Take for example the simple case of three planets in the same plane. Planet j is at the origin. Planet k is one unit to the right of j on the x axis, while planet l is one unit up the y axis. If the masses all equal 1, then, by the formula above, the force on planet j would be:
is a function of both the distance and the position, right? So we must consider not only the Gravitational Forces individually exerted upon j by k and l, but also the angle at which these forces are exerted. That is, we must add the vectors. To add vectors you just plug in the x value and y value sums of the added vectors into pythagoras' formula. The force on planet j should therefore be:
is the angle subtended by a line drawn from planet j to planet x. I.e.