Thursday, November 18, 2010

What is up with all the triangles?

I've spent the last 10 or so minutes looking at the books listed in Goodreads' 2011 Debut Authors for Young Adults and I noticed one particular thing that a lot of these books have in common. I counted five books, among the ones that I randomly clicked on, that mentioned in their synopsis a very familiar plot device known as the Love Triangle.
I'm still not really sure what to think of this cliche, err, plot device. I admit that I can't recall a book or series that (I thought) executed the situation well. Probably the most famous triangle in recent fiction has to be the Gale-Katniss-Peeta quagmire of the Hunger Games series. For me, that was a love triangle that had a whole lot of potential: it started out well, then it just went downhill and served in part to alienate me from the narrator, Katniss, and make me feel quite bored with the overall story...
But I'm probably being unfair. What I want to know is, why are so many authors writing these? Because, skeptical conspiracy-theorist that I am, I have to wonder if they (new authors) feel like this will give their manuscript an advantage or make their book more enjoyable. Triangles seem to be 'in' now, right?
Why, though? Tell me, why are they popular? I know all you can see is the print on the screen and you can't hear my voice, but let me assure you I'm not trying to be snarky or sarcastic. This is definitely a phenomenon that I don't understand. Is it like a girl's secret fantasy, to have two absolutely physically perfect guys chasing after her? Because you and I both know that both candidates are usually portrayed as being...well, not horrible to look at. For me, it's a turn-off for a girl to 'play' two guys at the same time. When I say 'play,' I mean lead them both on, kiss them/make out with them, yet keep them at arms' length by not making a decision and committing. That also seems to hint at a double-standard, too, because if a boy did that with two girls, well we'd all be up in his Casanova grill.
But I must be missing something. What is it that yall like about love triangles? Or not--basically, what are your opinions? Do you like books that feature triangles as a major plot device, or does it make a difference?

By the way, the "Triangle books" for 2011 that I noticed included:
- Cynthia Hand
Possession - Elana Johnson
A Beautiful Dark - Jocelyn Davies
Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson
Hemlock - Kathleen Peacock
** Note: none of these books are published. I'm only going on what I read from the synopsis :)

10 shout-outs!:

Natalie said...

Here's my thoughts. Like you already hinted at, love triangles seem to be an extremely popular plot device at the moment. The question you raised that I think people have difficulty answering is why do readers in general like to read about love triangles? Personally, I think one of the reasons I sometimes enjoy a love triangle is because of this: a love triangle, whether it be composed of two girls and a guy or two guys and a girl, almost always results in heartbreak for someone. I think maybe one of the reasons why people enjoy reading about love triangles is that a lot of us can identify with the pain of loving someone who doesn't love you the same way. Pain, love, and heartbreak are real human emotions that most of us can sympathize with, so seeing this in characters makes them feel more realistic to us.

On the other hand, I think a lot of love triangles are poorly done. When they're well done, however, I think they hint at a part of human life that many people have experienced.

Mari - Escape In A Book said...

Excellent questions and good post :)

I'm not too fond of love triangles in novels and I do feel that it is difficult to write a good love triangle. That being said I do agree with the points Natalie makes for the use of love triangles in novels.

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

I think love triangles are widely used because they provide angst that might otherwise be missing. Frankly, it's a wee bit formulaic these days, but authors know that it has worked and will probably continue to work based on what the YA market is chomping on right now.

I'm proud to say that my WIP has zero triangles haha :)

Tales of Whimsy said...

I'm quilty. I love them. But it bothers me that soooo many writers are jumping on the band wagon.

danya said...

Hmmm...I kind of go back and forth on the whole love triangle thing. Like others said, I think it depends a bit on how they're done. If it's obvious that it's a device being used just to up the angst and create "teams" for readers to side with, then I'm not really a fan. Looking at my favorite books, the majority do not have love triangles in them. But there are some exceptions (the Hunger Games, the Uglies series). Even when there is a triangle created, I'm usually not torn between the two love interests - one seems more obviously suited to the protagonist so there isn't much of a decision to be made in my mind at least!

So...I can't really decide LOL. But I do find it annoying that so many writers are resorting to using them and that they are made so obvious (even in the blurbs) to the reader that you can pick them out a mile away.

Kristina Barnes♥ said...

I thought the love triangle in The Hunger Games series flopped, too. It had so much potential. When the end rolled around and Katniss "chose" her person, it was just... Ugh. I love him - I was rooting for him - but the way it was executed sucked monkey nuts.

I have no idea why these love triangles are in. I'd like to blame it on the Twilight hype and say that it's Stephanie's success that drew people to writing about love triangles. But that's probably not the case. I, for one, despise love triangles. It's a turn-off for me, as well. I hate it when girls lead guys on and not make a decision on who to pursue. I usually try to avoid books that include love triangles in them, but it's so prevalent these days that it's annoying. I prefer reading about girls who are devoted to one person at a time. When I think of a girl kissing/making out with two guys at the same time (well, not at the SAME time, but you get what I mean), I think of a word that starts with a s and rhymes with nut.

Marg @ Clockwork Reverie said...

I totally can relate to your post because I too have been wondering about this trend in books lately. I hate love triangles both in YA books and in adult ones...thank goodness that in adult books they're not used too often.

Personally, it has never been a fantasy of mine (not even as a teenager) to have two guys simultaneously pursue me. It makes things way too complicated and will inevitably end in someone getting led on and hurt--that's just not something I'd ever want to do. Hence, I don't understand the appeal of love triangles. Honestly, I think this trend sorta implies girls/young women are superficial, self-absorbed, and love-obsessed...which I know I'm not and never was and I'd like to think many others aren't either.

And I agree with you, when I read a love triangle, I do get turned off of the female protagonist. I find myself losing respect for her because like you point out, she's essentially playing with their feelings and being selfish & inconsiderate. Finally, I hate to say this, but I totally think that this cliche/plot device is primarily done to entice more readers based on previous success of that formula. Whether the authors choose to do this on their own or feel pressured by their publishers is a whole other question.

Autumn said...

I agree with Kristina. Blame it on Twilight. Once you have a good love triangle going people are going to pick Team This or Team That. It helps with hype and merchandising.

Jenny Girl said...

Good thought. Can't say I have noticed it myself, but now that I think about it, you are right. I'll go with the rest and say it's a Twilight effect, however I guees most girls would love to have to choose between two guys. Have them eating out of their hands. Not me, I think it's kind of cruel, for all parties involved.
This type of plot also gets old imho. Great post.

Dazzling Mage said...

LOL at the Casanova Grill comment, but SO TRUE! Maybe that's why I don't like love triangles. The back and forth tug, the guilt, the failed rationale of keeping both guys, it's just.. love is already complicated, you want to juggle it with 2 people?! Also, most triangles have an obvious boy chosen from the start, so I can easily not care about what choice the female MC makes (predictability is a good thing, in this case).

Anyway, AWESOME post.

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