April 30, 2012

A Writer's Life - The Love Quadrangle

What ever happens, I hereby solemnly swear that I will never write a love triangle into one of my books. Not to say I hate them, because sometimes they can be well done, but frankly, it's just so cliché.

A question that inevitably sneaks up on me is this - why do so many authors employ the dreaded love triangle? Is it similar to the latest rage in fashion? Like skinny jeans? Those come and go, but you may take comfort in the knowledge that what's hip one season is so yesterday the next. Yet those skinny jeans are just as clingy (literally) as certain romantic plot elements. And what if it's not just a fad? What if it doesn't go away? I confess, the thought that love triangles might be the little black dress of implementing relationships in books scares me. A lot.

Maybe I'm being unfair. Some love triangles really do work, not as though I could think of one right now. I guess it's the fact that they seem to be everywhere these days. The inherent tension and exitement they carry will keep any reader happy during the first few novels. Then things inevitably start going downhill. You can only do so much with the ever same theme. It is destined to repeat itself, get utterly predictable, and thus boring. Been there, read that. You get the idea.

I wonder, why can't there be an already established and strong relationship? Or let the heroine just be a person not a love seeking puppy who wants to drown herself if she doens't get kissed by chapter eleven! In other words, let there please be an actual story and not just the relentless hunt for a kiss and a hug and a couple of ... sorry, getting a bit carried away *cough*.

If you do insist on a mathematical approach, how about the love quadrangle? A good example would be Buffy. No joking. First Angel, then Riley, and finally Spike. Admittedly if you count Riley as a rebound fling we're back to the good old triangle, but hell, it works. And in the end? She's doing the healthy thing, staying away from Angel as not to get his demon side raging again and establishing a friendship after the lust-filled and self-destructive affair she had with Spike. We're talking about relationships with layers, folks!

Want to up the ante? Go for the love polygon! I don't think I can name any examples here, though. In fact this does sound kind of R rated. Or if you really must stick to the triangle thing ... oh oh ohhh ... why not for once have a one-male-two-females love triangle?

But seriously, there are so many ways to write about relationships, why not use them? Because one - that would be the love triangle if you haven't noticed by now - has proven to be a huge success for a handfull of books? Honestly, that's lame. Can you say lemming-writer? And let's not forget, just because something works a couple times doesn't mean, it will always work, or worse, will work for your plot.

What's your take on love triangles? A big fan or a reason not to pick up a book? Any suggestions for non-triangle relationships? Let me know!


  1. When you said "love triangle" I instantly thought about some of Jeanette Winterson's novels... I think that for some people/writers, adding a third person spices up life (and reading about it). Still, in her case, it is more about the poetry behind the words than the plot in itself...
    As for the non-triangle relationships, I can't think of any book, except children's books :))

  2. You know, one could argue that a love triangle in the traditional sense isn't much of a triangle, considering that all the sides don't connect. Now that would be something I'd want to read!

    Although, really, that's why I think I like working with large casts of characters in my books. You can run a wide range of different relationships. I'm not a fan of romance, so if the romance is the main objective, I'm usually not interested. I like it better when the romance tends to be the side-effect of some greater plot.

    1. You're right, technically speaking a "real" love triangle would be something you don't get to read every day, ha!

  3. Honestly, I think its because its the relationship dynamic that most resembles real life. There's always a couple and someone on the outside looking in, wanting to be there. And most couples are hyper aware of that onlooker.

  4. I find love triangles (the unconnected ones) extremely boring and stay away from them.

    But of course you can read about REAL love triangles! They are called ménage à trois and unfortunately most of the books that feature them are erotica. So the plot is often neglected for the sake of sex.
    Btw, one man, two women is probably something women readers don't want to read about. It is the same phenomenon in GLBT romance where most of the female readers have no interest whatsoever in two women together.

  5. For the most part, I hate love triangles because they so often are only maintained by an annoyingly indecisive girl. So, I don't dislike them on principle but in practice I don't think they're done well very often.