Surprise! This Character’s Transformed into a Dick!

Love triangles tend to get a bad reputation. Just last week, I posted a review and someone inquired as to whether the book had a love triangle. When I said that it didn’t, they deemed it worthy of reading, where they clearly would not have had it had one. I get it. I really do. I’ve certainly been burned by love triangles before. The truth is that love triangles or pentagons or whatever can be completely amazing when they’re done right.

gif haters to the left

There are the obvious downfalls (for me—different people enjoy different tropes), like when the heroine was clearly never into one of the guys but decides to date that one anyway. Generally, this is because she can’t (or thinks she can’t) be with the guy she wants. I’m all for dating, but, if she don’t actually like the guy, maybe she should be single for a bit rather than jumping into an unwanted relationship? Also, if she’s looking for a casual hook up to help get over the other guy, choosing the guy who’s professed his love is probably going to be a mistake.

Or when the heroine and one of the two love interests have dual POV, clearly indicating the other guy won’t be the one. I WONDER WHO IT COULD BE.

gif will smith

Worse, a love triangle can involve no good candidates for the main character’s affection, which would be awesome if they chose to be single, but they never ever do. I love romance, but sometimes the choices are between a dick and an asshole and really why bother?

gif being single is better

Then there are the love triangles where the heroine chooses the asshole over the guy who’s good to her. Second love interest syndrome is real. And it burns.

gif no no no tvd

Maybe there’s no chemistry between any of them and it’s just double instalove.

gif oh for fuck's sake

Sometimes one love interest steps aside, happy to sacrifice his life, or immediately jumps into a romance with someone else so the heroine doesn’t have to make a decision or feel bad.

gif jen shaking head it crowd

Love triangles can go bad in a lot of ways. They’re really trick to get right. That’s why when there’s an awesome love triangle that ends up walking it in, I get super sad. Basically, there are two guys (I’m using a girl with two guys interested in her throughout just for pronoun simplification, but the other sort also exists obviously), both appealing to the heroine in a unique way. Either one could potentially be a good choice and you totally get her confusion and hesitation to decide. You honestly feel the longing and chemistry in both directions. As a reader, you’ve probably got a love interest picked out, but you would sort of understand why she might go the other way. BUT THEN.

gif dun dun dun

Suddenly, out of fucking nowhere, one of the love interests mutates into a gigantic douchebag. A witch comes by behind the scenes and puts the guy under some sort of spell transforming him into a giant asshole without any sort of steady character arc to support the transition. Just BOOM. One of the love interests has just been removed from the running. Just like that. It’s not that it couldn’t have been done well, but there wasn’t really any justification for it in the text.

Honestly, though, even if it HAD been well-crafted, I wouldn’t really like this in a love triangle. Unless it was a straight up foe-yay, where the heroine’s torn between someone good and someone evil (think the Darkling), making one of the love interests a bad guy just isn’t going to work for me. The thing is that by changing his personality into an untenable one, the heroine’s choice has essentially been removed. It’s lazy romance writing to me. Rather than having the heroine really consider her feelings and choose the love interest with whom she has the best connection, one of them is made no longer an option. Then, even if the heroine chooses the guy I was rooting for, it doesn’t feel as sweet, because she didn’t choose when things were equal. It would mean so much more if the decision was made when both guys were at their best. Choosing X over Y when Y has turned out to be an asshole is less of a testament to her feelings for X. All I want is for her to choose when the love interests are on an even footing. Well, and for her to choose the right one (or both or no one).

gif make good choices freaky friday

Here are a couple examples where I personally think the love triangle would have been better had one of the love interests not been shafted. For the record, before you get mad, I actually liked all of these books. I just think that I could have LOVED them if they’d gone one step further.

Anna and the French Kiss: I thought of one where it’s a boy in the middle of the love triangle! The formula’s a bit changed in this one, since the reader never actually gets to see the good side of Ellie. However, the accounts of all the people in the group say that she’s changed in college. This is one where maybe there was a reason for it, but I don’t think it helps the love triangle. In fact, the fact that she’s a total bitch throughout the novel and that St. Claire doesn’t seem to like her much makes the time it takes for him to reach a decision puzzling. She’s pretty much discounted as an actual option for St. Claire right from the start, making it painfully obvious he’ll choose Anna and making the book incredibly frustrating. If she’d actually been an awesome person, his choosing Anna would have been more convincing.

Lola and the Boy Next Door: I’m not picking on Stephanie Perkins, I swear.  Some of you are probably looking at me strangely right now, because Lola and the Boy Next Door had the lovely, adorable Cricket and the dickhead Max. I’d heard all about how awful Max was before I started reading the book. Lots of people hate this book because Lola dates this abusive fuckweasel. Then I read the book. I was really shocked to find that Max was actually a pretty nice guy. He agreed to Lola’s dads’ rules about dating her and said awesome things like how “perfect is boring” and how he wouldn’t have Lola “any other way.” Now, Cricket was obviously still better for her, but Max accepted her as she was and I totally got why she was so into him, especially adding in the allure of the older guy in a band. However, then Cricket does morph into the jerk I was warned about. It felt forced and I would have loved to see him get to be a good guy, but the wrong one for Lola. It would have been a harder decision for her to make, but more meaningful. Also, if you think I spoiled this resolution, hello, it’s in the title.

gif wha happen

The Hunger Games: A lot of people were unhappy with Mockingjay for myriad reasons. The resolution of the love triangle is one of the biggest offenders. Whether you liked Peeta or Gale, it wasn’t a great resolution for any one. I can’t really talk about this one in detail without major spoilers, so into the spoiler tag, I go: View Spoiler »

Soul Screamers: This one could have worked so well, but it falls into the same trap. It came so close really. View Spoiler »

What bothers me about this is that it seems to suggest that the characters need to be justified in choosing the person they chose. They can’t dump the person they dated first for someone new that they like more unless the original guy was secretly an asshole all this time. We all know the heart isn’t rational. Isn’t the fact that they like the new person more reason enough?

What do you think about love triangles that resolve this way? Does it bother you or are you okay as long as your ship sails?

8 responses to “Surprise! This Character’s Transformed into a Dick!”

  1. Steena says:

    All the yes. This was my biggest (maybe my only??) complaint with The Hunger Games and one that continues to aggravate me.

    I would love to see more fictitious characters being ok with being single. Even as I type that though, my romance-lovin’ heart is always bummed out by “My Brilliant Career”.

    • Christina Franke says:

      I KNOW THIS PAIN. I agree on that one. YOU CAN DO BOTH, GIRL. I HAVE FAITH. However, I can think of at least one where I would have been really happy to see the heroine end up along (not typing here so as not to spoil people). *sighs*

  2. Ginifer B says:

    Absolutely, every single thing you just said. Love this! One on my list that just really killed me is the Shatter Me series. The whole time I read Fracture Me and Ignite Me I was thinking, “NOOoooo, what are you doing?!”

    Also, this has got to be the best post title, ever.

  3. Kim says:

    Ugh, I know. It is the laziest of writing when an author does this. Whyyyy? Why betray your characters and the integrity of your books? I was super infuriated when this happened in Ignite Me. I don’t really like that series anyway, but that one was especially problematic on several levels.

    I love the points you bring up about Anna and the French Kiss. It’s not something I thought about while reading (and I really enjoyed the book). But you’re right. Ellie existed as a one dimensional character only to create an obstacle. It would’ve been a much more compelling story if she’d had a personality beyond “asshole.”
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  5. I have the very same issues with Anna & Lola. I love the books, but the love triangles were kind of stupid, and there was always that theme of cheating in the backseat. I didn’t think Max was a douche-canoe, I actually liked him until we were forced to dislike him. And even then did I think he was kind of right. But, you know, we’re supposed to love Cricket, so we’ll love Cricket. I also felt like we were made to hate Ellie.

    For once, I would like a book where two guys fawn over the girl, and the girl chooses herself for a change. You know, “Thanks for the interest, guys, but neither of you really tickle my fancy, so I’m just going to be awesome on my own for a while”. That’d be so refreshing.
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