I will admit, I’ve never been a big fan of romance stories. I’m more of an action/adventure/mystery type girl. Considering that I’m eighteen and dating now though, I’ve started to appreciate a good romantic subplot a little bit more, and as writers, a love triangle can be a good way to add more conflict to a story right?
“Oh, but everyone’s done them. They’re getting to be cliche.”
I had a revelation a while back. The problem isn’t that the entire idea of love triangles has become cliche, it’s the characters and assumptions we construct them with. There are so many different ways to write a love triangle, and yet we largely only consider one of them: a female character who must choose between two male love interests. If we can get out of that limitation, a whole new world opens up for us writers. The problem is often that we think heteronormatively, though there are other possibilities within that constraint that we forget about too. Why does it always have to be a guy-girl pairing? How about a girl trying to choose between a guy and a girl? Or a guy trying to choose between two other guys? Or nobody gets with anybody? There are SO many options just waiting to be written, and to help us out, I’ve listed several ideas below.
Option #1: Gender-swap the main character. If you want to stay heteronormative but shake things up a little, use a guy for your main character. It seems like the majority of love triangles I read have a girl trying to choose. Why? A male main character that has to choose between two girls is perfectly realistic too.
Option #2: Make it all guys or all girls, and they’re gay/lesbian. Maybe one person is trying to choose between two others. Maybe they’re all trying to choose between each other and it’s a giant tangled mess! *Insert evil author laugh*
Option #3: Someone who’s bisexual who can’t decide between the guy and the girl. Fairly self-explanatory I think.
Option #4: Traditional triangle with a plot twist. Use the usual setup with Riley trying to decide between Jordan and Emery, but instead of someone sacrificing their life or something, thus leaving only one choice, Jordan and Emery decide they want to be in a relationship with each other rather than with Riley. This means that Riley becomes the third wheel of course, but if the romance is only part of the larger story, it can work. Another possibility is that a third person – let’s call them Morgan – wants a relationship with Riley, and the loss of Jordan and Emery leads Riley to date Morgan instead.
Option #5: Dissolve the triangle. For whatever reason – and please don’t do the old “Jordan sacrificed their life so Riley only has Emery left now anyway” – no one ends up with anyone else at the end.
Option #6: Really shake things up, and have them end up in a polyamorous relationship! Who says a character has to choose anyway? That way everyone gets their happy ending.
Option #7: Don’t do a triangle, do a square or something. You could have someone trying to choose between more than two love interests, and/or also apply any of the above scenarios. It does happen in real life.
There you have it, folks. If you factor in other identities like pansexual, agender, etc., that opens up even more avenues for variety, but I haven’t gone into detail because A) I’m not as familiar with those identities and I don’t want to misrepresent them (note: please don’t misrepresent people in your fiction by writing about an identity you don’t know anything about yet), and B) there are so many combinations if you factor in every gender identity, sexual orientation, and social outcome (i.e. the “maybe they’re polyamorous” and such options) possiblities that it would tax both of us were I to list them all. I’ll just close with the reminder that you’re not limited to only picking one variable. You can have the lesbian love square where no one actually makes a choice in the end.
Now, go forth and be creative! And if you have more ideas to add to this list, feel free to drop them in the comments.