Well happy Valentine’s Day. Or if you’re single like myself, happy Tuesday. Since today is the eternal day of love (or another day to drink some wine), I want to talk about one of the biggest things in commercial fiction right now: love triangles. Love triangles are the thing that refuse to go away. A few years ago I did a post called “5 Things on Love Triangles,” so today I’m following up with 5 more things about love triangles.
Love triangles are the things we love to hate. Often two men (usually alpha men) wanting the same lead, female character. It’s the same plot line over and over again, but it’s become a symbol of commercial fiction in the 21st century.
But what is it that makes love triangles so interesting? So ingrained into our minds that we have to have them in stories. Like many other story arcs, it comes down to one thing.Conflict.
Without conflict, you do not have a story. Let me repeat that. Without conflict, you do not have a story.
Conflict is that magical thing that we all love, as long as it’s not in our lives (myself included). The second book in my series, Double Played, featured the budding seeds of a love triangle. In that book, Cassie goes on a series of dates before she finds herself on a date where she’s stood up. Only to find out later that the man who stood her up is the man she’s now working with.
What being said, what else can we learn from love triangles? Or what did I learn from writing a love triangle (that really concludes in Justice & Lies)?
5 more things about love triangles
1. Break someone
I’m not just talking heartbreak. I write mystery novels, so there is always a risk someone will get hurt or die. One of the relationships in Double Played and Justice & Lies has some pretty serious consequences. Heartbreaks are great and all, but try breaking something else next time.
2. don’t let your heroine passive
Trust me, letting your main character or heroine become passive is really easy to do if you aren’t paying attention. Whether it’s in your love triangle or other aspects of the story, make sure your heroine makes decisions. She doesn’t have to be sassy or “hardcore” but you can’t let her jus sit around while the boys do everything.
3. Know why your characters feel the way they feel
If your main character goes around saying she’s not pretty but two boys think she’s gorgeous, that girl has a self-esteem problem or you have a story problem. Even if you never explicitly say within the pages of your story why your characters feel the way they feel about each other, make sure you as the author know. It’s better to cover your tracks and know ahead of time than it is to go back and have to weave those reasons in.
If you know in the plotting stage why your characters have feelings for one another, you’ll naturally embed those into your story, which is much easier than having to plan seeds in later.
4. Give all parties meaning outside of the triangle
In Double Played, one “Lover” is an agent Cassie works with, while the other one is someone from her past who is up to no good. Both of these men have roles in the story that they carry out besides being a love interest. Being a love interest just makes them a little bit more fun.
Your character will be more rounded and more believable if they have more to do than just woo your main character. You’ll have fun discovering new parts of these characters that their “lovers” won’t see on a regular basis.
5. Keep it Messy
We have this need to have everything end nice and orderly. Even when you think you’re at the end of the story, leave something open in the triangle because it relates to real life and you never know when you’re coming back to your story.
I definitely think love triangles are here for a while longer, but lately it seems like I haven’t seen them as much as I had (or maybe I just don’t read books with romance in them anymore).
If done right, love triangles can be a great thing for your story.