I ended up leaving a comment a few weeks ago on another writer’s blog regarding her thought on love triangles and how much they seem to be used. She wasn’t such a big fan of the practice, but I had some thoughts I wanted to throw in and I did. It lead to a nice little comment back and the conversation lingered in my mind.
The bottom line is, love triangles are stressful for more than just the protagonist having to make the choice about who they want to end up with. I maintain that do a true love triangle justice you have to establish both potential partners as being the one as well as having some sort of flaw that makes them not the one. If you pull this off well, your readers will align themselves into separate camps, and affix some title beginning with “Team” upon their relationship or “ship” of choice. The separate teams will play as nicely together as the Capulets and the Montagues and half of them will feel disappointed and betrayed when their choice doesn’t win.
See also my experience as a Apollo/Starbuck shipper on the most recent Battlestar Galactica for an example. They will still qualify as one of my favorite OTPs for the record.
This shipping business can get very complicated and sometimes take the author by surprise. I recall reading that the author of a certain popular set of vampire stories didn’t expect her werewolf character to gain a following of his own. But they clearly exist and are very enthusiastic to prove this anytime Taylor Lautner has to remove his shirt during one of those movies.
I understand a group of fans was particularly upset when J. K. Rowling stated that Ron and Hermione were her couple of choice and that Harry and Hermione were never going to happen.
I have also witnessed cases of fans latching onto pairings that the writers never intended or saw, but the fans most certainly did.
I can’t write like that, while I don’t mind another character trying to cause some sort of upset to my couple, I have blatant favoritism for my romantic hero. It’s just the way I am, however I must hand it to those writers who can create two romantic rivals knowing that they will most likely have to crush one of them horribly.
I love reading love triangles. The stress, indecision, and tension that it creates drives me crazy. Trying to write something like that is a lot more difficult than it seems. You know you are predestined to ruin one character’s love life in the process, and if you are particularly attached to your characters (like I tend to be) it really hurts me. lol! Maybe I need to get out more or something instead of getting all worked up over my characters relationships.
Characters can be like your own children, it is hard not to get attached!
I wrote in a love triangle at the last minute but in reality it’s a political play for one person and an easy out for another so like you I have a biased romantic interest. In the end there was never a real choice. Maybe I should fix that and make it more suspenseful. Or not. We’ll see what beta readers say!
Think it’s okay to have the biased triangles. My story arguably has one. Since I write YA, I try to look at the qualities my couple has because I like the idea of giving girls a positive example.
I am doing the same thing. I just can’t imagine an UNbiased triangle.
Great post – nice to see more of your thoughts on this topic. 🙂 Although I think love triangles are overdone, I do enjoy how emotionally vested they can make their readers. There’s nothing like rooting for the “right” guy to keep a reader turning the pages, and I think that’s probably why they’re used so often. And while I personally like those triangles where there is no clear choice, I can totally understand why other people would prefer the biased triangle – there’s still the romantic tension, but much less guilt at the resolution.
I have friends who had to stop watching shows with that high relationship drama because the best way for the writers to keep the drama an interest going was to keep breaking up and pairing off characters. They were so invested in one pair or so that they got stressed out watching the constant ups and downs.
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Thanks for the shout-out!