Real Talks, Ep. 2: Love Triangles

Hello, folksies, and welcome to another episode of Merie’s Real Talks! We are going to cut straight to the chase today because, guess what y’all? This past Sunday was Valentine’s Day, and you know what that means.

It means IT’S TIME TO DISCUSS EVERYONE’S FAVORITE ROMANCE TROPE.

The infamous monster that devoured countless book series and destroyed numberless fans’ appreciation for the arts of storytelling? This innocent-looking trope that would sooner belong in a trigonometry test than a YA fantasy book yet somehow manages to only make it to one and not the other? This sinister CALAMITY that poisoned the 2000s’ YA era, the 2010s’ YA era, and this is just me going out on a limb here but probably the 2020’s YA era as well?

Oh yes, indeedy, folksies, if you can’t tell already from the very obvious title up there, today we are talking about the love triangle.

Okay but first, let’s be real here.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a love triangle. We all know this, since it’s true for most tropes (I say most tropes because in art, there is usually an exception to everything. Hence the ‘usually’). A trope does not do any harm or good until its execution, and only then can we really call it a cliché. But we’re not here to worry about that.

First, however, let’s define the term love triangle. What is it, really?

Well, in my words, a love triangle is a situation in a book wherein two or more characters love the same person (two or more–this is why it’s not one of the main types of triangles you learn about in the mathematical realm). It’s as simple as that. The problem is, we in society have started redefining a love triangle as a situation in a book wherein two hot male guys love the kind of plain, kind of unremarkable female main character who by the way is supposed to be saving the world and does not really have time to choose between them but spends an excruciating amount of time doing so anyway because clearly romance is loads more important than, you know, the world.

How did something so simple with the potential to be pretty innocent end up conforming into… that?

Now, I am on no grounds to discuss whether or not love triangles are realistic. In my personal opinion, there’s no certain answer to that because you can’t exactly take a survey of all the people in the world who have ever had two or more love interests. The thing is, love triangles tend to come in at the wrong time, and more often than not, they tend to happen to the wrong people.

That sounds kind of mean of me, I know. But let me explain.

As an author, I’m supposed to write a compelling main protagonist for readers to learn to root for, right? That’s how it generally works. Well, if I don’t write a compelling main protagonist, and readers end up hating her (because it has to be a she), then who is gonna care about her love life? Especially when the world is in peril? And well, I think most characters stop getting interesting when their entire purposes start evolving into the romantic subplot of the story.

A book that is not categorized in the romance genre should not revolve around romance. In fact, it doesn’t even need to include romance for a character to fall in love. That sound a little backward? As much as modern culture ignores the fact, romance and love are two different things (read this article does a great job of suggesting ways to incorporate that into your writing).

That’s why love triangles are so angsty. You’re balancing two potential matches and by doing so, intentionally or otherwise, weigh their pros and cons against each other. (The character herself may not consciously be doing this, but I know the readers are!) It gets sorta confusing because the main character has feelings for both guys, which is what makes her choice so difficult! And that’s the line drawn right there: that’s how we know that true love can’t be about just feelings. And yet that seems to be the case in most secular stories, which could be one of the reasons why those romances seem to fall short of our expectations every time.

In the end, the main character seems to make a random choice. Oftentimes the choice is supported by the death of the other love interest, which of course, cheapens that choice even more. In too many stories, love triangles force the main character into making this choice by giving her these options only, without regard for the fact that… I don’t know… there might be more people in the future? Just a thought…

But when the plot forces the main character into making a choice based on romance, that’s different. It’s usually more justifiable, for sure. But again, if the romance takes over the story, it’ll cheapen the plot…

I don’t know about you, but if I were in a world whose preservation depended on one random girl, the preservation of my world would mean a lot more to me than which guy she chooses. In fact, I’d find it rather difficult to respect her if she took too long saving the world only because the two guys were squabbling over her. I think most people would be voting for another heroine by that point.

Or maybe not a heroine. Maybe we could have, like, an entire group of people. I know, sounds crazy, but who knows? Maybe the salvation of humanity could not depend on one measly little human? Because… you know… we humans are kind of a mess.

Just a suggestion. Don’t have to take it seriously.

Love triangles have SO MUCH UNEXPLORED POTENTIAL.

There’s so much you could do with one! What if the main character ended up rejecting both guys and went on to be happily single for the time being (so she can focus on saving the world)? She might even meet up with a nicer guy later. What if the main character died in the middle of a love triangle drama, leaving the two guys to somehow put apart their differences and take the reins instead? Now that would be interesting! What if the hero made it clear he doesn’t date instead of stringing along a new female character in every book of the series? What if the love triangle was just a temporary thing and they all got over it in the end? (That one’s a bit of a stretch, but it could happen!) My point is, there are so many different ways you could go, so why not try one?

So… yeah. I’m not actually sure if half of what I’m saying is legit in this post. I don’t have any personal experience with romance or love triangles, after all. But as a wise person once said, you can’t live a happy life married if you’re not happy when single! Romance may give the feeling that everything could finally be going right, but true love is not the equivalent of happiness. I believe in a lot of stories it’s called equivocation.

Okay, I’m done now. As a Christian, I believe in writing true love that reflects and glorifies the love of Christ, which is in itself reflected in romantic love between humans. What you decide to write is up to you, I suppose. But there’s my two cents 🙂


With all that said, thanks for reading, folksie! Hope you enjoyed this episode of Real Talks. Always be a happy camper~

Until next time,

~ Merie

21 thoughts on “Real Talks, Ep. 2: Love Triangles

  1. I like writing deconstructed love triangles where more than one person does like someone, but maybe she’s just running from her feelings and trying to pretend there’s a choice but knows who she loves the whole time. I think they can be done well and have so much potential but are usually used in the same way.
    Fantastic post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! I live for Christian perspectives of love in books. It’s not just a feeling, it’s a choice to put that person’s needs and wants above your own. And if you can’t even choose which boy you’re into, you’re probably gonna have a tough time with that, Miss Generic MC Lady.

    Loved this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes!! I love this post, and totally agree with you. Also– the “Let’s have a group save the world” thing really needs to be in more fiction.
    Not to mention– there needs to be a legitimate reason for *teenagers* to be saving the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, I know… And maybe the group doesn’t have to be a group of teenagers. But I guess the point of YA fiction is to include teenage protagonists these days… Even though technically people in their 20s are young adults as well?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ooh, yes, that’d be very interesting.
        I actually do have a bunch of late teens/early twenty-year olds end up leading the rebellion in one of my books, but that’s because most of the adults have been assassinated, and those teens have been specifically trained to lead it. XD

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s understandable 😌 In YA, I suppose it’s generally because what better way to dramatize coming of age than with putting the literal weight of the world on their shoulders? xD

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The thing I hate most are love triangles where IT’S OBVIOUS WHICH ONE SHE’S GOING TO PICK. Like what’s even the point? Oh, here’s evil sexy bad boy with a TRAGIC PAST and PLOT-IMPORTANT STUFF GOING ON AROUND HIM. And here’s her childhood best friend who’s kind of a boring jerk. (Of course you can switch the roles as needed, but you get my point!) Hmm I wonder which one she’s going to go for? The one with all the plot stuff or the one with no plot stuff?

    And then there are love triangles where the heroine is forced to choose between an interesting guy and a sack of flour, and then she chooses the sack of flour for some unfathomable reason. Please let me choose interesting guy instead 😭

    As a side note, sometimes I see people complain about a heroine ‘stringing a guy along’ and I read the book, and…The heroine was always very clear about which guy she wanted. The other guy was just forcing his unwanted affections onto her, to say it like a 19th century grandma. I don’t understand it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are sooooo annoying. Personally I find the ones where she just wavers constantly between two guys who were equally interesting at first, but then became super boring once the love triangle took over, and then one guy has positive growth while the other doesn’t do anything which is not fair and the girl STILL takes forever to choose.

      But yeah, that’s my version of stringing guys along 😂 Although the other kind is annoying as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. AMAZING post! Ooh, here’s another subversion idea—-the two people involved in the love triangle end up with each other instead of the protagonist (bit of a stretch? Maybe, but I kind of like the idea). I think that love triangles (even the traditional ones) CAN be done well, but they usually aren’t. It really depends on the author, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The thing I hate about love triangles is that hello there’s a world disaster happening and you’re wondering about which guy you should choose??? The only love triangle I liked was the katniss/gale/peeta one in Hunger Games. But what would be amazing is if the heroine just got over both guys and continued to be awesome ( I haven’t found any book that does this yet). Introducing a love triangle for unnecessary angst is the worst thing ever. And love triangles can also get toxic. Why can’t we have more stories about friendships?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And you can really tell the author is just writing the story for the readers at that point, not the story! I’ve only read the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy though, so I haven’t yet had too much of that love triangle yet. But yes, it would be real nice if the heroine could just get over both guys, even if it would be difficult. It could still be necessary growth! And it’s true that love triangles can result in toxic relationships. I don’t like it when one guy gets overly possessive over the girl (because that always happens!) and both guys usually start out friends or brothers.

      Liked by 1 person

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