If you don't have a love triangle, don't go away! Down below, I've outlined exactly what goes into writing a fantastic romance novel!
If you do have a love triangle in your book, I have one word for you: no. Actually, two words: hell no.
That's it. I have nothing else to say. Kidding, but in all seriousness, none of them are done very well, and guess what: they suck. Authors need to realize that, contrary to popular belief, it is not the amount of guys/girls chasing your main character but the depth of their relationships that drives the story forward.
Let me give you an example: Jane is just a normal girl living a normal life. She just moved to a new school, and after she was announced prom queen, everyone just loves her! She becomes friends with a guy named Nick, but then realizes that she's crushing hard on his jock brother. Then, when Jock Brother ditches her at a party, she realizes that it's been Nick who was there for her all along. But after Jock Brother apologizes, even though Nick has her heart, Jock Brother is hot. He deserves another chance. Who will she choose?
Spare me from the garbage, please.
We're removing Jock Brother, and we're going to rewrite that with just Jane and Nick.
First, remember what I said (it's crucial): who cares how many guys are chasing her? The only reason authors include this is to reassert how beautiful and desirable she is (this can be said for male characters, too). That's the least important thing. What you want is conflict. Love triangles are so cliche and predictable; don't even bother. Get two characters and fuck their relationship up almost beyond repair. Twist their emotions into a giant knot so that they don't even know how to untangle their own feelings anymore.
You don't need a third character involved.
Let me show you.
10 Steps to a Love-Triangle Free Romance:
1) Establish a realistic meeting scene. Don't pick the overused I'm-moving-to-a-new-school-and-this-hot-guy-just-approached-me, or the I'm-at-a-random-place-and-I-just-happened-to-run-into-a-hot-guy-and-now-we-like-each-other-even-though-it's-only-been-a-day. Which leads me to my next point:
2) Establish realistic characters. Come on. Enough with the hot bad boy that the whole school is scared of but secretly admires. And of course he happens to pick the awkward, antisocial girl that no one else notices. Reality is calling, and it wants to kill that trope. He can be cute and have a bad streak, but he doesn't have to be the school celebrity.
3) Set them up where everything seems to be perfect; too perfect. At the start of every relationship, we all have preconceived notions about the person, and we all romanticize the relationship before it's even started. Do that, and then reveal dark, unforgivable secrets about each character. The idea is to make these secrets a personal attack to the other character. For example: Jane has an alcoholic father, and refuses to get romantically entangled with a drinker. Nick, who is very sweet and understanding, has alcohol hidden in his car's trunk.
After barely covering up why he has the alcohol, and after making Jane very suspicious, he is found by Jane in the back of a restaurant getting drunk with a friend. She is completely betrayed, and screams at him that she will never speak to him again. He, drunk, is nasty, and calls her horrific names. He laughs when his friend makes a comment about "having some fun" with her.
A few days later, he apologizes, and she forgives him. But (the catch): he refuses to give up drinking. It is his escape, he explains; he needs it. She spits at him and stalks out, but isn't prepared for what happened next. Nick catches her selling drugs to his younger brother. He is livid: she doesn't want him drinking, but she'll sell drugs to his little brother? What a hypocrite! Which leads me to my next point:
4) Blur the lines between "good" and "bad." Too many books make one love interest the protagonist and the other the antagonist. This isn't about who is right and who is wrong; both characters are good and bad. They both make mistakes, but there is always good in the bad, and bad in the good. The best writers can create characters that audiences still root for, even when they don't know why.
5) Don't make a book about whether or not they'll get together; of course they will. That's not the point. There has to be a bigger goal. Maybe Jane and Nick are both working at the same place, but for different reasons. Maybe the place they work is very sensitive about hiring good, wholesome people (that's for you, Chickfila).
He needs money to keep his beloved dad out of jail, and she needs money to pay for her mother's hospital bills (maybe she has cancer). When Jane gets Nick fired for drinking, Nick shows the manager a picture he snagged of Jane before he yelled out to her: she is dealing drugs. Jane gets fired as well, and they hate each other. Now they're out of jobs, and how will they earn money? Which leads me to my next point:
6) Don't let the solution be emotional. What I mean is, don't let them just fall in love again without fixing their situation or their moral failings. They don't just accept each other for who they are and move on. That's too easy; they've both mortally wounded each other. They have to work towards healing. Think of it as rehab; it's painful and tedious, and nobody wants to do it. But it is necessary to heal them, as well as their relationship.
7) Remind the audience that they don't have to fall in love. Too many stories put immense pressure on these specific two characters to love each other, and that isn't reality. They have to want it. How do they want to be in love if they hate each other?
8) Reveal sweet secrets about each other. Tell Nick why Jane hates alcoholics, and tell Jane why Nick drinks: his little sister passed away from cancer two years ago. Bam. Now they have somethings in common; she understands loving someone who battles cancer. Maybe, when she has a weak moment, or when her mother passes away, Nick finds himself walking into school and seeing her collapsed on the floor, sobbing in front of everyone.
He picks her up, ushering her into the empty, quiet gym. She tells him what's happening, or blurts that her mother passed away. He is quiet, putting an arm around her shoulders. The coach comes in and tells them to get to class, and Nick flips him off and tells him to fuck off. Politely. They both get detention.
9) They make up, but not completely. Later in detention, they both eventually work up the nerve to apologize. They forgive each other, but their conflict isn't just solved. The past still burns in their minds. Don't let them say "sorry" and then be buddy-buddy again. They got each other fired for God's sake. He has a drinking problem, and she tried to sell drugs to his kid brother to make extra money, which is no excuse. Everything is not okay. But, they are willing to try and mend their relationship.
10) Lastly, don't make it a quick fix. Maybe everything is going great, until Nick's dad gets thrown back in jail. He relapses into heavy drinking and becomes dark and secluded. He avoids Jane. Jane has no way to help him, and he drives her away for a time. Don't let her help him. Characters can't always be allowed to pull each other out of every hard situation; that's unrealistic. He has to make this decision on his own. He pulls out of his slump and begins paying more attention to Jane.
Jane helps him where she can, but she is struggling, too, with the weight of her mom's death. All in all, it's like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound; it isn't pretty. Maybe Nick finds her after school and tells her how much he appreciates her being there for him. Maybe he kisses her. No matter what he does, they have to make up one final time. They have to be in love again after all the up and downs. He needs to promise to really fight to trump his addiction, and she promises to not try to scrounge money wherever she can.
And that is how to write a realistic romance without a triangle.
Love triangles are cliche and unnecessary, and they suck.
Kill them before they kill your story, and everyone's desire to read to the end. And, let me tell you, the only thing worse than a poorly written romance is a poorly written character. How do you fix those, though? Read the next chapter, and I'll tell you.
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Your Book Sucks, and Here's WhyHumor
Your book sucks. There, I said what nobody else has the guts to tell you. If you're wondering how to fix it, well, you're in luck. I mean, here you are, here I am... What's say we work together and make it fantastic?