Wednesday 3 August 2011

Wednesday Writer's Corner - YA Love Triangles...Yay! or Nay?

I've been mulling over this question for many months now. You see, I suck at writing love triangles. There must be something chemical in my brain that stops me from being able to do it. After a long hard think, I believe I've finally figured out why I'm so bad at it. It all boils down to this question: What do I do with the Third Wheel (as he/she will now be known) when the hero finally decides who they can't live without??? I tend to get really emotionally involved in my characters and the thought of leaving one high and dry makes me feel a bit sick.
        Traditionally, the options for getting rid of the third wheel are:
1. Death. Dramatic, but I guess it solves a lot of problems.
2. Third Wheel turns evil, thereby making it easier for readers to part with them. This is not an option I'm keen on at all. It seems like a bit of an easy way out. More so than killing off a character for some reason.
3. Third Wheel disappears and is never heard from again. I just find this option strange because invariably there will be many readers who prefer Third Wheel to the hero's choice and would like to know what happens to Gale, I mean, Third Wheel.
4. Third Wheel falls in love with someone else who is so perfectly matched to them that it seems ridiculous that they ever loved the hero in the first place. I'm undecided about this option, but at least it's a bit softer than the others.
5. The hero doesn't end up with either love interest. This one is seldom used from what I can tell, but when it's done right I think it could be a viable option.

What are your thoughts guys? Can you think of any other tragic endings for our Third Wheel? How do you feel about YA love triangles?


  1. Oh boy, have you been sneaking into my files and reading Telesa behind my back!? This very question is ripping me up. Yes i have a 'mild' love triangle in the series. But youre exactly right, what in heck do i do with the third wheel? Esp when im quite fond of him and really dont want to kill him off. And i dont want him to turn evil either...So far, he just leaves the country, but with Bk 2 on the horizon, hello, my question is, well wheres Third Wheel? Ok, i could go on and on about this. I think because Im far too emotionally invested in this love triangle. ( so unhealthy to be soooo invested in made up people. Esp when you made them up yourself! Is like vaguely...nutty?) Thanks for adding more fuel to my inner turmoil of confusion here Lan LOL.

  2. Sorry Lani. I believe in sharing my writing discomfort so everyone can suffer with me! The horrible feeling is even worse when, as a writer even I don't know which way my heroine should swing. And the ridiculous thing is that the novel isn't even started yet. I'm just trying to flesh out the plot. It IS vaguely nutty to be invested in people you've made up but I figure if I blog about it then I am at least talking it through with other humans and not just as a never ending dialogue in my own head!

  3. How do I feel about YA love triangles? Do you not see me on my knees, clutching my hands, and begging with big, fluttery bambi-eyes for you to NOT write a love triangle in the first place? Hmm. I suppose you can't. But that's what I'm doing. As a reader, I'm really, really tired of them.

    But, if your story really needs one, I'd suggest taking a peek at Rachel Vincent's Shifters books, if you haven't already. She handles the love triangle well, with much suffering, heartbreak, and, eventually, a sad but believable resolution.

  4. Personally I thought Gale was going to lead, until we got towards the end. Its usually the more attractive of the two that win. Options for the third wheel- I have only seen this once, which is one of the reasons Air by Geoff Ryman, is still stuck in my head- the third wheel gets the hero, both men do. I know, crazy! That is adult though, not YA, that might not go over so well in YA.

    There are other options, maybe he just stays sad and lonely, or bounces from woman to woman until he finds his true calling etc... Don't feel like you don't have options. There are plenty.

  5. BJ: I so agree with you. I am entirely sick of YA love triangles. I am trying desperately not to write one. My finished manuscript doesn't have one. But the new novel idea seems to be forming on it's own and I literally cannot stop myself from creating a triangle no matter how small. Will check out the Shifters books for sure. Thanks for the honesty!

  6. Beth: I totally thought Gale was the more attractive one! But that's a whole other crazy debate that I shouldn't get into right before bed. I am loving the idea of both love interests getting the hero :)

    Hmmm bouncing from woman to woman. I feel a spin off coming...

  7. FYI you guys are heaps better than my writing group. Kudos will be had if this novel ever gets off the ground!

  8. If you do go with the triangle, then I vote for making it gutwrenching. Seriously. There should be equal enticements for either choice, much agonizing, and the reader should be so torn between the potential lovers that they can't pick one either. I think that's the key to making it work. Otherwise, as a reader, it feels like a waste of time, you know?

  9. Hmm while I do like love triangles, I find I am not as fond of the ones in YA books. I guess the love triangles I am accustomed to (in manga) have it so that even the reader doesn't know who the main character will end up with at the end, but in a lot of YA, it's pretty obvious who the main character is leaning towards. I guess I like the mystery!

    As for what to do with the 3rd wheel ... well, I hate it when the third wheel just "magically" falls in love with someone else so everyone's happy. That totally disregards the feelings Mr. 3rd Wheel had for the main character earlier. I find a lot of the manga I read that have love triangles usually end it off with the 3rd wheel deciding that he'll accept being friends.

  10. BJ: That's a big mandate! I'm not sure I'm a good enough writer to make the romance gut wrenching or agonising. It's just like Jinny says, I think it would be pretty obvious who I would go with in the end. I believe the lesson here is that I should just scrap the love triangle business and concentrate more on the story.

    Jinny: With manga and anime I really find that both the love interests tend to be almost exact copies of each other and for some reason animated guys always look the same so I never care who the hero ends up with! Accepting being friends is a good option. If I do decide to write a love triangle (intentional or not) I'll try and work that in. Thanks!

  11. That is so so so true!! When you think about it like this 3rd wheel really have very limited paths to go down.

  12. 3. Third Wheel disappears and is never heard from again. I just find this option strange because invariably there will be many readers who prefer Third Wheel to the hero's choice and would like to know what happens to Gale, I mean, Third Wheel.

    This. GALE. And a couple others.

    Generally I am NOT a fan of love triangles. They are messy and complicated, and tend to take up far too much of a book/series's plot.

    However I will admit that if one furthers the plot in some way, or is exceptionally well written, then I am okay with them.

    But yeah. Gotta feel bad for the Third Wheels. :(

  13. Oh the dreaded YA love triangle. I think there are pros and cons to this. I like being able to say hey which guy do I like better for the MC. even if I choose wrong it's still fun to have an option. Then again it irritates me sometimes when they have to choose because most of the book the MC is whining over which to choose or who is better for her. I don't think I could stand to see the third wheel just killed off unless it's part of the storyline itself. Then the 3rd wheel just diasppearing seems rather odd. I like to at least know something happened to them.
    I like how Richelle Mead did it with Dimitri and Adrian. One got a happy ending now maybe it's time for the other too. (At least I hope he gets one)

    On another note: See I'm thinking I'm one of the few who didn't like HG. I didn't hate it though. Do you think it could be because I haven't read the other two. Does it get better? I think it just started off to slow, and I like fast-paced books.

  14. I like the idea that the hero doesn't end up with either one. I don't mind love triangles if they're done well, although I think they're overused. Like Angelic above, I think Richelle created a perfect triangle with Dimitri and Adrian.

  15. Noia & Molly: I feel very bad for the Third Wheels. Which is why I am agonising over their fate. I am super guilty of liking a bit of romance in my books though so it'd hard not to include as it's usually the best choice for conflict between characters.

    Ashley & Alison: I fully agree that love triangles are overused. Possibly as a tool to keep readers interested in case they don't identify with the main love interest. Ah the Dimitri vs Adrian debate. Another topic I shouldn't open the flood gates to. I wasn't a big fan of Adrian, hence my lukewarm intentions to read Bloodlines. I did think Rose's treatment of him was unfair though :(

    Ashley: See you on your blog for further HG debate!

  16. It's generally pretty obvious, in most YA novels, who the heroine will end up with - the one she isn't going to go with is presented in a slightly negative way from the beginning. He's gorgeous but dumb or nasty.

    As for the one where the third wheel goes off with someone obviously right for them... well, it was good enough for Tolkien, wasn't it? :-) It was pretty clear that Eowyn wasn't going to get Aragorn , who felt sorry for her but had a girlfriend of sixty years' standing, so when Faramir came along - yes!!!

  17. Sue: I completely agree with you about the Third Wheel always being presented in a slightly negative way from the beginning. I just wish someone would be brave an write a real triangle...don't look at me though!

    Suddenly, I'm thinking that for a real triangle to work...someone would have to get hurt :(


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