WriterLife · Writing

When Three Wheels Are Better Than Two – Guest Post by A.G. Howard

by A.G. Howard

Today’s post isn’t really about the cute and peculiar little German car with its odd number of wheels. Although three can make for a much more interesting ride. Take love triangles, for example.

Yes, the dreaded TRIANGLE. Lately, a lot of readers (especially in YA) are down on love triangles. I’ve heard some say that authors need to quit using them, that anyone who does is just following the pack or trying to emulate Twilight’s success. Personally, I love *triangles* (when they’re well-done), and am baffled by how anyone who’s an avid reader can think Stephanie Meyers invented or trademarked a trope that’s been around for centuries.

Case in point, there’s literature dating back as early as the 1500’s that utilized this same technique before any of today’s famous authors were ever even born. One of the most unique triangles of its time was in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, where a woman dressed as a man, falls in love with a man, who’s in love with another woman who falls in love with the first woman (thinking she’s a man).

Confusing? Yes. But who could turn away from such a hot mess of unrequited love and wire-taut tension?

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (1847) is a more traditional triangle, yet there’s a paranormal slant. Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar were caught in a crossroads of passion that in the end transcended death itself. There was also The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (1909) with both the dark Phantom and the equitable Vicomte of Chagny vying for the lovely and innocent Christine Daaé’s affections.

I’m not going to explore why love triangles work. It’s obvious they do since they’ve been a literary staple in gothic romances and the like for as long as there have been stories (there are even examples in the Bible).

In my debut, SPLINTERED, I wove in my love triangle as symbolism for the yin and yang aspects of the story, and the choice that Alyssa has to make at the end of the book. In all honesty, without that inner conflict for Alyssa, my book would lose something. Each guy brings out and complements different qualities in Alyssa—not just her light and dark sides, but how she makes decisions, either cautiously or spontaneously; or how she views the world, either as a canvas or as a playground. And when the time comes for a choice, it’s more than just choosing a guy. It’s choosing which way she wants to live her life.

For me personally, the best love triangles are either when the heroine is attracted to both men for different reasons … when somehow they are the two halves to her perfect soulmate’s whole, in which case she’ll always be questioning who she chooses for they only have half of what she’s looking for; OR, when one of the heroes realizes who the heroine is truly better off with and sacrifices his own happiness for hers.

Mmm. Nothing hits the spot like a broken heart. 😉

Here’s a short list of some my favorite literary love triangles to date, in no particular order, from classics to present bestsellers:

Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, and Peeta Mellark – Hunger Games
James Potter, Lily Potter and Severus Snape – Harry Potter
Stefan, Elena, and Damon – The Vampire Diaries
Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar – Wuthering Heights
Jace, Clary, and Simon – Mortal Instrument series
The Phantom, Christine Daaé, and the Vicomte of Chagny – The Phantom of the Opera
Sidney Carton, Lucie Manette, and Charles Darnay – Tale of Two Cities
Sophie, Nathan, and Stingo – Sophie’s Choice

Are some of your favorite third wheel love stories up there? Do you have some favorites in films? I’d love to hear of any that I’ve missed!

3 thoughts on “When Three Wheels Are Better Than Two – Guest Post by A.G. Howard

  1. I really like the love triangle in Sergio Leone's film Once Upon A Time In America. I love it because it's existence ties the film together structurally. I can't really tell you much about it or which characters, because it's only even revealed as a major plot twist, but once you find out it suddenly makes the viewer and one of the characters completely change the light in which they see everything that's happened. It's really quite brilliant, I highly recommend watching it (be sure to see the 4 and a half hour version, the shorter theatrical release blows.)

  2. brighton~ Thanks for the tip! I will definitely put that on my to be watched list. Sounds right up my alley!

    Jessie~ Heehee. Sorry, BBL. But you never know what the future might hold…

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