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love triangles

It seems to me -- based on utterly unscientific observation -- that love triangles have become really common in urban fantasy. The default in my head is that the female protagonist must choose between two hot supernatural guys (or one supernatural and one normal), but of course there are variations on it. Maybe there's more than two guys. Maybe it's the guy choosing between multiple women. But you know what I mean: instead of one love interest, there's several, and the question of how that's going to get resolved is a significant part of the plot.

(If you think I'm wondering about this because it's an issue in my Sooper Sekrit UF Project, you'd be right.)

So, poll time! I'm curious to know what y'all think about love triangles/quadrilaterals/gordion knots/etc. As always, feel free to tear the issue apart in comments, whether you're ranting or raving.

Poll #1097545 Love Triangles

What's your opinion of love triangles?

Love 'em. They add a really tasty (and hot!) layer of tension and conflict.
38(28.1%)
Hate 'em. They're horribly overused, and rarely convincing.
32(23.7%)
Don't really care. They're pretty much furniture to me nowadays.
42(31.1%)
Only if they stay triangles. Go go gadget threesome!
23(17.0%)

Who do you generally root for the heroine to end up with?

The good guy. He's the one who will actually make her happy, in the long run.
43(32.1%)
The bad boy. I don't read for realism; I read for hotness, and bad boys are way more hot.
11(8.2%)
Neither. Usually they've both proved themselves jerks by the end. Or they were cardboard cutouts to begin with.
45(33.6%)
Why choose? Menage a trois for the win!
35(26.1%)

How do you like to see the love triangle resolved?

One of the guys bows gracefully out, conceding the field to his opponent.
2(1.5%)
One of the guys dies heroically, thereby conceding the field to his opponent.
6(4.5%)
The heroine makes up her own mind, rather than having it made for her by circumstances.
114(85.1%)
I only kept reading the Anita Blake series to get to the inevitable Anita/Jean-Claude/Richard scene.
12(9.0%)


Viva la love triangles, or down with them?

Comments

( 94 comments — Leave a comment )
csinman
Nov. 30th, 2007 12:44 am (UTC)
Some of my most successful relationships held three people, so that's always my vote. There are a lot of polyamorous people and hardly any in fiction.

But as far as resolving it, if it must be resolved, the hero/ine must make up their own mind or I'm terribly annoyed. Terribly isn't a strong enough adverb, but they don't make adverbs strong enough. Perhaps the word I'm looking for, if it existed, could be something like: throwbookacrossroomily.
xakara
Nov. 30th, 2007 12:53 am (UTC)
I think that there needs to be more stories where the resolution is polyfidelity rather than monogamy. Urban Fantasy is often touted as a great vehicle to explore alternate lifestyles as the norm and what that could mean. But there are still few avenues in plural relationships that are looked at beyond the tantilizing aspect. It would be good to see more. (Okay and yes, I tend to write poly, but that doesn't change the fact we need more. *grin*)

~X
sea0tter12
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:09 am (UTC)
This is why I loved Mercedes Lackey's "If I Pay Thee Not in Gold". I think it was the first book I read (and this was years ago) where it ended up a threesome! I've read a few since then, but I think this is why I always have a soft spot for her, even if there are others out there who write better -- she was also the first fantasy author I read where a gay man was the protagonist, a hero, and someone whose character description was more than "gay" (The Last Herald-Mage Series: Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise, Magic's Price).

Edited at 2007-11-30 01:09 am (UTC)
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xmurphyjacobsx
Nov. 30th, 2007 12:56 am (UTC)
I concur with the trio idea. If there has to be a triangle, go for the unconventional out - make 'em deal with each other, make 'em handle it, make' em find a way. I mean, especially if you're dealing with any character who has been around a few hundred years, I imagine some conventions might not seem so important after a while.

But that's me. I tend to prefer the unconventional romance, simply because there is SO MUCH of the conventional stuff. And anything that gets used a lot becomes, as the survey says, furniture. And it always, always, ALWAYS has to work within the story. Otherwise -- walldent book (My phrase for those that get tossed against one.)
swan_tower
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:18 am (UTC)
Somebody who has been around for a few hundred years might just as easily be stuck in a moral system a few hundred years out of date -- especially if they're something like a vampire that is supposed to be unchanging.

I agree that the conventional stuff far outweighs the unconventional. Having said that, I don't actually think everybody should go for the threesome solution, simply because most real people out there probably wouldn't. But since I have a hard time thinking of any high-profile instances of poly solutions beyond Anita Blake (who really doesn't count), it would be nice to see somebody do it.
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lankywriter
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
Triangles are the way to go, IMO. It's unconventional and therefore more interesting. UF is unconventional and therefore more interesting. It seems to me to be the perfect combo.
buymeaclue
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)
What's unconventional about love triangles? They've been a staple for ages and ages...
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buymeaclue
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
I have a post!

http://buymeaclue.livejournal.com/348188.html

And I got to have the fun of trying to find it while also trying to keep a pot of risotto well-stirred. Back with more thoughts, maybe, once I'm done cooking and eating. :-p
csinman
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
That icon is awesome.
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elizawrites
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:18 am (UTC)
I LOVE love triangles. Love them. I prefer when the heroine has to choose between who she wants to be and who she actually is, personified by the two heroes.
swan_tower
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)
Done well, that can be very good.

The thing I feel is missing in most triangles is the third side. It doesn't have to be sexual, but it has to be there. Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot is a powerful story to me because Arthur and Lancelot are friends; their relationship matters as much as their relationships with Guinevere does, and that's why it's tragic. Everybody gets hurt. Jean-Claude/Anita/Richard fails for me because Jean-Claude and Richard don't much like each other, and intermittently have nothing to do with one another. If Hamilton had developed them more (or, y'know, not quit developing characters entirely) I might have had more investment in it.
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m_stiefvater
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
Woof! Here I am feeling a prude because I don't go for threesomes. Personally, I think if you introduce a love triangle as a conflict, and it ends up as a threesome, the author's actually taking the easy way out anyway. Nobody decides, we all play together, whee!

That said, I hate unrealistic love triangles. In real life, multiple guys get attracted a single girl or vice versa plenty of times. But in real life, usually the one being crushed on has one definite favorite. It's not a question of choosing, it's a question of shooting the other one down. Being hit on while you're already attached to someone is something that could be examined in a more interesting/ realistic way in UF, in my opinion.

I do have a love triangle in my novel, LAMENT, by the way. (blushes). Only I don't regard it as such because my main character only loves one of the characters who is in love with her, unlike in Eclipse, the third book to the Twilight series. The conclusion to that love triangle made me groan and throw said book across the room.
csinman
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:31 am (UTC)
As far as "easy outs" go, I think it really depends on how the author writes it. Properly written three-ways won't seem easy, because they'll be believable! There are still decisions to be made and emotions to be dealt with.

I like the idea of people examining being hit on while already in a relationship. That's painful in some ways, because presumably they're happy in the relationship they're in (why else are they in it?). I'd like to see someone take that dynamic more often. It seems darker and trainwrecky. (It's a word now.)

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I might try it. Nearly all of my main characters start out single so I can hook them up with someone. Thanks for the inspiration/challenge... I'm going to have fun attempting this.
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dan_lian
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:06 am (UTC)
I don't generally like them because I've found they're generally trite... but I do have to say -- LKH has jumped the shark on sex and relationships, in my opinion, and if some writers would take a good tack with multi-partner relationships, they could be well done... I just haven't read much with them in them at all, and the ones with good multi-partner relationships are infrequent.
swan_tower
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:27 am (UTC)
Very infrequent indeed.

To the point where I'm not sure I've read any myself, though I recall hearing one recommended at one point.
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lalam
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:09 am (UTC)
Heh, what about a quadrangle?
Because that's what I got going right now. 2 vamps, one human and one Heavenly Heroine.

Maybe I'll let her have all of them!;)
swan_tower
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:36 am (UTC)
Re: Heh, what about a quadrangle?
But how many people do you know who would choose that route, and be able to make it work?

And it can't just be her that wants it. Would all three of those guys really go along with it?
music_lover3
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:53 am (UTC)
I don't like love triangles in general, though they do make the story more interesting. If the story's good, I'll read it regardless.
alessandriana
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:57 am (UTC)
Can I be the odd one out, and put my vote in for having the main relationship in the book be both healthy and already-established?
I know, I know, it lacks tension that way, but I'm getting tired of reading the inevitable "oh no, who do I choose?" scenes. I have enough romantic angst in my own life that reading about someone who is happy where they are would be a refreshing change. Or are there books like this out there in the UF genre already, and I'm just missing them?
swan_tower
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:30 am (UTC)
There are two challenges with that: first, you have to convince the reader of the love when its first flare has already settled down (which can be tricky), and second, there's no tension in that. No conflict. Putting in a triangle can be a cheap way to generate conflict, but at least it produces some. (You can also get conflict by introducing trouble into the relationship, but you specified that it should be healthy.)

Case in point: I won't give details, so as to avoid spoilers, but there's a point in the TV show Alias where they resolve the main romantic situation. Result? Good-bye, tension. Good-bye, interest. There was nothing more to say there. Unfortunately, they chose to deal with this by artificially injecting a plot complication that mucked things up again, but the plot complication was so stupid (and coincided with other stupidity) that I stopped watching on the spot.
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ewokallie
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:58 am (UTC)
Feelin' like a third wheel
I love triangles, but I always, always vote for the underdog. Sometimes, I go with the bad guy due to the Star Wars come to the dark side seduction. I'm also open to the screw the two guys who are after me. I'm gonna go with the bartender.
irysangel
Nov. 30th, 2007 04:30 am (UTC)
You know, I have to say I like love triangles, since my upcoming books deal heavily with one heroine and her relationship dynamics between the two men that are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

I really enjoyed playing with it as the writer, because my heroine wants to have her cake and eat it too, and I loved toying with the whole concept of "Can you be 'monogamous' to two different people?" and how difficult monogamy would be when the two men are rivals and your own nature (succubus) prohibits trying to maintain a committed relationship. Also? Neither choice is the 'right' choice because both heroes have their appeals and their drawbacks.

I thought it was terribly fun to write. :)

- Jill Myles

Edited at 2007-11-30 04:33 am (UTC)
lyndahilburn
Nov. 30th, 2007 04:35 am (UTC)
I think it depends on what the story is about. I like stories about the unfolding journey of the heroine, so it makes sense to me that she'll have different experiences with romance/sex, etc. Some characters might stick around for the duration, others won't. In my current series, I consciously decided to keep the relationship issues open. I'm finishing up the second book and I don't know if she'll ever make a firm decision about one guy. I'll probably recreate the triangle tension in each book. One thing I like about vampires is they're often bisexual. That adds a lot of possibilities to the triangles.
wldhrsjen3
Nov. 30th, 2007 05:11 am (UTC)
I think love triangles are fairly common because people like seeing relationships evolve and develop. They like the tension and suspense of unresolved attraction and the easiest way to set up that tension and play on it is to introduce a triangle. Sometimes - if it's done well - that can propel the story almost as well as the main plot. Who will choose whom? What will happen? Will they be happy with their choice?

However, that being said, I've seen cheesy cardboard triangles so often that I'm a bit sick of the superficial device. I prefer dynamic, platonic, realistic, dimensional relationships that may or may not include sexual attraction.

Just my two cents.



countquestions
Nov. 30th, 2007 07:19 am (UTC)
Viva love triangles if they're there for conflict, and if they can become a believable polyamorous relationship. I'm more in favor of that having been in my longest (and best) relationship for 2 years which was polyamorous.
tybalt_quin
Nov. 30th, 2007 10:38 am (UTC)
Urgh. I hate love triangles. They're rarely convincing, authors usually end up signalling in big neon letters who the guy to root for is and when it's a girl at the centre, it's usually the men who make the decision for her. If I was going to do a love triangle, I'd end it with the girl or boy choosing neither suitor.
swan_tower
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:27 pm (UTC)
So you're not so much against them as against them done badly.
jackiekessler
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:25 pm (UTC)
I'm all for love triangles...as long as they work for the story. A forced triangle, just to generate tension, doesn't work for me. At all. And a triangle should last only as long as the characters dictate: if the issue has been resolved, **please** don't force the triangle to remain.
swan_tower
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:29 pm (UTC)
And I think some writers string it out long past the point when any real person would have resolved it. I mean, really. How many people do you know who spend years of their life angsting about such things, instead of making a choice and living with it?

Jane Jensen, when she was working on the Gabriel Knight computer games, had the right idea about this. If people are living with sexual tension (triangle or not), either they get over it or get it on.
carrie_ryan
Nov. 30th, 2007 03:56 pm (UTC)
One of my favorite triangles was in the movie Sweet Home Alabama because it wasn't easy. The writer didn't make one of the guys nasty or a bad choice -- they were both good choices.

So I don't tend to like triangles where the choice is obvious or easy -- it has to be hard and complex.
thornsmoke
Dec. 1st, 2007 05:55 am (UTC)
This might have already been mentioned in a comment I didn't see, but Jodi Picoult's Vanishing Acts handles a love triangle at the end of a novel very well. The main character ends up with Man #1, because the other - although she loves him and he's a good man - is a drunkard and desperately needs to clean up his life. But he as good as says that he'll be back for her, and the ending seems to imply that there'll be a bit of back-and-forth. It's not exactly a menage a trois -- it's a love triangle. And it doesn't imply that the resulting couple of a love triangle will last forever, which is a pitfall of a lot of triangles.
blindmouse
Dec. 1st, 2007 11:45 am (UTC)
I don't hate love triangles, but they're not my favourite thing.

I like the romance, like every other really important relationship in the book, to be complicated and difficult and engaging in itself - because putting these two people in a room together automatically creates an interesting dynamic.

The love triangle - while it gives wonderful opportunities for jealousy and heartache, both of which are marvellous things in ficiton - tends to mean that the interest in the relationship comes from outside the relationship. Once the other love interest is eliminated, the winning one becomes instantly less interesting.

But, like anything - the disclaimer is: "Unless it's done really well."
ewokallie
Dec. 3rd, 2007 12:13 am (UTC)
What About The Guy?
I've read plenty of books that had the main character being a woman having to pick out of 2 guys, but I have not read any books where the man was in a love triangle with two girls. Not including erotica.
thegreatmissjj
Dec. 3rd, 2007 04:37 pm (UTC)
A bit late on the ball on this one, but I actually dislike most love triangles as they're "usually" written: hero(ine) is attracted to two or more potential love interests and can't decide...(e.g. Eclipse which I couldn't finish BECAUSE of the love triangle)

It's the "not deciding" that I can't stand. There is almost always a favourite, unless it is clear that all parties involved are poly/bisexual/what-have-you to begin with. I have a friend who was involved in a polyamorous relationship with another woman and two other men for the past three years and it is absolutely difficult to maintain. But polyamoury is not a love triangle. That sort of relationship geometry is difficult to portray convincingly. There is jealousy and feelings get hurt frequently. When it's all said and done, I despise threesomes written for a "hotness" factor. It's not "hot." (Well, it certainly can be, but not when feelings are involved.) People may become involved with each other because it's hot, but STAYING with each other is entirely different.

That being said, in love triangles, I ALWAYS root for the "plain Jane/Best Buddy" character because they're the underdog. But that's not always the case: if someone else is better for the person, then of course I'll root for him/her.
( 94 comments — Leave a comment )

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