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?

What is Dystopian Fiction (and giveaway)

First–Giveaway. On goodreads. I’m very late getting this up, and the giveaway is only going on for a few more hours. And if you’re late to the party, because I’m really late on the invitation, I will be doing one more in November. I promise I will post the details on my blog and facebook pages a week in advance this time!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Liars by D.L. Eagan

The Liars

by D.L. Eagan

Giveaway ends October 23, 2015.See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

And now on to my post.

So, for people who don’t know, I first started The Post Plague Trilogy after reading (and watching) The Hunger Games series so many times I could quote it. I really love that series, but you can only read something so many times before you have to try something new. Next up was Divergent, and then The Giver and finally The Maze Runner series. I was well into writing The Liars, book one in The PostPlague Trilogy, when I read the last two.

Still, I wasn’t quite sure what genre I was writing. I called it post apocalyptic for a long time, but it didn’t really seem right. I mean, yeah, there was an apocalypse–the plagues that take out the world, also known to the characters as The Plague Wars–but the book starts almost 300 years after that. It didn’t fit. Especially since I’d read books and watched shows that really do feel post apocalyptic–The Postman, Waterworld, Mad Max, The Omega Man (yes, I’m dating myself there) The Day of the Triffids and a lot more. So I looked at various categories for my most recent reads and discovered that what I’d really been reading was dystopian fiction.

Cool! In that dystopian is a really cool word. Since I was writing similarly to those other books, I stuck that description on my book and started to lump all the other books that inspired me into dystopian category. After that, I started searching dystopian fiction on Amazon (because I really, really like it) for books to read.

I bought some really fantastic books, but still. . .something was wrong. Dystopia is the opposite of utopia, right? And utopia is the ideal world.  It’s the one mankind is striving for. Perfection though, really isn’t possible, and sometimes what we think is utopia has a whole lot of cracks in it, thus a dystopian government, a dystopian world. Not all of these books had any version of utopia at all, however, so are they truly dystopia?

The Maze Runner series is probably the most blatant in that regard. Sure, the world Thomas is first introduced to has a certain beauty to it, but that beauty quickly dies. Nobody tells the characters that it’s perfect, and none of the boys feels it is. You get more of a Lord of the Flies feeling, to be honest. Even that dies in the next two books of The Maze Runner series. The government, we learn, is working on creating a remedy for the mess that the world really is in (I’m trying not to give spoilers here) but nobody thinks it’s utopia. People are dying horribly, terrible stuff happened that destroyed much of the world. and there’s not a whole lot of hope. There’s no utopia, so there’s no dystopia. It’s actually post apocalyptic.

The Giver is definitely dystopia. Everybody believes their world is perfect and it is. Except for that whole no-real-emotion thing, and the lack of color thing and a hundred other problems. In The Giver people are happy all the time in that they don’t really know what happiness is.

Divergent?  It doesn’t have quite the “We are happy, oh so happy!” feeling of The Giver, but there is a perfect test that puts people in perfect situations. Everything is wonderfully controlled. The apocalypse is referred to somewhat, and we know something terrible happened because they’re all living in the ruins of Chicago, but whatever happened is long since past. Most of the citizens in Divergent are content, but you see cracks pretty quickly in the Factionless and the fact that if you choose a different path than your family, you never really see them again. It is dystopia, but the demarcation isn’t quite as strong as in The Giver.

The Hunger Games. . .well it’s not post-apocalyptic. People aren’t trying to build a new world, or recover from the end of the old one. Sure, there was a war, but that’s 75 years prior, and before an apocalypse-type situation, which is hardly referred to at all in the series. For the main characters, Katniss, Peeta, Gale and Haymitch, it sure doesn’t feel like utopia. Considered, this way, The Hunger Games is more broadly science fiction. On the other hand, the people living in the Capitol do feel like they’re living in utopia, and the government tells them that they are happy and the government is incredibly benevolent (to be fair, it tells the districts that they’re happy too, but nobody is buying it there). However, even there we see cracks in later books, especially in the final book. So I guess dystopia is the correct genre from the Capitol’s point of view.

The Twilight Series comes up under dystopia on Amazon too. I won’t even start on that. So doesn’t Stephen King’s Under the Dome. I don’t know about the book, but I’ve been watching the series, and it is definitely not utopian, dystopian, or even post apocalyptic. The Stand however, definitely post-apocalyptic. (and one of my favorite books of all time!)

As for my book, The Liars, it is absolutely dystopian. The characters are told by the government that they are living in a virtual utopia, and that religion they all adhere to has perfected society; everybody is living the life that is most suited to them. There are tons of cracks in that scenario, though, and their world really is pretty terrible.

So there, that’s a clear definition. Will Amazon or anything else ever truly reflect that? Nope. Dystopian sells these days, so that’s what people will try to fit their books into. But I feel better saying it because I’m a writer. I like words, and definitions matter to me.