Love triangles- those often pesky, always angst inducing, tidbits of trouble that pop up in movies and books. Some are great, some are meh, and some are just plain awful.
For the most part readers either love them or hate them. I have a friend who will give an author only a few chapters to resolve one or she will walk away from the book (and series).
I personally have never been a huge fan of them. For the most part I see them falling in two categories: 1) The one good guy, one bad, or 2) two good guys. The first one bugs me because if the one guy is bad–then why in the heck is the heroine with him? The author better have a dang good reason, otherwise I’m thinking we have a not-so-bright heroine here and I’m most likely to walk away from reading further. The second one bugs me because oft times there really is no solid reason that we as readers can see as to why she picks one over the other. Both are awesome, both seem perfect. Did she throw a dart? All of a sudden she just picks one.
I personally would never really use one in my books because of my feelings about them as a reader. I just didn’t see that many done really well. But, this week-end I went to a one-day workshop with Michael Hauge (awesome- see him if you can!). He examines the inner journey as part of his lecture. And the main part of that journey is the transformation of the character from their “identity” (who they believe they are) into their “essence” (who they REALLY are). That is the emotional arc for the length of your book.
For a great love triangle you need to have one “Essence” lover and one “Identity” lover. In other words, one of the men reflects or is a part of the woman’s identity-who she thinks she is (or is trying to appear to be), the other reflects or is part of her essence–who she really is and will become (she just doesn’t know it yet).
A good example comes from one of the first Urban Fantasy authors, Laurel K. Hamilton. In her Anita Blake series, the character starts out with two love interests of a sort- Jean-Claude (vampire) and Richard (werewolf) (this was waaaay before Twilight folks- Laurel K. started the trend ;)).
Anita is a necromancer/ vampire executioner who doesn’t want to think of her self as one of the monsters. Richard, a High School teacher who passes for human whenever he can- is a great “identity” love interest. He’s who she thinks she should be with because of who she thinks she is (not a monster). Jean-Claude as all “monster” he embraces being a vampire. Anita finds herself drawn to him also because he is her “essence”-a monster (not in the bad sense- it’s how she sees things).
When Anita began being more drawn into her essence, she was pulled more towards Jean-Claude. She’d get scared and run back to Richard, but then she’d go back to Jean-Claude as her sense of her true self grew.
If an author is able to clearly show this, to show how the one lover is in line with who the heroine will be at the end of the book (or series) then it wouldn’t make for a pesky love triangle- rather it’ll just make for damn fine reading :).