A favored source of conflict of romance books is the love triangle. You get more complicated geometric shapes sometimes, though. Intersecting love squares? Overlapping hexagons? Love webs?

Image from WikiCommons by Roger McLassus

Image from WikiCommons by Roger McLassus

I went to a book signing for Rachel Vincent and Sophie Jordan, and one of them–I can’t recall who, it was months ago and I didn’t write it down when I should have–said that there’s a basic rule to love triangles: girl ends up with the guy she’s with first. (It’s generally a girl, but the reverse applies, I suppose.)

Because otherwise the readers feel betrayed by losing the character they knew longest, and the girl comes across as fickle.

Do you think that’s true? That the protagonist always ends up with the first love interest? Would you feel upset if she ended up with the second guy?

I’m trying not to over-think it, but I do want the fictional characters I love to be happy. It only seems fair after what they usually go through. (Intergalactic war… marauding dragons… interfering parents…)

The first exception I came up with is when Guy A is with Girl, and he breaks up with her, or does something so she breaks up with him. Girl moves on with Guy B.

Or: Girl is with Guy A, but the relationship is having problems before Guy B shows up. Usually Guy A is unsuitable, sometimes they’re already discussing a break up. Sometimes they’re afraid to hurt each other’s feelings by saying ‘haven’t you had enough?’ (Very frustrating.)

Or: Girl chooses Guy A, and the relationship develops, and then develops conflict, and more conflict.  By the time she moves on to Guy B you rather want to murder A, who has developed a number of unforgivable character flaws. (I don’t like this option, because you start out liking A for all his good qualities, and then hating for his flaws, and you wonder how he hid these flaws before, and why he had to go so wrong.)

Or: There’s a Girl 2. Girl 2 is actually better for Guy A, and maybe there was some attraction going on while he was with Girl 1. After he and Girl 1 break up, he’s happier, so no one feels quite as sorry for him.

Can you think of any other exceptions? Any times when the way an author settled a triangle made you really happy? Or really angry?

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About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

4 responses »

  1. letizia says:

    That’s so interesting. I need to give it some thought – there’s some sense to it, I suppose. But I can’t seem to think of any examples right now for some reason (weekend brain, perhaps!).

  2. jackie says:

    Great insight, I will have to think about it for a while in relation to books I’ve read, but there are always exceptions to the rules, right? Great blog.

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