Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Therapeutic Thought


After Tuesday's assessment, I thought I'd share about the smallest stable unit of relationships, according to Murray Bowen, and that's the TRIANGLE. Virtually all significant relationships are shadowed by a third person. Mom/Dad/Child. Husband/Wife/Mother-in-Law. Hero/Heroine/Heroine's Other Potential Boyfriend. When this happens, the third person is said to be "triangulated" into the relationship. This happens all the time to therapists as couples in a dysfunctional relationship come in for counseling. Each one has their own agenda for winning over the therapist to his or her way of thinking. This is because when two people are unable to resolve their problems, humans have an inherent bent to draw in another person. (In the chick lit novels, it's usually the heroine's best friend or pack of friends - who still serve as a single unit for the purpose of the triangle.)

How true is this for almost all relationships we have? If we took a second to consider our favorite books/movies, I would bet they all center around some triangle. Gone with the Wind: Scarlett/Rhett/Ashley. Take the Twilight series: Bella/Edward/Jacob. Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth/Darcy/Mr. Wickham. I tried to think of a movie that featured a solitary person, and the only one I came up with in time for this post was Tom Hanks playing in Cast Away. But there was STILL a triangle between Tom Hanks/Helen Hunt/Helen Hunt's new husband!!

So our novels should have some element of triangles in them. I'm sure if you think about yours, it probably already does. Something to remember, however, is that triangles might stabilize a relationship, but they also freeze conflict in place (Nichols & Schwartz, p. 141-42). So usually, a person has to work through the triangulation (their mother's well-meaning-but-awful advice, a friend's jealousy, etc) in order to come out on the other end in a mentally healthy place.

Q4U: How will thinking about the relationships in your novels - whether familial or romantic - in the context of triangles help your writing to reach a new level of authenticity?

Wordle: signature

17 comments:

Tess said...

Great exercise! I'm thinking of my current WIP and finding that I don't have a clear enough triangle....amazing because I was sensing that the work was lacking tension. The triangle is there but I see now that I need to play it up a bit.

so helpful!!!! thanks :)

Jody Hedlund said...

I do have a triangle, but didn't realize it! Actually I have a couple, now that I think about it! I guess it's another way to try to up the tension in the relationships!

sherrinda said...

Ooooo! I have a triangle in my novel....no....wait....I have 2, like Jody. (One is rather minor!) How very cool that I am doing something right and don't even know it!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Wow, this is great. I never thought of it like this before, but you're so right. One big word shot out at me with this triangulation theory--CONFLICT. You need that third person to build great external and internal conflict.

Jeannie Campbell said...

hey ladies! i'm glad you're seeing the triangles already in your work! tess - good luck at building that tension! jody and sherrinda - the more triangles, the more conflict! so it's great you have more than one. eileen...i hear you. CONFLICT = Great Story!

PatriciaW said...

You offer so much good info. Every post makes me rethink my wip.

Cindy said...

I definitely have a triangle, though I didn't look at it that way until I read your post. Very interesting. As far as the question, I think recognizing the triangle helps authenticate the characters relationships because it shows their vulnerabilities. It shows what makes them feel weak (or at least it does in my particular WIP) and then I can help my characters work through/solve that in order to progress the book and allow for character growth. How cool!

Katie said...

I'm trying to think of a triangle in Velvet and I started wondering - can an inanimate object be part of the triangle? Does it have to be people? Could my triangle be Evan - Bethany - the farm??

Love ya girl! I just rememberd what that book is called - Midnight Sun! You need to go read it so we can talk about it!

sherrinda said...

Hey Katie, I just started reading Midnight Sun. Are you talking about Edward's book? I just started it...very interesting.

Jeannie Campbell said...

katie - i'm totally into it already. i looked it up as soon as we got off the phone! SO good!

Krista Phillips said...

It took me a minute to figure out the third part of the triangle, but I've got it. At first I thought it was the best friend, but she doesn't really hinder anything. The heroine's mother is definately the 3rd of the triangle... but... then again...

Can you have like a hexigan? *grin*

Katie said...

Sherinda - yes - Edward's book. Call me a tweeny fan - but I am in love with Edward (all my fifth grade girls love him and I often have to restrain myself from jumping up and down and joining in their "Edward's hot" conversations)

Jeannie - do you like how I'm responding to people's comments on your blog as if it were my own?

I knew you'd like it! Email me when you're finished.

Just a warning - she hasn't finished it, so it just sort of drops off! WAAAAH!

sherrinda said...

Sorry Jeannie, please excuse me while I chit chat with Katie a moment. ;) Okay, so is it weird for a 40 something woman to think Edward is rather dreamy? I just rented the movie last weekend to watch it one more time. I don't care for Bella's acting, but Edward's brooding...hhhmmm. (I had heard it wasn't finished, but wanted to check it out anyway.)

Jeannie Campbell said...

no problem, ladies. mi blog es su blog. i'm just to the part where edward saves bella...and i have to go to praise team practice! i've been reading it while feeding the baby...this is sad! but i'm with sherrinda...i love the brooding edward! and i liked the bella from my imagination better. i think i'm going to rewatch the movie tonight. again. i [heart] edward, too.

Just_Me said...

Hmm... interesting concept. Can you have multiple triangles in a novel?

I think I have at least two running in my current WIP. One for the FMC, and one for the secondary characters.

Jeannie Campbell said...

just me - you sure can. that probably makes for a more interesting story, actually. thanks for stopping by!

Terri Tiffany said...

Great thoughts. I never thought about the triangular aspect though when I think about it, it's always there in my stories.