Defining the Love Triangle

I’ve found it interesting that in the last few months, I’ve gotten two emails about the not-yet-released Earth & Sky inquiring whether the trilogy will have a love triangle, because the reader doesn’t like them and wants to be prepared. Interesting for a couple reasons:

1. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten asked this question (across the last three and a half years, no one has ever inquired about the Fallen World trilogy on this issue). Which makes me wonder if there’s a growing aversion to love triangles, which obviously become pretty common in YA–especially in trilogies and series, and especially in speculative fiction (paranormal, dystopian, etc.)?

2. It’s made me realize that I’m not entirely sure how to answer the question. Because I’ve become aware that different people define “love triangle” in different ways. I always thought of a love triangle as being where the main character (or, I suppose, any character) is torn between two people who are both interested in him/her, attracted to both and either struggling to decide who s/he wants to be with or struggling with temptation while committed to one. But reading comments from others on books I’ve read, I’ve seen other sorts of romantic situations called “triangles”: when two characters are vying for another’s romantic attention (regardless of that one character’s feelings for either), for example.

So what I’ve been answering, when asked, is that it depends. Certainly the romantic subplots in the Earth & Sky trilogy are less love triangle-like than in the Fallen World trilogy (which I would consider to have only a pretty mild form of triangle as it is). There is no angsting at all about romantic feelings for more than one guy at the same time. But across the trilogy Skylar does become romantically involved with more than one guy at different times. So maybe it could read that way?

Indulge my curiosity, blog readers: What do you consider a love triangle? A character deciding between two romantic options? A character troubled by conflicting romantic feelings? A character who has two different partners? Do only the feelings of the main character count, or do you still see it as a triangle if two people are competing for his/her attentions at the same time even if s/he is only interested in one of them? What about if the main character has feelings for two people, but only one of them reciprocates, so the other isn’t really an option?

I’d love to see the variety of answers this question gets. There obviously is no right one, only different perspectives! 🙂


Defining the Love Triangle — 6 Comments

  1. I have a profound love of love triangles, but for me they have to be a *triangle*, not an *angle*. So Edward-Bella-Jacob, to use the first example that springs to mind, is an angle, while Cassie Clare’s Jem-Will-Tessa is a triangle, because the relationship between any two of them AND all three of them is super important.

    (I guess the classic archetype for the love triangle is Arthur/Lancelot/Guenevere, because each of them love each other too, but they have always bugged me because none of them ever made a choice, and that had terrible consequences, but that’s getting a bit off topic.)

    I guess you could say that I am not really in love triangles for the romance: I am in them for the character development. 🙂

    Anyway, I like how complicated love triangles can get for the characters involved, especially when it forces them to have agency and make choices (which Will, Tessa, and Jem all do). I am about to tackle writing my first one, and I am both excited and terrified to do so.

    • Yeah, I think “love triangle” is one of those terms where the meaning has ended up shifting because so many people now use it in a technically inaccurate way. 😛

      They’re definitely a lot more interesting when there’s an emotional connection between all sides of the triangle. Good luck with yours!

  2. Love triangle is any variation on a couple with an “intruder” in the form of a love interest making it a three persons’ entanglement. It’s rarely an equal “should I choose A or B” for the main character. That would be more of a single person’s dilemma, IMO.
    And there are so many variations on what the intruder is or does. Intruder can even be passive, as in no0t even knowing one part of a couple’s infatuation with him/her.

    • That’s an interesting way of looking at it! I’d have trouble calling a romantic plot a triangle of one member wasn’t even aware they were involved, but I can see how that makes sense based on your definition.

  3. Interesting question. I guess I think of love triangles as situations in which a person is trying to decide between two equally appealing romantic options. When those options are appealing for different reasons and I can understand why the person is torn, I think they work for me. But too often, I feel like the right answer is pretty obvious and I get a little frustrated with the character for not making up his/her mind! 🙂

    • Definitely, those are the kind I find most annoying — really, any time I can see where some part of the story is going to go well before the characters do, it’s kind of annoying! Heh.

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