Thursday Thoughts: Love Triangles

I spotted this feature on Bibliophibian, Inc  and thought it would make a nice addition to my blog.  Thanks to Ok, Let’s Read for facilitating the meme!

October 16:Love Triangles – Are you an out and proud hater of love triangles? Or, do they not bother you all that much? Do you feel like love triangles are overdone and have a tendency to be similar? What is it that you like or dislike about love triangles in books? Do you think that one genre or section of books overdoes the love triangle thing more than others? Do you think love triangles can be okay if done correctly?

Love triangles are an interesting phenomenon to me.  There seem to have been an incredible backlash against them, particular in the young-adult reading community.  I can understand that – they are often a lazy way to create conflict.  For example, in The Hunger Games, was the love triangle really necessary?   I don’t think so, and I think it would have been a better, and more enjoyable, series without it.  It’s not exactly that they’re unrealistic – although they can be made so – but outwith romantic fiction, where the relationship is central to the premise, they’re largely annoying in the sense that the outcome is often a. a foregone conclusion, or b. not really that interesting in that it’s a binary choice, one or the other.  There are so many other potential problems or pitfalls on the path to romance that shoehorning in a love triangle is just the easy way out.  They also often bring envy or jealousy to male-female friendships and play into the stereotype that men and women are only friends because the man wants to sleep with the woman and that the woman is this untouchable, desirable object, that men flock around.  It’s just silly.

However, I don’t get bothered by the concept of love triangles.  I think the best examples never really turn into fully fledged choices between equals – I mean, there’s no question that Darcy and Wickham are equals for Lizzie to choose between but you could still call that a love triangle.  Same with Gatsby, Tom, and Daisy.  But you don’t have to be a writer as good as either of those to make a good love triangle work.  All you need to do is make it seem natural and believeable. Why would this person feel romantically towards these two other people?  Why would they be conflicted?  Does this need to be part of the story?  Does it further the characters as people?  Does it convey something to the audience about these characters?

One of my main hates about love triangles – and as a narrative device generally – is the misunderstanding.  That is where the writer puts the two characters intentionally at cross purposes – often at the nefarious interference of some third party – and uses this to separate them.  It seems to come up fairly often in love triangles and I just can’t be bothered with it.

So! Love triangles: not evil, but perhaps overused.  In my opinion, anyway.