Tired of Love Triangles

I’m getting a little tired of love triangles in fiction.

I don’t mean to offend anyone. I probably have dozens of love triangles in my own stories and I don’t even realize it. My concern is that they seem to be everywhere now, not because they’re realistic or even make for good fiction, but simply because everyone else is doing it.

What triggered this? I just read a description for a new YA novel that seemed pretty cool…until I reached the paragraph about how the main female character would be faced with a choice between a bad boy with a kind heart and a good boy with unknown motives. Immediately I had no interest in reading the book.

There are many books–especially in YA (young adult) genre fiction–that include this same love triangle. Twilight. The Hunger Games. A dozen other novels I’ve read about but haven’t made it big yet.

Maybe part of it is that there always seems to be a bad boy and a good boy. First, is that realistic? Do all women have this choice when making a decision about love? I’d think the choice would be more between a boy (good or bad) and lots of boys. Or no boy at all. Not two boys with polar-opposite personalities.

Two, does this make for good fiction? Is the ideal dynamic for a novel to have one female character and two very different male characters? Is that really the most compelling choice a female character can make?

While we’re at it, why don’t we see more male-female-female love triangles? Are they somehow less compelling?

I’m trying to think of a point in my life when I struggled between two females. I can literally only think of one time, a random party where two girls were taking turns hitting on me (it was surreal but flattering). Every other time I’ve struggled with love, it’s been a choice between the woman I’m with and some hypothetical, unknown woman that I wonder if I should be with. Or between the woman I’m with and no one at all. Or many women.

Why do we keep seeing this device in fiction?

Daily Quickie: I reached 4,000 comments on my blog today (if you’re curious, the 4,000th comment is an amusing aside on my Puerto Rico post by someone named Al Lopez). I love for this blog to be a place for conversation, so I’m immensely happy that it’s garnered so many comments. Thanks for being a part of the conversation.

17 Responses to “Tired of Love Triangles”

  1. @JMJKDulce says:

    I believe the love triangle men are symbolic of the bad boy girls want, and the good boy a girl should want. Inevitably, the right guy is a mixture of both. I think for entertainment purposes, if the book is marketed toward women, the female is fabulous, smart and hopefully independent with the men chasing her. If the book is marketed toward men, the female is ridiculously sexy, fantastical and loves being chased. I know what you mean about it occurring to often though. It’s a formula that works. I’m with you one more stories with a male-female-female love triangle. However, I’m sure the threesome aspect might be expected.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Can you think of any examples where the author successfully pulls off a male-female-female love triangle (with or without the inevitable threesome)?

  2. @JMJKDulce says:

    This is totally the answer. https://www.loveromancepassion.com/the-1-reason-women-love-triangles-in-romance/

    I can’t think of any male-female-female love triangle novels I’ve read. I’m on a mission to find one now though. Maybe I’ll write one!

    • @JMJKDulce says:

      Well, I’m definitely looking into Pierre by Herman Melville. The only stuff I find is in classic literature. Modern Fiction has one woman killing the other woman too much. I guess that would count though.

  3. Bob says:

    I’d like to see authors take it to the next level. The people demand love rhombi!

  4. Blogstalker says:

    You’re only a little tired of love triangles? How much longer until you’re disgusted with them?
    Men don’t have love triangles because they aren’t whiny and helpless like females. They don’t focus on the idea of love as much as the mushy female that you can’t stand by the end of the novel. What really needs to happen is bring in some psycho such as Jigsaw from the movie Saw, take the 2 men hostage, tell the overly dramatic girl to pick ONE in 10 seconds or less or else she dies. The man she doesn’t pick shall be killed as well. This would work, because 1)you’d either have her with one man, thus eliminating the triangle, or 2)she would be dead so the whole problem wouldn’t exist anymore.
    I hate love triangles, even though I have gotten pulled into some in real life. Did I deliberately do it? No, but it happens. I fix them when they happen, but I guess technically I’ll always be in one.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Haha! As demented as it is, I love the Jigsaw solution. I’d like to see that happen unexpectedly in a romantic comedy when the audience doesn’t see it coming at all.

  5. Blogstalker says:

    Hehe, and to think some people say violence doesn’t solve anything.

  6. Lorena says:

    “it’s been a choice between the woman I’m with and some hypothetical, unknown woman that I wonder if I should be with.”


    I so agree here. And with the other. Twi saga was like 1,000,000 times better before Jacob wanted to start tapping that Bella ass. And jesus, she’s such a whiny pathetic insecure mess anyway. But please don’t let me get into that (or into my secret and incredibly embarrassing obsession with twilight).

    Basically you are right to say Can women (or teenage girls rather) only make a choice this compelling (er, basic)? Precisely. What about the real choices teenage girls are faced with? Namely mean girls and combating vile rumors. Seriously. That was my high school and middle school. Or having to try to fit in with the hipsters only to be shunned because they don’t dress like them (because their mom won’t let them, ahem)? Or being ostracized for her intelligence and therefore pretending to be not as smart or becoming excessively shy? Or the dilemma of whether she should pretend to like World of Warcraft so the guy she likes will think she’s cool or just not bother? These are the important things all you YA writers!!! I really think the book “Wonder” sums up middle school pretty darn well. And I really think that 80s romantic comedies movies have much more realistic and poignant dialogue than today’s. Like “When Harry Met Sally”–It touches on obvious things about sex, but sex isn’t the running theme. And no one in the movie is extremes (hot or ugly) like couples are portrayed on sitcoms today. What’s up with that anyway? Jamey isn’t fat and ugly but funny and charming… he’s all 4 and he’s not going to just ‘let himself go’ when/if he gets married. Damn you, Hollywood! (shakes fist towards the south)

    Furthermore, when on earth do 2 guys like you at the same time AND let you know that? NEVER, that’s when. People just aren’t that outgoing in said area. Insecurities reign high, especially when there’s public humiliation at the HS level to endure afterward.

    “Why don’t we see more male-female-female love triangles? Are they somehow less compelling?” Yes, they are. This is why: Most YA is aimed at female readers (or at least most that I see on the shelves in the bookstores). Most YA novels are first person/close third person POV. Most girls “won’t” relate to a male main character.
    What MIGHT be compelling in both gender threeways is to write it from one of the doubled gender’s POV. If Jess and Rebecca both like Jamey, and we are reading from Rebecca’s POV, that’s more compelling. Rebecca is still making a choice, does she ‘fight’ for Jamey or just let it go (or wait for Jess to date Jamey and Jamey to tire of her and dump her; not in lieu of Rebecca, but in general)? I mean, I’ve been there… when the guy is all “I’m so into you, BUT I really like Jess.” and they think they’re being all mature. Eff you Jon! I haven’t forgotten. You ruined my faith in men! Shakes fist towards Florida.

    Um, /end rant. πŸ˜‰ But yes, Jamey, please write a YA novel from the double gender’s POV. OR from all 3 POVs!!!!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      You talk about a lot of things here that real middle- and high-school girls go through…the question is, do you really want to read about those things? It seems like most of the world wants to glamorize high school, like Gossip Girl.

      That’s a really interesting idea, to write from two different POVs to keep the story fresh and keep women (let’s face it, these are going to be female readers) on their toes. I’ll think about applying that concept.

  7. Lorena says:

    Oh, and don’t think we didn’t notice you posted a twilight photo called twilight in order to get more hits to your site πŸ˜‰

  8. Amy says:

    I love the triangles!! I am always giddy with anticipation waiting to see who will be chosen!! And for some reason I always love the “bad boy” who in the end always ends up being the good one!

  9. Amy says:

    In honor of it being “90210” today I had to mention some of my favorite triangles – Brenda-Dylan-Kelly or Matt-Kelly-Dylan. The latter being my favorite and yes, I still LOVE to watch on SoapNet!!

  10. Sagine says:

    I agree completely. I think the use of love triangles are starting to become a real live cliche. Especially in Paranormal YA series such as twilight, the hunger games, Mortal Instruments, Blue Bloods, Unearthly, Wings, ect ect. At first they were refreshing funny even, then they just began to seem like all these authors were ripping off one another or just including the love triangle to sell more books. Not only were they getting a tad repeatative, but it also was real crushing to see the protaganist end up with someone you hadn’t wanted them to end up with in the first place.
    I think writers should get on and stop using this device.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Sagine–thanks for your comment. You make a good point that some people (maybe even half the readers) will be inevitably disappointed by the choice the protagonist makes.

      One concept I’ve thought about is to write a novel that contains a love triangle, and at the end of the novel, the protagonist makes her choice…but you don’t know who. Then, a year later, I release two novels on the same day–one based on choice A, the other on choice B. So readers could choose who they want the protagonist to end up with, and they could see her their world is affected by that choice (there would be other high stakes in play).

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