Friday, June 12, 2015

Love Triangle Chatter: Why We're Never Going to Escape Love Triangles

original image source

When I was at BEA a few weeks ago, I spoke with an author who has a trilogy with a well known publisher. I love that BEA allows us to hang out and chat with authors, and get a more personal look at their books and what's happening in the publishing world as a whole. Of course our conversation eventually went in the direction of my favorite/most hated topic: Love Triangles. Raise your hand if your'e surprised. No one? 

This author had originally conceived a series with the heroine having a solid Linear Love Progression (my term) in the first book. This means the MC had a love interest when the first book began that shifted and settled in a different direction throughout the same book. The guy from the very beginning was supposed to be left behind at this point, and in book two and three it would continue to be all about the second "real" love interest, with no love triangle in the mix. (Ex. Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson has a Linear Love Progression). 

However,  this author's editor had a different opinion on the matter and wanted the first guy to be featured throughout the second book as well, essentially bringing back a love triangle. The author has obliged this request and mentioned having to juggle more people and more romantic drama than anticipated in book two. Though the author is attempting to keep the focus off the romance, at least in the heroine's mind. The author compared it to The Hunger Games series in that sense. (I have mixed feelings about that comparison.)

Some specific comments/reactions to this conversation:

1) It makes me sad to hear a change like this was made when a love triangle wasn't the original intent of the author. I actively avoid triangles, so I will likely not read this series now. I know I'm just one person, but I'm still disappointed. 

2) I didn't get into a conversation with this author about why the editor requested this change, but my guess is it has something to do with audience-selling potential. As much as I hate to admit it, love triangles sell. But does adding a love triangle really bring in more readers? I don't have an answer to that. 

3) BUT there are amazing - and popular - series out there that do not have love triangles at all. Why does it often seem like non love triangle books are the exception instead of the rule? How much is this a reflection of the author's planning and how much is it an editorial decision by the publisher?  Maybe it doesn't really matter in the end, but in my mind it makes a difference. Am I the only one who feels this way?

4) I guess I'm just feeling like I'm fighting a losing battle against triangles. (My forward campaign is not looking so good, guys!) I do not think this author's experience is singular in any way. Wendy Higgins has discussed being encouraged by her editor to put a love triangle in her Sweet Evil series. Even Stephenie Meyer was asked by her agents to include more Jacob in her sequel, and voila, a huge love triangle movement was born. 

Going back to my Love Triangle Red Flags, chances are that second hot boy who's just shown up in the book you're reading was requested by the editor and he'll be staying around for the duration. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic! 


  1. Oh wow, that really sucks when the publishers are pushing authors to include love-triangles in books where it wasn't the intention in the first place. I don't for the life of me get why the plot device continues to be so popular with readers! I mean, it's been incredibly overdone at this point but more than that, to me it simply isn't realistic. How many times does it actually happen in real life, unless a person actively seeks out situations like that. I think that's why I've been reading more adult fantasies and MG with no romantic storylines of late, sometimes you just need a break from all that...triangulation o.O Interesting discussion Lauren^^ x

  2. I wrote this huge, long comment just now but it was a little too WHOA SIMMER DOWN ASHELEY. So here is a second attempt without sounding a little too whack.

    This makes me sad. Because I think sometimes selling the books to publishers gives the editors too much "co-authoring" power, like when it changes the original idea of the story - that's what it sounds like here or at least in some instances where the author has to do "more" of this character or "add" a triangle etc. BUT I guess when the author decides to do traditional publishing, this is a risk. I love author's rights to their own ideas, and if they want to make a story a certain way, I support them doing it their own way even if it isn't *my way. But I don't like manipulation of characters/plots for sales -- I really just prefer editing for seamless transitions, continuity, things like that. I was in a few lines at BEA and heard the editors/people sitting beside of the authors supporting what you're mentioning here and it made me sad because I felt like it took away from the author original story.

    Also, I feel like the number of triangles I'm reading now is increasing (except for in romance novels). This is coming from someone that reads randomly without knowing whether there is a triangle in a book before I go into it. Random sampling! So, maybe everyone needs to trend downward with the triangles a little bit.

  3. Ah yes, marketing. Marketing takes good ideas and makes them, potentially, not as good, through the need to make money. I say this with sincerity, because I work in marketing (though not publishing) and so I encounter it a lot. It's frustrating when a publisher and/or editor push an author not to improve their prose, but to be more marketable through hot trends. Why it's hot....I dunno, it adds more conflict? It plays to a more juvenile audience? It strikes on the fantasy of being the center of attention and universally sought-after by multiple potential mates? I dislike them, but I see them more in YA than in adult fiction (and more in trilogies than in stand-alones....and usually multiple love triangles in long series).

  4. Was this after BookCon? Not that I went to BEA, but if it was the BookCon buzz one, then I know which author/book you're talking about. It infuriates me that authors will go along with this and introduce love triangles DESPITE having a clear idea of what they want the romance to be like from the beginning of writing the series. UGH. It's all about marketing and money. Authors are always saying, "the characters took over and started doing their own thing!" or "I have no control over my characters - they do their own thing!" or something like that, but I'm like, NO, you have control over your characters... as well as YOU'RE the one who succumbs to the wishes of editors/publishers and invent whole plots and storylines and romances that shouldn't have existed in the first place. Especially if you hadn't wanted them to exist. AHHHH. This makes me so angry, especially on the topic of LOVE TRIANGLES! I hate them so much! Well now I'm all worked up lol I shall back away... excellent post, Lauren. I've always hated love triangles and will always hate them so I AM WITH YOU!

    Also I love that button. WANT :D

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

  5. Ugh, this frustrates the hell out of me. Like you, I actively avoid books if I know beforehand that a love triangle is a huge feature. While there are many books that I love that DO have triangles (*cough* Throne of Glass), that's typically the part about the book that I like least. IT'S NOT REALISTIC. It happens, I've seen it happen, but it's rare. Most girls don't have two guys panting after them. It's tragic that THIS is what sells, or is perceived as selling.

    And it kills me when authors are pigeonholed into plots they didn't plan. If I were this author, I'd have a hell of a time changing my whole vision. Editing out some scenes makes sense. Changing the plot dramatically, merely for the sake of romantic tension, does not. It reminds me of Armentrout's recent campaign to let readers vote for her MCs final love interest. Which I think is stupid. Apparently, it was her editor's idea.

    Are we really trying to remove the authors from control over their own work? Geez.

    Sarcasm & Lemons

  6. That is sad, but, I guess, understandable. I mean, I get that, while writing may be an art, publishing is a business and they want to publish what will sell. At the same time, I'm still kind of flabbergasted that love triangles are what's selling. :P

  7. Fuck love triangles. Just. Ugh. They suck :( But aw, your blog post is gorgeous Lauren. <3 Thank you so much for writing and sharing :) You are amazing. But oh. I AM CURIOUS. Which author did you talk with? And what books? So so curious. But so damn unhappy and sad about it too :( Screw love triangles. They don't sell in my eyes. They just.. they are awful. Sigh. Anyway. You are awesome :)

  8. I don't hate love triangles but I don't understand them. What self respecting person would let themselves be juggled between them and another? It's not a competition so when people are "rooting" for one guy, that makes no sense to me. I don't get how a girl can be like "i'm in love with you both and I can't choose" and they guys just PUT UP WITH IT FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES. UGH

  9. It’s really sad that authors are being “asked” and “” encouraged by editors, agents to write something they originally hadn’t planned. Great post, Lauren.

  10. Great post, Lauren! It makes me so sad to hear that editors/publishers push for this sort of thing, but unfortunately for us love triangles and "teams" are just so popular with the general public. I think, like you said, this is a losing battle for us. There will be a lot of series to come that we're gonna have to miss out on. :/ But I'm hoping a few authors out there will stand against them! I need to have more good fantasy romance series in my life.

  11. I've given up when it comes to love triangles. For whatever reason, it's the thing. I think there are easily other ways of having tension between the characters without them, but they definitely seem to be the norm. Of course, it depends on how you define love triangle, too. I think there are a lot of books out there that claim there's a love triangle but in my opinion, there's just another guy who never stands a chance who is just kind of hanging around, causing trouble.

    But I completely disagree that an editor should force an author to include one if that's not what the author wanted to do. That's just all kinds of wrong, but I admit, I have no idea how much editors normally influence/change the plot of books. Great post! ~Pam


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