There’s no romance trope more popular than the love triangle. The love triangle presents a plot wherein three people are in a romantic arrangement that is in some way unstable. The most common love triangle structure involves a single node character faced with two possible romantic interests they have to choose between, who are often actively competing for their attention. Love triangles exist to cause narrative tension and do this by posing a problem with no clear solution.
The ideal solution to the love triangle problem would theoretically make every participant happy. But most love triangles are structured so that the happiness of one member of the triangle is mutually exclusive with the happiness of at least one other member.
The reader is expected to be invested in the happiness of at least two-thirds of the triangle, reaching a happy ending. Also, the love triangle structure provides the author with many ways to build tension and make that go wrong. So you have the best structure, plot, characters, and twist to write the best love triangle story.
How to write a love triangle romance novel?
Love triangles don’t have to be bad. Some authors write them poorly. The ones written most often are characters A have to choose between characters B or C. In The Hunger Games, we forget that triangles can work in many ways, and it’s 100% okay to write them the way you want.
The resolution involves the person at the center of the triangle choosing someone and living happily ever after with them. Once in a while, you’ll even see the person at the center go the harem route and form a polyamorous relationship. When creating love triangles, you have to consider who is involved. So you have to understand the category and characters of a love triangle.
Different types of the love triangle
Balanced love triangle: Character A has two competing love interests, characters B and C. Character A likes both B and C and is confused about deciding on one. Character B and C might both be desirable love interests for different reasons. It is designed to be incapable of having a unilaterally happy ending.
Inverse balanced love triangle: The structure is the same, but the focus is entirely on characters B and C competing for A’s affection. Readers will confuse about what A thinks.
Vestigial love triangle: Characters A and B are mutually attracted to each other and play out a standard romantic subplot. Character C is also there, harboring a one-sided attraction towards A. There’s no risk of characters A and B not ending up together. But C doesn’t know about that. Also, character C believes they’re in a balanced love triangle. So, C is frequently a tragic character in this regard.
We want to be as invested in these characters and their cruel situation. As much as you are not readers interested in a love triangle where it’s clear who the protector will choose. In the end, it takes away from all the mystery and intrigue. It’s also not good for the love triangle when one or both potentials are terrible.
People want each potential relationship to be as good as possible for the protagonist. We want to see a possible future with love, interest, and suffering. I always try to add a love triangle trope in my romance as an author. So I have some special notes for you. I will give you my best 7 tips to write a love triangle romance book. Let’s write!
1. Try something new
A love triangle involves three characters, but there are so many combinations to the complexity of their relationship. The obvious is the choice where character A must choose between character B or C. Then there’s a chase where character A is in love with character B. Still, character B is in love with character C. There’s also the full circle where character A is in love with character B, but character B is in love with character C, and character C is in love with character A!
There’s even the divide where character A is in a loving, committed relationship with character C, but A in character B have feelings for each other. Character B may even be in a relationship too. Does that make it a love square by that point? There are so many ways to play with the combinations. So don’t hesitate to try something new and spice it up any way you like. Those stakes can either be high or low, but they’ve got to be there.
2. Make internal conflict
The internal conflict, or the protagonist, being forced to face their greatest fear, crush their misbelief about the world and achieve the thing that will ultimately make them happy. So in light of that, let your love triangle bring out the characters’ internal conflict. Ultimately, every single thing in your book should be doing this. If something happens, the readers must know why it matters to the characters.
So, you can use any plot device, no matter how cliche it is in your story. If it directly engages with the protagonist’s inner conflict and contributes to bringing them to the depths of despair that they’ll find themselves in before their aha moment. That brings their character development full circle. If the external events in your story are constantly forcing your protagonist closer to their internal issue, they’re doing their job and doing it well.
- Don’t stop at the protagonist.
- Bring every character’s inner conflict into this mess.
- How does this love triangle cause all three people to either confront their fears from them?
3. Let readers make decision
One of the choices of the triangle will be devastated when a character makes their decision. If both potential love interests are well developed, it should be heartbreaking for the reader to choose who would be best. Leave your reader wondering if your MSI made the right choice and curious about how things would be if they had chosen differently. Higher stakes may include a thrown into the scenario.
Maybe your main character has to choose character C instead of character B because character B’s life could be in mortal danger if there ever together. But it doesn’t mean they can stand being away from each other. Then it’s up to you to decide how tragedy strikes. The important part is to explain what it all has to do with the story. How does it relate?
4. Leave some questions
The love triangle has created a conflict in the protagonist’s life, or rather it’s brought a conflict to the surface that’s been boiling below the surface for a long time. So here are some questions you should ask yourself before writing a love triangle. If you’re going to write a love triangle, you have to ask yourself these questions and think about the answers. It might take some time to come up with the answers, but take your time on this.
You will have more confidence and clarity going into your story, but you will also have readers so engrossed in this story that they won’t even notice. You revolutionized a highly hated trope. Here are the questions:
- What is my protagonist’s inner conflict, and how did it lead them into this love triangle?
- How does this love triangle force all three characters to face their fears?
- What would it take for the protagonist to overcome their fear and make the right choice?
There is a right way to do love triangles. When you’re constantly drawing on the protagonist’s inner conflict in your story, it’s impossible not to engage the reader. So keep that in your mind.
5. Set some arcs
The love triangle works so well in Brooklyn because the love triangle doesn’t eclipse the story or vice versa. The love triangle works in tandem with the story to develop Alicia’s character effectively. The best way to describe Alicia’s development is if we talk about how the love triangle affects the seven questions of narrative drama. The seven questions of narrative drama are how you effectively make a character go through an arc. You need all seven questions answered by the story to tell the arc as effectively as possible.
The first three questions deal with the character’s wants or needs.
- What does the character want?
- What is the character need?
- How do these wants and needs contradict each other?
Answer: The character’s want is usually something selfish that they’re chasing at the story’s beginning. The one is a surface-level thing that won’t make them feel truly happy. So, the character’s need is something that will make them feel fulfilled and satisfied with their lives on a deeper level.
- How do the wants and needs cause conflict with the outside world?
- How do the wants and needs conflict with other characters?
Answer: The main character needs to have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.
- How does the character change through those conflicts?
- What impact does that change have on everyone else?
In conclusion, the love triangle should never be the story. It should be there to enhance the story by forcing character development within the central character.
6. Add some humor
Previously, I believed that love triangles could never work because every love triangle I had seen suffered from one of two major issues. The first main issue was what I like to call Love Triangle Eclipse’s story or the Twilight Effect. This is when a love triangle is so overpowering that it becomes the only focus of the story.
- Developing good characters and the plot becomes sidelined for the writer because they spend all of their energy developing this love triangle.
It doesn’t work because the writer has put no effort into writing characters that the readers will like. So the result is that the readers don’t care about the drama in the characters’ lives. It means that the reader won’t care about the love triangle.
The second major issue is what I like to call when the story eclipses the love triangle or The Dark Knight effect phrase. How many people mention the restaurant scene when people talk about their favorite moment in The Dark Knight? The story eclipses the love triangle because there’s so much more that it’s so interesting going on that people stop caring about the love triangle. So make it interesting and put some funny moments to reduce the slowness.
7. Set subplot and clear the ending
A good love triangle isn’t only about the romantic subplot for the overall story. The subplot has to reflect the major decision or plot point. Obviously, Bella was going to choose Edward, but the love triangle in Twilight was so popular that it wasn’t only about Edward or Jacob. The choice to have a somewhat normal human life or immortal life is similar to Hunger Games.
Make sure you wrap things up. How does it all end? Sometimes, even as the writer, you may not have the answer. Don’t stress. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding the fates of your triangle.
- What’s the best fit for your story?
- What if both love interest and pursuit of their dream career?
Consider the greater theme of your overall story and decide wisely.
- What will your reader expect?
- Is it a good time for a plot twist, or will your reader be enraged?
You have to decide what’s best for you and your story. Also, who do you want to end up together? Remember, this is your story. You get the final say on who ends up with who, and you get to decide what resolutions come for the unhappy party.
If you are still curious about how to develop a character with the seven questions of narrative drama, let me know about them in the comment section. Happy writing!
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