Origin of Love Triangles
The Center for Chosen Ones and Other Heroic Protagonists
You’ve just gotten back from playing one of two twin sisters in a paranormal romance, Cressida and Cassiopeia. As you step into the decharacterization tubes, the actress for Cassiopeia remarks, “You know, I actually like the actor that’s playing my boy-next-door childhood bestie romantic lead. He seems like a genuine person.”
“Too bad the script sucks,” you say. The other actress nods. As the skin of Cassiopeia slowly fades away under the steam, you can see the true face of Reese emerging.
As you step out of the now-steamed-up tubes, Reese gestures to your hair. “You’ve still got a bit of the ‘pure sunlight’ dye in there.”
You wring your hair, and sure enough, golden liquid dribbles onto the floor. Reese presses an intercom. “Request for a clean-up crew on PNR re-entrance deck.”
You walk back to the main building with her. “Is this your first main protagonist?” you ask.
“Yeah. Usually I’m the ever-loyal best friend who can be optionally killed off. What about you? I don’t think I’ve even seen you in Protag Academy.”
“I spent a couple of years specializing in a Snappy One Liners course.”
“Oh, you’re a SOL. That’ll look good on your fantasy apps.”
“But since all the authors want to do the whole ‘shared universe’ thing, it’s getting harder to break in.”
“True true true. Hey, do you want to meet up later with the RL and practice our script for the sequel?”
“I’d love to,” you reply. “But isn’t it a bit early for a sequel?”
“Paranormal romance is one of the cult genres. This series is going to be like, six books long.”
You laugh. “Alright. Shall we meet at the Mystic Library of All Prophecies?”
“Sure thing. Does seven thirty sound good?”
“Can we do seven forty five? It takes me a while to get there from my dorm.”
“I don’t think I have any other gigs, so yeah, sounds good. I’ll message the RL.”
You wave goodbye and make your way to the arena.
You arrive at the Mystic Library and take a look around. The scrolls are all appropriately dusty, and they’re all scrolls, though you’re pretty sure you could find some ridiculous star interpretation chart if you looked hard enough. As you wander towards the scribing area, Reese pops out of the right side.
“There you are!”
“Sorry I’m late, my Mary Sueism class ran over. Where are you and the RL sitting?”
“Well, I’m over this way-” Reese gestures to the row behind her “-but as for Kevin, he hasn’t shown.”
“An RL is named Kevin?”
“Of all things, I know,” she agrees. “But he makes a pretty good Axel Graham.”
“So, where is he?” You crane your head to see around a corner, as if Kevin will magically appear.
“I don’t know. I thought maybe the two of you had met up on your way here?”
“I haven’t seen him out of character,” you remind Reese. “I wouldn’t know it was him if he came and kidnapped me.”
Reese looks worried edging on terrified now. “Do you think that’s what happened?”
You think about it for a second. “Why would he get kidnapped? It’s not like paranormal romance RLs are particularly desired spots.”
“I suppose not.” Reese bites her lip.
“Why don’t we go to your table?” you suggest. “You can message him, and we can work on our characters until he shows up.”
“Right.” She lets out a long breath. “You’re right. Let’s go.”
You and Reese spend the next hour trying to get a feel for your characters. You exchange dialogue and come up with crazy scenarios, while trying not to break character. Occasionally you notice Reese stealing glances at her Messenger, but you don’t blame her. RLs typically take their job very seriously. If they weren’t performing well enough, or they simply lacked the charisma or chemistry, the author would destroy their character and send them off to sacrifice themselves for the heroine, and introduce someone new and better.
When the Grand Bell Tower begins to strike nine, Reese takes one last look at her Messenger, then says, “Guess we should start heading back.”
“Yeah.” You walk out with her and head back to the dorms.
The next week, you report to the PNR Transporter platform as scheduled. The techs are in a frenzy. One of them stalks up to you.
“Where is Kevin?” he demands, as if you’re supposed to know.
“Great, just great!” he yells, throwing his hands in the air. “Now how are you supposed to have a love interest?”
“Excuse me? I thought Kevin played the love interest for Cassiopeia.”
“The author’s been reading a lot of fanfic lately and got inspired.”
“Wait, but the first book isn’t even published.”
“It wasn’t about your story,” he snaps. “Great, now I have to report a missing character to Melinda…” He storms off, muttering to himself.
Reese runs over. “Oh my gosh, you’re finally here. It’s official. Kevin’s gone, he’s missing, this is bad, it can’t be happening!”
You quickly interrupt. “Deep breaths, Reese. I’m sure they’ll find him. The author will just have to do without for a little while.”
A tap on your shoulder. “Excuse me, is this the transport dock for Daughters of the Sun and Stars?”
You and Reese turn. A guy is standing behind you. Reese’s hysterics must have covered up his footsteps. That, or the techs yelling every five seconds, “FIND THE RL!”
“Yeah,” you respond. “Um, who are you exactly?”
“I’m Samuel, I’m going to be playing the backup Romantic Lead.”
One of the briefers hurries over. “Oh, good, you two have met Samuel. He’s going to be acting as Damien Gage, challenging everyone’s ideas about what the prophecy actually intends.”
“Who writes those things anyway?” you ask.
The briefer dismisses your question with a wave of their clipboard. “But Cassiopeia, you’re unsure if you still love Axel or not.”
“That seems kind of rude, to lead them both on…” Reese glances at you and Samuel.
“Don’t worry, Axel has conveniently disappeared. And for future interviews for other positions, you can tell them you starred in the first instance of love geometry. Both of you, actually.”
“Wait a minute.” You hold up a hand to pause the briefer. “Surely this won’t catch on? It seems like a silly way to add in more drama. Why not just focus on the plot?”
Shrugging, the briefer says, “Don’t know, don’t care, it’ll keep us in business. Now get out there and be as stupidly dramatic and angsty as possible!”
In the morning, near the end of the book, you walk into the transport room, early for once. A teenaged guy is sitting on a chair while the techs scurry about. You walk up to him. “Are you lost or something?”
The guy looks up. “Oh, no. I’m just waiting for the writing session to start.”
You squint at him. “You don’t look like any of the characters…”
“Well, no, of course not. No one actually does. There’s no possible way the hair can be actually red, now is there?”
You roll your eyes. “I mean one of the actors for the characters. Wait a second… are you Kevin?”
“Guilty as charged.”
“Where did you disappear to? Everyone was freaking out!”
“I accidentally got stuck in some kind of weird fantasy magic system experiment, but I’m back now.”
“Yeah, but chances are you’ll have to battle for Cassiopeia’s heart. And one of the techs let it slip that my character, Cressida, may actually end up with Axel, so you missed a lot.” You notice Reese arrive, and turn to go join her, ignoring Kevin’s confused expression.
“How are we supposed to fit that in with a single bit of actual, relevant plot?”
As you leave, you reply over your shoulder, “That’s why there are eight books.”