Love Triangle Trope, Part Two

second try triangle - Copy

So, I ended the last post talking about how for The Hunger Games series, the love triangle trope works. Not so much for The Maze Runner series.

Honestly, I don’t know why Dashner even put the love triangle in the books. If he thought it was necessary to bring in female readers, I think he was dead wrong. I’m not even sure he needed any romance at all. I liked *Theresa, sure, and the psychic connection was wonderful and really was a great way to introduce a romance. Midway through The Scorch Trials, though, he dropped it. In fact, midway through The Scorch Trials he pretty much dropped Theresa to introduce Brenda. I was very puzzled, both by the introduction and Brenda’s actions romance-wise. It wasn’t really until reading other readers’ reactions that I even applied the phrase love triangle to the situation.

Here’s why it didn’t work

1) I never believed Thomas really loved either girl. I don’t know why, really, but I didn’t. Sure Thomas thinks a lot about Theresa, but his thoughts always seemed more confusion or friendship-based than anything else. Dashner told that Thomas cared about her, but I don’t remember him ever really showing it. I will say I felt Theresa’s betrayal, but later his reactions to it seemed overblown. I don’t think I would have felt that if I really believed Thomas loved Theresa.

As for Brenda, the kissing etc felt forced. And I didn’t know what exactly it was about Thomas that she loved. What was it about Brenda that he loved? No clue. By comparison, Katniss admired Peeta’s charm and ease with people (something missing in her) and was drawn to his innate decency. She loved Gale’s strength, his skill and his sense of duty and love for his family, something echoed in her. She also admired his fire, although she didn’t entirely understand it.

2)The love triangle in The Maze Runner series wasn’t necessary to the plot. With a few minor revisions, you could take both characters out and replace them with others who were not romantically involved with Thomas and the story would be the same. It might even be better. If Thomas was motivated by love, it wasn’t so strong that I remember it. Theresa was motivated by love, but deep friendship would have been just as strong, since she was also motivated by the desire to end the flare. As for the betrayal, a friend’s betrayal would have worked just as well. On that I speak from experience. I have been betrayed by friend and family and let me tell you it hurts like hell. Romantic love was unnecessary for that particular test.

Please don’t get me wrong. The books are phenomenal. I loved, loved, loved The Maze Runner. I was up until the early hours of the morning reading The Scorch Trials (I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it’s not from lack of interest. I just haven’t had the time.) I wasn’t as fond of The Death Cure, but that was due to a plethora of unanswered questions, not the romance aspects.

So I’ll end with this observation. Women and romance readers in particular read and view with an eye towards relationships, the stronger the better. Obviously that doesn’t mean we don’t love an intricate plot, action and character arcs. We do, but we are generally (as I believe men are, too) pulled in more if there are strong relationships of all kinds. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship. Many of us were as attached to Katniss’s relationships with Haymitch, Cinna and Prim as we were by the romantic ties. I know a lot of romance lovers who are big fans of Star Trek, and there is no long-term romance in those shows. We are attracted to and attached to the bond between Captain Kirk, Spock and McCoy (a bromance triangle?). The Maze Runner series did that with Thomas, Newt and Minho. If you read reviews you’ll see that for many that was enough. The love triangle was unnecessary.

So that’s my take on this trope in two different books. What do you think? Are there books/movies that you felt benefitted by a triangle (like, for example, Star Wars, A New Hope, followed by The Empire Strikes Back) or in which the triangle detracted from the story?

*Just as a side note, I was a little peeved that the girls in the books didn’t appear to be named after genius scientists like the boys. Thomas was named after Edison, Alby after Einstein, Newt after Newton. If Theresa and the other girls from that set were named after female scientists, I don’t know who those scientists were. Maybe someone else does?

The Love Triangle Trope, Part One

second try triangle - Copy

First of all, I’ve been a writer for a long time, and a reader for even longer, and I have rarely, if ever, heard the word trope. I only read it recently on a blog site when I was researching dystopian novels–I’m a compulsive researcher–and then it was in relation to the love triangle.

At the time I didn’t know that love triangles had become cliché (which is the definition of trope in this instance). I never read *Twilight, which from my understanding, was pretty much the beginning of this overuse. I’m not really a fan of vampire romances, because I can’t get past the blood-drinking thing. If I were to read Twilight I’d be rooting for the werewolf, and he loses out in the triangle, so why bother?

Another reason I never read it is because I’ve never really been a fan of love triangles. I am irritatingly (to me) sensitive and the idea of reading a book in which one of the major characters, one that I would become attached to, has his/her heart broken sounds like pain. Why would I do that to myself? So I’ve never read books with triangles and I sure as hell wasn’t ever going to write one.

Then I saw The Hunger Games.

To be honest, I had very little idea of what my husband and I were walking into when we went to that movie. I’d heard some hype about it, and the notion that a bunch of kids were put in an arena to fight to the death and it was televised was appalling to both of us. Still, it was out, we needed something to do on one of our few date nights, and it sounded intriguing, so we went.

Our reactions were as you’d expect. We were disturbed and eyeing other movie goers as we walked out of the theater. The children were very excited; they connected with the main characters. The adults, mostly parents, had the same stunned expression on their faces that I’m sure we had on ours. For all that, though, I wanted the next movie now and part of me secretly wanted to be 16 and learn how to shoot a bow. And, naturally, I really wanted to know what was going to happen between Katniss and Peeta and Gale.

The funny thing was, though, the triangle didn’t upset me. If someone had told me about it before I saw the movie (never mind reading the books a few months later) I would never had gone to it. I don’t think I really processed the love triangle (never mind the “trope” part) until I read the books. The truth is I really, really liked it, so much so that it was part of the reason I wanted to write The PostPlague trilogy. I didn’t really question it until now; I just went with it.

The question I have is why didn’t it bother me? Why doesn’t it  bother a lot of people like me? Here are my conclusions:

1)The situation in The Hunger Games trilogy is so dire that the notion of who-loves-whom is pretty minor in comparison to the anxiety over who will live and who will die. Yes, we’re cheering for one relationship or the other and forming *teams” but in the end, we are mostly following the games and the plot and wondering mostly about how the characters will survive and how the rebellion can possibly win. I do love the romance, but it is part of the story, not anywhere near the whole story.

2)Katniss’s attachment to Gale and Peeta comes to her, she doesn’t seek it out. In other words, she’s not involved with one of the boys and then goes looking for another guy. At the beginning of the series, she’s actually attached to neither; Gale is just a friend. While I, personally, sometimes felt like she was behaving selfishly toward Gale and Peeta, my irritation was minor, and I never disliked her for it like I would have if she’d sought a second love interest. She didn’t want this problem and it tortured her as much as it did Peeta and Gale.

3) The books are written in first person. If I had been put into either Peeta or Gale’s head, I would have felt their pain and frustration, and would have been angry with Katniss. The first person point of view choice takes that away from the reader. Although we can sympathize with the two heroes, it is sympathy based upon what Katniss tells us. Mostly we are concerned with her.

Granted the movies allow us a little more incite into the triangle, in that we see Gale watching Katniss in the first movie. We see the anguish and sadness on Peeta’s face in the second movie after the scene with Gale in the square. Even then, though, the movies mostly follow Katniss. We rarely see the boys alone, and never are part of discussions over how they feel abut her.

In essence, Collins not only creates a strong, believable love triangle that gives us something other than Katniss’s goals to cheer for, but the triangle is essential to the story. It may not look like it at first glance, but without Peeta’s love for Katness, it’s unlikely she would have survived the games in The Hunger Games or Catching Fire. I believe that to some extent Peeta’s feelings for Katniss motivate Haymitch to work hard to keep her alive (you may recall that in previous years, he spent the games drunk). That romance also helps convince people to put up money to send Katniss the parachutes. Without the burn balm she most certainly would have died because she would have been in far too much pain to escape from the tree. Also, Peeta (more notably in the book) manipulates the careers and later fights them to keep Katness safe.

The necessity of Gale’s love is pretty evident. Without him, she’d never have learned how to be such a good hunter, or how to set snares. Also, Katniss could never have done all she did if she was worried about Prim or her mother. Knowing Gale will take care of them sets her mind at ease and allows her to focus on her own survival. He also saves her family in Catching Fire. If she’d lost them, she could never have been The Mockingjay?

You might question whether or not Gale needed to love Katniss (romantically) for all of this. Maybe not, but I believe that the many readers would have had difficulty believing he’d make that much effort on her behalf without love. Frankly, we would have assumed it, so it made sense just to put it in the books.

In part two,  I’ll talk about when I believe the love triangle trope doesn’t work (I’ll be using The Maze Runner series as an example, which, for what it’s worth, I really liked)

 

*The whole team philosophy was my first introduction to Twilight. When I first got on facebook, there were still these cyber bulletin boards with pins you could stick on it. I saw pins for Team Edward Cullen and teams for whoever the other is–I still don’t know–and was very confused. But not so confused that I looked it up or read the books. Which I should do, I know, but I’ve got lots of writing to do and a list of other books I want to read. . .so I’m not sure when I’ll get to those.