Author Tiffany Snow shares what makes love triangles so interesting to write about in this exclusive post.
Love triangles. Romanticized in fiction, they fascinate us, turning even the most timid into rabid supporters of one pairing versus another. While Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series brought love triangles back into popular lexicon with “Teams,” the three-way love affair has been around a long time, going all the way back to King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot.
Real life love triangles, though, aren’t the stuff of romance novels — at least for one of the parties involved. After all, someone always “loses.” So why do we use them in fiction? Why write a love story where one of the men won’t end up getting the girl?
One reason is that, well, it’s a cheat — the author gets to write about two heroes rather than just one. Often, it’s the hero and the anti-hero. The good guy versus the bad boy, and it seems readers have a strong preference for one type over the other. In short, there’s something for everyone. For the reader who admires the hero who always does the right thing, and the reader longing to find the “heart of gold” under the anti-hero’s bad guy demeanor.
See if you can pick the “Good Guy” and “Bad Boy” from these famous love triangles:
If the draw of writing about two heroes isn’t enough, there are plenty more reasons to write a love triangle. Drama. Tension. The forbidden. Reading a romance lets us fall in love all over again. You can have the traditional meet-and-fall-in-love relationship, then the love-that-begins-as-hate relationship or the love-that-begins-as-friends relationship. It’s the best of all worlds. Now go back to that list above and I bet you can see those patterns.
Additional intrigue is added when the two heroes meet and interact. Are they friends? Enemies? Strangers? No matter what their previous relationship, they’ve now become competitors for the love of a woman. That makes for an intense backdrop with loads of possibilities in the author’s hands.
So how does it end? Ah, that’s the tricky part. No one wants heartbreak, and chances are if you’ve come across a well-written love triangle, you’re emotionally invested in your “Team.” There’s really only three good ways out of the triangle (which seems fitting).
1 – The “losing” hero must get another love interest that’s more suitable than the heroine. (Example: "Twilight")
2 – The “losing” hero must choose to let the heroine go because he recognizes the other man is the better one for her. (Example: "Casablanca" and "Phantom of the Opera")
3 – The “winning” hero must do something unforgivable that shows his true character, thus making him an unattractive choice. (Example: "Pride & Prejudice" and "Bridget Jones")
Now there are other ways out of the triangle (character death, the heroine chooses someone outside the triangle, the hero rejects the choice, etc.), but I would argue those leave a bad taste in the reader’s mouth (and perhaps has only been done well by Margaret Mitchell). While it’s ultimately up to the author to write the story as they see it, I think love triangles are unique in that the emotional investment the author asks of the reader should be accounted for and treated with respect.
For me, writing the Kathleen Turner series has been an intense character study inside a love triangle. What happens when two men — two brothers — fall in love with the same woman? How does that affect their relationship with her and with each other?
Blane Kirk is the older brother by eight years. He’s a SEAL turned attorney, his family one of wealth and privilege. Politics in his blood and his future. Kade Dennon, Blane’s half-brother, freelances as an assassin-for-hire. Two men to whom trust doesn’t come easily — who either see women as an accessory, or as a temporary distraction — tested by falling for the same woman.
Love triangles will continue to snare our interest, and obsession, so long as there are stories to tell. After all, heartbreak and falling in love go hand-in-hand, and one can’t choose how or with whom they fall in love.
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