Three’s Company: Writing a Love Triangle

We’d like to thank editor Kat Brzozowski for this blog post! Kat is leading our upcoming workshop Relationships in Contemporary MG and YA Novels September 22-October 13. Thanks, Kat!

Think back to the last five young adult novels you’ve read. Now think about the romance component to these novels. How many of these novels featured a love triangle between the main character and two love interests? My guess is most of them.

Why are love triangles so popular in young adult novels?

First of all, they add drama and suspense to a book as the reader tries to figure out which love interest the protagonist will choose. Secondly, featuring two love interests can help reveal two sides of the protagonist’s personality as we see her interacting with two different people.

So how do you craft a love triangle that will have your readers choosing teams? (#TeamLogan forever).

Love Triangle “Do’s”

  • Real Suspense: If you want to write a really compelling love triangle, the reader can’t know who the protagonist will choose until the choice is made. How do you do this? Craft two fully realized love interests who the reader comes to know and love over the course of the book. If your characters are three dimensional, we’ll be on the edge of our seat trying to figure out who will emerge victorious in the arena of love.
  • Complicated Choices: With a love triangle comes a difficult and often painful choice for the protagonist–which love interest will they choose? When this choice comes not only with joy but with compromise and loss, you’ll have created a love triangle that feels complex and believable.

Love Triangle “Dont’s”

  • Called It! We’ve all read novels where, even though we’re presented to two hot love interests in the book’s opening pages, it’s crystal clear who the protagonist will pick, and these love stories are flat and uninteresting. The protagonist needs to feel genuinely torn between these two love interests rather than feel that the writing and the protagonist is favoring one love interest from the first page.
  • Checking a Box: If you find yourself giving one of your two love interests all of the best qualities–the wittiest dialogue, the most desirable personality, the cutest smile–it’s time to ask yourself if you’re writing a love triangle because your story requires it or because you feel you need to write one in today’s YA climate. You’re much better off writing a strong, two-person romance than a love triangle that feels half-hearted (get it?!).

Now, ignore those people who say that three’s a crowd and go write a love triangle that’ll wow us all!

Kat BrzozowskiKat Brzozowski is a senior editor at Swoon Reads/Feiwel & Friends. She has edited a wide range of young adult fiction, including Anna-Marie McLemore’s When the Moon was Ours, which received a Stonewall Honor and was longlisted for a National Book Award, and new Fear Street books in R.L. Stine’s best-selling series, which has sold over eighty million copies worldwide.

Relationships in MG and YA Novels

Posted on: August 11, 2021

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