When Teams Attack–the Dreaded Love Triangle

Whether you love ’em, hate ’em, or are somewhere in between, love triangles are ever present in literature. While it drives me crazy that the first triangle people tend to think of involves werewolves and sparkly vampires, there are so, so many love triangles, especially in YA stories.

Writing about love in general can be tricky–readers have to believe in it, want it for their hero(ine), and fall in love with the characters themselves. Writing about love triangles is even trickier-now you have to convince readers to fall for not one, but two guys, as well as still root for the protagonist no matter what she does or who she picks (and obviously, we’re going to pretend all protagonists are chicks, because let’s face it, most love triangles are two dudes and a girl. No pizza place, unfortunately, that’s been done).

I have my reservations about triangles. When done well, I enjoy them–I like wondering who the protagonist will pick (and why), getting caught up in the story, and daydreaming of my own 3-way situations. Er, waitasecond…

When done poorly, however, love triangles drive me up the wall. It becomes a terrible game of how many times I can yell at the protagonist for picking one boy over the other or want to physically shake her for waffling every twelve seconds about what to do (seriously, who picks the stalker over the sweetheart?).

When I see a love triangle–and let’s assume it’s a girl with two guys–I want to love the two boys for different reasons. I want polar opposites, two guys that couldn’t be more different and bring several things to the table. For example, in Gifted, my two boys are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Keegan is friendly, nonconfrontational, and a total sweetheart. He is kind, considerate, an All-American good guy. Gabriel, on the other hand, is your mysterious bad boy who loves to irritate Lucy (yet snap her out of her naivete), and is supremely interested in his own well-being. He’s also confident to the point of arrogance, whereas Keegan is very modest. You never really know if Gabriel will help you or throw you under the bus and while scary, that’s also a little exciting.

Keegan is dark haired, green eyed, a Boston boy who lived in a standard household with brothers and dad. He thinks his gift is the coolest thing ever and has fun with it. Gabriel, a Southern boy, is blonde, blue eyed, has a not-so-great history, and has often considered how to get rid of his gift. They are, in almost every aspect, opposites. Their one thing in common? Lucy, the main character.

If the story is not about the love triangle (ie it’s there for an added bonus as opposed to the main storyline), then writers have to balance carefully.For example, Katniss from the Hunger Games–despite the Peeta/Katniss/Gale situation, readers are still concerned about the fate of Katniss and her revolution, to watch this dystopia turn on itself as she leads the way into a new future. The love triangle, while pleasant to read, is not the center of the story and I’ve always really appreciated that since there are more important things at stake than a makeout session.

That’s a main reason why I made Lucy the way she is in regards to her love triangle. Despite the cute boys she’s hangin’ with, girl’s got priorities, which includes clearing her name of murder, getting over stage fright, and fitting in with her new circus family. That does NOT mean, however, that boys can be forever ignored. She will have to face both of them eventually and they’re going to want answers.

I have some good examples thanks to reviewers of how they feel on my love triangle–it also gives good insight into what they look for in other books.

Lauren? She effin’ hates the love triangle teams:

Lauren at The Housework Can Wait: “There is a very pronounced love triangle in this book, and it’s not like a lot of books where there’s an obvious frontrunner for Lucy’s affections. She flip-flops between them a good amount, and so did I. Truthfully, I’m still not sure whether I’m Team Gabriel or Team Keegan. *gag* I can’t believe I just said that. Never mind. I’m not Team-anyone. I hate Teams. My point is that it’s really not obvious who she should/will choose (in large part because of the previously mentioned obliviousness). Honestly, I think that’s a more realistic way to portray a love triangle than a lot of books that have the poor, ignored, frustrated guy patiently waiting in the wings as the female protagonist displays zero interest in him while fawning over his rival.”

Whereas Deana and Amanda like a love triangle and it will probably help them return to a second title to see who Lucy picks:

Deana: “A love triangle forms between Lucy and 2 members of the circus “family” and Liz Long leaves this unresolved, which drives me crazy (but that is more about me being impatient than it is about the story or writing).”

Amanda Marie at BookLove101: “The bits of romance and hints of a possible love triangle definitely kept me turning pages! This book reader likes to pick sides and Gifted totally didn’t make that easy! I’m still not sure what side I’m on!”

It’s funny, because I never truly expected sides to be taken. Okay, that might be a slight altercation of the truth–I wanted girls to pick their favorite boy and have a side–but I wasn’t sure if it would actually happen. But as it turns out, there are girls who love the sweet, good guy and others swoon for the bad boy with the sharp tongue. A couple reviews have noted the love triangle and that they’re tired of them, but luckily they still want to read the drama. And in Gifted‘s case, the drama’s only gonna escalate from here for Lucy and friends.

Are you sick of the love triangles? Or do you like seeing the tough choices a girl’s gotta make?

6 thoughts on “When Teams Attack–the Dreaded Love Triangle

  1. Lauren@The Housework Can Wait says:

    3 things.
    1. HA! You quoted me. I still stand by that.
    2. In Gifted, I think the love triangle is appropriate and justified and doesn’t make me want to throw things. Both guys are good for her for different reasons, and I can see how Lucy would honestly have a hard time choosing. Not like some other books where she picks the guy that’s horrible for her, seemingly for the sole purpose of annoying me. And it helps with Lucy’s character development, and isn’t just a cheap plot gimmick.
    3. OH MY GOSH LIZ THERE IS NOT A LOVE TRIANGLE IN THE HUNGER GAMES.

    • LizLong says:

      I love your quote! I’m usually not a “team” person either, so what you said hit the nail on the head. Thank you for the encouraging words about Lucy and there IS TOO a love triangle in the Hunger Games!! Even if Katniss doesn’t know it… πŸ˜‰ I get what you’re saying though and do agree!

  2. Becca says:

    I’ll be honest: If a love triangle pops up in a book, I am – at best – indifferent. If it’s done well, then I’m kind of “Meh – fair enough.” If it’s done poorly, I just find it irritating and skip past those parts.

    It also depends on the stakes that the MC is dealing with. For me, any mention of the “love triangle” in Hunger Games was too much because we were supposed to be dealing with a child-killing totalitarian regime and a freaking revolution. So every time Katniss went, “Gaaaale! Peeeeeta!” I rolled my eyes. The higher the stakes, the less interested I am in your boy drama.

    Take all of this with a grain of salt, though, as I’m not much into romance subplots anyway. πŸ™‚

    • LizLong says:

      No, I totally understand! That’s how I felt about HG, too–even though there is a little bit of that “Who will she pick?” I’m all “SAVE THE WORLD DUMMY!” and wanted her to focus on the rebellion. It’s one of the main reasons my character Lucy is the way she is–she might blush at a cute boy, but when shit gets real, it’s time to save her circus. Totally with you!

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