Welcome to a new feature of 52 Letters In the Alphabet called “Thoughts On…”
A while ago, I had a post called Thoughts on Prologues. Since then, I’ve realized that I would like to discuss a lot of other elements of novels and writing. This new feature is where I will share my thoughts about various writing and story telling elements. If any of you want to share your own thoughts, feel free to comment, or post on your own space and link back to it here.
Today’s is Thoughts On…Love Triangles
I’m a YA reader. I’ve encountered a ton of love triangles, and I’ve loved a lot of them. However, especially since beginning this blog and becoming more critical of the books I read, love triangles are feeling a bit overdone.
I understand and appreciate the concept behind love triangles. They easily add conflict to a plot and help to lengthen the span of a romance over the course of a series, where a more simplistic romance might only last one book. Love triangles can be used to create character depth and growth and strengthen or weaken bonds between different parties in a plot. I get it–love triangles are useful, and definitely have a place in the world of novels, especially YA ones.
There are different approaches that authors take toward love triangles, and some of them work more than others. I want to discuss each individually, because they each affect a series with varying degrees of success.
The first and most blatant use of the love triangle concept is most commonly seen in paranormal series. In this utilization, the love triangle is introduced in the beginning of the book or series and tends to dominate the plot. For series, each book usually focuses on one of the guys gaining the girl’s attention. (I’m using the two-guys-one-girl format because that seems like the most common one in the YA world today.)
This is getting boring. I used to be satisfied with the thrill of the who-will-win???? question and the tense/awkward/impossibly sweet romantic moments. But as I’m becoming a more critical reader, and as the number of these love triangles that I’ve read has increased, the concept is becoming overdone. I want romance to be a subplot mechanism helping to move a larger, separate plot forward, and this use of love triangles usually makes the romance the entirety of the plot. This tends to sap books of the plot substance that could have made them captivating and memorable.
Books that fell prey to this syndrome include:
The Sweet Evil series by Wendy Higgins
The Shadow Falls series by C. C. Hunter
The Selection series by Kiera Cass (though I haven’t read The One yet so maybe I shouldn’t be talking)
The House of Night series P.C. and Kristen Cast (though those are like a love octagon to be honest)
The second way authors incorporate love triangles into their books happens most commonly with series, in which the author introduces a second love interest in the second (or third, or whatever) book. For me, this can go either way. Sometimes, the introduction of a second guy adds complexity to the novel, enlightens the protagonist to the importance of the first guy, and moves the plot forward without dominating it. Cash in The Unbound (The Archived, book 2) by Victoria Schwab really accomplished this in my opinion, as did the addition of Seb in the Angle Fire series by L.A. Weatherly.
However, the addition of a second guy can also ruin the series by taking what was the perfect, subtle romance and screwing it up. Honestly, I’m not a fan of OVER THE TOP ROMANTIC DRAMA in the books I read. A perfectly good series being monopolized by a sudden conflict between True Love and New Guy is freaking annoying and not what I want to read. Phoenix (book two in the Black City series) did this for me.
I’d like to point out that sometimes, love triangles just work. The Morelli vs Ranger conflict in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is so much fun to read. The more subtle Adrian vs Dimitri conflict in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead is one of my favorites–though, to be honest, that series is heavily influenced by the romantic plot elements. The conflict between Owen and Wesley in The Archived (book one this time) really enhanced areas of Mac’s character.
How do you you guys feel about love triangles? Can’t get enough? So over them? Which ones worked for you, and which ones flopped? Please comment!