Friday, April 11, 2014

10 Ways To Deal with the Love Triangle in Your Book

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Love triangles. Many readers are sick of them. But they remain popular in bestselling books. And maybe you've put one in your book, but now you're torn because you don't know how to end the thing. And maybe, more than anything, you really want to do something different. Something fresh. Avoid the cliché at all costs. So, if you've put one into your book and don't know how to get yourself out of it, here are ten ideas to help you. (Warning: sarcasm is imminent.)

1. Have a plot. I do hope that the entire story doesn't hinge on the love triangle alone. A love triangle should always be a subplot. There needs to be a separate plot in the story. If your book is only about the love triangle, add a plot that readers will still care about even if your love triangle disappoints them.

2. Shoot somebody. I don't recommend killing off one of your love triangle people. It's too easy. And when you end subplots in convenient ways, it doesn't feel right to your reader. But you could always shoot one of their loved ones. The complication and stress would add something to the love triangle. The person would leave to be with their mother/sister/uncle/grandpa/bff and that could bring the love triangle participants closer together or drive them farther apart. Accidents happen, right?

3. Someone gives up. "I just can't do this, anymore!" Again, having one of the trio quit feels lame. But, hey. If one guy isn't willing to put in the fight, who wants him, right? And if you write this well and it fits character flaws that have been foreshadowed, it will feel right to the reader. "He didn't have what it takes, anyway, you know? He didn't love her as much as he thought he did."

4. Send someone away. Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? We shall see. Maybe someone is given an assignment that sends him elsewhere. Maybe the girl takes off to get some air. This type of situation can show which character is the most tenacious in regards to making things work in spite of the odds. In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta were thrown together in a life-changing situation. You just can't compete with circumstances like that.

5. Our hero picks neither one. "This is too much pressure. I'll just start over, and this time, I'm only looking for one romantic interest." Again, this feels too convenient. But if the choice fits your character, it could work. If your character can't make decisions, maybe this is something she would do. But to keep in line with the Six Things That Need Fixing, she should have to come back in the end and choose---or at least dump both of them. Running away is lame.

6. Be rational. A couple is a good fit when together they are stronger than they are on their own. Opposites attract for a reason. If I was just like my husband, we'd lave a LOT of fun, but no one would ever pay the bills and we'd likely be bankrupt. My responsible nature balances out his fun-loving nature and vice versa. If I was married to someone like me, we likely would have killed each other long ago for both wanting to be in charge of everything. In your love triangle, one couple should make more sense than the other. Attraction will likely fade in time no matter what, but a logical choice will stand the test of happily ever after.

7. Reveal a flaw. Is there something one person has been keeping secret? Frozen did this well. I was so ready for the typical Disney movie cliché, that I was thrilled how they surprised me with Hans. That's what you want to do. Surprise your reader in some way. And it doesn't have to be quite so dastardly as Hans's plans, but that sort of thing can be lots of fun.

8. Introduce a second love triangle. Why not complicate this already-complicated matter? Why not have a love square? Or a love pentagon? Or maybe even a love decagon?

9. Get real. Have her say, "Listen. The fate of the world is hanging in the balance here. Let's just not worry about romance right now and focus on saving the planet." Maybe the love triangle just doesn't have to become a full-fledged triangle. Maybe our hero isn't the schmoopie type. Maybe she's saving her first kiss for marriage and will not be swayed by hunky heroes vying for her affections. You never know. It could happen.

10. The liar loses. Who's the liar? In many of these love triangle romances, it's our hero. But most often there are two culprits. If someone stole her from her boyfriend, this is a bad sign for both parties. This means that 1. she cheated on the person she was with, and 2. the person who stole her likes the chase. What happens when he wins her? Nine times out of ten, he gets bored and looks for some other happy couple to destroy. This is where you need to take a good look at your characters, how you want to present them, and how you want them to grow. I mean, who wants to be with a home-wrecker? And who wants to be with a cheater? Neither option is a very good sign of how things might go in the future. A smart hero will see that coming.

Okay, so some of my ideas were silly. But I've read plenty of books where the love triangle was silly. And unless you're writing comedy, you don't want silliness in your book. In real life, love triangles are rare. But if they do happen, they're messy and horrible. You can't please everyone in your story. Some readers will like your decision. Some will hate it. Such is life. Try to get out of your own head and into your hero's. Do what you think the hero would do. Choose one over the other? Run away? Choose neither?

No matter what, you've got to write your way out of it. And it can be hard to do. But that's a good thing for your readers. It keeps up the tension in your story. Above all, try to stay true to your characters and to use whatever happens to further your plot. And, whenever you can, do the unexpected. It keeps readers on their toes and keeps your book from falling victim to clichés.

Have you ever written a love triangle? How did you decide to end it? Share in the comments.

46 comments:

  1. I've writtenn one of the old fashioned kind (c loves y but y loves z) and of course that one was easy to end z is awesome bit x and y were made for each other and eventually y realizes that. But right now I'm working on all triangle of the modern kind

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    1. two guys going after the same girl. For me it's easy because guy number one is a psychopath who is desperately trying not to be one in the end he'll leave realizing he's dangerous for her. Story is about him not her so the love
      Triangle is not the direct plot.

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    2. I have a two guys going after the same girl as well! She thinks they both hate her though. She likes someone else and that persons powers run off high emotions so he pretends to like her and then ends of liking her. He ends up liking her though and sacrifices himself for her. Another lover could have saved him, but decides not to.

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    3. Those all sound good, guys! Good job avoiding the cliches. :-)

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  2. Great post! I have several in various projects, but I agree with everything you said. I always use it as a subplot. Love triangles can really kill a story. I normally have the main character put off that sort of thing and I personally don't like love triangles in general, but they tend to almost form naturally. I have characters b and c like character a, but character a thinks they're generally unlikable. I have character a's best friend kind of like character c and a character d is being forced into an arrange marriage with character b. Character d also likes character c.

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    1. Sounds like you're on the case about keeping these things realistic. Nicely done!

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  3. Haven't ever writena love triangle...
    It seems there's no way to make everyone happy in the end, is there? And what if they both are nice and no one's stealing and they're just... just different...Is there a way for both of them to be happy? Or should just the hero be happy?

    http://teensliveforjesus.blogspot.ru

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    1. Depends on the story you're writing. If you're all about the happy ending, you need to let your hero be happy in the end. The other characters don't matter as much as the hero in a happy ending book.

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  4. Such a funny and good post. In my current book, I have a love triangle. I'll admit--one of the love interests dies. But that's because the entire plot is the girl trying to save him from the rash that is killing him and she doesn't succeed. Then you have the other love interest, who is in another time period, and when he finds out that she never told him that she was from the future, he goes with another girl who is much younger than him and my protagonist gets mad. How does it end? Well. The protagonist falls in love with the antagonist.

    This book gives me headaches.

    Haha. Thanks for the great post! :)

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    1. Nice! I like all those twists. Sounds fun. :-)

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  5. I LOVE that you used a photo from The Great Gatsby :) Excellent post, Jill.

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    1. The Great Gatsby was awesome. I should read the book. I should real a lot of books, but there are too many!

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  6. Awesome post. I try to avoid love triangles in my books but sometimes they just appear out of nowhere and I can't convince my character not to fall in love with two different guys. Normally I fix this by having one of them die.

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  7. I haven't written any love triangles, but considering my story and reading choices, they'll happen eventually. Thanks for the super helpful post!

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    1. I love that Sarah "and reading choices." Ha ha ha.

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  8. In the first draft of The Prince's Quest, I inadvertently wrote a love triangle and was horrified. :P I did a cover-u[, since the readers didn't know the new possible side of the triangle yet. I turned it into a guy that was acting like that because he wanted to protect the girl like a younger sister, and our hero took it the wrong way. :P

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  9. I am of the accidental love triangle variety. I think they are annoying and heartbreaking when I see other books/movies with them but then when I'm writing, it's difficult for me to choose between which of my heroes I like better. I find it a total disappoint when it becomes a 'dump them both' kind of story; like I've been dragged along for the ride only to be dumped off a mile from the destination. In my book, there is a second guy besides my main hero who shows a liking toward the main girl but he's very selfish and since he only does things for her when it suits his purpose, it's easy to know which guy she's going to end up with :)

    Good post! A lot of people need counseling on their love triangles since they are EVERYWHERE and are very rarely well done. My hat's off to Stephanie Morrill for handling it really well in her Ellie Sweet books. Spoilers ahead if you haven't read it. I wanted Ellie to end up with Chase initially but as the book(s) went on, it became apparent how it would never work out and how he was way to set in his ways to be with her. At the same time she wrote a life changing event for Palmer which brought him out of his own ways and made him a better person, one that would fit Ellie much better.

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    1. LOL! I love this: A lot of people need counseling on their love triangles...

      Yes, Stephanie rocked it. I was a Chase girl too. And I cried when it didn't work out. But she handled it very well.

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  10. I am just developing an idea for a love triangle, so number 1 is a definite need for me. I love my characters, so I really want to get a good plot to go with them. I think I'm going to kill one of the love interests actually, but not the one that would be expected. But I'm still not sure on that.
    In a role play one time we actually did like a love quadrilateral....or octagon. I think we had three girls all vying for one boy ( had to play the guy, which was fun XP) and then there were a couple side guys trying to get the girls' attention. It was great. :)

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  11. I have a love hexa-pentagon thing. Danica likes Kaleth, but he doesn't like her; he likes Marie. And then there's poor Egin who loves Danica. He knows that she likes Kaleth though, so he knows he can't have her. I love him; he's so sweet. :3
    And then their two other friends have the whole Han/Leia thing going on…i like complicated relationships. :)
    Awesome post! I am rethinking a character death in one of my stories because of this. Thanks a lot!

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    1. I also like that! It adds a new element to the story!

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  12. I have never written a true love triangle, no; I tend to think about them as over-used and annoying. In fact, I really don't read many books with love triangles, either, which is kinda odd now that I think about it. I guess most of the love triangles I come across are in Once Upon a Time and shows like that.

    Speaking of TV shows, I'm a fan of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and I love the whole FitzSimmons dynamic (mostly because of Fitz, but whatever :)); however, I notice that much of the time in TV shows, movies, and books, the character in the love triangle whom the main character ends up with is often not the best friend, but rather the "new guy" who popped in and showed how hot he was. This bothers me because I personally prefer the idea that marrying one's best friend will ensure a lasting marriage which is not just about physical attributes. Thoughts?

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    1. This is rather popular. I think it can work when it is like how the Hunger Games played out. She had wanted to be with Gale her life long friend, but in the end it was Peeta who understood her the best because of what they had gone through and was able to help her through tough times.

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    2. I agree, Hannah. Marrying a best friend is always the better choice, but, sadly, it doesn't always sell as many books. Many readers are drawn to the thrill and danger a "hotness" based relationship seems to offer. It "feels like" a better story, which is sad. But that's also why such books tend to be passing fads, where a book like Pride and Prejudice lives on and on and on. Because it's real story. Hotness is shallow and will end. But relationships based on loving a person's heart and soul can last.

      Yes, Bookishqueen. It always helps when there is some logic behind it like in Hunger Games and things aren't based on hotness alone. Also sadly, in many books, the guys are always hot. I think I'm going to make the guy in my next book average or ugly and let him get the girl. :-)

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    3. Jill, that sounds like a great idea! :)

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  13. I actually have an idea for a square, three guys going for the same girl. (lot of tension there) But the main plot would be about the choices the girl makes and how they effect those around her, with the love square being a subplot. Basically, her choice of guy would symbolize who she chooses to be (because of who she is with them), but each of the guys would be a logical choice in the end.

    What I really hate is when one of the two guys is obviously no good for her (He's a liar, he's using her, ect). I just feel like she's an idiot then, because she has a really great guy who loves her, but she can't appreciate that because the other guy is just so "dreamy". It makes me want her to pick the dreamy guy so that the awesome guy can find someone better.

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    1. That would be so much more interesting than a normal triangle. I have something like that only one of the three is the liar, but he's the 'nice' one. She is unaware the other two even like her for the entire book.

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    2. That would be an interesting end, Bookishqueen. :)

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    3. Love that idea, Bookishqueen! Sounds great. And I hate when the girl is dumb too. I can't believe how many dumb girl books get published. Grumble, grumble, grumble...

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  14. Thankfully my "love triangle" (if it can even be called that--it's more like half a love triangle) is back seat--no, it's stuffed in the trunk--in comparison to the rest of the story.
    My three pros, two girls and a guy, are stuck running from the police and trying to save America. Girl1 is more focused on *not dying* to really care about whether she likes Boy or not. She wants to be his friend, just like she had been before the craze. Girl2 just met Boy when they were thrown into the life and death sitch. Girl2 starts to like Boy, and Girl1 is afraid everyone's friendship will collapse because Girl2 is pushing their relationships to higher levels. (Wrote this all from several separate experiences). End Game? Boy is hiding a dark secret, get's redeemed, and after saving the world, Girl2 is forced to go back to her family, far away from Girl1 and Boy (happy ending, because her top desire was to have her family back). It's never said if she sees them again. Girl1 and Boy continue "just friends."
    btw--loved number 8! I've always wondered that!! :)

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    1. That sounds really good! Love triangles can be very overrated.

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    2. I like when the girl is not focused on boys and more on saving the world it makes a much better story.

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    3. Sounds awesome, Jenneth! I love how you worked it all out.

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  15. I don't like killing off people in the triangle, but I have this one story where the person that the other people like dies.

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  16. I particularly love how you added #2. Shoot someone is always a viable method. x)

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  17. I've tried to write without romances included, but in some way or another, there's always some romance coming up. I think I've never written love triangles, though. I mean, I just don't like them. Just let a boy and girl be together and don't create your story problem out there. There are so many other points to do that.
    But there are many, many great books which include love triangles.
    If I'd use one from this list, I think I'd use option #4. Loved that. That will add some drama to a story (and fortunately without violence ;-)).

    arendedewit.blogspot.com

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  18. I wrote a love triangle a long time ago. And then planned one out for a different story. Now, the three stories circling in my head and still landing on the paper... Well, MC is too busy saving the world for a love interest in one story, in the next the MC is too busy trying not to panic and die, and in the third, yes, finally, a small love triangle!

    So, I shall be using #5 for that last one.

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  19. In my current WIP I ended up with a love triangle by accident. I was writing my overview which helps me flesh out story ideas when they are new. My main characters are three girls so love plots were inevitable so one gets a "different sides of the track" scenario with her being a rebellious and wild werewolf and he being a geeky and cowardly human, then my other girl gets an "Prince and the Pauper" scenario as she is having a secret affair with a prince, then I got to my finale girl who's also my viewpoint character. I'd already given her a love interest but with the way it was going it was going to be a very easy relationship with no problems. And then entered my second love interest for her. But looking at this list I've realized that the outcome I've chosen is a combination of #6 and #7. The second love interest is very much like her which causes them to fight a lot and the fact that he loves her IS his flaw.

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  20. I've considered adding a love triangle into my WIP. One of the boys would represent the life she wants to have and the other boy would represent the life she is forced to/needs to have. I like symbolism in love triangles :) haha.

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    1. Oh my goodness I was just thinking the same thing!! But I'm thinking if I go with it it would be more of an infatuation with an idea of a "normal" guy.
      Or it could be a relationship that is shallow and generally unfulfilling, but she keeps it because its normal. Then enters the dramatic plot twist. Xd

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  21. My love triangle was one that occurred before my book began. I had a girl that fell in love with a guy and then had her brother come along. For reasons I do not wish to specify here, the girl could not tell the guy she was in love with that the guy he saw her with all the time was actually her brother. So maybe it really wasn't a love triangle, but it the appearance of a love triangle.

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  22. I remembered a book that did the love-hexagon really well: Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor Porter. It was amazing how she got them into that mess of "who loves who" and then got them out. :)

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  23. I have a Love Triangle. The Female Main Character (FMC for short) falls in love with a young man named Michel. At the end of book #1, we (my future readers) want the FMC to marry Michel. Then, in book two (more like first draft 2!) this guy snags her away. For a while. That's where I am.

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