It has been a while since my last post, but let me get back into this talking about a cliche. This may seem like coming out of left field, but bear with me. I am not a fan of romance, especially not as a the central plot for most of my stories. I have some romantic backstories or subplots but I tread carefully not to let it take over, but that is mostly because of my main genres. Romantic triangles however is something I have studied recently because of how it has affected me in polarized ways. Many romantic stories that have used romantic triangles have both bored me and some have touched me deeply.
Romantic triangles are seen everywhere perhaps because of how common they are in the real world. As with all cliches it should be said that motivation and perspective give them their bad name. By that I mean we often see the worst examples repeated the most. Romantic triangles often give romance a bad name. They give characters bad names and it waters down motivation. I am convinced however, that with the right approach to using this device that you would never be discouraged to use it, but rather carefully aware. Cliches can be used to perfection with the right perspective or if it addresses a theme.
I have seen most romantic triangles play off of one of the worst motivations ever- indecision. Now indecision isn’t a theme many people are fond of. I have indecision every day when deciding about which food I should eat. I am not saying people are likened to those daily struggle of choices, but rather that it can feel that way to the audience. The reality of romantic triangles is lost in most novels since authors have their focus where there is no tension or a false sense of tension. In most of these cases the story is told from the perspective of the party longed after by the other two parties. That is that the focal point of most of these tales are from a girl (usually) having to decide between boy A and boy B and then first making a wrong choice. The plot then is about the fixing of this error or the failure to fix this error. Now there is something somewhat unrealistic about romantic triangles that seem to take precedence in novels and that is that the biggest struggle, the thing authors want from stories, is the whole choice between two people thing. There should be no if you had just moments. What is frustrating to readers is that the authors somehow try and use the worst of the worst when using romantic triangles. Instead of being one between 3 friends (which allows some true conflict in a choice) rather they opt for the newcomer coming between two friends. (cheapening your main character) Now I will show that by using it this way authors are wasting a chance by not using the most realistic drive force in a romance and that is unrequited love. Let me put stories in a question form to help show the importance of perspective and ask you which one sucks?
Should I choose my best friend Scott or the new guy Thomas? vs How will I ever be able to win her heart? vs I lost my best friend, how do I deal with this loss? vs How will he cope with the unrequited love?
One of these plots sticks out like a sore thumb. It has no theme. It is hollow. Did you notice that in each case there was a theme and a closeness lost or love not gained? Characters and relationships are crucial. In some of those plots lies themes of loss, depression, drive to build a relationship and in the typical one lies a choice that breaks a character. Now I understand that characters have flaws but basing an entire premise or central part of your character on the flaw of not being able to choose loses focus on things that in the real world could matter. Loss and gain and potential loss and gain are probably some of the most important things you need in any story. Now even with the worst case of a romantic triangle there springs forth loss that is rarely visited, because someone loses. That is a new starting point and if that is where you start your story it takes a whole new meaning.
I end with a simile. Robert Beaker is competing with Frost & Co for a lucrative business deal with JI Dynamics. Gain and loss. Potential gain and potential loss. Most people will tell this story from the perspective of the newcomer. The guy fighting to get in or even the second company. So I am left with a mystery. If this is clear to see in other plots about money or power, why do we struggle when it comes to love?