Love Triangles (and Why They Are Driving Me Crazy)

When I first started writing, I thought I knew the difficulties ahead of time.  Editing?  Dealing with grammar and syntax is rarely a person’s cup of tea.  Fighting writer’s block?  I haven’t met a writer yet who seems happy with not knowing what to do next.  Marketing and advertising your story?  For many introverts like myself, that’s terrifying, because we’ve worked to be writers, not business people.

But after about a decade of writing and learning the ins and outs, I’ve realized it’s not editing, writer’s block, or business that makes me groan in frustration.  No, it’s actually figuring out the plot, because unlike other writers I decided to complicate things and not just write a romance about a guy and girl and keep things nice and pretty.  Instead, I decided to write a romantic love triangle where the girl doesn’t have just one guy to choose from-she has two!

I honestly didn’t think love triangles would be that complicated.  Looking at other stories, authors seemed to resolve things well on their own.  Han won over Leia because…well…Luke was her brother.  Peeta won over Katniss because Gale didn’t exactly make some decisions Katniss was fond of.  Arwen won over Aragorn as they were together in the first place (but at least Eowyn ended up with Faramir in the end, so it all worked out.)  

When it comes to my own characters, however, I find myself struggling to choose which man is the better choice for my female character.  Both men have their own strengths and weaknesses, and yet despite their weaknesses neither one of them have a fault so great as to render one of them alone and the other as getting the girl in the end.

Perhaps it’s been poor planning on my part to be having such a difficult time in choosing who-ends-up-with-who.  Perhaps I’ve been seeing too much of myself in the female character I write about, and if I were in her shoes I’d have a hard time choosing, too.  Perhaps I’m just over-thinking a simple plot point that will eventually work itself out in the long run and I should just let the story run its course.

Or perhaps this is how love can be.  Sometimes the choice is simple and “Mr. Right” or “Ms. Right” is standing right in front of us like there’s no one else to choose from.  But other times, at least in my own experiences, love can be quite complicated.  Sometimes “the one” isn’t so clearly seen and it boils down to a choice.  As I write this story and decide how other plots, characters, and events connect with each other, the simplicity of “boy meets girl” suddenly becomes much more intricate than just two people coming together because they like each other.

I find myself asking about the effects of the relationship itself: will my character grow more with Person A or Person B?  How will other characters react to this relationship-will there be support, jealousy, or indifference?  And what about the characters in the long run?  Will their relationship last, and if it does, what comes out of it?  Do they find themselves working together or fighting?  Is their relationship smooth and without conflict or are they constantly bickering because they’re so different?

Had I realized that writing a romantic relationship (and love triangle) would be so complicated, I’d almost be tempted to go back in time and warn my future self, “You’re going to go nuts about this plot line!  It’ll keep you up at night and you’ll constantly be changing your mind and questioning yourself!  Don’t go down that rabbit hole!  You’ll never get out!!!!!!”

But as frustrating as figuring out the end result has been, at the same time I’ve found myself learning that story is often a reflection of life, and as much as I’d like things to be simple and cookie-cutter-clear, they often aren’t.  Sometimes hard decisions need to be made.  Sometimes fate intervenes because what we think is best may not actually be the best in the long run.  With the love triangle, I’m finding the important question isn’t “who goes better with who”.  It’s actually “what’s the bigger picture?”  In the context of the story, it’s the end result that matters most, because a story isn’t about plot points being scattered to tell a good tale.  A story is about plots connecting in the end to show an entire picture instead of just a little piece.