"If you love two people at the same time, choose the second one. Because if you really loved the first one, you wouldn't have fallen for the second." --Johnny Depp
This post's inspiration, and the quote, come from a post in Juliana Haygert's blog about love triangles. Reading what she wrote there made me realize I had a few things to say about it myself. Oddly enough, she has a quote from me in there, so there's some odd circle of inspiration thing going on. Anyway.
I've never actually written a love triangle, though I've read several; I didn't realize how many until I looked over my bookshelf and started counting. Of the two that stick out most in my mind, one is a fairly standard "guy must choose between two women he has feelings for", while the other is a bit more interesting, seeing as how one of the guys doesn't realize he's in a love triangle at all. In both cases, these are complex situations that take fourteen volumes (each) to get set straight, but they lead into the real point:
The love triangle should not be the entire story.
In both of the series, there's a great deal more going on than the person-in-between trying to figure out who they should choose. Because of that, we get actual stories, not just love triangles. And seeing as how these are rather long stories, believe me, I would have lost interest long before they finished if they were nothing more than "Who should I choose? Who do I really love?"
I understand that things don't always go as expected, especially when writing. I think most, if not all, writers have experienced that weird moment when a character does or thinks or feels something that wasn't in the plan. Something that makes the writer step back for a second and say "Wait, what just happened?" And it makes a lot of sense that love triangles in stories can start in this way. Chemistry between characters is a funny thing, and it can take as little as two characters meeting to change everything. This happened with earlier incarnations of the two main characters of Skyborne; one's utterly unexpected reaction to the other's flirting made me realize they had to get together by the end, and they've ended up together in every version of them I've written.
But I've heard of stories wherein a character who seemed set to be with one person suddenly finds someone else dancing about in unexpected parts of their mind. The story is suddenly about that character figuring out their feelings. Boatloads of angst ensue, and whatever the character was working toward before, it's no longer important. This would be when I put the book down. As much as I like a good love story, the book will lose me if I'm waiting for a character to get their head right, pick a person (or both, if that works) and get on with the plot.
The story I'm currently plotting has a ton of possibilities for romantic entanglements between the characters. Imagining them is a hell of a lot of fun, and responsible for the random fits of giggling my co-workers are used to hearing from me. But no matter how much I'll enjoy seeing how they all bounce off of each other and who ends up with who, I know that's not the whole story. Not the real story. And not the reason I'm telling the story.