Fiction Focus- The Love Triangle
Ah, the humble love triangle. The mainstay of young adult writers, the bane of many a plain, boring teenage girl as she contemplates the two hilariously good-looking boys staring down at her.
It’s a trope that you either love or really really hate. Or maybe think you really really hate until one day, you discover you’ve accidentally written one.
So what are our main complaints about love triangles, and what can we do to overcome those?
1. They’re too cliché.
Ah, unfortunately, this isn’t one that we can get around too easily. Once something is a cliché, it remains a cliché until the fad ends. The trick is to make yours not cliché. Don’t make it just a small town girl in a not-so-lonely world where everybody is a) good looking and b) has the hots for her.
So make it different. Maybe tell the story from a different perspective, or throw a spanner in the works somehow. Don’t make the two potential love interests gorgeous supernaturals as YA writers are wont to do. Do something creative with the situation, do something fun. In Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin, it’s more like a love’s crowfoot, but as the heroine regains her memories (as the title suggests, she lost them), her personality and outlook- and her feelings for each potential love interest- change along with her. It’s a fun ride, and doesn’t feel clichéd at all.
2. They serve no purpose.
Ah, here is another one that is a common argument. A lot of love triangles don’t actually fit in with the plot, in fact, they often overshadow the plot. Just look at books that went huge like The Hunger Games– the love triangle became bigger than the main themes of the book. And in the end, it was too easily resolved for a lot of people’s tastes after all the apparent build up. Sometimes, love triangles don’t have a place in the plot apart from to make the main character desirable- and that’s where the problem lies sometimes. Make the triangle mean something. Juniper cleverly suggested The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory to illustrate this point- the love triangle between the king and the two Boleyn sisters is perhaps the plot of the book. But it’s made interesting. It’s in amongst layers of intrigue and the reformation. And that’s what makes it so good.
3. They’re too predictable.
I mean, did anyone ever believe that Jacob Black was going to win the heart of Bella Swan? Or that Simon Lewis would win the heart of Clary Fray? Or that any underdog, anywhere, would win over the first true love of our classic YA heroine? In fact, of practically every love triangle I’ve ever read, I have correctly predicted who is going to win. There have been a couple of which I’ve been unsure- The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan has a cleverly placed love triangle that you can’t really see until you start picking them out especially. You never know if sensitive-but-wannabe-badgirl Mae is going to choose badboy Nick or sensitive Alan, although you have an inkling. This love triangle is a good example, actually, of how these things should work. It never takes over the plot, and it plays a purpose in several ways. And you’re always hopping trying to decide which one she’s going to choose.
So that’s just a few things- there are more! What would you add to the list?
And questions for today- have you ever written a love triangle? Do you love them or hate them? Any that you think are of note?