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The Great Gatsby: The Love Triangle essay

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Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love

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What is love? 

It’s the question that relationship therapists, psychologists, and songwriters all have on their minds. Love isn’t just one act, feeling, or state of mind. Love can be expressed or felt in many ways. It exists in friendships, partnerships, in families, and in marriages. Despite this one idea being at the center of stories, songs, crimes of passion, and political campaigns, it is hard to break down what love “is” and what makes a relationship a loving one. 

Robert Sternberg made an attempt to break down love with his triangular theory of love.

What Is the Triangular Theory of Love?

The Triangular Theory of Love does not suggest that all love exists within a perfect, equal triangle. As you will see, the different aspects of love may appear or not appear in a loving relationship. The idea of a triangle, says Sternberg, is merely a metaphor. 

Sternberg's theory attempts to explain what is present in love, how love can be defined, and how feelings of love may change or evolve over time. Ultimately, we all feel love differently, but this theory helps to narrow down the ways in which we approach and identify our love for another person. 

About Robert J. Sternberg

Robert J. Sternberg is an American psychologist and Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. He has written many books on the subjects of love and intelligence. His most famous theories on this subject all have one thing in common: the number three. In addition to his Triangular Theory of Love, Sternberg has written about the Triarchic theory of intelligence and The Three-Process View, which describes different forms of insight. 

Three Aspects of Love (aka Triangular Model of Love)

Let’s talk about these three aspects of love. These aspects may or may not appear in your romantic, platonic, or familial relationships. Sternberg believes that the three aspects of love are intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. 

Intimacy does not necessarily refer to physical intimacy. In this definition, intimacy is more about closeness. If you feel a close connection to a friend, family member, or partner, you experience intimacy with them. This is a good, warm feeling that many of us seek in and outside of romance. 

Passion is the aspect that refers to more physical closeness. This is the drive that leads us to be physically attracted to someone and want to engage in sexual activity. But not all motivation or arousal has to be of a sexual nature for two people to experience passion. 

Last but not least is decision/commitment. When you enter into a relationship with someone, you may decide that you love them. You may feel a commitment to stick by that person and continue the relationship in the long-term. Not all relationships have decision and commitment. You may decide that you love someone, but not commit to spending your whole life loving them. You may decide that you are committed to having a relationship with someone, but you do not necessarily love them. 

Eight Types of Love 

We all experience relationships that have one, two, or all three of these different aspects of love. Not all of these aspects are felt in the same capacity, but they still influence the way that we treat the other person or label the relationship. 

Sternberg labeled eight different types of love based on which aspects exist within the relationship. 

If a relationship is devoid of intimacy, passion, or decision/commitment, Sternberg says the relationship is actually nonlove. One of these aspects must exist for a relationship to have love. 

Liking may not seem like love - intimacy is present to some degree, but passion and decision/commitment are not there. You may like your coworker and feel that you can trust them at work, but you may not feel any passion. You may not have decided that you love them either, and don’t want to commit to the relationship outside of work. 

Infatuated love occurs when passion is present, but intimacy or decision/commitment is not. You may meet someone at a bar and be instantly attracted to them, but you do not feel warmth or closeness. No decisions or commitments are made, either. 

Empty love occurs when decision/commitment is present, but intimacy or passion is not. Maybe you decide to say that you love an estranged family member, even though you have not felt any warmth from them in a long time. Couples who have been married for a long time, and are only saying together for the children, may experience periods of empty love. 

Romantic love occurs with the presence of intimacy and passion. Let’s say you start to get to know the person from the bar a little better. Your passion drives a desire to become more intimate with them, and the intimacy continues to stoke the flames of passion. Things start to get romantic! 

Companionate love occurs when intimacy and decision/commitment are present. This could be the relationship of two very good friends who feel close to each other and have committed to being best friends in the long term. They act as companions, rather than lovers.  

Fatuous love occurs when intimacy is missing, but passion and decision/commitment are present in the relationship. I’ll go back to the example of the person at the bar. Let’s say, instead of truly getting to know this person, you decide to follow your passion and elope to Vegas shortly after meeting each other. There is no real intimacy or sense of warmth in the relationship, but you’ve made a commitment and the passion is still there!

Finally, we come to consummate love, also known as complete love. If all three aspects of love are present in the relationship, congratulations! You have reached a complete love. 

Shapes May Change Over Time

The presence or absence of these three aspects is just one way to classify or describe a relationship. Within these descriptions is a lot of wiggle room. The amount of passion or satisfaction that you may experience in one romantic relationship may be different than the amount of passion that you experience in the previous romantic relationship. These aspects may also change over time. We have all seen, heard, or experienced a love story that started out as a friendship. Maybe you did not have the intention of turning companionate love into a passionate relationship - but once that passion enters the relationship, there’s no denying that the relationship and love have changed. 

Maintaining Relationships 

Aspects of love may also fade out over time. A couple experiencing complete love may find themselves engaging in sexual activity less and the passion dying out. They are still committed to each other and have a warmth that keeps them together, but temporarily (or permanently) they just don’t experience that arousal or motivation to be physically intimate. 

Dr. Sternberg says that while it can be easy to achieve complete love with someone, the real challenge comes when you have to maintain it. Couples who have been married for years know this to be true. Love is not just a feeling; Dr. Sternberg says that it’s a verb. You have to work and work to maintain the “spark” and the commitment to each other through different trials and tribulations. 

In addition to “triangles of feeling,” Sternberg says that love can be experienced in “triangles of action.” Be aware that these two triangles are very different. You may feel passionate toward someone, but if you are not acting upon that passion, that passion may not serve to increase the other two aspects of the relationship. 

Define What Is Best For You 

When does infatuated love become romantic love? When does romantic love become complete love? What will it take for you to maintain complete love with someone? The answer depends on you. You must be the one to define what kind of love you want to experience and how that love is expressed or felt. We all have different “love languages,” for example, that categorize the ways that we share love with others. For someone, words of affirmation may be a sure sign of intimacy or decision/commitment. For others, words of affirmation are not recognized in the way that acts of service or gifts are recognized. 

Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love Today

When Reddit user CarsonF asked, "How much credence is still given to sternbergs triangular theory of love?" many users responded. One user said, "I can say, as a college level psychology teacher - It is still definitely taught in the textbook for introduction to psychology. Not sure about application in the lab or real world though." You can read the whole conversation here . 

How do you make your idea of love known to your friends, family, and partner(s)? Communicate! Get to know yourself. Talk to a therapist if you need to. This is a lifelong process that, like loving relationships, may change over time. Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love is a great place to start analyzing and reflecting on how you identify and maintain love in different types of relationships.

Related posts:

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  • Theory of Relationship Satisfaction
  • 13 Signs That A Man Has Sexual Experience
  • Intimacy vs Isolation: Psychosocial Stage 6

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love triangle essay

Writing a Love Triangle: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

  • 7 April 2022

A love triangle story plot has everything needed for an engrossing story. There are characters, conflict, and resolution; the three things that will hook your readers in. However, love triangles can very easily become predictable and cliched. I have put together some articles, podcasts, and YouTube videos that share some great tips and advice to take on board when writing love triangles.

  • https://www.savannahgilbo.com/blog/love-triangles

Love triangles are wonderful plot devices and can have beautiful, moving results when done effectively. Savannah shares some famous love triangles from well-known literature and gives the writer ten tips to consider when writing a love triangle. These include making both suitors a viable choice for the protagonist, fully developing all three characters involved, and establishing what’s at stake with either outcome. She also tells us that it is important not to neglect the rest of your story for the sake of your love triangle.

  • https://storygrid.com/love-triangles/

Story Grid tells us that while fans of the romance genre appreciate well-written love triangles, it is important to avoid being labelled as ‘predictable’ or ‘cliched’. This article shares tips such as you don’t have to start both relationships at the same time, exploring the different types of conflict within the love triangle, and knowing where your love triangle fits in with your story. Each love triangle will carry a certain weight to the story, and there has to be a reason for including it in your novel.

  • https://www.standoutbooks.com/love-triangles/

Readers love conflict and resolution and love triangles provide the perfect frame for these. Love triangles are timeless and fit into most genres. This article advises the writer to focus on the conflict, believability, resolution, unpredictability, novelty and depth, as these are the building blocks for any great love triangle.

  • https://www.abbiee.com/2019/02/writing-love-triangles/

The reason why most love triangles are annoying and boring is because they don’t dig into the character’s internal conflict. Don’t make your love triangle simple; challenge your characters, make them confront their fears and upend their entire lives. Abbie says that you should make your love triangle a catch 22 for your protagonist. It should go all the way to your protagonist’s deepest fear, which consequently is most likely what got them into this love triangle situation in the first place. The love triangle should bring to light the real conflict that’s been boiling below the surface for a long time.

  • https://www.wonderforest.net/blog-feed/how-to-write-love-triangles-the-right-way

Wonder Forest tells the writer not to make your love triangle simple, allow it to bring out the internal conflict. Ask yourself 5 questions including what is the protagonist’s inner conflict and how did it lead them into this love triangle, how high are the stakes and how hot is the fire beneath the protagonist’s feet to make a decision, and how does this love triangle cause all 3 characters to face their fears?

  • https://goteenwriters.com/2014/04/11/10-ways-to-deal-with-the-love-triangle-in-your-book/

This article gives you some ideas to do something different with your love triangle. Shooting someone, having the liar lose, someone giving up, or the hero picking neither are all suggested.

https://writingrootspodcast.com/2020/02/s7e4-love-triangles/

Love triangles are one of the most common tropes across all genres. They are often central to many YA and romance books but are also found in subplots of fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and action novels. This podcast talks about how to use a love triangle effectively and leave your reader satisfied with the resolution.

In this video from Writer’s Block, they discuss different types of love triangles: the equilateral, the decoy, imaginary love triangle, real love triangle, and the two-person love triangle.

Phoebe talks you through 4 tips for writing an interesting and compelling love triangle.

Love triangles are great plot devices and by using these tips and advice you have the opportunity to create a compelling, swoon-worthy love triangle that readers will adore. I hope this week’s column has been useful for you. If you have any topics you would like me to cover then please get in touch.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated. A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real. Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel. Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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To live for the hope of it all: the folklore love-triangle

Taylor’s surprise eighth studio album, folklore , dropped in July of 2020. That summer, her music gave us the imagery of cobblestones in the garden, clandestine meetings, sweet tea, ivy, and far off lands. She also used this album to present a number of both fictitious and biographical stories, including the one that touched the masses; that of a teenage love-triangle, the emotion and passion of adolescent feelings and forbidden romance.

This is that story, as pieced together from lyrics and the narrative provided from Taylor herself.

“betty” – written by Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn

We begin on the doorstep of a girl named Betty, where a 17 year old boy, James, begs for her forgiveness after making what has so far been the worst mistake of his life. Summer has ended, and at Betty’s back to school party, James shows up to explain what happened when he cheated on her with a mystery girl. This song is James’ final plea, using his immaturity as an excuse for what he did.

I was walking home on broken cobblestones Just thinking of you when she pulled up like A figment of my worst intentions She said “James, get in, let’s drive” Those days turned into nights Slept next to her, but I dreamt of you all summer long

Watch Taylor Swift's Debut Performance of “betty” at the ACMs | Pitchfork

Taylor performs “betty” at the ACMs

James and Betty went the school dance together, but he left early by himself. That’s when “she” pulled up right next to him. He spent the summer with this girl, and the rumors flew as they do in high school. Betty eventually hears from her friend Inez, and proceeds to react as anyone would after finding out they got cheated on.

In this song, James confirms it was true. He asks her if she’ll ever forgive him, or if she’ll ever believe him when he tells her it was just a summer thing. He tries to convince her that despite all the time he spent with this other girl, he dreamt of Betty the whole time. His point, “I’m only 17, I don’t know anything, But I know I miss you”.

Taylor went into detail on country radio, “[James] has lost the love of his life, basically, and doesn’t understand how to get it back.” She said using one of the songs to tell it from the teenage boy’s point of view was a way connect to everyone’s individual perspective. “I think we all have these situations in our lives where we learn to really, really give a heartfelt apology for the first time. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody really messes up sometimes..”

This song means a lot to me. To hear something from the person who is at fault in the situation is a game changer in terms of storytelling. The song swells with pure confession and romantic country twang, it seems genuine. However, we don’t get to hear Betty’s response.. or so we thought.

cardigan – written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

Taylor explains in Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions that “‘cardigan’ is Betty’s perspective from 20 to 30 years later looking back on this love that was this tumultuous thing.” This reveals that the most heart-wrenching and well written song on this album, about lessons learned and longing sadness, is Betty’s reflection on her relationship.

Folklore by Taylor Swift: 6 songs that explain the new album - Vox

“cardigan” music video

We learn that James’ efforts worked, and that night he stood on her doorstep begging for forgiveness, she forgave him. “In my head, I think Betty and James ended up together, right? In my head, she ends up with him, but he really put her through it.”, Taylor said. However, although she forgave James, she clearly never forgave herself, nor did she forget.

I could go on for hours, reflecting on each and every lyric of this song and what it means to this character and to myself, but I’ll just choose a few of my favorites.

This is my favorite part. Everyone knows what it’s like to sit beside your phone, constantly checking for the phone call or text. For that ounce of attention from the person you like. And when you finally get that halfhearted acknowledgement, it’s somehow enough to keep you going. To cancel plans in hopes of having others. SHE LOVED HIM!!! This poor girl cared for James and simply wished he cared for her too.

Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions review – A triumphant debut

Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions on Disney+

Although “cardigan” is probably the most well written and poetic song from folklore , “august” did the most for me. It showed me to look at the bigger picture in every situation, to look at it from everyone’s point of view.

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This is the kind of music analysis I could spend hours reading! You did an amazing job of going in-depth and relating it to your own personal thoughts and emotions. This trio of songs also reminded me that everyone sees things differently, and the same situation could conjure different feelings.

I really loved your analysis and how you see these connected songs. Your retelling was really engaging!

Hello! This was a beautifully written blog post of the analysis of the Folklore Love Triangle. I have only been a fan of Taylor Swift for a little over a year now, so I’m a tad bit late to knowing and understanding all of the stories within her songwriting. As for the Folklore Love Triangle, I have heard bits and pieces of the songs connected, but I never understood or heard how there were intertwined. Your deep dive analysis of the Folklore Love Triangle is simple to understand and made my perspective of those three songs change. Originally, I I saw James as the “good guy” who just wanted forgiveness over a mistake he had made and how the thought and intentions behind his actions mean more than what he had done. After reading your analysis on Cardigan and August, I’ve realized that regardless of his intention or thought process after the fact, he had hurt more than one person. The hurt that Betty and Augusta/Augustine were feeling is beyond comparable to the hurt James must have felt. I think it is important to make note of the fact that both girls believed that he had loved them, and how James was never clear with either girls until the end of who he “truly loved.” Overall, the Folklore Love Triangle is a triad of beautiful and poetically written songs that thousands of fans can relate to or emotionally understand in some way, and for that it is some of Taylor Swift’s best written pieces of music.

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Love Triangles Explained: Decoding the Drama of Love Triangles in Romance Novels

Updated: Jun 7

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Ah, the love triangle—the ultimate rollercoaster of emotions in the realm of romance literature. Is there any trope more tantalizing, more tumultuous, and more talked about?

In the vast tapestry of romance literature, few tropes elicit as much fervent discussion and passionate debate as the love triangle. It's a narrative device that has captured the imaginations of readers for generations, weaving a web of intrigue, emotion, and desire that keeps us eagerly turning pages late into the night.

But why is it that love triangles hold such a powerful allure? Is it the magnetic pull of forbidden love? The tantalizing uncertainty of who will ultimately win the protagonist's heart? Or perhaps it's the opportunity to explore the depths of human emotion and desire through the lens of fictional characters.

In this blog post, we're diving headfirst into the heart of this beloved (and sometimes controversial) storytelling device. From exploring the inner workings of love triangles to dissecting their popularity and real-life parallels, we'll unravel the complexities of this timeless trope that has left an indelible mark on romance literature.

So, grab your favorite romance novel, settle into a cozy spot, and join us as we embark on a journey to decode the drama of love triangles in romance novels.

What is the love triangle trope?

Imagine a delicate dance of affection, where not one, but two suitors vie for the affections of our protagonist. The love triangle trope, as the name suggests, revolves around a romantic entanglement between three characters, often leading to a tumultuous journey of self-discovery, heartache, and, of course, passion.

Are love triangles bad?

Some readers adore the delicious tension and emotional depth that love triangles bring to a story, while others find them frustrating or predictable. However, whether love triangles are "bad" ultimately depends on personal preference and how skillfully they are executed within the narrative.

How do love triangles work?

Love triangles typically unfold as the protagonist finds herself torn between two equally compelling love interests. Each suitor offers different qualities, sparking intense chemistry and emotional conflicts. The tension mounts as the protagonist must navigate her feelings and make a choice that will ultimately shape her romantic destiny.

Why are love triangles so popular?

Love triangles tap into a primal aspect of human nature—the desire for connection and the complexity of romantic relationships. They offer a compelling mix of passion, uncertainty, and emotional stakes that keep readers eagerly turning pages. Additionally, love triangles allow for exploration of character dynamics and growth as the protagonist navigates her romantic dilemma.

Do love triangles happen in real life?

They certainly do! While love triangles may seem like a product of fiction, the complexities of romantic relationships in real life can sometimes mirror these dramatic entanglements. Human emotions are messy and unpredictable, and love triangles, albeit perhaps less dramatic, can indeed occur.

How do love triangles end?

In the world of romance novels, love triangles often culminate in a resolution where the protagonist makes a definitive choice between her suitors. This decision can lead to heartbreak for one character and fulfillment for another, ultimately paving the way for a satisfying conclusion.

Love Triangles in Popular New Adult Romantasy and Young Adult Romance Books

Now, let's explore some captivating examples of New Adult Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy books that skillfully weave the love triangle trope into their narratives. Each of these books masterfully weaves the love triangle trope into the story, adding layers of tension, emotion, and depth to the storylines and characters. Whether you're drawn to epic fantasy battles, dystopian romance, or Victorian-era intrigue, these captivating tales are sure to keep you spellbound until the very last page.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass bookcover

First up is Throne of Glass .  In this epic fantasy series, readers are introduced to Celaena Sardothien, an infamous assassin with a complicated past. As Celaena navigates a dangerous world of politics, magic, and intrigue, she finds herself entangled in a gripping love triangle.

On one hand, there's the dashing Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, whose loyalty and strength captivate her. On the other, there's the enigmatic Fae Prince, Dorian Havilliard, whose charm and hidden depths draw her in. As Celaena's feelings for both men deepen, she must confront her own desires and make a choice that will shape not only her destiny but the fate of the kingdom.

"I claim you, too, Aelin Galathynius," he whispered. "I claim you as my friend."

Inception by Bianca Scardoni

Inception book cover

Inception follows Jemma Blackburn in an urban a spellbinding paranormal romance series. She's just your average high school kid until she's thrust into a world of vampires, magic, and danger. As Jemma navigates the treacherous politics of this new dark world she's discovered, she finds herself caught in a mesmerizing love triangle.

On one side, there's Tracy, the brooding good guy who's supposed be her guardian (long story here) but is fighting his duty every step of the way. On the other, there's Dominic, the seductive older guy that every girl wants but has eyes only for Jemma. As tensions rise, secrets unveiled, and loyalties are tested, Jemma must confront herself and decide where her heart truly lies.

" The butterflies began waltzing in my belly again, this time to the sweet melody of his words. Words that were meant for me. "

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection book cover

The Selection is a YA romance set in a dystopian society where a lottery determines who will compete for the heart of a prince. The book follows America Singer as she navigates a whirlwind of romance, intrigue, and betrayal. Caught between her duty to her family and her growing feelings for two very different suitors, America finds herself in the midst of a captivating love triangle.

On one side, there's Prince Maxon, whose genuine kindness and dedication to his kingdom stir unexpected emotions in America. On the other, there's Aspen, America's childhood sweetheart and a member of the lower caste, whose presence ignites long-buried passions. As America grapples with her conflicting emotions, she must navigate the complexities of love and duty in a world on the brink of revolution.

"Break my heart. Break it a thousand times if you like. It was only ever yours to break anyway."

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

The Infernal Devices book cover

Set in Victorian London, this captivating series follows Tessa Gray as she discovers a world of demons, Shadowhunters, and dark magic. Amidst the danger and intrigue, Tessa finds herself torn between two Shadowhunters, Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs, in a heart-wrenching love triangle. On one side, there's Will, whose sharp wit and brooding demeanor conceal a painful past and a fierce loyalty to those he loves. On the other, there's Jem, whose kindness and compassion offer Tessa solace in a world of darkness. As Tessa's feelings for both men deepen, she must confront the secrets of her own identity and the truth about her heart's desires.

"I am catastrophically in love with you."

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone book cover

In this mesmerizing fantasy series, readers are transported to the magical world of Ravka, where darkness threatens to consume everything in its path. Amidst the chaos, we follow Alina Starkov, a young soldier with a hidden power that could save her country from destruction. As Alina navigates the dangers of her newfound abilities, she finds herself torn between two men who represent different paths and possibilities. On one side, there's Mal, her childhood friend and fellow soldier, whose unwavering loyalty and deep connection to Alina offer comfort and stability. On the other, there's the Darkling, a powerful Grisha whose seductive charm and promises of power tempt Alina to embrace a darker path. As Alina grapples with her own destiny and the choices before her, she must confront the truth about love, sacrifice, and the darkness that lies within us all.

"I've been waiting for you a long time, Alina. You and I are going to change the world."

Dissent by Josephine Lamont

Dissent book cover

Set in a dystopian future of the USA, this pulse-pounding series follows Mara de la Puente as she discovers the world she thought to be true is nothing but a lie. Kidnapped by Dissenters, Mara is thrown into danger and intrigue, finding herself torn between two rebels vying for her heart. On one side, there's Wes Calvernon, whose tough exterior and brooding demeanor conceals a painful past and a fiercely loyalty to those he loves. On the other, there's Matias Alvarez, whose kindness and compassion offer Mara a sense of safety in a world of lies and deceit. As Mara's feelings for both men deepen, she must confront the secrets of her own identity and the truth about her family.

"I will always come back for you."

There's No Debate— You Gotta Love a Love Triangle

Love triangles may provoke heated debates among readers, but there's no denying their

enduring allure in the world of romance literature. So, whether you're team #TeamA , #TeamB , or rooting for a surprise contender, one thing's for certain—love triangles are here to stay, keeping us captivated and craving more with each turn of the page.

Did you like this article? Are you ready to embark on an enchanting journey through captivating worlds filled with romance, magic, and thrilling adventures? Look no further! Join my exclusive newsletter community and unlock a treasure trove of fantastical tales that will sweep you off your feet and leave you longing for more.

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How To Write A Love Triangle (Without Being Crucified By Your Readers)

How To Write A Love Triangle (Without Being Crucified By Your Readers)

Ah, the love triangle. Otherwise known as a highly overused plot device for romantic fiction that pretty much every reader is fed up with. But is there a way to write a love triangle without being crucified by your readers?

I believe there is a way. And in honor of Valentine’s Day, that’s what today’s post is going to be all about: WRITING AN (ACTUALLY GOOD) LOVE TRIANGLE. We’ve talked about other romance tropes in the past, like insta-love and hate-to-love , but now it’s time to tackle the big one.

The reason why most love triangles are annoying and boring is because they don’t dig into the characters’ internal conflict . Everything’s so surface-level and stagnant, we can predict what will happen from page 1. Who wants to read a book like that? Not me, bro.

So is there a way to make this plot device actually…interesting? Is there a way to revolutionize the idea of the love triangle and bring fresh life to it? YES. I believe there is. And it starts with first knowing what not to do with a love triangle.

How To Write A Love Triangle (Without Being Crucified By Your Readers)

Don’t make your love triangle simple

This pretty much applies to any type of storytelling. If the external event in your story isn’t going to challenge the characters, make them confront their fears, and ultimately upend their entire lives, it isn’t going to hold the reader’s attention for very long. Note: I don’t mean that some EPIC CRAZY THING needs to happen to your protagonist. On the contrary! Even a seemingly small thing can drastically push a person outside their comfort zone.

The reason why we hate most love triangles is because they’re just so…shallow. 99% of the time, the “conflict” begins and ends with: “which one will I choose?” (Not to mention the fact that the reader knows from page 1 which one she will choose.)

Not only is this highly overdone, it’s completely void of that electricity that lights up a story — the internal conflict. AKA: the protagonist being forced to confront their greatest fear, crush their misbelief about the world, and achieve the thing that will ultimately make them happy — all while developing as a character and delivering a powerful message to the reader.

So, in light of that…

Let your love triangle bring out the internal conflict of your characters

Ultimately, every single external thing in your book should be doing this. If something happens, the reader has to know why it matters to the characters. If I can’t see why it matters to the characters, I won’t see why it matters to me.

How To Write A Love Triangle (Without Being Crucified By Your Readers)

Here’s the thing: you can use ANY plot device (no matter how cliché it is) in your story if it directly engages with your protagonist’s inner conflict and contributes in bringing them to the depths of despair they will find themselves in before their “aha” moment (the moment that brings their character development full-circle.)

That’s right — any plot device. If the external events in your story are constantly forcing your protagonist closer to their internal issue, they are doing their job and doing it well. And don’t stop at the protagonist! Bring every character’s inner conflict  into this mess. How does this love triangle force all three people to either confront or run from their fears?

Make the love triangle a catch-22 for your protagonist

Let’s face it: the only intriguing thing about a love triangle is that it’s a sticky situation for anyone to deal with. If any reader gets even a little bit of enjoyment out of this trope, it’s because we can put ourselves in the shoes of the protagonist and experience a situation that will likely never happen to us in real life.

A good love triangle is a catch-22 situation for the protagonist. They can’t have it both ways, however much they might like to. They have to make a choice, and hopefully the right one. But the choice can’t be as lifeless and dull as “what girl/guy do I want more??” NO NO NO. It goes much deeper than that. It goes all the way to your protagonist’s deepest fear — which, consequentially, is most likely what got them into this “love triangle” situation in the first place.

That means your protagonist’s fear is going to be the only thing standing between them and True Happiness™. The love triangle has created conflict in Protagonist’s life — or rather, brought to light the real conflict that’s been boiling below the surface for a long time now.

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How To Write A Love Triangle (Without Being Crucified By Your Readers)

Questions you should ask yourself before you write a love triangle

If you’re going to write a good love triangle, you need to ask yourself these questions and really think about the answers. It might take some time to come up with the answers — but trust me, it will be worth it. Not only will you have more clarity and confidence going into your story, but your readers will be so engrossed in the drama, they won’t even notice that you just revolutionized a highly-hated trope.

THE QUESTIONS:

  • What is my protagonist’s inner conflict ? And how did it lead them into this love triangle?
  • If they were being honest with themselves, the real reason they are stuck in this love triangle is because…
  • How does this love triangle force all three people to face their fears?
  • What would it take for the protagonist to overcome their fear and make the right choice?

ALL THIS TO SAY…yes. There is a “right way” to do love triangles, in my humble opinion. When you’re constantly drawing on the inner conflict of your protagonist, it’s impossible to not engage the reader.

I know I didn’t use a story example today, as I typically do — that’s because I haven’t seen many love triangles done well. SERIOUSLY. I can think of, like, two.* But that doesn’t mean you can’t write a good love triangle. I believe you can. I believe I can (and have lol…hopefully you like it when you read the book someday — even if you’re a professed love-triangle-hater.)

*the Ross/Elizabeth/Demelza triangle in Poldark and the Laura/Fisher/Daniel triangle in Lark Rise to Candleford. but since I don’t know many people who obsessively watch BBC Masterpiece, I’ll keep my fangirling to myself. :”)

love triangle essay

Do you hate love triangles with a fiery passion? Has this post changed your mind about them, even just a little? Would you ever try writing a love triangle someday? Or have you already written one? What is a good example of a well done LT in fiction or film?

love triangle essay

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How To Write A Love Triangle (Without Being Crucified By Your Readers)

Abbie Emmons

I teach writers how to make their stories matter by harnessing the power and psychology of storytelling, transforming their ideas into a masterpiece, and creating a lifestyle that makes their author dreams come true.

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The Perfect All Enthralling Love Triangle in Literature

Love triangle's are the perfect plot twist that most readers never see coming. However, in order for the reader to be completely blindsided, the writer needs to know what they are doing! With that comes understanding what an actual love triangle is, how you can keep the triangle interesting, and most importantly, how to avoid all of the cliches!

A love triangle is a scenario where a central character is romantically involved with two other characters at the same time, and they need to decide who they ultimately want to be with. It creates tension, conflict, and can keep your readers invested in your story.

The Perfect All Enthralling Love Triangle in Literature 

Two people fall in love, but in walks a third party which has one of the initial two smitten. Or, are both of them smitten? That's the plot that can occur when you include a love triangle in your novel! A love triangle story arc has the potential to add a bit of spice to an overall story's plot. Better yet, it could expose the true intentions of a certain character.

But, where do you even start? How do you go about writing a love triangle? Better yet, if you don't know where to start, where can you go to let someone write a love triangle for you? These are just a few of the many questions that are going to be answered in this post!

Everything That You Need to Know About Love Triangles

Your Love Triangle Writing Tips

When writing a love triangle you need to think about a bit more than just the characters and the relationships they are building with each other. Showing attraction, creating tension, as well as making the entire situation realistic are a few of the artistic elements that are included in writing a love triangle.

Let's go through everything up until the resolution. You want there to be a resolution to remember, so that requires an entirely different discussion on its own. But, let's not get too ahead of ourselves! Here are the different domains that you need to think of when writing your first love triangle:

  • Develop your characters: The first step in writing a love triangle is to create fully developed characters. This means that you need to understand their personalities, motivations, and goals. You should also think about their strengths and weaknesses, as well as any flaws or insecurities they may have. Will their insecurities be exploited so they fall out of love within the triangle? Or will their strengths secure victory? This part is up to you!
  • Set up the situation: Once you have your characters in place, you need to create the situation that will lead to the love triangle. This could be as simple as having two people fall in love with the same person, or it could be more complicated, such as having one person torn between two lovers. Alternatively, all three of them could be in love with each other. After all, many authors do prefer a hit of polygamy!
  • Show the attraction: It's important to show the attraction between the characters. This could be through physical gestures, such as touching or flirting, or through verbal communication, such as compliments or teasing. Why not there be a public proclamation of love followed by a big gift! Will it go down well? We'll let you decide!
  • Create tension: As the love triangle develops, there should be tension between the characters. This tension could come from jealousy, misunderstandings, conflicting emotion, or the input from parents or other royal figures. Naturally, this will depend on the overall plot and type of story you have written!
  • Make it realistic: While a love triangle can be exciting and dramatic, it's important to make it realistic. Consider the consequences of the characters' actions and how they would realistically react to the situation. The more realistic, the more relatable. The more relatable the more you can guarantee your reader will be trapped, gripped, and probably not going to bed until the epic conclusion of the love triangle!
  • Explore the emotions: A love triangle can be emotionally charged, so it's important to explore the emotions of each character. This could include their feelings of love, jealousy, betrayal, and heartbreak. It could even be an element of each but towards the other occupants of the love triangle.

These elements are some of the main points you should think about when creating your love triangle. It is important that we mention that your entire book need not be entirely centred around a single love triangle. There could be more than one triangle with overlapping members. Yes, this may make it more complex, but with thorough explanation you can literally include anything!

The Perfect Love Triangle Does Exist!

The Love Triangle Resolution

Let's tackle the resolution of a love triangle. Now, it doesn't have to be rainbows and butterflies. It could be a messy ending too. As we said, it depends on the overall narrative of your story. One thing we will caution you on though, is the love triangle trope!

If you are not familiar with this term it is basically a generic end. In this case it is a generic and expected ending or resolution to the love triangle! Don't leave your reader gripped and then resolve everything with a simple choice that spans across three sentences. There needs to be progression, thought, and depth to a character's decisions!

So, how do you actually resolve a love triangle? Well, there are a few choices, some more obvious than others. For once, one character can make a choice and then voila love triangle resolved. But, where is the fun in that? Your choice should be a more complicated resolution where the unexpected become prominent and even an element of betrayl surface.

However, we do understand if your niche is a happy ending. Maybe the characters themselves will agree on who should be dating who, coming to a completely new understanding. But, the resolution should be able to be acceptable by the reader, especially if they have grown attached to specific characters.

Character Development in Your Love Triangle Story Arc

A love triangle can be the changing point for any of the characters involved. Falling in love with one, or both, of the characters could awaken their own spirit and show character development that they never would have been able to have shown prior!

There are so many different ways that your characters can develop throughout youir love triangle story arc. Let's jump through a few of them and see how some characters can change, for the good and for the bad!

Love Triangle Conflicts

Just think what happened in high school when you found out that somebody else liked your crush. Or worse, your crush liked them back. Well, that is a love triangle. Chances are, you wanted to use some sort of love potion to magically have your crush fall in love with you, or conveniently push your competition down a flight or stairs.

Now this sounds rather drastic, but it shows that some characters, depending on their personality and values, will change their morals and actions all for the want of someone loving them back. Your character could be so pure prior to the love triangle plot, but afterwards becomes a completely different character, one that is completely unhinged!

The way that you choose your characters to develop is completely up to you. There could even be a confrontation between members of the love triangle that results in a completely deranged character collecting all of their marbles and finally starting to think sensibly and coherently.

Or the conflict could just split everyone apart! You could even choose the resolution avenue where nobody ends up together. The choice however needs to make sense, just remember that!

What If You Struggle Writing Love Triangles?

Not everyone can write the perfect love triangle. In actual fact, there are only a very small group of writers that can really capture the essence of a pure and true love triangle. That is, with all its different elements included! Luckily for you, a good portion of these writers can be found at The Urban Writers (TUW)!

We have a dedicated group of writers that specializes in romance novels and love triangles! To include a love triangle takes quite a lot of strategy, as well as a good overarching view of the entire novel's progression. Our freelancers at TUW are able to take this holistic overview, pick out the perfect area for your love triangle, and execute it with immense tact, accuracy, and with a certain romantic flair!

What are you waiting for? Get in touch with us to add the perfect romantic add on to your novel!

In Summary 

Writing a love triangle is an art. It can be the part of your novel where all the character's true desires come to live, or it could mean the emotional change that leads to one or more of their demise. It really is a versatile approach to both romance, betrayal, and even a platform for character growth and development.

We've provided you with some of the key elements that you should include in your love triangle, some of the different resolutions you could follow, how you can use conflict in your love triangle story arc to promote character development, and where to go if you are struggling.

We at TUW are always open to helping any prospective author! Get in touch today and see how we can transform your book into the perfect romantic novel loved by all!

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The Mind, the Body, and the Love Triangle in Anna Karenina

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How To Write a Captivating Love Triangle: The ULTIMATE Guide

Hunger Games Love Triangle

How To Write a Love Triangle

This article will offer some key pointers on that most time-trodden (and wildly successful) cinematic device – the love triangle – and hopefully assist those looking to craft an original and effective one.

  • Using a few films which incorporate love triangles into their narratives, we will discuss the key aspects to a successful and interesting love triangle.
  • We will highlight how love triangles are typically a plot device for romance films. Many of these are romantic-comedies, but not exclusively.
  • As we will discover, this plot device is also often employed in other genres, such as Action and Musicals. 

We will look to some of the following films for examples:

Famous Film Love Triangles…

 1.  Bridget, Mark and Daniel ( Bridget Jones Diary )

 2.  Bella, Jacob and Edward ( Twilight )

 3.  Katniss, Peeta and Gale ( The Hunger Games )

 4.  Carrie, Charles and Hamish ( Four Weddings and a Funeral )

 5.  Iris, Jasper and Ethan ( The Holiday )

 6. Satine, Christian and the Duke ( Moulin Rouge! )

 7. Rose, Jack and Cal ( Titanic )

These are just a few characters part of famous love triangles.

What Is A Love Triangle?

As the name suggests, love triangles centre on love and conflict .

“ A love triangle (also called a romantic love triangle or a romance triangle or an eternal triangle) is usually a romantic relationship involving three or more people.”

Love triangles typically centre on a protagonist and their two love interests.

  • However, all three characters are fully developed.
  • The love interests must both have equal development and be equally suitable for the protagonist. They must make the ‘decision’ for the protagonist very difficult.

Despite both being suitable, they tend to be very different. Stereotypically, there is the good guy vs the bad guy. This is most evident in a film such as Bridget Jones Diary .

The plot device hooks the audience and adds drama to the seemingly perfect, smooth narrative. Love Triangles throw the protagonist off their path and help make them appear layered, relatable and real.

Love triangles feature in other genres: dramas, musicals and action, but the underlying common theme is romance despite love not always being felt by all parties. Moulin Rouge!, Leap Year, The Great Gatsby  and Titanic  illustrate this.

For Example…

  • In Moulin Rouge! , the love triangle is between Satine, Christian and the Duke. The romance is between Satine and Christian. However, the Duke is offering Satine freedom, success and fame.
  • In Leap Year , the love triangle is between Anna, Declan and Jeremy. As with Moulin Rouge! a romance develops between Anna and Declan. However security, status, and wealth are what Jeremy is offering her.
  • In Titanic , the love triangle is between Rose, Jack and Cal. The ‘Love Triangle’ occurs due to Rose’s engagement to Cal- someone who is offering her financial stability and status. However, Rose loves Jack, a working-class man who is not ‘suitable’ for her.
  • In The Great Gatsby , the love triangle occurs between Daisy, Gatsby and Tom. As with the previous example, Daisy is married to Tom for status, wealth and security, however she loves Gatsby .

With all three of the love triangles above, the main concepts to focus on are the protagonists’ NEED VS their WANT .

This is a key aspect to character development and creating an arc in general. And it’s an important factor to consider when writing a love triangle.

GREAT GATSBY Trailer (2012) Movie HD

What’s The Point In Writing Love Triangles?

Typically, people who enjoy romance films tend to favour love triangles in the narratives as it adds a layer of drama and conflict for the protagonist .

But why write a love triangle?

  • A plot device to add drama to the narrative.
  • To engage the audience by adding new characters/ altering the seemingly simple narrative.
  • Making the protagonist more interesting and layered – revealing their inner conflicts.
  • Show the protagonist’s true nature/ personality.
  • Involve the viewer- they themselves taking a side on which love interest is most suitable.

The Romance-Comedy Genre In Writing A Love Triangle:

As we have already discussed, the rom-com tends to lean on the love triangle plot device. So, we wanted to briefly outline a few aspects of the rom-com narrative structure with regards to love triangles.

Elements Of A Rom-Com Love Triangle…

  • The Set-up: The protagonist (character 1) is introduced as being ‘out of love’ and desiring a partner who is not interested/available (an obstacle). The protagonist has an unfulfilled desire.
  • Meet Cute 1: There is a catalyst/inciting incident in the narrative. Character 1 meets their first love interest (or is already seeing/fantasising about them (i.e. Bridget Jones) and develops feelings for them. OR in some cases, there is an obstacle – the other person already has someone.
  • An Incident/Event…occurs bringing the characters together: There is a development in the narrative. They happen to meet again. Typically followed by a hook in which the sexual tension is confronted.
  • Turning point 1: Characters are together/dating. Romance and the narrative appear smooth.
  • Conflict…which leads to a dark moment : A conflict between character 1 and the first love interest (want different things etc). Character 1 is back to the beginning and is feeling ‘out of love’.
  • Meet Cute 2 : Character 1 meets the second love interest and starts seeing them – typically underlying sexual tension when they first meet. This can be introduced earlier on in the narrative (i.e. Bridget Jones Diary).
  • Turning point 2 : Character 1 seems content with their new relationship.
  • Dark moment 2 : A conflict occurs between character 1 and the second love interest. This makes character 1 face their inner fears (love interest needs to leave, becomes ill etc.)
  • Confrontation : Character 1 must confront their want vs need and either choose the first or second love interest (or in some instances, neither).
  • Resolution : typically, in rom-coms there is a joyful resolution.

This formula is not exhaustive, but these are the stages which typically appear within the ‘love triangle’ structure.

Let’s Dive into the Detail of the Different Aspects and Key Components Required To Write a ‘Love Triangle’.

1. the set-up of the protagonist:.

Bridget Jones Love Triangle

Make sure you set-up your protagonist effectively and fully-develop them throughout the film.

First, you must establish the following aspects:

  • Where is your protagonist in their life?
  • Are they content with their job/life? (typically not)
  • What is the state of their love life? Are they dating? Do they like someone?
  • Why are they single (if they are)?
  • What is their WANT and what is their NEED?
  • You need to know your character inside and out
  • Make them likeable and relatable
  • What’s their biggest fear? ( internal conflict – this will play a key part later on in the film)

Effective Character Set-ups Include:     

  • In The Holiday , the narrative follows joint protagonists Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) who are both unhappy with their lives. However, the love triangle primarily revolves around the character of Iris.
  • Iris is set-up as a hopeless romantic and a woman desiring the unrequited love of Jasper (and as a viewer we’re meant to empathise with her).
  • In Bridget Jones Diary , we are introduced to the protagonist, Bridget, in one of the most iconic and amusing film openings: Bridget in her pyjamas singing ‘All By Myself’. This set-up encompasses the idea of an alone protagonist desiring a love interest (the desire and want is clear).

Love Triangle Exceptions…

  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral the protagonist is Charles. The love triangle surrounds his interest in Carrie, who marries Hamish.
  • We are still introduced to Charles as a person unhappy with his life and desiring love. This is most humorously conveyed through the emphasis on his lack of a partner at the wedding.
  • Twilight  and The Hunger Games  are not Romantic-Comedies, however they do fall into the teenage Romance- Action genres. 
  • In Twilight , Bella is an outsider. She is the new girl in school and lacks friends.
  • Despite there being to imminent WANT for a love interest, in the opening scene there is a meet-cute between her and Jacob hinting at an underlying love interest.
  • Likewise, in The Hunger Games , the is no immediate nod towards Katniss desiring love. She is introduced in a maternal way, caring for her younger sister, Primrose.

In ALL of the above cases, we are introduced to characters who are lacking love. They all, to a degree, share a desire and want for a relationship.

Katniss is an exception in that she is an extremely strong-willed and independent character from the offset.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (2/12) Movie CLIP - To the Adorable Couple (1994) HD

2. The First Love Interest And The ‘Meet Cute’:

Like with your protagonist , make sure you fully-develop the first love interest to make them a layered, real character AND a viable, suitable choice for the protagonist .

Questions to consider:

  • Their Meet-Cute. Is the protagonist already with the first love interest?
  • Are they likeable? Do they have an interesting personality?
  • Do they have a flaw?
  • Has the protagonist liked the person for awhile?
  • Is the love interest unavailable?
  • What is the main conflict/challenge the protagonist faces?
  • How is the love interest(s) appealing?
  • What is the love interests NEED and WANT?

Examples To Consider…

  • In The Holiday , we witness Iris’ devotion and love for Jasper. Her clear affection for him is shown through her Christmas present for him. Here, we see Jasper’s manipulation as he falsely leads her on, only to then announce his engagement to another woman.
  • In Bridget Jones Diary the ‘Meet-Cute’ between Bridget and Mark Darcey is when Bridget attends a Christmas party at her parent’s house.
  • The interaction between the two is extremely awkward and there is NO hint of romance. But, the relationship and dynamic between the two is established.
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral  Charles meets Carrie early-on at the first wedding and they ‘hit it off’ immediately.  Later that night we see the two sleep together, solidifying their mutual interest in one another.
  • In Twilight , as mentioned, Bella meets Jacob early on in the opening scene. However, much like in Bridget Jones Diary , there is no love element hinted at- they are presented as being friends.
  • In The Hunger Games , it is hinted at that Katniss and Peta have a history (we see through flashbacks). However, their first interactions come after being selected to go into the games. There is a lack of ‘love’, seemingly being represented as just friends.

We can assess that for the majority of these first love interest interactions, the characters do not directly convey their attractions to one another. They function effectively at foreshadowing their future relationships and later interest in one another.

The Main Take Away: 

  • Characters must meet and express some opinion on the other person (in these instances either hatred or attraction).
  • The groundwork has been laid for future interactions.

The Hunger Games (2/12) Movie CLIP - Saying Goodbye (2012) HD

3. Conflict With The First Love Interest (Protagonist’s Inner Fears Are Hinted At)

  • What does the conflict/crisis reveal about your protagonist?
  • Does it reveal a flaw?
  • How are they being tested?
  • How does this conflict impact the rest of the plot?

As we’ve emphasised, there is no set narrative structure for how to write a love triangle. However, a common-thread amongst films which feature this dynamic is that there is frequently a conflict that soon arises between the lovers.

Typically, after the initial relationship develops between the protagonist and the first love interest, there tends to be a conflict. This impacts their relationship, putting a halt or temporary end to their relationship/storyline.

  • In The Holiday , as we’ve discussed, Iris is initially rejected by Jasper. Therefore, the first conflict is his engagement to another woman, leaving her alone and depressed. So with regards to the stages outlined earlier, this is the moment in which ‘the individuals want different things’.
  • In Bridget Jones Diary , Bridget did not ‘hit it off’ with Mark Darcy, and throughout the film there are several awkward situations/conversations between the two.
  • To pin-point an exact moment is difficult as Bridget sees her second love interest Daniel throughout.  However, the first ‘conflict’ between her and Darcy is when he and Daniel fight in the street, resulting in her rejecting them both.
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral , the first lovers conflict, is when Charles wants to pursue a relationship with Carrie after sleeping with her and developing feelings. However, Carrie soon becomes engaged to Hamish, reflecting the ‘individuals wanting different thing’ stage.

However, there is not always a set ‘moment’ that a conflict between the characters occurs. In the cases of Twilight and The Hunger Games the Love Triangle develops and lasts throughout the film trilogies.

  • In Twilight , throughout the trilogy Bella’s romantic interest goes between Edward and Jacob. The main conflict between Bella and Jacob occurs in the second and third films, when Bella denies having any feelings for Jacob.
  • As with the  Twilight saga,  The Hunger Games trilogy’s ‘love triangle’ is prolonged throughout the films.
  • However, in the first film the initial conflict between Katniss and Peeta is her belief that his love and admiration for her is fake and was only expressed as a means of getting sponsors. This adheres to the ‘stage’ of the lovers ‘wanting different things’.

As highlighted earlier, a central part and cause of a love triangle is the result of the protagonist ‘s inner fears. What do they fear? How is this brought out? What’s the flaw with the love interest?

This stage should be introduced to test the protagonist and their relationship with the first love interest. Will this ‘crisis’ be resolved with the introduction of the second love interest?

The Hunger Games (6/12) Movie CLIP - Star-Crossed Lovers (2012) HD

4. The Second Love Interest’s Introduction And Their Character Development:

  • Why introduce them now?
  • What do they add to the plot?
  • How are they different to the first love interest?
  • What’s their desire?
  • What do you want them to bring out in the protagonist?

This relationship can start at ANY POINT. They can be introduced at the same time as the other love interest, however perhaps it is more interesting to have them introduced slightly later to have a solid character development and comparison to the first love interest.

As with the first love interest, make sure you fully-develop the second love interest to make them a layered, real character AND a viable, suitable choice for the protagonist .

The meet-cute typically occurs after the protagonist is again out of love and is desiring love again. They are in the same position where they began the film- back to square one. This is when the meet the second love interest, who seemingly fills the void of loneliness.

However, they may also be introduced (as in The Hunger Games  and Twilight ) as another individual interested in the protagonist who is offering something the first love interest isn’t (a desired physical appearance, more affection etc), thus is a rival with a vested interest in stealing the protagonist away.

  • In The Holiday, it is when Iris has travelled to Los Angeles she meets her second love interest, Miles.
  • The ‘meet cute’ occurs when Miles arrives at the house Iris is staying at with his girlfriend. He is a ‘good guy’ in a relationship.

Character Development:

However, as the narrative develops Iris and Miles’ relationship develops (they go on dates etc.) and spend more ‘couples’ time together. He is the ideal match for her. But Jasper arrives in Los Angeles attempting to seduce Iris back.

  • In  Bridget Jones Diary, from the offset Bridget’s romantic interest in Daniel is evident through their flirtation at the office. Daniel is a ‘bad boy’ type.

As the narrative develops the two date and it becomes obvious that Daniel is not overly suitable for her. She witnesses him cheating and decides to leave.

  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral, as already discussed, early on in the narrative the Love Triangle primarily centres around Charles, Carrie and  Hamish. In this instance, the new ‘love interest’ is Hamish.

As the narrative progresses, Charles remains alone and still interested in Carrie despite Fiona’s confession of love for him.

Whereas…

  • In Twilight, the second love interest is Edward.
  • The ‘meet cute’ is during a science class. The first interaction is awkward and cold- there is no hint at their future storyline but it effectively lays the groundwork for the development of their relationship.
  • In The Hunger Games, Gale is the second love interest. He starts as Katniss’ friend. Throughout the film and during the course of the film their relationship develops romantically.

The Main Take Away And Questions To Ponder…

  • What does this love interest offer?
  • The second love interest needs time to DEVELOP and to show how they are suitable for the protagonist
  • What is the main difference to the first love interest?
  • Is there a vested interest?
  • What’s the motivation of the love interest?

Four Weddings and a Funeral (7/12) Movie CLIP - Carrie's List of Lovers (1994) HD

5. Conflict With The Second Love Interest:

  • How will this conflict affect the protagonist?
  • What will the protagonist have to confront as a result?
  • What is their flaw?

After significant character development of the second love interest, there needs to be a conflict/challenge that throws the protagonist off their path. It needs to shake their new relationship and make them question what they need and what they want.

Additionally, the first love interest tends to make another appearance and shake the narrative up.

  • In The Holiday , the conflict/crisis between Iris and Miles occurs when Maggie begs Miles for forgiveness. Also, Jasper arrives in Los Angeles and asks Iris to be his secret lover again.
  • In Bridget Jones Diary , the conflict with Bridget and Daniel occurs when she finds out that he has been cheating on her. She ends their relationship.
  • Meanwhile, Bridget’s relationship with Mark begins and the two begin to date. Conflict arrises when Mark and Daniel fight over her and she kicks them both out.
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral , the love interest aspect is not that significant.
  • In Twilight , the love triangle develops throughout the course of the film trilogy. However, in the first film the conflict arises due to Edward being a vampire. He does not want to endanger Bella.
  • In The Hunger Games , the love triangle develops over the course of four films. However, the main conflict between Katniss and Gale is Gale’s involvement in Primrose’s death. This ends their relationship and plays a significant role in Katniss ending up with Peeta.

This stage is important when writing a love triangle. There needs to be an instance in which the suitability of the second love interest is tested. This stage should force the protagonist to face what they really need vs their want.

Twilight (8/11) Movie CLIP - I Can Never Lose Control With You (2008) HD

6. Protagonist Must Be Active And Confront Their Inner Conflict:

  • What is the protagonist’s inner fear?
  • What do you want the outcome to be? Who do you want them to end up with?
  • Protagonist is now alone again- they need to reflect.

Following on from their relationship with the second love interest and the conflict/crisis/new challenge, the protagonist must be active and motivated .

The protagonist is at a low point (similar to at the beginning) and needs to decide what to do/who to choose.

  • In The Holiday , Iris has the realisation that she likes Miles and wants to pursue their relationship. We see the two share a kiss during Arthur’s speech (Iris’ greatest fear not finding love).
  • In Bridget Jones Diary , Bridget comes to the realisation that she loves Mark and wants to pursue their relationship further. The last scene shows Bridget running and kissing Mark In the street (Bridget’s greatest fear being alone).
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral , It isn’t the protagonist, that has the realisation, it is Carrie. She arrives at his doorstep and the two promise to stay together for life (Charles’ greatest fear not being with Carrie)
  • In Twilight , after claiming to love both Jacob and Edward (and kissing Jacob in New Moon ), she chooses Edward (believing him to be the love of her life). Her greatest fear is losing Edward.
  • In The Hunger Games , Katniss’ love for Peeta is depicted when she cares for and kisses him. Katniss’ inner fear is losing her family and by the end of the trilogy, her greatest fear is losing him.

The Main Take Away And Questions To Consider…

  • What is your protagonists inner fear?
  • What has the love triangle brought out in the protagonist?
  • How do you want the love triangle to be resolved?

7. Decide Who You Want The Protagonist To End Up With:

At this stage the protagonist should have undergone an Arc. They should have changed as a result of the love triangle. It is up to you whether there is a happy ending.

Ultimately, the protagonist will have either decided to be with…

Love interest one,

Love interest two

      Neither!

The ending of the love triangle can have occurred for many reasons. However, this typically is due to the protagonist having undergone a change (an Arc) and come to a realisation and acceptance of what they need .

  • The Holiday:  Iris starts a relationship with Miles.
  • Bridget Jones Diary: Bridget accepts her feelings for Mr Darcey and the ending implies that they are now a couple.
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral: Carrie visits Charles and informs him of her separation from Hamish. They will start to see one another.
  • Twilight: Bella and Edward become a couple and despite Jacob’s attempts at stealing her affections throughout the trilogy, Bella and Edward end up together.
  • The Hunger Games: at the end of the trilogy Katniss and Peeta are a couple.
  • This occurs towards the end of the narrative. It is important to know who you want your protagonist to end up with. However, when outlining your narrative, you should have an idea already on the outcome of the triangle at the beginning of your writing process.

You Should Ask Yourself…

  • Why is X more suitable for the protagonist than Y?
  • How do you want your protagonist to progress? What will happen to them once the film is over?
  • How will the love triangle end?

Four Weddings and a Funeral (12/12) Movie CLIP - Not a Proposal (1994) HD

8. Final Questions To Ask Yourself And To Bare In Mind When You Write A Love Triangle:

  • What are the internal and external conflicts as a result of the love triangle?
  • Have you made sure to write a love triangle with fully developed, engaging and active characters?
  • Have you developed all 3 characters equally? Are they flawed?
  • Is your protagonist interesting and relatable?
  • Have you made both love interests equally as suitable so the decision for the protagonist is harder?
  • Does your love triangle serve a purpose?
  • What is the love triangle’s narrative significance?
  • Does the character need to grow and learn something about themselves that they will only achieve through the love triangle?
  • Have you avoided cliche and predictability to keep the audience engaged?

And Remember…

Do not make the narrative suffer for the sake of the love triangle. You need to have a solid plot outside of the love triangle.

The knack of a love triangle is how it adds to the narrative. It’s a complication, a challenge and another bump in the road for the protagonist . Make sure that you’re not resting the story solely on the love triangle and instead using it to escalate the stakes, protagonist ‘s goals and dramatic tension . 

To write a successful love triangle you must make sure that the triangle fits neatly in the shape of the narrative as a whole, as well as making each end of the triangle as sharp as possible. 

  • What did you think of this article?  Share It ,  Like It , give it a rating, and let us know your thoughts in the comments box further down…
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This article was written by Milly Perrin and edited by IS Staff.

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Untangling Taylor Swift’s ‘Teenage Love Triangle’ Trilogy

Portrait of Nate Jones

When I was in college, back in two-thousand- *cough,* I fell down a rabbit hole of internet romance fic. I would spend hours reading plaintext HTML pages detailing the love lives of fictional teenagers in minute, melodramatic detail. If I had to guess, I’d say I was escaping a drab, uneventful life chapter by immersing myself in a fantasy of a past that I’d never experienced. So I understand completely where Taylor Swift is coming from. Folklore , the album she secretly recorded during quarantine, then dropped with 24 hours of notice on July 24, finds Swift expanding her storytelling skills with a trio of songs that collectively form what she calls her “Teenage Love Triangle” trilogy. It seems to have been the A-list pop-star equivalent of firing up AO3 . “I created character arcs and recurring themes that map out who is singing about whom,” Swift explained in a YouTube Q&A celebrating the album’s release. “These three songs explore a love triangle from all three people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.”

Swift has stayed mum about exactly which tracks form the triptych, but her lyrical Easter eggs have not been too hard to decipher. As many fans have noticed, the trio of “cardigan,” “august,” and “betty” fits the bill. Let’s run down the three songs, figure out how they work together, and see if we can untangle this time-jumping teenage entanglement.

We begin with the album’s lead single, which comes first on the track list but seems to be occurring last on the timeline. “ Cardigan ” is narrated by a woman we’ll later learn is named Betty, looking back with hindsight on an intense relationship from her youth. (Swift says she was inspired by the image of “a cardigan that still bears the scent of loss 20 years later.”) Betty remembers being lost and insecure, and she says her ex, James, made her feel held: “When I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed / You put me on and said I was your favorite.” In her telling, they had a passionate romance that ended when James cheated on her. “Chase two girls, lose the one / When you are young, they assume you know nothing.”

But Betty says, “I knew everything when I was young.” She knew she’d wear the scars from the betrayal for years, that James “would haunt all of my what-ifs.” And she knew too that James would “miss me once the thrill expired.” That appears to be exactly what happened as Betty recalls the night James tried to win her back by showing up at her front door unannounced. We don’t find out what came next: The song fades out as Betty repeats the wistful refrain “I knew you’d come back to me.”

Now it’s time for James’s paramour to tell her side of the story. “August” is a bit like “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” from Evita , in that it’s an “other woman” singing about the end of an affair, her relative unimportance in her lover’s life underlined by the fact that she doesn’t even get a name. (Fans have taken to calling her August, but since we’ve already got one song/name overlap, I prefer “Unnamed Narrator of ‘august,’” or “Una” for short.) She barely gets mentioned in the other two songs, but “august” is her chance to assert her own narrative of the summer fling. She was young and inexperienced, and if it wasn’t love, it was at least infatuation. She sings in languid, late-summer imagery: “Your back beneath the sun / Wishing I could write my name on it.”

Una remembers her younger self as mostly unassertive, recalling the times she “canceled my plans just in case you’d call,” and how, though she wanted her and James to be a real couple, deep down it was enough “to live for the hope of it all.” (There’s also a flash of a scene of Una pulling up next to James in a car, a hint she wasn’t entirely passive.) Eventually, the romance ended when the summer did, as “August slipped away into a moment in time,” and Una is left with a bittersweet revelation: “You weren’t mine to lose.”

Finally, it’s James’s turn. While the narrators of “cardigan” and “august” both look back on the love triangle with hindsight, “ betty ” takes place in the present tense, sung from the perspective of 17-year-old James. (In a sly twist, the acoustic arrangement and Swift’s miraculously revived southern accent call back to the music she released when she was 17.) The backstory too is very Taylor Swift –era Taylor Swift: The whole thing started after a school dance, where James ditched Betty, then, after seeing her dance with some dude, stormed out in a huff. As James was walking home, Una pulled up in a car “like a figment of my worst intentions,” and things went from there. Meanwhile, Betty found out what happened through a gossip named Inez, who will be important later. Betty was so upset that she switched homerooms!

As the song goes on, a contrite James mulls how to get Betty back: “The only thing I wanna do / Is make it up to you.” Swift pulls from her familiar bag of tricks here, giving us a rousing sing-along chorus and an exhilarating key change, and it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of teenage romance. But she also throws in subtle signs that James is a bit too immature for the sentiment to stick. First, minimization: “Would you trust me if I told you it was just a summer thing?” Then, shrugging off responsibility: “I’m only 17, I don’t know anything.” Throw in some deflection: “Slept next to her, but I dreamt of you all summer long.” Finally, add in residual bitterness: “Will you kiss me on the porch in front of all your stupid friends?” The song ends on the same cliffhanger that “cardigan” does: James shows up on Betty’s doorstep, dreaming of a big dramatic reunion, as Swift rhymes “standing in your cardigan” with “kissing in my car again.”

So, that’s the basic plot — a love triangle worthy of Degrassi: The Next Generation . But there are still more questions to explore.

Why Are People Saying the Story Is ‘Queer Canon’?

This one’s easy to explain. Due to a conspicuous lack of male pronouns in the lyrics, plus the fact that Swift’s friend Blake Lively has daughters named James, Betty, and Inez, many fans have speculated that the James here is actually a girl, thus making these three songs the story of a lesbian love triangle . However, if you want to believe James is a guy, there’s evidence for that too: In “cardigan,” Betty remembers James “leaving like a father” and compares their breakup to “Peter losing Wendy” in Peter Pan . Ultimately, it works either way .

What Happened After James Showed Up at Betty’s Door?

Both “cardigan” and “betty” end with one big question unresolved: Did Betty take James back? I’m inclined to say no. There’s a small hint in the lyrics — Betty says that James “tried to change the ending,” tried being the operative word. It didn’t work; the ending was what it was. The music also points in that direction. Listen to the two songs casually, and you would not think they had much to do with each other, in tune or in tone. “Cardigan” is somber, contemplative, melancholy; “Betty” is a propulsive, major-chord jam. The gap is duplicated in the narrators’ worldviews: Betty is someone who notices everything, even unpleasant truths; James is someone who’s so good at lying that they can’t pick up that they’re lying to themselves. Consider too that our narrators are speaking to us from two different time periods. In everything that matters, these people are very far apart from each other. And there’s something about the way Swift sings “I knew you’d come back to me” in “cardigan” that pricks at my ears. It’s not triumphant; it’s a little sad, like she’s disappointed James lived up to her worst estimations.

When and Where Is All This Supposed to Be Taking Place?

Oddly enough, “cardigan” seems to be taking place in a slightly different universe from the other two. In “betty” and “august,” everyone’s in high school. There’s a homeroom, a school dance, and James is canonically 17 years old. The location feels suburban: James skateboards past Betty’s house, Una dreams of meeting behind a mall, and a lot of the action centers around cars. The first line of “august” mentions “salt air,” so we’re probably by the beach . But in “cardigan,” everyone feels slightly older. Betty reminisces about kissing in “downtown bars,” and the lyrics reference tattoos, the smell of cigarette smoke, and feminist literature. (Not that high-schoolers never do that kind of stuff, but collectively the tropes feel more early-20s.) And we seem to have moved to New York City : Besides the bars, there are “high heels on cobblestones,” and the High Line gets a shout-out.

How do we square this? If you’re the literal type, you can imagine these are three very advanced teenagers who live in Connecticut or New Jersey and take frequent trips into Manhattan. You could also take it as a sign that Betty and James did get back together, their tumultuous relationship spanning past high school and into early adulthood. I prefer to think that Swift’s employing a more impressionistic approach. “August” and “betty” are mentally caught up in that teenage moment, so their stories are set in the suburbs, where Swift grew up. “Cardigan” is a grown woman looking back on her younger self, so it takes place in the city that, for its author, symbolizes independence and maturity. (Fans have noticed that the succession of images in the track’s opening stanza mirrors Swift’s own aesthetics in her earlier album eras.) It’s her fantasy — she can write what she wants to.

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The Best Kind of "Love Triangle"

15 questions to help you see where you land..

Updated December 18, 2023 | Reviewed by Ray Parker

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  • Theories about love in psychology abound, but the triangular theory has been shown to have considerable value.
  • Thinking of love as a triangle can help you systematically rate your relationship's strong and weak points.
  • A new cross-national study shows that just 15 items can measure your own love triangle.

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When you think of a "love triangle," you probably imagine a relationship that is in poor health. If a close relationship is regarded as one that exists between two people, having an "intruder" would seem to spell doom.

However, as a theory of love, the so-called "triangular" approach suggests quite the opposite. A new testing method provides renewed interest in this theory and shows how seeing how you stack up could help set you on a path toward better relationship health.

The Triangular Theory of Love

Cornell University's Robert Sternberg proposed some years ago (1988) that love can be quantified along three independent dimensions, the so-called "triangular" theory of love. After reviewing the decades, if not centuries, of thinking about how to define this elusive quality, he determined that it can be captured in three independent dimensions: intimacy, commitment, and passion.

Starting with this definition, Sternberg (1997) then went on to quantify these dimensions in a questionnaire measure consisting of 45 items. Now, he and his research team, headed by the University of Wroklaw's Marta Kowal and colleagues (Kowal et al., 2023), decided that the 45-item test was simply too long and cumbersome for most people to fill out in a thoughtful manner.

Even though the triangular love scale (TLS), as it was called, was tested and validated in 25 countries and 19 languages, it had one notable pitfall. Most users of the scale actually did not administer the entire measure. These variations make it impossible to derive the kind of data-based conclusions that could help move the field forward. From a practical standpoint, it can also be hard to turn so many items into practical suggestions that people could use to improve the health of their own relationships.

Before getting to the new study with its shortened version of the TLS, it's important to define those three critical dimensions. Luckily, the definitions fit pretty closely with what common sense and your own experience might dictate. They are, in brief, as follows:

Intimacy : the quality of a relationship in which partners feel close to each other are able to communicate, and feel connected.

Passion: feelings of excitement, desire, and physical arousal.

Commitment: the decision to remain in the relationship.

Over the course of time, as prior research has shown, the levels that couples have of each quality can fluctuate. Passion might fade (or maybe not if you're lucky), but intimacy can continue to grow even as you feel more and more likely to want to stay with your partner.

Polina Tankilevitch / Pexels

The New Triangular Love Scale

Partnering with colleagues from psychology labs around the globe, Sternberg and his 75 collaborators administered the TLS-15 in 37 translations from English to over 60,000 participants. Their goal was to test whether the TLS-15's statistical structure fit the theory and which, among the 45 original items, could be eliminated to arrive at the final 15. The other change the authors made was to reduce the original rating scale from 9 to 5, making the test less burdensome to complete.

Above, you saw the overall qualities of each dimension. Now you can test yourself (and, for fun, your partner) using the 1 (not at all) to 5 (extremely) scale:

1. I have a warm relationship with my partner

2. I receive considerable emotional support from my partner

3. I value my partner greatly in my life

4. I have a comfortable relationship with my partner

5. I feel that my partner really understands me

6. My relationship with my partner is very romantic

7. I find my partner to be very personally attractive

8. I cannot imagine another person making me as happy as my partner does

9. There is something almost "magical" about my relationship with my partner

love triangle essay

10. My relationship with my partner is passionate

11. I have confidence in the stability of my relationship with my partner

12. I view my commitment to my partner as a solid one

13. I am certain of my love for my partner

14. I view my relationship with my partner as permanent

15. I feel a sense of responsibility toward my partner.

How did you score? The average participant in the international sample scored at about a 4 overall, as reported in the supplemental tables that the authors published separately. Passion (average 3.78) received the lowest score, with intimacy and commitment (4.22) equal on average. There were no cross-cultural differences, both in average scores and scale structure. The standard deviations were about 1, meaning that scoring below a 3 per item would signify a relationship potentially in need of work.

As Kowal et al. concluded from their cross-national study, the human capacity to feel romantic love transcends cultural, linguistic, societal, and geographical boundaries .

Getting Your Own Love Triangle in Shape

With these 15 items now at your disposal, you can do your own version of assessing your relationship's strengths and weaknesses. What can you do to bring about the qualities that will keep your relationship lasting over the years? If you compare your scores with those of your partner, what discrepancies and similarities did you detect? Can you work on those?

It's also important to recognize that not all qualities within the triangle need to reach the top of each scale. Other theories about long-term relationship dynamics suggest that focusing on achieving perfection can itself become so stifling that the relationship becomes unsustainable. Decide on what's most important to you and your partner, and see how you can tinker with some of the items that aren't currently achieving that potential.

To sum up, love is indeed a complex quality that may never be easily boiled down to a psychologically valid scale. The TLS-15 appears to do a good job of providing you with some objective measuring points to help define your own relationship's version of love's triangle.

Facebook image: Happy image/Shutterstock

Kowal, M., Sorokowski, P., Dinić, B. M., Pisanski, K., Gjoneska, B., Frederick, D. A., Pfuhl, G., Milfont, T. L., Bode, A., Aguilar, L., García, F. E., Roberts, S. C., Abad-Villaverde, B., Kavčič, T., Miroshnik, K. G., Ndukaihe, I. L. G., Šafárová, K., Valentova, J. V., Aavik, T., … Sternberg, R. J. (2023). Validation of the short version (tls-15) of the triangular love scale (tls-45) across 37 languages. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi:10.1007/s10508-023-02702-7

Sternberg, R. J. (1988). The triangle of love: Intimacy, passion, commitment. New York: Basic Books.

Sternberg, R. J. (1997). Construct validation of a Triangular Love Scale. European Journal of Social Psychology, 27(3), 313–335. https:// doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1099-0992(199705)27:3%3c313::aid-ejsp8 24%3e3.0.co;2-4

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. , is a Professor Emerita of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her latest book is The Search for Fulfillment.

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What You Need To Know About Writing A Great Love Triangle

  • by Rebecca Langley
  • August 19, 2019

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Everybody loves a good love triangle… as long as they’re not part of it. It’s a sad fact of human nature: other people’s drama makes us feel better about our own lives. Not only that, when things are complicated, they need to be resolved. There’s nothing a reader loves more than conflict and resolution , even if the ‘resolution’ comes in the form of shock, death, infidelity – all manner of ‘bad’ endings can still be satisfying if the conflict has been set up right.

The love triangle provides the perfect frame for conflict and resolution. Done right, a love triangle can mean double success: readers enjoy the complexity, the ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe they did that’ factor, and the deep sigh of satisfaction when everything’s finally resolved.

Done wrong, a love triangle feels cheesy or cliché and can make readers run faster than another ‘dark and stormy night’.

Even so, love triangles are timeless features of many stories. Even the less likely genres – action, horror, and children’s lit – include them. They can be a main feature or an enriching subplot; adding tenderness or agony, joy or heartache, purpose or distraction to any narrative. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to write, which is exactly why we’re here…

Conflict is the vital ingredient for storytelling. Few stories can manage to be interesting without it. Relationships are flat without it. Love triangles are 100% boring without it. However you configure your love triangle, there should be some struggle, discomfort, inner strife, and maybe a duel or two.

You may write a classic triangle in which two parties vie for the heart of the third, in which case conflict is inherent. Or the two adjacent parties may be completely unaware of each other, and the fulcrum character struggles to make a choice. If you’re writing a modern moral exposé in which the polyamorous throuple is perfectly content to buck the norm and live in three-way harmony, great… but there must still be conflict. It may come by way of one character struggling to break free from the mores of their upbringing, or perhaps the conflict is with the characters’ families or society at large.

To create conflict that feels realistic, don’t simply decide what the conflict will be and try to shoehorn it into an existing story line. Take the story and characters that you have so far and ask open-ended questions. How might So-and-so’s actions affect the people around them? Who stands to lose something in this situation? Are they aware that they stand to lose something? Are there any secrets anyone’s protecting, and who absolutely can’t find out what those secrets are? What’s the internal struggle for each character? Does each person truly know what they want ? Who has the strongest motivation and why? If other characters are less motivated, what does motivate them?

Finding the desire will lead you to the conflict. Take your characters out of the story for a while and imagine them in the real world. Give them the faces of close friends and family members. When you imagine people you know intimately in the situations you’ve set up for your characters, it can be easier to access their potential emotions and responses.

Believability

Part of creating convincing conflict is setting up a legitimate choice in the first place. Romantic legitimacy is, admittedly, a subjective matter. There are people who look at the love triangle from The Phantom of the Opera and balk: how could anyone seriously consider the Phantom? He’s a murderer, for crying out loud! Others pine after the Phantom’s impeccable tenor and dark intrigue, empathizing with Christine’s anguish and yet feeling a sense of rightness when she opts for the more upstanding Raoul. Who knows? There may be a Phantom fan base somewhere wishing she had chosen him in the end.

So there will be some subjectivity at work in any story, but most people should relate to the reasoning behind your character’s behavior and decisions. All points of the triangle should have genuine appeal.

In the Phantom’s case: you feel sorry for him, his talent is unparalleled, his love seems – on some level – genuine. Raoul, on the other hand, is a good guy. He really loves Christine, he’ll take good care of her, he doesn’t kill people, and he’s seriously rich, which can’t hurt. For most fans of the story, there’s a genuine pull, though it may be tempered by an undercurrent of, ‘Wait, she won’t seriously end up with the Phantom… will she?’ Christine’s a good girl. Had she been Sandra D, she might have gone for the bad boy, but readers ultimately know where she’ll land. Until then , they’ll feel the same pull she feels. They’ll feel her pain. There’s legitimate desire in both directions. How different (and boring!) the story would be if the Phantom were a straight-up murderer with no charm, no voice, no nothing. Make sure your readers feel just as torn as your character(s).

The moment of resolution may vary from one plot to another, but it should always be near the end . Don’t give away your hand early on. Only Moulin Rouge ever pulled that off, and probably exclusively because of Ewan McGregor’s voice and Nicole Kidman’s eyes. The placement of resolution may offer a unique quality to the final pages of your story, depending how you choose to do it. Try writing the story as it comes to you, and then cutting the final paragraph, page, or even chapter, depending on how long your instinctual resolution took. Consider the effect of a more abrupt ending. Is it more intriguing? More poignant? Too truncated? Too confusing?

Imagine, too, an ending without resolution. If your love triangle is a subplot, try resolving the main conflict and leaving the love story still unraveled. See the recently concluded sitcom Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for a story where (spoilers) the protagonist ultimately doesn’t choose any of her three love triangle points, but all four characters resolve their stories in a satisfying way. (Hint: it turns out that hooking up wasn’t the be-all and end-all of their journeys.)

Remember, too, that since you made all points of the triangle feel like valid choices (at least as far as their love interest is concerned) the reader probably cares about where they all end up. Don’t feel the need to ruin a character’s life just because they didn’t end up with the protagonist. On the other hand, don’t overextend in order to give a side character a blissful ending (by, for example, making it so they actually loved a magic baby the whole time). It’s enough just to show how that one decision didn’t end their whole life.

Finally, don’t cheat. If you kill a character or have them move overseas because you can’t figure out how to resolve the conflict, and they weren’t going to die or move overseas anyway, it won’t feel real.

Instead, spend some more time getting to know your characters. Use some of our resources , run your characters through a personality assessment , or roleplay a Q&A session to better understand your characters’ desires, barriers, strengths, and weaknesses.

Unpredictability

Write like you don’t know what’s going to happen. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t know what’s going to happen. Instead of deciding, ‘Okay, Pete, Joe, and Mary have this thing. Pete’s the protagonist and he’s a super-swell guy so, in the end, Mary picks him. Joe might move to Botswana or die or something,’ work on the characters . Ask about their goals in life, their goals in the timeline of the story, their fears, and their growth arcs from ‘once upon a time’ to ‘the end.’ By the end of the book, how much will they have grown? Will they achieve their goals, or at least be closer to doing so?

What happens in real life relationships isn’t determined by The Relationship. It’s determined by the people in the relationship(s). We wouldn’t think, in real life, that a man having an affair is predestined to leave his wife for his lover or vice versa. The man’s character, growth, desires, values, friendships, children (or lack thereof), etc. will influence his life choices – including whether or not to carry on the affair. Too often in writing, authors aspire to force a plot onto their characters, rather than allowing their characters to influence the direction of the plot.

Your readers will enjoy the conflict and resolution more if they feel like it’s their own conflict. They’re not sure how things will end, or even how they want things to end. They’re deeply immersed in the story, taking ownership over the conflict and thus feeling real relief – or perhaps total frustration and heartbreak – at its resolution.

Novelty and depth

In adult fiction, cliché love triangles are a death sentence. To make sure your story doesn’t fall into well-worn ruts, do these two things:

First, don’t let movies or YA fiction guide you (unless you’re writing screenplays or YA fiction, obviously). Other factors influence the success of these genres. On screen, good acting excuses a multitude of narrative sins. In the case of YA fiction, the target readers aren’t sick of cliché love triangles yet – they only just discovered them.

Second, focus your energies on writing a strong story and strong characters. It’s hard to pull off a romance that’s just a romance anymore. The Notebook is probably as close as we’ve come in recent years. Its unique twist makes its heavy reliance on romance more palatable. In most cases, though, romance has been done and done again. The characters need depth and the story needs intrigue. 

Keeping your characters’ motivations in the foreground will help. Think about the ‘why’ for everyone. Why are they where they are in life? What are they hoping for deep down? How does their situation affect other people? Consider the real, deep impact of secrecy, blackmail, abuse, manipulation, lust, sorrow, neglect, passion, split affections, psychosis, love, and hatred. Put aside whatever memories you have of love triangles in literature and other media, and ask instead about the people and values your characters represent.

Triangulating love

With conflict, resolution, believability, unpredictability, novelty, and depth as your building blocks, you’ll be sure to create an alluring love triangle – one that won’t make readers groan and toss the book aside. Be intentional about the relationships in the triangle, and be ready to admit if they’re not working for your story. You may need to reinvestigate the source of conflict, or spend a little more time getting to know your characters as people rather than pawns, but once you nail the characters involved and what they want, the hard part is over.

Have you written a love triangle before or are there any in literature that you love/hate? Share in the comments below (I always love hearing from you) and check out The 3 Golden Rules Of Writing An Amazing Romance and Writing Romance: Why Perfect Men Make Boring Heroes for more great advice on this topic.

  • Characters , Protagonist , Romance

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Rebecca Langley

Rebecca Langley

5 thoughts on “what you need to know about writing a great love triangle”.

love triangle essay

A good article, but I would argue that love triangles in YA are just as risky as in the adult genre. The love triangle has become a huge cliche in YA literature, and a large portion of young adult readers hate it. YA readers have already read countless love triangles, and many are frustrated by this, so if you’re putting in a love triangle it should be very different than typical.

love triangle essay

A very fair point, Juliette, thank you for bringing that up. I was probably thinking of allure of the love triangles in the Twilight and Hunger Games series, for instance. They thrived despite being pretty formulaic (at least in the case of the Hunger Games we can chalk this up to the creative twist on the post-apocalyptic genre).

But you’re right: YA readers are as put off by the cliche as their older bookworm counterparts. We could extend your remark to every literary device that’s been overdone. You can make anything work, if you do it uniquely.

All my best, Rebecca Langley

love triangle essay

Hi and yes I have written a love triangle for a major character, but not the main protagonist. I feel it is unique. Girl meets boy. She has always dreamed of a handsome prince coming and taking her away from her present boring life. This does not happen. Abductors kidnap her brother and sister (the agenda of these kidnappers comes out later – the major story line) as well as her. (Turns out her abduction was a complete mistake!) But she falls in love with one of the men and decides he is the one. There is something holding him back. You guessed it. There is another love interest (fiancee) at home. (Reader knows it is something like this) She is furious about the duplicity on their return

However once the sister of this girl explains about the life and virtues as well as the sadness of her sister’s life, the furious fiancee’s heart melts and she dumps her man with disgust as she knows her rival is a better woman. Then she decides her rival’s brother is the one for her, but he is appalled at her blatant claim on him. Heaps of conflict there even though it’s obvious this sparring couple are meant to be.

However there is at least one character with his own agendas who is displeased his daughter has dumped her fiancee and focused on the wrong man.(he thinks) This brother of both ladies, wants to take the remaining sister back home but she is to be married off to someone. This someone only wants the other sister who is now going to marry her sweetheart kidnapper. (very good reasons for his desire for the other sister)The substitute sister volunteers herself because she knows her sister loves her man, although she desperately wants to return home with her brother. Her brother will resort to murder to save his sister and take her home.

Basically there are two triangles enmeshed in each other. The success of one, destroys any hope of the other resolving/happening. Yet if the other is successful , as in murder being committed and two escaping, then the feisty ex-fiancee will be heartbroken and this has already happened once.

It is an event story set in a past time, with mystery involved, so the fact it has love triangles is just part of the subplots and character driven story-line.

love triangle essay

I completely disagree that romances on their own don’t work. Romance novels sell at a much higher rate than those of any other genre. I don’t personally write romance, but I do read it on occasion. The only self published authors I know who make a living at fiction are romance authors, in fact.

love triangle essay

You can’t write a great love triangle, because the concept is inherently garbage. Try actually learning how to build proper character development instead of trying to force it with love rival nonsense.

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Folklore Love Triangle Essay

For a homework, assignment, my teacher asked me to write an essay bout anything i wanted to. I decided to do it for the folklore love triangle. Here's what I wrote

Taylor Swift's "Teenage Love Triangle" trilogy is a set of three songs that tell a story about a love triangle between three characters named Betty, James, and Augustine. The songs are "cardigan," "august," and "betty." The love triangle is a forbidden affair that ends due to James's unfaithfulness and Augustine's rebellious nature. The songs explore the love triangle from all three characters' perspectives at different times in their lives. While the story is not explicitly queer, some fans have interpreted it as such due to the ambiguity of the characters' genders. The story of the "Teenage Love Triangle" is told through three songs, each from a different character's perspective. "Cardigan" is sung from the point of view of Betty, who is left heartbroken after she finds out that her boyfriend, James, has been seeing another girl. "August" is sung from the perspective of Augustine, who is having a summer fling with James despite knowing that he is in a relationship with Betty. "Betty" is sung from the perspective of James, who is trying to apologize to Betty for cheating on her. The love triangle is a common trope in storytelling, but Taylor Swift's take on it is unique in that it is told from all three characters' perspectives. This allows the listener to see the story from different angles and understand each character's motivations and feelings. The story is also notable for its ambiguity, as the genders of the characters are never explicitly stated. This has led some fans to interpret the story as queer, although Taylor Swift has not confirmed or denied this interpretation. Overall, the "Teenage Love Triangle" is a compelling story that showcases Taylor Swift's storytelling abilities. The songs are well-written and emotionally resonant, and the characters are relatable despite their flaws. Whether you interpret the story as queer or not, it is a powerful exploration of love, heartbreak, and the complexities of human relationships.

The Quiet American

By graham greene, the quiet american symbols, allegory and motifs, love triangle (allegory).

The love triangle between Phuong, Thomas Fowler, and Alden Pyle is an allegory for the Vietnam War. Phuong wants to get married and live a life of stability, just as most Vietnamese civilians want peace and happiness in their country. Fowler, the European (though he is not French) desperately wants to be with Phuong but has responsibilities back home in England. This aligns with France's desire to maintain colonial power over Vietnam instead of allowing it to become autonomous. Finally, Pyle, the American, is idealistic. He belives that he is fighting for the triumph of good over evil without taking into account the lives that will be lost. The Vietnam War was the most unpopular war in American history; many of the young, inexperienced soldiers who died there did not even understand the implications of their sacrifice.

York Harding's Books (Symbol)

York Harding is a fictional author whose work represents the American idealism that Greene criticizes in  The Quiet American. During the flashback to the Pyle and Fowler's first meeting, Fowler immediately classifies Pyle as "innocent," and thinks, "perhaps only ten days ago he had been walking back across the common in Boston his arms full of the books he had been reading in advance on the Far East and the problems of China... he was absorbed already in the dilemmas of Democracy and the responsibilities of the west" (10). Later, after Pyle's death, we learn that his bookshelf contains two full rows of Harding's books, which have names like  The Advance of Red China ,  The Challenge to Democracy, and The Role of the West. While Fowler, the weathered reporter, develops an opinion on war after experiencing it firsthand, the enthusiastic Pyle comes to Vietnam with pre-concieved notions based on academic theory. Ultimately, Pyle's idealism is his downfall. 

Phuong's Belongings (Symbol)

Fowler goes to Pyle's apartment to claim Phuong's belongings after Pyle's death. However, he finds that "There [is] really very little to put in the box, less than a week-end's visitors at home" (20). Pyle supposedly wanted to marry Phuong, but there is barely a trace of her in the home they shared. This is a symbol of the way many Vietnamese civilians were forgotten in the political crossfire between the South, the Communist forces, and the West; reporters like Fowler are not even allowed to write about the civilian deaths so it is like the innocents never existed. 

The House of Five Hundred Girls (Allegory)

Granger is an American journalist who has not a shred of idealism; he is content to comply with the French censorship on stories about Vietnam. He is in Vietnam to give the American and European readers what they want to hear, and has chosen to cast any morality aside. At the whorehouse in Saigon, Fowler observes, "there was no protection here for the cilvilian. If he chose to poach on military territory, he must look after himself and find his own way out" (30). Similarly, the leaders of western military forces did not shirk at taking down Vietnamese civilians in the name of victory, as Fowler experiences firsthand in Phat Diem. Therefore, Granger's appetite for the Vietnamese whores is an allegory for the American desire to uphold its virile reputation as a superhero nation at any cost, while Thomas Fowler tries to maintain his civility and ends up struggling. 

Dancing (Allegory)

Phuong, Pyle, and Fowler's dances at the Chalet form an allegorical representation of their different approaches to love. Fowler points out that both he and Pyle are bad dancers, but that Pyle is not as self-conscious. This parallels the way that Pyle throws himself headfirst into his relationship with Phuong, but Fowler holds back because of his committments back home in London. Phuong, meanwhile, is a beautiful dancer and there is nothing to hold her back. It is not an act of love for her - ultimately, she is willing to dance with the man that wants to dance with her respectfully. Similarly, she will marry the man who will provide her with a better life. 

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The Quiet American Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for The Quiet American is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

I do not believe that Fowler's reaction or response is included in the film. In the novel, however, Fowler responds that if there were an election the communists would win because they had the support of the people.

Verbal irony in the scene where Fowler confronts Pyle after the bomb explodes at the hotel for what purpose.

Chapter please?

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Study Guide for The Quiet American

The Quiet American study guide contains a biography of Graham Greene, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About The Quiet American
  • The Quiet American Summary
  • Character List

Essays for The Quiet American

The Quiet American essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Quiet American by Graham Greene.

  • The Quiet American - Greene and the Cold War Mindset
  • Lacking Control: A Soldier’s Excuse
  • American Blues: Difficult Aspirations in 'The Quiet American' and 'Sonny's Blues'

Lesson Plan for The Quiet American

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to The Quiet American
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • The Quiet American Bibliography

Wikipedia Entries for The Quiet American

  • Introduction
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  • Literary significance and reception
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William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night

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Love Triangles in Twelfth Night

Love Triangles in Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a play filled with phony relationships and misunderstandings due to the use of disguise. The characters are often blind to their true feelings and are deceived by themselves and others. The play explores the themes of true love, self-love, and friendship, which create a love triangle involving different characters in different scenarios. Some instances in the play show true love, such as Viola’s love for Orsino and the strong bond between Viola and Sebastian. Friendship is also a major part of the love triangle, particularly between Orsino and Cesario and between Viola and the Sea Captain. The play also highlights how self-love affects people’s lives, with Malvolio being the easiest to identify with this problem. Overall, Twelfth Night is a perfect example of a love triangle.

            In William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, many relationships are phony and sabotaged for and by protagonists; as a result these relationships are made comical.  The use of disguise causes deception and misunderstanding which leads to love where it is not meant to be.  Many of the characters who are tangled up in the web of love are too blind to see that their emotions and thoughts toward the other characters are untrue.  They are being deceived by themselves and the others around them.  True love, self love, and friendship creates a love triangle, which involves different characters in different scenarios.

            There are certain instances in the play where the emotion of love is true, and the two people caught up in it feel very strongly toward each other.  One example is Viola’s love for Orsino.  Although she is pretending to be a man who is virtually unknown in Illyria, she wants to win the Duke’s heart.  While Viola is trying to win Oliva’s love for the Duke, Olivia unknowingly, falls in love with another woman, which is Viola.  Viola was caught up in another true love situation, only this time she was on the receiving end, and things didn’t go so smoothly.  During her attempts to court Olivia for Orsino, Olivia grew to love Orsino.  Viola was now faced with another hardship and there was only one way out, but that would jeopardize her chances with Orsino.  Another case of true love is on a less personal and passionate level.  Viola and Sebastian’s love for one another is a strong bond between them.  Through their times of mourning for each of their obvious deaths they still loved each other.  They believed deep down in their heart that maybe someway that each of them was still alive and well.

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            Friendship is a major part of the love triangle.  The biggest and closest friendship would be between Orsino and Cesario.  They barely knew each other at first, and before long Orsino was telling Cesario his inner love for Olivia.  Cesario was even running his love messages to Olivia.  The other friendship is between Viola and the Sea Captain who had a very deep bond between one another.  They survived the shipwreck together and the Sea Captain promised not to tell anyone about Viola pretending to be a man.

            The play implements how self-love affects people’s lives.  Malvolio is the easiest to identify with that problem.  He thinks of himself as an attractive and dignified man.  Malvolio is conceded and believes that all women adore him.  He likes to see things one way only, and he deceives himself just to suit his outlook on situations.  An example is when he changes Olivia’s words around to make it sound like she likes his yellow cross-gartered socks even though she really can’t stand them.  Sir Toby and Olivia are also full of themselves.  Sir Toby only cares about himself and no body else.  He ignores Maria as she tries to warn him about drinking at night; he also continues to push Sir Andrew to court Olivia.  Even though he doesn’t think, that Sir Andrew has a chance.  Oliva cares about the people around her, but she also thinks that no man is admirable of the beauty.  She thinks she is better than everyone else is.  Twelfth Night is a perfect example of a love triangle.

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Romance and love in “twelfth night” by william shakespeare.

Attitudes depicted toward romance and/or love in Twelfth Night by Shakespeare reflect many numerous mind-sets presented by movie producers in our society today.  Attitudes projected throughout the play included, but were not limited to concepts from superficial to meditative to true love to what we would this day, consider dreams of, “One day. . . ”     

Madness in Love in William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” Sample

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“The Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night is a comedy owing its title to the last night of the Christmas season.  Characters in this particular play include young, aristocratic Viola, nobleman Orsino, noblewoman Olivia, Viola’s lost twin brother Sebastian, Olivia’s servant Malvolio, Olivia’s uncle Sir Toby, the house fool Feste, Olivia’s maid Maria, Antonio, and Sir Toby’s

Deception in “Twelfth Night”

In William Shakespeare’s comedic drama. “Twelfth Night” . a repeating subject is misrepresentation. The characters in the drama used misrepresentation for a assortment of intents. Viola’s usage of misrepresentation involves her masking herself as a adult male in order to obtain a occupation with the Duke of Illyria. Orsino. On the other manus. Maria. Olivia’s

Twelfth Night: Formalist Critique Analysis

Discuss  what  conclusions  the  play  makes  about  the  themes  of  the  love,  grief  and  desire.  How  do  the  principal  characters  embody  these  themes?  What  effect  does  the  setting,  the  mythical  island  of  Illyria,  have  on  these  themes?  Use  the  evidence  from  the  text  of  the  play  to  support  your  discussion. Twelfth  Night  is  a  romantic  comedy, 

Twelfth Night Research Paper

In the Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, the map of Feste the clown appears inconsequential, but in actuality his function has immense significance in the overall educational development of the other characters. During the seasonal vacation revelry in which this drama takes topographic point, the buffoon is used as an independent perceiver that exploits the

“Twelfth Night” – The Play Is Written by William Shakespeare

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Chaos and Order in Twelfth Night

The only reference to Twelfth Night during Shakespeare’s own lifetime is to a performance on February 2, 1602. A law student named John Manningham wrote in his diary about a feast he attended at the Middle Temple in London where he was a law student and where “we had a play called Twelfth Night; Or,

Courtship And Marriage In Twelfth Night

Throughout history, courtship and marriage have changed and influenced contemporary viewpoints. The plays Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and the novel High Fidelity by Nick Hornby all explore important moments in the evolution of courtship and marriage. These literary works contribute to current ideas about marriage and courtship. In Twelfth

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A Closer Look at “The Summer i Turned Pretty” TV Series

This essay is about “The Summer I Turned Pretty” TV series based on Jenny Han’s novel. It explores the coming-of-age story of Isabel “Belly” Conklin during her transformative summers at Cousins Beach. The essay highlights the character development of Belly and the Fisher brothers Conrad and Jeremiah and how their interactions capture the complexities of growing up and first love. It discusses the idyllic setting of Cousins Beach and its role in shaping the narrative as well as the series’ ability to balance light-hearted moments with deeper themes such as family dynamics and grief. The essay also praises the soundtrack cinematography and casting emphasizing the series’ nostalgic and emotional impact.

How it works

“The Summer I Turned Pretty” TV series has really struck a chord with viewers. It’s all about love growing up and those unforgettable summer vibes. Based on Jenny Han’s popular book it follows Belly as she spends her summers at Cousins Beach a place full of memories and life-changing moments.

Belly on the brink of adulthood spends each summer at a beach house with her family and their close pals the Fishers. This summer though things get intense as she finds herself caught between Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher two brothers with very different personalities and secrets.

The show dives deep into the rollercoaster of emotions that come with being a teenager—excitement confusion and the thrill of first love.

What really stands out is how much Belly grows throughout the series. She starts off unsure and vulnerable but matures as the seasons unfold. It’s a journey that anyone who’s gone from kid to teen can relate to. And the Fisher brothers? They’re not just romantic interests—they’ve got their own stories to tell. Conrad is brooding and carrying a lot on his shoulders while Jeremiah is carefree and trying to figure out where he fits in Belly’s world.

The beach setting at Cousins Beach adds to the show’s charm. It’s like a postcard come to life—sandy beaches bonfires under the stars and late-night swims that make you wish for endless summer days. The beach house itself is more than just a place; it’s a symbol of family memories and how time flies.

What makes this series click is how it mixes light-hearted fun with deeper stuff. Sure there’s summer romance and friendship highs but it also tackles tougher issues like family struggles and growing pains. Belly’s relationships with her mom and best friend add layers to her character and show the messy reality of growing up.

And let’s talk about the music—they nailed it. The soundtrack hits all the right notes making every scene feel like a rush of emotions. Combined with beautiful shots it pulls you right into Belly’s world and keeps you hooked.

The actors deserve a shout-out too. Their chemistry is spot-on making the love triangle feel real and keeping us glued to the screen. They capture the ups and downs of being a teen making the story feel authentic even in its dreamy setting.

At its core “The Summer I Turned Pretty” isn’t just about a summer crush—it’s about finding yourself navigating love and understanding how relationships shape who we become. Whether you’re a fan of the book or just discovering it now this series offers a heartfelt look at growing up and cherishing those fleeting moments that change everything.

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love triangle essay

Behind Jaden Grayson Was an Overwhelming Loss. In Front of Him, Uncertainty.

After a tornado killed the grandmother who raised him in rural Mississippi, Jaden went to live with his uncle in Arkansas, leaving everything he had known behind.

Supported by

Photographs by Rory Doyle

Text by Rick Rojas

Rory Doyle and Rick Rojas met Jaden Grayson in Rolling Fork, Miss., soon after the tornado on March 24, 2023, and followed him for more than a year after he moved to Springdale, Ark.

  • July 12, 2024

The road out of Rolling Fork unfurls for what seems like forever into the flat, yawning horizon of the Mississippi Delta. The relentless spread of fields is usually interrupted only by bumpy roads and the occasional gas station. On an April afternoon in 2023, though, there were also strips of metal twisted into abstract sculptures, the remnants of a tornado that had recently swept through.

All of it whooshed by Jaden Grayson that spring day, as he looked out the window of his uncle’s car.

Weeks earlier, Jaden had survived the tornado that killed 17 people in and around Rolling Fork, including the grandmother who had stood in for his mother for most of his childhood. The home he shared with her was nothing but cement steps and scattered debris. When Jaden, then 16, sifted through it, everything he recovered could fit in a laundry basket.

Then he was told that he was going to Arkansas. His Uncle Jarvis was taking him in.

love triangle essay

The car ride ended in Springdale, Ark., about 400 miles from Rolling Fork.

Jaden carried his things into the two-bedroom townhouse that he would share with four other people. There was Jarvis Odems, his 28-year-old uncle; Tami Johnson, Jarvis’s longtime girlfriend; their 8-year-old daughter, Aubrielle; and Marco, Tami’s 13-year-old son, with whom Jaden would share a room.

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