illusio & baqer would like to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day! Our staff will be out of the office Friday, February 14th, through Monday, February 17th. During this time we won’t be replying to emails or responding to manuscript inquiries. Business will resume as usual on Tuesday, February 18th. During this time you’ll be able to stay up to date with us over on Twitter, Facbeook, and Tumblr.
But before we head out for the weekend we wanted to talk about this thing in young adult fiction that happens a lot. This thing is called a “love triangle.” I’m sure you’ve heard of it. They’re not a new idea. The thing about love triangles is that there is a right way, and a wrong way, to do them. More often than not I’ve found that love triangles aren’t done as well as they could be. In honor of Valentines Day, I’m going to explain the difference between a good love triangle, and a bad love triangle.
The Good Love Triangle
When you’re considering writing a love triangle into your story, you should consider a few important questions: What do these potential significant others represent for my protagonist? Why are they significant? What are they bringing to the story?
A good love triangle will be more than just romance. It should represent a life choice.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
— Excerpt from Robert Frost’s ‘The Road Not Taken’ —
Love triangles are always going to cause personal drama, but that’s not all they should be. They should cause growth, and help your protagonist figure out who they are and what they want in life—and I mean this more than just romantically.
Let’s take Katniss, Gale, and Peeta from The Hunger Games as an example. Gale and Peeta represent completely opposing tracks for Katniss’s future. Gale represents the fire—the fighter, stuck in pain and frustration. Then Peeta, on the other hand, is more representational of peace, release, and moving forward. They are two completely different paths. Through the course of the trilogy Katniss grows, eventually reaching a place where she comes to realize that while she’ll always love Gale, Peeta is the one she needs in her life. That he is her constant.
For a more basic, but still applicable, love triangle, there’s Bella, Edward, and Jacob from Twilight. In comparison to The Hunger Games, this love triangle is a bit more basic, and it’s a much bigger focus than Katniss, Gale, and Peeta’s. However, it’s still an okay example of a love triangle that’s more than just a love triangle for the sake of having a love triangle. Edward and Jacob represent extremely different paths for Bella’s future. Jacob represents humanity, and a (relatively) normal life. Edward represents eternal life, generally lacking any sort of “normal” human experience.
These are the kinds of paths you should hope to see your character choosing between when they’re faced with multiple suitors. There should be a bigger picture—a depth to your protagonist’s reason for picking one person over another. This not only adds to the complexity of your story, but also gives you the opportunity to really explore and develop your protagonist’s character arc from start to finish.
The Bad Love Triangle
If a good love triangle involves adding complexity and significance into the relationship equations, then a bad love triangle is one that’s lacking that additional thought. It’s a triangle where the players don’t seem to really add anything to the story, and only exist to cause personal drama for the protagonist without any real character development.
This is something I’ve seen far too often in young adult fiction lately. The story introduces a really awesome protagonist, only for them to devolve into this insecure, whiny, “Will they, won’t they?! Who do I choose?!” character. And while adolescence is almost completely about insecurity, these stories become less about the protagonist growing and learning despite this insecurity, and focus on how attractive their love triangle partners are. Any additional, meaningful plot is lost, sacrificed to the romantic interest Ping-Pong battle inside the protagonist’s head.
We want to be clear and say that these insecure thoughts and concerns are completely valid. We even think they should be part of the narrative. But they should not be the entirety of the story. It’s like we stated earlier—it’s about what the characters represent, and what they bring to the story that matters. These players should be making the main character grow and think and learn about themselves, and maybe (if done really well) you’ll even get to see the protagonist have an affect on their triangle counterparts as well. A relationship is a two-way street; there should be growth on both ends.
When you deliberate on whether or not you want to have a love triangle, consider how it’d be relevant to your plot. Remember the three questions:
- What do these potential significant others represent for my protagonist?
- Why are they significant?
- What are they bringing to the story?
If you don’t have good answers to these questions your love triangle is most likely insignificant to the bigger picture, and your story would probably be stronger without it.
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day! (Or a happy singles awareness day, however you decide to celebrate.) Remember we’ll be closed Friday, February 14th through the 17th, and won’t be replying to emails or inquiries during this time, however, you can always stay up to date with us through Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
— Chelsea Maya