On Love Triangles


Anonymous asked: “Can I ask if a … love triangle I’m planning is cliché or not?”

I feel like I haven’t gotten a question on love triangles in awhile and really, I love to talk about them. They fascinate me. Whether you like reading them or it’s enough to make you put down a book for good, let’s dig in and chat about the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

I want to at first make it clear, I’m not a reader who will put down a book just because it has a love triangle. I know readers who will. I’m also not someone who enjoys to read about protagonists who do bad things to people they love like cheat on them with some guy they just met. 

One of the big issues with love triangles I see, especially in YA, is that there’s a bit of a moral conflict. Often YA protagonists are written as “role-model” characters. They are meant to be looked up to and strive to do the right thing and when they get tangled up in a love triangle, if they stay in that love triangle, it almost always involves cheating or leading someone on – both of which are bad decisions. A responsible role-model character would, as soon as they realize the situation they’re in, talk to one or both people and resolve the issue. No cheating, no leading anyone on, just straightforwardness. Someone might have their heart broken, but it won’t be nearly as bad as it could have been. 

With that said, not all characters are role-models – even in YA, not all protagonists need to always make the right decision, but you need to be very aware of what you’re doing. 

Recently, I’ve seen a few new variations on the typical love-triangle and I think these twists are a little bit better and more likable. So a few times I’ve seen the responsible role-model character be honest and straightforward about their situation, aware that they’re in a love triangle and be talk it out with one or both parties to do the most responsible thing they can, often coming forward and being honest with the person they don’t see a future with the truth and try to spare any additional hard feelings. 

I’ve also seen situations where there’s what looks like a developing love triangle. Maybe the protagonist is interested in two different people, but not in any kind of commitment with either, and then romance develops with one and not the other and that’s fine. Sometimes it becomes even better when the other potential love interest just becomes a friend, without any romantic undertones there. Really I think, the variations on it that are liked today more so involve characters who aren’t in any kind of commitment, characters who can talk out conflicts to avoid unnecessary heartbreak, and characters who are happy to be friends without ever wanting to complain that they’ve been “friend-zoned.” 

A love triangle can be a great source of drama and conflict and I’ll never tell anyone ever not to write about them. While there are elements of them now that are currently unpopular, there are other aspects which are not so often explored that are less likely to turn off a reader. 

I just wanted to note that this was a question I shortened significantly. To the anonymous asker, while I’m more than happy to talk about love triangles, but I don’t usually answer questions that include “is this cliché?” – it’s one thing I include in my FAQ and Question Submission page. I do have a few resources though on clichés that may be helpful, I’ll include them here: “On Fixing Cliché Stories” and “Not Cliché, Just Tired”.

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