The Horrifying Love Triangle

Somewhere along the line, the love triangle became one of the most hated plot lines in existence.  It’s as if such a thing doesn’t happen in real life, but that’s probably part of the problem.  Such situations inevitably result in at least one person getting hurt and that’s not counting the people who choose sides.  It’s a recipe for heartache and tragedy . . . which is the point of it.

I think love triangles touch on the messy part of romance and it’s in a way that starts with no apologies.  It’s like saying ‘only one can win and the other is going to crumble’ and most people don’t really enjoy heartbreak.  Especially when it is being caused by the happiness of others.  Sadly, a reader will take a side if they don’t despise the storyline outright.  So you’ll have people rooting for the one that will lose.  To be honest, I think many authors try to counter this issue by making it blatantly obvious who will be together at the end.  Yet that never seems to stop the complaints.

Many people call love triangles cliches, but one has to wonder what the alternatives are.  If you have an established relationship and want to challenge it then this is one of the easiest ways.  Introduce another competitor, make the couple work to stay together, or show that they weren’t strong enough to survive.  Many will claim adultery is another challenge that can be used, but isn’t that overdone too?  It’s a love triangle as well, so we still keep going back to the basic premise.  Two people are interested in the same person who might have feelings for one or both of them.  It’s competitive human nature in the arena of romance, which is about as rare as oxygen.  Fiction simply amps it up a few notches and brings it to the spotlight.  In real life, many people won’t even realize their in the situation or make the connection to something fictional.

Will I ever do a love triangle again in my books?  Probably not in the same way that I did Kira/Luke/Sari.  They’re part of a longer series that gives me plenty of time to toss the subplot around until the conclusion.  It also helps cement parts of their personalities that would otherwise go unnoticed.  Then again, I get the feeling that some readers don’t pick up on it at times.  Can’t win them all.  Shorter series may have some competitions, but it’ll be more of a third party butting into a strong relationship.

One final note on these types of stories: THEY ARE A BALANCING ACT!  Seriously, you do want readers to be unsure of the winner for a little bit.  Otherwise, the third person seems to have no real purpose beyond a twist that won’t go anywhere.  Also, you could always end it with nobody winning.  People rarely seem to go in that direction for some reason.  Too tragic?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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13 Responses to The Horrifying Love Triangle

  1. L. Marie says:

    Oddly enough, love triangles fit the “rule of three” to which many writers adhere. 🙂 I’ve been in love triangles in real life, so I know the pain of them. They seem to be a staple of young adult novels. I can’t say I’m fond of them, since some seem to be gratuitous, especially when trilogies are involved. Jane and John get together in book 1. But in book 2, Steve comes along, while John goes off to brood for some reason. Jane eyes Steve, who is equally hot. He eyes her. But in book 3, John returns from brooding. Will Jane pick John or Steve? I wouldn’t mind this triangle if it seemed really organic and not a quick fix to bolster a weak plot.

    One love triangle I’m tired of is the Wolverine/Jean/Cyclops triangle. I wish that would be put to rest for good.

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    • Never really heard of the author rule of three. I feel shamed. 😦

      You spelt Bella, Edward, and Jacob wrong. That really does seem to be the system, but I guess you need suitor 1 away when #2 shows up or makes his/her move. It does always seem to be 2 guys over 1 girl. The funny thing is that some adult novels have them too. Everyone overlookds Arwen/Aragorn/Eowyn in Lord of the Rings.

      Technically the Wolverine/Jean/Cyclops one was put away a long time ago. She might still be dead and Wolverine gave up at some point in the 90’s, I think. It was revived for the movie and really went in a direction. I think part of the problem here is that the X-Men movies have become very Wolverine-centered, so they are using whatever they can find to connect characters to him. So for Cyclops and Jean, that’s all they get instead of their own love story.

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  2. Toni Betzner says:

    I think the problem is when they are predictable. Like in Twilight. Duh, she was going to get with the vampire. I think suspense makes readers forgiving of “cliches.”

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    • Great point. Even if the first suitor is going to be the one, there should be some points where the readers aren’t sure. You need to keep the audience guessing at some point. The downside here is that it can lead to people picking sides and one of those groups will inevitably be annoyed at the verdict.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I agree with Toni Betzner that “suspense makes readers forgiving of cliches.” Well said.

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  4. I avoid all triangles especially the Bermuda. Love the post and wish I understood the comments more but hey I only read your stuff and haven’t ventured into Rings and things.

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  5. What irks me about love triangles is that, I guess, I’ve never been that indecisive or afraid to say what I think. I’ve never had to choose between two men, but I’ve been forthright when men clearly liked me more than I liked them. It wasn’t fun, but stringing them along would have been cruel.

    So when you have a love triangle in a book, it’s usually because one or more of the characters is not being honest. For me, that grates. For others, I suspect love triangles are annoying because they’ve been done so often that it just isn’t interesting any more.

    But, clearly, there are readers who can’t get enough of that tension. Anyone remember “Team Jacob” and “Team Edward?” So alas, it seems we’ll have to put up with love triangles for the time being.

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    • I’ve had friends in those situations and there is a level of indecisiveness. Many times it comes from the central figure not knowing themselves very well, so each of the other people appeal to a different path. Not sure if honesty is always an issue though. Some fictional ones have the character in love with both people for different reasons, so it isn’t that they’re lying about their intentions. They simply aren’t sure which way they want to go.

      Love triangles have been around for ages, but I think they’re getting a very cookie cutter treatment now. A lot of older books have this subplot and it was treated differently. I want to say that it wasn’t as front and center like it is today.

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