Literary Love Triangles

Bestill my heart...
Bestill my heart…

Whether I’m reading, writing, or watching, I love a good romance. The angst, the anticipation, the passion; the alchemy of love is both mystery and motivation.

That being said, when romance is the only focus of a book or movie, it doesn’t do much for me. I need my romance to be solidly couched in a quality plot involving well-rounded characters with believable motivations. So when I read through the last few chapters of my manuscript today and realized with a jolt that I’d accidentally written the beginnings of a love triangle (oops!) I got a little nervous. I love a good love triangle as much as the next girl, but they can be tricky to pull off, especially since they can seem a little old hat if you’re not careful.

So, I thought I’d turn to my favorite literary love triangles and think about what aspects make them work…and which aspects I might want to avoid. (Mild spoilers follow, but I promise not to ruin any endings.)

Wickham, Lizzy, Darcy, from Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

And then this happened.

Elizabeth Bennett usually has a sensible head on her shoulders, but when handsome, rakish, and charming George Wickham saunters into her life, she believes every lying word that comes out of his mouth. The caddish Wickham worms his way into her affections by telling tall tales about Mr. Darcy, which Lizzy is quick to believe because of her pre-formed prejudices about the snobbish aristocrat. Although the triangle is resolved fairly quickly, it generates the perfect amount of mayhem and hand-wringing in the characters’ lives.

Kathy, Tommy, Ruth, from Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

The complicated love triangle begins when these children, doomed from birth, are young students at the idyllic Hailsham school. Kathy and Tommy’s intimate and potent connection cannot be denied, yet it’s Ruth who winds up in the tumultuous long-term relationship with Tommy. Later, she regrets keeping her friends apart, but love may not be enough to save Kath and Tommy from their looming fates.

Snape, Lily, James, from Harry Potter, by J K Rowling

*sob*

We finally get the full story of suspicious Potions professor Snape’s ill-fated love story in The Deathly Hallows, when Snape gives Harry his dying memories after being bitten by Voldemort’s pet snake. Although mistrusted by Harry and his friends throughout their years at Hogwarts, the revelation of Snape’s true motivations was poignant and heartbreaking. He loved Lily Evans so strongly and deeply that upon learning of her and his rival James’ murder at the hand of Voldemort he dedicated his life to protecting their only son.

He tried to do the right thing, all for a love that he would never have. Oh god, and his Patronus was a doe. I’m actually crying right now just thinking about it.

Rhett, Scarlett, Ashley, from Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Beautiful, vivacious and petulant Scarlett O’Hara is infatuated with dapper antebellum gentleman Ashley Wilkes in this famous civil-war epic, but Ashley is in love with kind, gentle Melanie. When  bad-boy Rhett Butler sweeps Scarlett off her feet, the two seem made for each other. But Scarlett just can’t let Ashley go, and soon Rhett just “doesn’t give a damn.”

Gale, Katniss, Peeta, from The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

“Wait, I have to pick?!?”

Baker vs. Hunter. Unflagging, unconditional love vs. Childhood flame. Memories of a shared horror vs. The promise of a vengeful future. Who will our steely-eyed heroine Katniss Everdeen choose? Peeta Mellarck, whose gentle demeanor belies his fierce love? Or angry Gale Hawthorne, who might choose a revolution over romance? No spoilers, but no lies: I was totally Team Peeta!

Naoko, Toru, Midori, from Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

Quiet, serious university student Toru Watanabe is in love with emotionally fragile Naoko, who voluntarily commits herself to a mountain asylum after the suicides of her sister and boyfriend. But when Toru meets unusual and vivacious Midori, who runs a bookstore to support her dying father, the two develop feelings for each other. Toru doesn’t want to abandon troubled Naoko, but can he make a decision before he alienates and hurts both girls?

Will, Tessa, Jem, from The Infernal Devices, by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Love Triangle

I’ll be honest, this fantastical Victorian-era love triangle kept me up at night. When shapeshifter Tessa moves to London, she falls in with a group of demon-hunting Shadowhunters and quickly develops feelings for two handsome young men: fiery, caustic, and misunderstood Will, who insists on throwing himself in danger given the least provocation; and kind, artistic and sensitive Jem, who just happens to be dying of a slow and painful malady. Dying dying. Oh, and did I mention that the two boys are best friends and blood brothers, bound to protect and serve each other till death do them part? One of those love triangles where you feel guilty for picking a team…

Do you have a favorite literary love triangle? What did you love about it? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Will the Real St. Patrick Please Stand Up?

The shamrock.
The shamrock.

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh! Happy St. Patrick’s day to you all!

I grew up in a family where we frequently and vocally celebrated our Irish heritage. My dad could often be seen sipping on a tall pint of thick, black Guinness, or tapping away on a bodhrán while singing a traditional Irish tune. My mom incorporated Celtic pagan traditions into our holiday celebrations and introduced us to Irish mythology. My younger siblings are named Shane and Siobhán. We even lived for a year in County Clare, just west of Lough Derg.

Because of this Irish-centric upbringing, I have mixed feelings about St. Patrick’s day. On the one hand, I’m happy that people want to celebrate the history of the Irish people and their impact on modern American culture. On the other hand, the whole kiss-me-I’m-Irish, dress-up-like-a-leprechaun, drink-green-beer-’til-I-puke thing is less than amusing, and some might argue even demeans the Irish heritage is claims to celebrate. So, to bring some sobering truth to an otherwise raucous holiday, I thought I’d share some facts about St. Patrick that you might not otherwise know!

1. St. Patrick wasn’t actually Irish.

An illuminated drawing of St. Patrick
An illuminated drawing of St. Patrick

Surprise! Patrick was born sometime in the 4th or 5th century AD in Roman Britain (various sources point to Cumbria, Scotland, and Wales as likely birth places for Patrick) to a family of Christian deacons and priests. He was kidnapped as a teenager by Irish pirates, and enslaved as a shepherd for a number of years until he was able to escape and return home to his family. Years later, he returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary, presumably to convert the pirates (!) and slave-owners (!) he had become so familiar with.

Continue reading “Will the Real St. Patrick Please Stand Up?” »

The Winter Blues

I have a newsflash, people: S. A. D. is real. (For those of you who don’t know, S. A. D. stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder obviously named by scientists who thought they were hilarious.) And, more importantly, I think I have it.

I’m a Florida girl. I’ve lived in other places, sure, but when we get down to brass tacks I really enjoy the presence of sunshine in my life. Winters are pretty smooth sailing Down South, even in North Florida, where I’m from. January temperatures occasionally drop down into the teens at night, but usually warm up to sunny, bright, light-jacket weather in the afternoon. And by the time late February rolls around, cold weather is nothing more than a distant memory.

Pretty much this.

Well, folks, I live Up North now, where winter is a sadistic, soulless entity bent on crushing everyone’s hopes and dreams under an impenetrable layer of ice and snow. Darkness falls mere hours after the sun has risen (not that you’re likely to actually see the sun behind the dense grey clouds shrouding the world). Don’t even bother to look good: no one will be able to tell under the eighteen layers of clothing you’re wearing, and the snow will ruin those cute shoes. Ruin them dead.

I don’t understand why this white bullshit keeps falling from the sky.

I like the beginning of winter just fine. November’s still sort of autumnal, and December is full of holiday cheer and good will towards man. January? No. Just, no. The Winter Blues have officially set in, with an attendant host of fabulous and enjoyable symptoms.

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On Persistence

Yeah, this was totally me.
Yeah, this was totally me.

Writing always came easy for me. When most kids my age were still struggling with mastering proper spelling, I was already scribbling away at elaborate fantasies inspired by the chapter books I checked out from the library. I wrote in my diary nearly every day, recounting adventures at school and cataloguing my dreams and aspirations (I wanted to be a vet and/or jockey, in case you were wondering). In high school, English was inarguably my best subject; I glowed with pride whenever my teacher read my essays aloud in class and jumped at the chance to complete creative writing assignments for extra credit.

But it wasn’t until I took an elective creative writing class in college that the idea of “being a writer” really took hold. The other students in the workshop were impressed with my writing; one girl said my style was “Fitzgeraldian” (considering F. Scott Fitzgerald was my favorite author at the time, this rated as high praise) and the professor said “the rhythm and pacing” of my prose was “exquisite.” (Other comments hinted that my prose tended to be purple and my plot lines were derivative. I chose to ignore those comments.)

"That which we call a…nope, I got nothin'.  This poet shirt must be defective."
“That which we call a…nope, I got nothin’.
This poet shirt must be defective.”

And somewhere between one short story by Tobias Wolff and another by David Foster Wallace, an idea took hold: I could be a writer. I could put my innate talents to use and craft genius, wonderful, lucrative stories for a living. And so it began. I gleefully penned my first few short stories, and incubated the idea for my first novel. And then I wrote my first novel. My first novel! I had arrived!

I won’t lie: visions of sugarplums (or more accurately, six-figure book deals) danced in my head. But it wasn’t long before I realized the truth: that vision couldn’t have been more naive.

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