Posted On January 29, 2018 by Print This Post

Square Peg, Round Hole, Love Triangle – by Staci Troilo

We’re starting off the week with a big welcome to RU’s newest faculty member, author and editor Staci Troilo. Staci has contributed posts over the past couple years, and we’re thrilled to have her on board. 

Hi, everybody. This post is a long time coming. It’s not my first time here, but it’s my first post as a full staff member. Jen approached me about the position last year, and a series of personal and professional issues kept me from joining until 2018. I’m really happy to be here and look forward to getting to know you all better.

Now, on to the good stuff… Love Triangles. Why I’m not a fan.

Writers are taught early on that one of the most important aspects of fiction—any genre of fiction—is conflict. When a romance writer needs to increase the conflict in a story, a (seemingly) good way to do that is to add a third party vying for the affections of the hero or heroine.

I can’t deny that the triangle adds to the tension of the plot. Mission accomplished, right?

Not necessarily.

And let’s be clear. I don’t mean the crazy stalker that invades the heroine’s life. That’s not a triangle because the stalker isn’t a viable contender for the heroine’s heart. I’m talking about two people, both of whom have merit, that the object of their affection needs to choose between.

Back to love triangles.

Okay, full disclosure here. The whole Team Edward/Team Jacob debate during the heyday of the Twilight franchise grated on my nerves. Why would two supposedly drop-dead gorgeous guys, each with a heart of gold, fall for someone who describes herself as unremarkable? As well as the “ordinary” boys in her grade? And if this series wasn’t bad enough, other series then jumped on the bandwagon.

It bugged me. So, sure, I might be biased.

In actuality, there are some triangles that are so artfully done, I don’t think of them as conflict-gimmicks at all. (Gone with the Wind, anyone?)

But this is why, in general, the love triangle bothers me.

If you have a plot that addresses other conflicts in the story world, why muddy the waters?

Here are some story ideas that you might find in a romance novel:

  • one person is hiding from a crazy ex
  • their careers are in opposition to each other’s livelihoods or beliefs
  • there’s an unplanned pregnancy
  • there’s a loss of a baby or child
  • it’s a long-distance relationship
  • parents (or other family) dislike the love interest
  • someone is trying to kill one or both of the couple
  • one of them is being framed for a crime

And this list is in no way exhaustive. But what do all of these ideas have in common?

They’re rife with conflict already.

There’s no reason to throw a second romantic choice at one of the characters when they’re already dealing with legal problems, health issues, safety scares, or family drama.

Let’s look at the Twilight series—without the love triangle. (If you’re one of the three people who haven’t read the books or watched the movies, be aware there are spoilers ahead.)

1. Twilight
Bella wants to learn why Edward is so peculiar. After she does, they have to work out their relationship issues, namely, his concern about controlling himself around her. Then she has to deal with his family’s issues with her (she’s not supposed to know about vampires and some of them may try to feed on her). Once they get past those issues, she’s discovered by rogue vampires and has to go on the run. Because of the deception she pulls on her father, they then have to deal with his dislike of Edward.

 2. New Moon
Edward and his family leave town when his brother loses control around her. She is despondent and puts herself in countless dangerous situations because it makes her feel closer to Edward. A rogue vampire from the first book is still after her. A misunderstanding makes Edward think she’s dead, so he tries to kill himself by breaking vampire law. Bella must stop him before he’s dead, and in the course of those events, she attracts the attention of the vampire rulers who want her turned or killed.

3. Eclipse
There are mysterious disappearances in the area. These disappearances are actually people being turned into vampires. The sole remaining rogue vampire is building an army to help her kill Bella and Edward’s family. Bella needs the help of the local werewolf tribe to fight them, but werewolves and vampires are enemies. They finally have a tentative truce and win the war, but the vampire rulers are displeased to see Bella still hasn’t been turned.

4. Breaking Dawn
Bella and Edward get married because he insists she have as many human experiences as possible before she’s turned. She insists on a “real” human honeymoon and ends up with a supernatural pregnancy. The werewolf pack wants to end her child, and a jealous vampire turns them in for breaking the law (which they didn’t), prompting retaliation from the ruling class. The Cullen family bring all their friends to Forks to stand with them in the final battle, and because of all their help, the ruling class gives up and leaves.

Twilight fans, especially Team Jacob fans, may miss Jacob’s involvement. And I have to admit that some of the most entertaining scenes were the arguments between him and Edward. But as you can see from the above synopses, he wasn’t necessary to the advancement of the plot. If the family dramas, the rogue vampires’ rage, and the ruling vampires’ power lust weren’t enough to carry the stories, then maybe the plots weren’t strong enough. And if they were strong enough, the triangle was unnecessary.

I won’t say you should never write them. There are some really good love triangle stories and series out there. (Some are on my all-time favorites list.)

  • Gone with the Wind
  • Casablanca
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Pride and Prejudice

The thing I like best about these triangles is that they are important to the advancement of plot. They don’t add unnecessary complications while they are central to the conflicts of the story. And using a third wheel that way just makes the ride more fun.

I’d love to know what you think. Are you pro or con love triangles? Or does it depend on how they’re used in the plot? Do you have a favorite example? Or a few you love to hate? Let’s talk about it.

***

Some passwords protect more than just secrets.
 
Danny Caruso was glad to be back in the United States, back to his regular job. Back to his comfortable routine of all work and no play. But when his friend Mac asks a favor of him, he can’t refuse. He owes the guy everything. So he accepts the job, even though it means a twenty-four/seven protection detail guarding a particularly exacerbating—and beautiful—woman.
 
Braelyn Edwards is careful to stay out of the spotlight, preferring to hide in the background and skip the trappings of a vibrant social life. But her privacy is threatened when there’s an attempt on her life and a bodyguard is foisted on her. Compounding problems? He doesn’t just want to protect her. He wants to investigate every detail of her life, starting with her top-secret job.
 
Danny casts his sights on Charlie Park, her coworker, her partner… the one man who knows all Braelyn’s secrets. She’s frustrated by the distrust until she realizes jealousy fuels Danny’s suspicions as much as instinct and proof. One of them is right about Charlie—but by the time they figure it out, it may be too late to save their relationship. And Braelyn’s life.
 

***

BioStaci Troilo writes because she has hundreds of stories in her head. She publishes because people told her she should share them. She’s a multi-genre author whose love for writing is only surpassed by her love for family and friends, and that relationship-centric focus is featured in her work. 

 

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19 Responses to “Square Peg, Round Hole, Love Triangle – by Staci Troilo”

  1. Great article, Staci! I read the Twilight books, usually cringing at the addition of Jacob: although he was likable, it always seemed to muddy Belle’s ongoing Edward problems. You put my nagging impression so well. Still, triangles can be advantageous, as you point out with other examples. In a story I wrote, the ex-boyfriend tugs at the heroine’s ties to home and family when she struggles, far from home, with satisfying her longing for adventure and a new man. I think the bottom line is not to have the heroine believing she loves them both and can’t decide and, as you say, the second man serving as an important story element (not just another obstacle). We should all analyze why triangles work in the examples you give.

    Posted by Kathleen Day | January 29, 2018, 8:44 am
  2. Great plotting advice. I’m not sure I’d consider either Casablanca or Pride and Prejudice love triangle stories, though. Pride and Prejudice has an alternate suitor more to illustrate characters and themes than add plot complexity, and as for Casablanca, they’ll always have Paris.

    Posted by Beth | January 29, 2018, 8:50 am
    • I agree with your assessment of P&P regarding character development. But that was my whole point. The alternate suitor was necessary to the plot. In something like Twilight, it’s not. In any case, it’s a fabulous story. As for Casablanca, it’s one of my all-time favorites. I’d include it in every (positive) list if I could. 🙂

      Thanks, Beth.

      Posted by Staci Troilo | January 29, 2018, 9:09 am
  3. Nice article. I hate them, too. Also pointless and prolonged misunderstandings. Look forward to reading your pieces more frequently now!

    Posted by Margaret | January 29, 2018, 2:04 pm
  4. Hey Staci and welcome aboard! =)

    I agree about the love triangles…especially if the one person has to choose between two people she loves. Oy, those drive me crazy. I just can’t imagine how the relationship is going to work out in the end…no matter who she choose! There’d always be a “what if” hanging around….

    So glad to have you on board Staci!!!

    =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Peters | January 29, 2018, 6:23 pm
    • Hi, Carrie. Thanks for the warm welcome!

      You raise a great point. Choosing between two amazing guys would make a girl wonder “what if?” until her dying day. That doesn’t make for an HEA. Even if the second choice gets his own story in the next book of the series, he might get his HEA (although you have to think he’d always wonder, too), but the first girl will still have doubts. And if she doesn’t? It wasn’t a hard choice to begin with, then. Sigh. It’s bugging me just thinking about it.

      Posted by Staci Troilo | January 29, 2018, 7:19 pm
  5. Hi Staci,

    We’re so glad you’re finally on board!

    I’m on the fence when it comes to love triangles. If it advances the plot and works as a tool to develop character, then it works. For example, an ex-boyfriend or husband, never quite forgotten, shows up unexpectedly. It’s a common trope, but it should raise the stakes and exact change in the MCs.

    Cheers!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 29, 2018, 9:11 pm
    • Hi, Jen. Thanks for the welcome. I’m really glad to (finally) be here!

      I was probably unfair w/rt triangles. They can work, provided they do advance plot and character development. The Edward/Jacob thing did neither, and it really irked me (as I’m sure you saw). But a love triangle does have a place. Maybe I need to try to write one that I don’t detest. 😉

      Posted by Staci Troilo | January 30, 2018, 4:25 am
      • I look forward to seeing what you come up with–it will be original, I’m sure. There is already too much formula-following in romance fiction. I couldn’t agree more with the Twilight series. What about the Hunger Games series? I think that triangle works out.

        Posted by Kathleen Day | January 30, 2018, 6:42 am
        • I’m sorry, Kathleen. I can’t really speak intelligently about The Hunger Games. I skimmed the books to be sure they were okay for my daughter, but I didn’t pay close attention and I don’t remember much. And I haven’t watched the movies because I’m not really interested and I do not like Jennifer Lawrence. (I tolerated her in Passengers because of Chris Pratt. Bradley Cooper wasn’t enough to get me through Silver Linings Playbook.) I’ll take your word for it, though.

          Posted by Staci Troilo | January 30, 2018, 8:08 am
          • What makes this triangle okay is the romantic side of one relationship isn’t developed when Peta sacrifices for her. She tries, later, to see if there’s anything there with the first guy, but there isn’t (at least for her). Maybe Twilight was just a particularly irritating triangle.

            Posted by Kathleen Day | January 31, 2018, 2:25 pm
          • That probably wouldn’t bother me, then. The Twilight one definitely did. “Particularly irritating” barely scratches the surface!

            Posted by Staci Troilo | January 31, 2018, 2:44 pm
  6. Great post, Staci! Sorry for my late response. This is actually my second late response, because my computer froze up and my original response never went through. 🙁 I’m so glad you’ve joined the RU team!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 30, 2018, 10:17 pm
  7. This comment came via the RU email:

    The central theme of my series is a love triangle. So far, it has pleased my readers.

    Kew Townsend
    kewtownsend.com

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 30, 2018, 10:42 pm
    • I’d love to hear all about it, Becke. Maybe you can write a post telling us all the good things about love triangles. (I have to admit, my post was rather one-sided.)

      What’s the name of your series? I’ll look it up on Amazon.

      Posted by Staci Troilo | January 31, 2018, 7:11 am
    • Sorry. I got confused when I saw Becke’s name.

      Kew, I’d love to know more about the triangle in your series. If you wouldn’t mind sharing a bit about it or directing me to a site where I can get more information, I’d appreciate it.

      Posted by Staci Troilo | January 31, 2018, 2:46 pm

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