If so many readers (well, maybe book bloggers in particular)
despise dislike them so much, then why do so many books that we read still have them? It’s not like they happen that much in real life. There must be a reason why they are so prevalent — even if not all of us like it.
As far as I can determine, there are several reasons (and I’m sure there are more than the ones I list in this post). A love triangle, in many respects, seems to be like an author’s multipurpose tool.
1. To create romantic tension.
Perhaps the most obvious reason. The best fictional romances aren’t portrayed as the ‘perfect relationship’ without any bumps. So if the author doesn’t create other issues in the relationship (confusion about feelings, forbidden love, arguments, etc.), a love triangle can be used to create tension in the relationships in the book — after all, what creates more confusion and drama than two (or more) love interests?
2. To reveal different sides to the main character (MC).
Though this may not be why an author creates a love triangle, to me this seems like the most intelligent way in which they are used. These warring aspects of a MC still exist separate from the love interests, but a love triangle can spotlight them.
Take Alina Starkov from The Grisha Trilogy, for example. Her best friend Mal represents everything about her past, background, and the girl she was (and still in many ways is) before she got her powers. On the other hand, The Darkling understands Alina’s powers and the loneliness it brings. He knows what it is the be tempted by power. And so these two parts of Alina war with each other just as her heart is pulled in different directions.
3. To highlight/start rebellion.
Ah, the classic good boy/bad boy dilemma. It reflects the way a MC wishes to change something about their life — be it their reputation, persona, boundaries, etc. The ‘bad boy’ helps the MC rebel in whichever sense they choose.
The Matched trilogy is a prime example, though perhaps not my favorite (I ended up on the wrong side of the triangle. sigh). Cassia is ‘matched’ by the Society to her friend Xander, but seeks to live outside of the Society’s control by being with rebel Ky. This might prove to be less true nearer to the end of the series, but it was definitely strong in Matched. Ky is Cassia’s first step towards rebellion and his rebelliousness seems to be the first thing that attracted her to him.
This is not to say that every love triangle is constructive, necessarily. Some series feature seemingly useless love triangles. But I hope this makes you as reader stop and think about why the author may have decided to play with your emotions so (not just to be cruel, haha).
Why do you think authors use love triangles? Does there being a reason make you any less annoyed? Can you think of any well-used love triangles?