The Triangle Is Not Acute

I have an issue with love triangles.

Actually, no.  I have an issue* when romantic entanglements in YA are labeled “love triangles” when they are, in fact, clearly not.

A love triangle implies that there are two very suitable options, one person divided by feelings for two people instead of just one.  That the course of true love never did run smooth (or perpendicular).

But lately, I’ve read a few books where the love interests are divided between Her True Love and That Other Guy that Fills the Void.  Void-filler guy?  Usually super hot, but he just fills the role of romantic furniture.  Something that the protaganist can lay about on, until the path to her True Love opens up again.  Maybe there’s a reason she and True Lover can’t be together, and thank god someone’s there in the meantime to take her mind off her troubles.

But try as he might, Void-Filler never compares to True Lover.  He’s a source of anguish for our heroine, because she will never, ever care for him half as much as he cares for her.

So why is this?

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s a fear that The Fans** won’t ‘side’ with whoever the character ends up with.  That if you’re given two perfectly good options for who to love, that there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ answer, and so help you god if you choose wrong.  That the character needs to ‘move on’ and ‘be independent’ but not TOO independent, because we can’t get in the way of true love.

It just seems like one side of the equation is always lesser defined than the other.  So is it really a love triangle if you know all along who the character is going to end up with?  If there’s never any question about who she loves, and where her heart will lead her? Wouldn’t it be more of a challenging decision (and thus a more compelling read) if both love interests were BOTH good matches?  If they were on equal footing?

Thoughts?

* By ‘issue’ I am clearly pontificating for attention’s sake, and am not really riled up about this at all.  But it sounds all dramatic when I say ‘issue’ so ‘issue’ it must be.
** In my head, The Fans is said with the same solemn sense of propriety that one says The Mafia.  “You never want to anger The Fans too much, or you’ll be sleeping with the fishes.  And not that cute new were-mermaid novel where she falls in love with a half-chupacabra.”
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9 thoughts on “The Triangle Is Not Acute

  1. I’m curious where you fall with Spike and Angel. Did that work because it WAS unexpected for Spike to be involved? Because you really believed it might be the “right” thing after all? Or did it never work for you?

    Yeah, you made me think Buffy thoughts before 9 am.

    • This would lead into a segue about my utter hatred of Spike. Hated him. But I’d say it’s a different situation, because Angel was effectively REMOVED from consideration for several seasons – even if he made the token appearance, he wasn’t a viable option anymore.

      • I despised Spike utterly for a long time…and then I didn’t anymore. Which impressed me, writing-wise. 🙂

    • I wonder about that, too. But often times, it seems (to me) like the Void Filler is more palatable to be around, and the one I end up liking better. Typically in situations like this, I’m not a huge fan of the True Love love interest.

  2. I think an unbalanced love triangle is tied to weak writing. The other guy is used as a plot device rather than a real character. That’s not fun when you know who’s going to win. It’s more compelling (and more difficult) to write a love triangle where the heroine has two equally great choices, two guys that the reader can root for or against. Who she winds up picking can say so much about her character, rather than just a forgone conclusion.

    In The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins did a great job of presenting two viable options for Katniss. Gale and Peeta were fully formed characters, not just Door #1 and Door #2. There were solid arguments for both guys, but the choice Katniss makes in the end says so much about her character and values and how she has changed. (I could even say the same for Felicity, Ben, and Noel.)

    • I think it CAN be a symptom of weak writing, but I don’t think that is always the case. But I completely agree – I think it’s more compelling to see a character faced with two equal, strong choices.

  3. So true! It’s rarely ever a true love triangle. Of course, I have ended up disliking the choice an mc makes, but that’s part of the gamble of a real triangle, I guess. And you can’t please every reader.

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