Before we get started, I know what you’re thinking. How can there be something called a good love triangle? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
Let me be the first to say, I used to think that way too. In fact, the majority of the time, that’s still my usual train of thought. With the over-saturation of love triangles in literature and media, it makes sense that wariness and apprehension, along with a scoff, is the first thing after one hears “love triangle.”
The issue is that love triangles are often executed in a sloppy or lazy manner. They are inserted into a story with no real purpose beyond stirring up a bit of irritating drama. However, as with any trope, love triangles have their merits. Sometimes, they can even be excellent. Let’s explore how to make that happen.
Analyze the need
In most stories, love triangles are unnecessary. They merely are inserted to create pointless drama and drag out the story. If you’re going to write a love triangle (and I’m absolutely not condoning all of them. I mean, I’ve written them and enjoyed it), make sure it’s absolutely essential to your story. Think about the plot and the characters both with and without the love triangle. Doing that will help you realize if utilizing this trope is really necessary.
Choose your characters wisely
All three members of the triangle should have equal weight and fully-fleshed out personalities. (No, a sexy smirk or messy hair does not count for a personality.) Each character you choose to be in the love triangle should be someone that the reader can recognize as a character, not just a love interest. It’s important to think about who would fit into the triangle, and who might not, depending on which characters you truly want the readers to be invested in.
Make it unpredictable
The problem with a lot of love triangles is you always know who the “middle person” is going to choose. One love interest is always the obvious choice. Whether it’s because the author favors them or they have been more developed, it’s clear who will win out in the end. The reader can get bored if you let this happen, because it lowers the stakes. They want to be kept on their toes. If you’re writing a love triangle, don’t push one character on them too much. It’s not a push and shove kind of trope. It needs to ebb and flow.
Add some spice
Not that kind of spice. Though, by all mines, go ahead and add that kind of spice. What I mean is we keep seeing the same things over and over and over again in love triangles. Two women fighting over the blandest boy in the room. Two buff dudes competing for some Mary Sue’s heart. Competitons and tasks and challenges and so much goddamn angst. We’ve seen it all. We know how it ends. Salt and pepper are classics, sure, but they leave you wanting more.
So add some spice. Add some flavor. Add some twists and turns, in a way that only you can. Here are a few examples that could be used to make love triangles feel fresh:
The two people vying for the middle person end up falling in love.
Switching up the traditional roles. Three men entangled in a love triangle. A man and a woman competing for another woman. Anything to get rid of the stale-ass, beautiful, smirking boys and impossibly lithe girls whose personality is just...sassy.
Add more people. Make it a love square. Make it a love pentagon. Create a web of entangled hearts that would make Shakespeare proud.
Have all three people end up together.
Have no one end up with anyone.
Do whatever the hell you want.
If you like love triangles in the traditional sense, then go for it. If you want to see them done a little differently, go for it. The most important thing to remember is to make your characters realistic and fleshed-out. If they feel like real people, if they realize that being in a love triangle is strange and unique and a little heartbreaking, the reader will appreciate that.
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