Love Triangles – readers either love them or hate them. Yet they are very popular plot devices in both paranormal romances and young adult romances. If you’re thinking about including one in your next story, you need to consider how you’re going to resolve it in the end (unless you write ménage where a threesome is allowed, at which point you’re sitting pretty).
The first trick is to make the relationships worthy of being a good, tension evoking love triangle. For example, if Mary Sue has both Leo the Loser and Adam the Alpha Male chasing after her, it’s pretty obvious which one’s the better catch, and there’s no suspense involved with guessing which one she’ll choose. You have to create partners with both positive attributes and flaws. There’s a reason why Archie can never decide between Betty and Veronica – because they’re both awesome girls! You want readers to be divided into Team A and Team B. You want your protagonist to be torn between both lovers because it creates conflict, and conflict is part of good story-telling.
Next, you have to think about how it will be resolved. Sometimes, there’s one person left in the cold while the happy couple rides off into the sunset (like poor Walter in Sleepless in Seattle). Sometimes, there’s information revealed that makes one part of the triangle no longer appropriate (like Leia finding out that Luke’s her brother – after she kissed him). Sometimes, one person dies/moves away/leaves the picture/starts anew someplace far, far away, thus removing himself from the picture.
And sometimes, there’s a satisfying HEA for everyone… so long as the rejected party doesn’t imprint on his former love interest’s child.
Most of us who have written love triangles know which hero and heroine will get the HEA. We write our stories by planting both clues and red herrings along the way, ramping up the conflict until the very end when we’re forced to resolve the love triangle (or have all three hop into bed together for the grand climax – those lucky ménage writers). And we hope are readers are happy with the outcome and not left going, “Why the hell did she choose him??!!!”
What are some of your favorite love triangles? How did they end (or are they still on-going)?
Crista McHugh is a multiple award-winning author of fantasy and paranormal romance. She currently lives in the Audi-filled suburbs of Seattle with her husband and two children, maintaining her alter ego of mild-mannered physician by day while she continues to pursue writing on nights and weekends.
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