Monday, November 26, 2012

Writing A YA Novel: Thoughts On Love Triangles

For 14 years, I watched soap operas all day, every day for my job, and for the most part was a fan. But there was one storyline staple that drove me a little crazy -- and not in a good way. The love triangle.

I realize that I'm probably in the minority, but love triangles tended to exhaust and not thrill me. For starters, most people I know aren't involved in a love triangle, at least not in the way they're done on soaps. They don't have two hot guys or girls chasing after them, doing whatever it takes to win the object of their affections. Sure, it's a fantasy to have not one, but two desirable people pining for a character, but to me, this isn't sexy. I never enjoyed watching two women scheme, lie and demean themselves to "win" a man or for men to act like wishy-washy jerks as they waffled between two desperate women. Eventually, I wanted all three players to disappear -- which I don't think was the intention of the story.

To be fair, there were a few triangles that were done very well and that I could get into. I liked classic Ridge/Taylor/Brooke on BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL and John/Marlena/Kristen on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. In each, the characters all had history with one another and you could understand their reasons why they fought for love. And Kristen was just plain crazy. While I usually got sick of scheming, desperate women, her plan -- to hire a lookalike to have John's baby -- was just so out there, it was pure camp.

Love triangles are a big part of many young adult books, as well. Where would the Twilight series be without the Edward/Bella/Jacob dynamic, for example? But in order for the triangle to work, it has to follow the same basic rules as the ones on soaps: a) readers have to know all three characters. How can you root for someone if you have no idea who she or he is? b) the two characters who are "fighting" for the girl or guy have to have equal rooting value. c) There needs to be a build-up of story with both sides of the triangle. You can't show scene after scene of one pair together and then introduce the third player without letting readers see WHY there is an attraction.

I did think that the Twilight series' triangle was decent. In the first book, Edward and Bella's relationship was established and in the second, Bella spent more time with Jacob. We could see why she was attracted to both guys. We also got plenty of backstory on Edward and Jacob so the characters had equal weight. In my opinion, though, the triangle fell apart because it was so obvious from the get-go that Bella would never choose Jacob. He didn't have a fighting chance ... and because of that, he felt more as if he were in the way than a viable contender. I personally wished that he'd just stayed a friend, especially since Bella and Edward had enough obstacles to deal with outside of the romance.

I loved The Hunger Games, but kind of felt as if the triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale was thrown in. To me, I just never felt any romance between Katniss and Gale; he came off more like a brother -- especially since it was stated numerous times that they looked alike. I did like the build-up of friendship and eventual love between Katniss and Peeta. Again, Gale just wasn't a contender and didn't share nearly as many scenes with Katniss as Peeta did. If he had, perhaps their relationship would have seemed a bit less like that of siblings.

As for my own books, I don't plan to introduce any love triangles. I realize that young love is fickle and that teens are at an age where they're exploring relationships. I really like stories where two people are getting to know one another and are forming a relationship -- and it's difficult to write about that when a third party is in the way. I think my idea of a "love triangle" would more likely be a situation where a character was falling out of love with one person and in love with another.

Love triangles are a valuable part of YA books and it adds to the fun of the reading experience when you can be "Team So-And-So." But a little simplicity in romance can be just as enjoyable.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

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