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The Love Triangle


Zee

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I’m still in the very early (think pre-writing early) stages of dreaming up my next romance story, and I’ve realized that it’s going to contain what (according to my research) is popularly known as a “love triangle.” Two guys like the same girl, or two girls like the same guy, and thus trouble and tension ensues.

 

This is a very common plot element for a romance, but not one I’ve attempted yet. So...ideas on how to do it well? How to avoid making it cliched or cheesy?

 

I’d love to hear whatever you all think!

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Guest Wesley Southern

One of my favorite love triangles was Edward-Bella-Jacob in Twilight.

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38 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

I read "Love Triangle."

 

I can't help thinking "Terrible Writing Advice."  If you've seen the videos on that YouTube channel, you'd know what I mean.

 

 

No, maybe I should check it out.

 

30 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

 

For once, I'm going to stay out of this discussion and take my cues on the way you develop your plot!

 

We’ll see how it goes...

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Terrible Writing Advice is a guy who makes videos on youtube basically telling all writers what not to do. He's kind of funny and talks about love triangle in nearly every episode. I get the feeling its because he's never seen one done well, I know love triangles can be done well, but it tends to be the really bad ones that stick with people. And it seems that there are a lot of them, mostly because there are so many poorly done movies that come out these days. 

 

Since you know how to write and you aren't just in it to make money, I'm sure you will find a way to write the love triangle in a non-cheesy way. 🙂 If I was going to write something different than I ever had before, I would look at somebody who had done it well. And the only well done love triangle that I personally know of (I don't doubt that there are others, I just can't think of any right off hand) was in the Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Two very different guys love the same girl, and I felt like they were all well developed characters. It didn't feel silly or like something done just because the author thought that would make the story more interesting. 

 

What story do you think of when you think of a love triangle? 

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15 hours ago, Zee said:

I’d love to hear whatever you all think!

Tread very carefully. Here's the thing with romance readers. We all expect a happily-ever-after with the clearly-defined love-interests, but we like to pretend we don't know they'll end up together. 😁 If you give us a genuine will-they-won't-they dilemma, some of us may not really appreciate it! 😅

 

There are risks even when you write it "well."

  • Craft three great, well-drawn characters and there are readers who'll feel upset and really sorry for the one left out. In Sweet Home Alabama, I was sad about the fiance she dumped, because he was such a nice guy. That took away from the feel-good vibes I'm looking for in romance.
  • Readers might straight up feel that your MC ends up with the wrong love interest. (I've never accepted Laurie and Amy. 🤣🤣 Jo and Laurie belonged together!!! Sorry, Mr. Bhaer.)
  • There's also the risk that the character in the middle of the triangle might come across as wishy washy or indecisive, and readers might not warm to them for leading two people on.

You could always do the faux triangle where the third person only appears good to the MC, but we (the readers) know that the third person is a wrong'un. That way, there's never any question in the reader's mind who the MC will end up with, and there's no feeling sorry for the third wheel because they never really deserved a happily-ever-after.

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Actually, @Rene, nothing came readily to mind...but ATOTC is a good example. The heroine isn’t vacillating infuriatingly between two guys. In fact, if I remember correctly, she’ not even fully aware of Sydney Carton’s feelings for her.

 

I can’t say that either Charles or Mary are the deepest, most interesting characters, but they work for the story...I suspect Dickens almost always enjoyed his secondary (or even minor) characters more than his main ones.

 

AND we get a happy ending (of sorts) for all three parties.

That’s the bit I’m not sure I can achieve.

 

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3 hours ago, Zee said:

Actually, @Rene, nothing came readily to mind...but ATOTC is a good example. The heroine isn’t vacillating infuriatingly between two guys. In fact, if I remember correctly, she’ not even fully aware of Sydney Carton’s feelings for her.

 

I can’t say that either Charles or Mary are the deepest, most interesting characters, but they work for the story...I suspect Dickens almost always enjoyed his secondary (or even minor) characters more than his main ones.

 

AND we get a happy ending (of sorts) for all three parties.

That’s the bit I’m not sure I can achieve.

 

Oh man, I was just going to cite ATOTC, and then saw that @Renebeat me to it!  I enjoyed the book, and the 1935 film version is my 3rd favorite movie ever.  Sidney Carton is still the greatest anti-hero in classic literature, and one of my favorite fictional characters.

 

"It's a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done.  It's a far, far better rest I go to, than I have ever known."

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11 hours ago, zx1ninja said:

Make one (or two) of them an android. 😆 Nobody knows until the end then you get a whole new dilemma to deal with. 

 

Now THAT is an idea... I think you’ve just solved all my problems!

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On 4/24/2021 at 6:04 AM, Zee said:

 

Now THAT is an idea... I think you’ve just solved all my problems!

Because of the android (🤖) twist I think I'd even read that, since when I do read, I don't read romance. 

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On 4/23/2021 at 6:45 PM, zx1ninja said:

Make one (or two) of them an android. 😆

This is literally the plot twist in the Kim Possible movie. 😂 (For those who do not know, it is the greatest cartoon of all time, great for adults as well as kids, and you are missing out.)

 

As a non-romance writer, I would just say make sure the person who is trying to choose doesn't come across as an idiot for not being able to choose. Don't make one of the options obviously a jerk!

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On 4/26/2021 at 6:47 PM, PenName said:

 Kim Possible...is the greatest cartoon of all time, great for adults as well as kids...

Not in the same league as Phineas and Ferb. I'll fight!

 

(Which is probably why I don't handle romance all that well. There's a character who is secretly in love with the oblivious Phineas, and that's a trope I keep falling into.)

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2 hours ago, EClayRowe said:

 

On 4/26/2021 at 4:47 PM, PenName said:

 Kim Possible...is the greatest cartoon of all time, great for adults as well as kids...

Not in the same league as Phineas and Ferb. I'll fight!

 

Uh oh! 😂 Them’s fighting words indeed! 

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On 4/22/2021 at 9:41 AM, Zee said:

I’m still in the very early (think pre-writing early) stages of dreaming up my next romance story, and I’ve realized that it’s going to contain what (according to my research) is popularly known as a “love triangle.” Two guys like the same girl, or two girls like the same guy, and thus trouble and tension ensues.

 

This is a very common plot element for a romance, but not one I’ve attempted yet. So...ideas on how to do it well? How to avoid making it cliched or cheesy?

 

I’d love to hear whatever you all think!

HAHAHA YES I KNOW HOW THIS GOES well my experience with it wasn’t cliche. 😂but it was a. bit different....

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A few years ago I wrote a fantasy romance. In my initial outline, I had a throwaway scene with a rival woman (Thedarra) who has a crush on the hero and she gets told off by the heroine in a funny way. Thedarra was a stereotype, one-dimensional.

 

When I got to that scene (about seven chapters in) and started to write it, something changed. Thedarra refused to be dismissed. She popped up again and again and in an vulnerable moment, almost hooks the hero. This sets up a long, jealous feud that almost destroys all hope of saving civilization from destruction. The hero is instrumental in defusing the situation by mentoring an awkward young man who is smitten by Thedarra until Thedarra begins to see him in a new light. Thedarra shows her character by swallowing her pride and aiding the heroine (Melissa) even though Melissa has been horrible to her. The messy dynamics of their relationship made the story so much richer, and in the end, I think I drew Thedarra's character better than Melissa's!  

 

What made it work was that Thedarra was not just a competing love interest. She was the hero's sister's best friend. She roped her father (a lawyer) into representing the heroine in her murder trial. She also became part of the inner circle trying to resolve a brewing civil war between humans and dragons. Her loyalty to the hero's sister created an unbreakable bond that kept the love triangle from quickly resolving by the parties going their separate ways.

 

So if you go with a love triangle, include forces that compel people who are adversaries in the love triangle to cooperate in another venture. It multiplies the suspense, because if one rival succeeds at winning their love, it can jeopardize other story goals.

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