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But as of late, especially in YA novels, it seems that love triangles have become somewhat of a prerequisite—a cliché, even. Many novels follow the girl has male best friend/meets new boy/but best friend has loved her all along/oh but the new boy is so hot/but the best friend/but new hot guy!- plot, and hey, I’m certainly not complaining about it—as I said before, love triangles can certainly be one of the guilty pleasures we like to read, but it makes me start to wonder…are they becoming overdone?
I’d like to clarify that I’m well aware there are many YA novels that avoided the love triangle completely—Divergent by Veronica Roth and Across the Universe by Beth Revis are two examples I can think of off the top of my head—but the more I see the best friend/new guy love triangle, the more I’ve started to realize that it has indeed started to become a cliché.
The problem with love triangles, my friends, is that they’re becoming predictable.
I’m not saying that this means we shouldn’t write any more love triangles, or that love triangles are bad in any way. What I am saying is if you do decide to write a love triangle into your story, you might want to ask yourself how your love triangle is any different from the others already out there. I challenge you not to rely on your first plotting love triangle instinct—I challenge you to push beyond the best friend/hot new guy cliché. Ask yourself what the purpose of your love triangle is—what are you trying to show your readers?
A strength, I think, of love triangles is it shows something we don’t often like to talk about—that love is messy. Love isn’t this neat little thing we can put into a box and tie off with a ribbon—love is confusing and exhausting and it has a mind of its own and sometimes love is wonderful but sometimes love is cruel. Love triangles show us all that—they show us that we don’t always know as much about love as we originally planned, that love can create a wonderful relationship, yes, but sometimes love hurts because it doesn’t always strike both ways. Sometimes, (and in the case of love triangles—always) there will be someone left out.
To me, that’s the purpose of love triangles, but until we break out of the formulaic relationships that many novels have fallen victim to, that message—that purpose—gets lost in the mix. Rather than a story about love, it can quickly become another generic boy-meets-girl-meets-boy scenario, and although they’re fun to read, they don’t always hit home.
I like love triangles, and when done correctly I think they can add a powerful dimension to our stories. But don’t let your characters become part of another formula—show us their relationship means something more.