Writing Tip: How to Write a Love Triangle

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I’ve been racking my brain lately on a topic for this post, but nothing really came to me until my friend got me hooked on a Korean drama show called Boys Over Flowers, which involves a love triangle. Usually I am not a huge fan of love triangles because they aren’t done well. However, the love triangle was done so well in BOF that I honestly had a hard time deciding on which guy to root for. I’ve personally never really had much experience writing love triangles, but I thought it would be an interesting topic to tackle.

So, how do you write a good, believable love triangle? Here’s my thoughts on how to do so:

1. Make the person in the middle likable.

This sounds like common sense, but I’ve come across so many books and TV shows where the main character stuck in a love triangle was so unlikable or dull that I really didn’t care who they ended up with. If your reader doesn’t care about the main character, why would they care about the love triangle itself?

2. Try to make both love interests likable.

It also seems like when a love triangle is involved, only one of the love interests are likable. It doesn’t bother me if one of the love interests is someone who, we as the reader, are supposed to dislike in order to root for the other person. It does bothers me when an author wants to have readers rooting for both “teams” and doesn’t succeed. If one of the love interests in the love triangle end up being dull, it makes me wonder why the triangle was constructed in the first place. I suggest giving each love interest an interesting personality and history before writing the actual “story.”

Example of a successful love triangle. From Boys Over Flowers.
Example of a successful love triangle. From Boys Over Flowers.

3. Cultivate the “love triangle.”

Once you have your main character and the two love interests ready, it’s time to create the love triangle through the plot and by developing each of the two relationships. The thing that I loved about the love triangle in Boys Over Flowers was that each guy had a unique and interesting relationship with the main character. Even though one guy was the “bad boy” and one was the “good guy”, I felt it worked really well. This is coming from someone who doesn’t typically go for the “bad boys” in real life or fiction!

4. Decide which love interest will end up with the main character.

This may be one of the hardest parts of your triangle, especially if you end up creating one where you adore each choice equally. Of course, there’s the option of leaving it open or dissolving the triangle completely by the end, but you may have raging fans if you decide to go either route.

5. Get honest opinions on your love triangle.

Once your “love triangle” story is complete, ask someone else to read it and give you their honest opinion on the romance. It may be good to get opinions from people who like love triangles and those who aren’t too crazy about them to see if it works. Readers who enjoy love triangles may not be as picky as those who don’t.

What impressed me with the love triangle between Jan-di/Ji-Hoo/Jun-pyo in Boys Over Flowers was how I felt about both of the interests. I typically tend to side with one love interest over another but in this case, I was torn over which one to choose and decided that I would be happy with either. A part of me actually wishes there was an alternate ending to show how things would have ended if she had gone with the other guy. Maybe I like happy romance endings too much.

Love Triangles I Feel Worked other than the above:

1. Rose/Dimitri/Adrian in The Vampire Academy series.

Though I admit that I am more of a Rose/Adrian fan, I didn’t hate the end results. The love triangle was overall engaging and I did like the main character and both of the love interests and their relationships.

2. Lena/Alex/Julian in Delirium and Pandemonium. (I haven’t read the third book yet so this may change).

I loved Lena and Alex’s relationship in Delirium, but I surprisingly ended up enjoying the relationship between Lena and Julian in the second book. Though I think at this point I would choose Alex, I don’t think I would wail if she ended up with Julian. Again, I haven’t read the third book yet so I have no idea how I will feel about the love triangle until I finally get to read it.

3. Cassia/Ky/Xander in Matched and Crossed. (I haven’t read the third book yet so this may change).

Although I am rooting for Cassia and Ky, I also enjoy Cassia’s relationship with Xander and feel that the love triangle works so far for these books. I’m hoping this will remain true after I finish reading the next one.

4. Elena/Stefan/Damon in The Vampire Diaries TV Show.

I didn’t care much for the books, so I am focusing on the love triangle in the tv show. While I am a Damon fan, I think overall the triangle works well. I really liked Elena/Stefan in the first two seasons as well.

Picture Source: fanpop.com
Picture Source: fanpop.com

Love Triangles I Feel DIDN’T WORK:

1. Bella/Edward/Jacob in Twilight.

Bella wasn’t likable enough for me to care who she ended up with in the end, though I did enjoy her relationship with Jacob in New Moon.

2. Katniss/Peeta/Gale in The Hunger Games.

I rooted for Katniss and Peeta because although Gale was hinted at as a love interest in the first book, I never felt like Katniss truly considered him an option. It seemed like she thought of Gale as more of a friend than anything else, or so this was how I felt while reading the series and being baffled at the love triangle. It felt forced to me and I think the series would have honestly been better without having to pick a “team.”

3. Many, many more. I could go on for days ranting about the failed love triangles. Don’t make me go there!

Picture Source: victorsvillage.com
Picture Source: victorsvillage.com

Leave me a comment!

What do you think about love triangles? Have you found any that you enjoy or dislike? Which ones? Have you ever tried writing a love triangle? If so, how did it go?

jncahill_name

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8 thoughts on “Writing Tip: How to Write a Love Triangle

  1. I TOTALLY agree that the love triangle in Boys Over Flowers was well done. Even though I hated the bad boy love interest at first, he grew on me when it was obvious that he truly cared about the main character. If you like the Korean version, you should watch the Japanese version, Hana Yori Dango.

    And I agree with you on the Hunger Games. The third book would have been a lot better if Katniss didn’t have any romantic feelings for Gale.

    Great post!

  2. I’m writing a story that involves a love triangle quite similar to the examples you liked. The story is called Nightline and will be out sometime around 2014 to 2015. Keep your eyes peeled and if you place a comment around that time and have read the book, please tell me what you think. I’m twelve so please don’t be too harsh!

  3. I totally agree with you on Twilight and Hunger Games I hate Bella the way she is with Jacob there really wasn’t a spark and Hunger Games not a bad series but the love triangle ridiculous She never felt anything towards Gale then she does with Peeta it’s all fake really like I disliked I really did… I’m also writing a book including a love triangle Im trying to make it believable so this really helped 🙂

  4. Thanks for your advice, and I agree with all of your points. And with the Hunger Games’ love triangle, I was like “Really? We’re going there?” Anyways…
    I’ve come to realize that, despite my fervent hatred for the clichéd love triangle, it is almost necessary for a young adult romance novel in order to attract many readers. Now, that being said, my story does entail some relative of the “love triangle” but much more complicated (it’s actually more of a love pentagon, but the real romance lies mostly in a triangle). The intention is that one love interest is clearly the wrong choice and is entirely unlikeable, and the second love interest is more of a star crossed lover, whom the main character couldn’t possibly be with. But nearing the end, it is revealed that the two potential love interests are secretly the same character. The main character must then somehow begin to accept the two sides of his personality and ultimately fall in love.
    So my question is: do you have any advice on how to make readers hate a person, and then slowly begin to accept them?

    1. That sounds interesting!

      Here’s what I typically do to make a character that readers hate: I think of the people in my life (past or present) that I do not/have not cared for very much and I try to focus on WHY I don’t like them. Then I try to shape my “hated” characters around these people. Not all of my characters who are hated are created this way, but I tend to think it’s helpful. To make the character likable over time, they’ll need to show that there’s more to them than meets the eye or that they are changing.

      For example, if you have a character who makes snide remarks all the time, surprise your readers by having him/her grudgingly say something (or do something) nice. Then you just have to develop them into being more likable as the story goes on. Give them good qualities, but make sure they slowly begin to surface and keep the bad ones as long as you can. Some of the bad qualities can change to being completely good, but it’s realistic to keep some of the bad qualities as well and search for ways to make them work into making the character endearing (like having them only say snide things to people mistreating their loved ones, etc).

      I hope that makes sense.

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