Fiction Focus- The Love Triangle


Ah, the humble love triangle. The mainstay of young adult writers, the bane of many a plain, boring teenage girl as she contemplates the two hilariously good-looking boys staring down at her.

It’s a trope that you either love or really really hate. Or maybe think you really really hate until one day, you discover you’ve accidentally written one.

So what are our main complaints about love triangles, and what can we do to overcome those?

1.       They’re too cliché.

Ah, unfortunately, this isn’t one that we can get around too easily. Once something is a cliché, it remains a cliché until the fad ends. The trick is to make yours not cliché. Don’t make it just a small town girl in a not-so-lonely world where everybody is a) good looking and b) has the hots for her.

So make it different. Maybe tell the story from a different perspective, or throw a spanner in the works somehow. Don’t make the two potential love interests gorgeous supernaturals as YA writers are wont to do. Do something creative with the situation, do something fun. In Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin, it’s more like a love’s crowfoot, but as the heroine regains her memories (as the title suggests, she lost them), her personality and outlook- and her feelings for each potential love interest- change along with her. It’s a fun ride, and doesn’t feel clichéd at all.

2.       They serve no purpose.

Ah, here is another one that is a common argument. A lot of love triangles don’t actually fit in with the plot, in fact, they often overshadow the plot. Just look at books that went huge like The Hunger Games– the love triangle became bigger than the main themes of the book. And in the end, it was too easily resolved for a lot of people’s tastes after all the apparent build up. Sometimes, love triangles don’t have a place in the plot apart from to make the main character desirable- and that’s where the problem lies sometimes. Make the triangle mean something. Juniper cleverly suggested The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory to illustrate this point- the love triangle between the king and the two Boleyn sisters is perhaps the  plot of the book. But it’s made interesting. It’s in amongst layers of intrigue and the reformation. And that’s what makes it so good.

3. They’re too predictable.

I mean, did anyone ever believe that Jacob Black was going to win the heart of Bella Swan? Or that Simon Lewis would win the heart of Clary Fray? Or that any underdog, anywhere, would win over the first true love of our classic YA heroine? In fact, of practically every love triangle I’ve ever read, I have correctly predicted who is going to win. There have been a couple of which I’ve been unsure- The Demon’s Lexicon  by Sarah Rees Brennan has a cleverly placed love triangle that you can’t really see until you start picking them out especially. You never know if sensitive-but-wannabe-badgirl Mae is going to choose badboy Nick or sensitive Alan, although you have an inkling. This love triangle is a good example, actually, of how these things should work. It never takes over the plot, and it plays a purpose in several ways. And you’re always hopping trying to decide which one she’s going to choose.


So that’s just a few things- there are more! What would you add to the list?

And questions for today- have you ever written a love triangle? Do you love them or hate them? Any that you think are of note?

You may also like...

7 Responses

  1. Heather says:

    I feel that a love triangle needs to be more complex than just two people fighting over one person. To some extent I actually find the relationship between the two contestants the more interesting: do they hate one another? Have a grudging respect for each other? Does one of them owe the other their life?

    There’s a lot to look into between all three of the characters and too often these feel more like a love line than a love triangle, with the wanted in the middle.

    It’s also fun to shake it up. Who says the MC has to be the desired one? Maybe they’re actually one of the two suitors? I also rarely see love triangles with two girls and one boy so that’s another way to shake it up.

    At the moment I’m kind of writing a love triangle, or perhaps a love square?

    There are a lot of turns and twists, but I suppose in essence the outcome is rather obvious. Or it feels that way to me. I’m still thinking through ways of making it a little bit less pre-destined.

  2. beckiw says:

    I usually make it pretty obvious that I do not like love triangles but this isn’t because I think they can never work…it’s just in most cases they are handled badly and always short change the characters.

    I think what I dislike about them is the fact that love triangles are usually thrown in to create some conflict or merely for the purpose of stopping the main couple from getting together until the end and I hate that. It’s so false. Love triangles are usually an external force exerting themselves over the main love interest whereas I find it much more interesting to have the problems come internally from the characters themselves.

    I also dislike the idea that you mentioned above about the main girl (usually girl) in YA fiction is normal and witty and not usually the focus of male attention and yet suddenly every guy within her general vicinity fancies the pants off her? I just find it unrealistic and I hate how it turns the main girl into the person who just needlessly strings along the boys. That scenario usually makes me dislike the main character because I just either want her to choose or tell both of them to bog off until she decides.

    I’ll stop ranting now…

    There are of course exceptions! I too liked the triangle in Demon’s Lexicon because it was in the background and I always thought Mae was pretty fair to all the boys (although she did suffer from the ‘every boy I know fancies me’ syndrome a little).

  3. Stella says:

    I guess that with Astrid/Nat/Alicia I am also writing a bit of a love triangle, but not really. Heather I totally agree with the thing about the relationship between the two “contenders”. My favourite thing in Gossip Girl was how Serena went off for the summer to choose between Dan and Nate. Meanwhile, Dan and Nate spent the summer bro-ing it up in New York, decided she wasn’t worth the trouble and when she came back basically said their friendship was more important and that they’d moved on. It was pretty sweet.

  4. Real says:

    My favourite love triangle of all time is between Ian, Jared and Wanda (Mel) in The Host, by Stephenie Meyer. Now I know what you might be thinking, ‘Oh God, it’s another Twilight book…’ but it is actually the most unique love triangle I have ever come across, making it my all-time favourite.
    Wanda is a ‘Soul’, which is a small, alien-type looking thing that needs a host to survive. Wanda gets placed into the body of Mel, who is madly in love with Jared. Normally the person who owns the body (Mel) loses complete control over the body once it has been possessed by a Soul (Wanda), but Mel is stronger than normal humans so she still has a little control left of her body, such as her thoughts, and sometimes movements. I think this is awesome because it means that Wanda and Mel can have little conversations with each other inside their head.
    Anyway, memories of Jared are presented to Wanda and she too ends up falling in love with him. Ian (the ‘underdog’ of the love triangle) loves Wanda, and Wanda alone. Ian tries to get Wanda to fall in love with him, but every time he tries to kiss her (or do other things…) Mel takes control of the body and punches him in the face or something. Wanda is unsure of how she feels about Ian, and Mel’s angry yelling inside her head whenever Ian tries to do something doesn’t help make anything clearer to her.
    Okay, this is where it gets really interesting: Jared only loves Mel, which sucks for him considering that Mel has lost most of the control from her body and has been replaced by an alien. Jared thinks of Wanda as an evil little “creature” who has crawled inside his one true love, which understandably leaves Wanda heartbroken. Jared gets really pissed off with Ian whenever he attempts doing something romantic with Wanda because “it’s still Mel’s body” and he can’t bear seeing her body kissing another guy.
    So this is basically it:
    Wanda loves Jared,
    Mel loves Jared,
    Jared only loves Mel,
    and Ian only loves Wanda.

    I strongly recommend reading this book (especially before watching the movie) as it is very entertaining and I was immediately absorbed into it. And don’t worry, the love triangle isn’t all that’s going on in the story, though it is one of the main topics of the novel.

    • Kaylee says:

      I absolutely adore that book for the same reason! People are so judgey because it’s Stephanie Meyer, but The Host is way more evolved than Twilight.

  5. Susana says:

    I just googled “love triangle plots” and came across this article. I am writing about a love triangle (even though there is more to the story than that… I hope) but in fair honesty I don’t know who the character will end up with. Right now I am inclined to neither. But would that be too unsatisfying for the reader, I wonder?

  1. October 29, 2013

    […] Love Triangles {The Do’s & Don’ts of Writing Romance} 5 Tips to Creating a Love Triangle The Art of the Love Triangle Writing 101: Love Triangles Writing Tip: How to Write a Love Triangle Fiction Focus – The Love Triangle […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *