. Must like those HEA endings for all.

    My question about them is WHY is it always 2 guys and 1 girl? Why can’t we have 2 girls and 1 guy for a change. Just wondering.

    • Probably because the guy would look like some kind of player. It would have to be a passive/beta type male for that to work or the character might come off as a user. :o/

    • I agree. It’s unfortunate, but that stereo type is there. It could make him look like a jerk, or like some kind of ‘bad boy,’ I suppose, if it was done in the right manner.

      It would be interesting to see how less aggressive character handles things. Perhaps a character that doesn’t usually get the girl, or any attention whatsoever? Maybe some sort of plot aspect puts him in that position?

      If it was set up properly, I think there could be an audience for that. One who would sympathize with the character.

      “He was never loved by anyone, but now he has to choose one over the other?”

  8. I can definitely say that I do not choose a book based on whether or not it has a love triangle. And I have to agree with Matt that often times it is very obvious who the choice is. I mean come on everyone knew that Jacob didn’t have a chance in Twilight.

    As far as liking them or not I think I can say that often times I don’t. I find them annoying and I often get made at the character who the two people are vying for. On this I totally agree with Jenn, because it just annoys me. Yes as a reader I love to feel real emotions for characters, but I don’t think a love triangle has to be the answer.

    If I had to pick a series that does it rather well I would have to say that Janet Evanovich does it well in her Stephanie Plum novels i.e., One for the Money. But it is not the typical love triangle one finds in most books.

  9. I really don’t like them…I tolerate them. Some are better than others but I get a bit tired of the “who is she/he going to choose?” stuff when I’m reading. I do feel like sometimes they are just there to add a bit more fluff to a book and it’s irritating when it’s blatantly obvious which person is going to be the “victor”, lol. I’m also not fond of seeing the choices a person has and then they choose the worst one because he’s “mysterious”…to me that just means you know nothing about him and he walks around in a creepy manner. But before I go off on a rant about creepy guys and how they get the girl, back to love triangles.
    I’m trying to think of a series that had a really awesome love triangle and I can’t really think of one. Even the triangle in The Hunger Games (which i love) is kind of pointless and obvious. I will admit that I haven’t read most of the ones people have mentioned here, so I guess I need to check them out.

  10. It seems like almost every YA book I read lately has a love triangle in. I am not a fan of love triangles. They’ve been overused and right now are more of a nuisance than anything else.

  11. Wow, there’s some great points here! I am not a fan of love triangles, usually because someone gets hurt in the end; however I do feel that it if written well they can elicit some passionate emotions from the readers. Unfortunately for me those emotions include frustration and the desire to punch someone (usually the female protag) in the face!

    I believe that love triangles are mainly added to increase tension and drama in a story and are not pivotal to the plot – at least that’s my observation. I love a good HEA and I don’t see that happening too often for the poor schmuck who misses out on the girl.

    I feel the same frustration when the triangle includes the protag, her best friend and her boyfriend, or boyfriend and job etc. Most stories are far fetched enough that a woman should be able to have her cake and eat it too, right? Or be like some shifter novels where if a woman can’t choose between the two best friends she just gets both of them… But that’s probably a discussion left for another day ;)

    I can’t honestly think of a single series where a love triangle has improved the story for me, or been so well done that I thought it was worth the angst…

  12. I am a sucker for a love triangle. But only when done right. It is one of life’s major conflicts – having to choose one person over another – that I think people can relate to. I know I can. Especially when you’re young – in YA stories for example – there’s not always a clear choice, you aren’t looking for your life partner at that point, and so making those decisions can feel like everything. Plus at that age there’s all those emotions tied up in everything and if the author does it right, it can connect the reader to the story.

    But often they’re not done as well as they could be. They seem added in because of their popularity. While there may ultimately be a clear choice of who the character will end up with, if done right, she or he will struggle with that, making it feel believable that it wasn’t an easy choice.

    I don’t necessarily think they’re added in to help a struggling plot point, but if a writer is looking to follow a popular trend then maybe they’ll plan to have one in their story even if it isn’t their strong suit or something they can relate to? I think unless the author can tap into those emotions of what makes choosing one love over another a tough and possibly heartbreaking choice, then it will just come across as fake, trite, and uninteresting to the reader.

    What makes a love triangle work for me is real, believable emotion. Real pros and cons for each person, not contrived ones. And no, I never seek out books that have a love triangle or a cliffhanger or any of those elements. They’re nice surprises if done well.

    • Well said! I would probably enjoy a love triangle if written how you described, although when a triangle occurs in a YA novel it makes me feel old because of the emotions and insecurities etc. That’s my issue though, not the book or author’s!

  13. I’m making a novel, at first it was a hobby but then I got really serious about it. I feel in love with the characters. It’s mostly adventure but with a hint of a love triangle, just for a bit of the story. Nearly everyone hear hates love triangles (mines 2 girls, one boy, the girls were friends) and it kind of put me off adding it to the story. What do you think, will a good plot help the love triangle seem worth reading?

    • I don’t think the love triangle itself is an issue. The problem I have, and what it seems a lot of people have, is when a love triangle is added simply to have it in there. The question I ask myself is does this add to the plot, or is it simply there for added tension?

      Whether a love triangle is necessary or not, I think, really depends on what your story is about. Many of the ones I’ve read do nothing for the story. For example, if you take out the love triangle completely, what are you left with? Does the story still work? If so, I’m not entirely certain you need it. But what’s even more important than that, is how the love triangle is executed and why it is there in the first place. Often times the choice is so clear you wonder what the main character is struggling with.

      I’d say it’s your story, and if you think it needs to be there, then let it be. I always try to write the story I want to write, and I encourage you to do the same. There a plenty of books out there with love triangles, and many of them are successful, so don’t let a few opinions stall you. Just consider why it’s there in the first place and you’ll be fine.

  14. Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens is the best love triangle I have ever read. Both men are very likeable, and you can’t tell throughout the entire book who the main character will end up with.
    Love triangles are my favorite part of a story, so I’ve read many, and this is still my favorite one!

    • I might check that out just based on your thoughts. If it’s hard to figure out which one it will be in the end, that piques my interest!

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