Here is a generalization of the most common love triangles:
The Love Angle
The most common love triangles take the form of a love angle. Character A likes Character B. Character C also likes Character B. A and C do not like each other. In fact, they often hate each other.
Character B is at the center of the love angle and is almost always female. It’s common for her to be “painfully average”, to not have friends or to have closer ties to her family than to others her age, to have a bland personality, to be stubborn, and to be confused as to why anyone would like her. When she describes herself, she claims she is “not like other girls”.
She is often a reactive protagonist, meaning she lets stuff happen around her but doesn’t do much on her own to advance the plot. When she does do something, it’s often impetuous and ends up causing more harm than good. This often serves as a way for A or C to “save” her, but it also gives them a chance to verbally abuse her for being an idiot.
This character is always the protagonist, often speaking through a first person POV. She is often single at the start of the story, but not always. If she is in a relationship with someone, it is usually either A or C, not a third character. She waits until the end of the book, or series, to “choose” who she wants to be with. The entire story up until then keeps the reader guessing.
Throughout the story she tries to keep both boys calm and happy. She doesn’t want them to fight. She wants them to be best friends. If they turn on her she runs away or turns her back on them and both rush to apologize.
- Almost always female
- Super duper average in everything except maybe one thing
- Little to no friends
- Passive protagonist
- First person POV
- Always ends up with either A or C
Characters A and C
Characters A and C are almost always male and they are usually opposites of each other. A is hot while C is cold. A is the athlete while C is the book worm. A is the prep while C is the laid back cool guy. A is a ray of sunshine while C is a crescent moon. Their appearance often reflects this.
These two characters may start off as strangers, acquaintances, classmates, or something else, but they do not have strong ties with each other until B steps in. Their relationship becomes violent and one often lunges for the other. Typically it is A (the “good guy”) who uses brawn against B (the “bad boy”), who uses brains.
The Good Guy usually has a good life and is social. The Bad Boy has a tragic back story, is a loner, creeps on B, is mysterious, and often flirts with B when she’s in a relationship with the Good Guy.
Meanwhile, if B is in a relationship with the Bad Boy, the Good Guy will become distant and angry. He will ask how she could “be so stupid” or will ask why she’s with someone like him.
Both are capable of abuse and harassment, but in different ways. One may be physical when he twists B’s arm to stop her from making another “stupid decision”. The author writes this as romantic, as desirable, and as a sign that this boy really does care. The other may use lies and deceit to “protect” B from harm. He uses fear to control her.
It’s not uncommon for B to refer to one of these characters as “like a brother” or to associate home and childhood with him. One boy is old, the other is new.
And then there are no breaks. There are no moments when A and C are not chasing after B or when they’re all single and fine with it. They never go after other girls. They never back off and just wait for B to be single before they make a move.
Lastly, these characters don’t really have a reason to be in love with B. She herself says there is nothing about her that is interesting or attractive, inside or out. All she does is walk down the hall and suddenly they’re in love with her. Their obsession often becomes creepy and abusive. One may watch her from afar doing mundane things.
- Almost always male
- Opposites of each other
- Hate each other
- Obsessed with B
- Their entire narrative and nearly all of their motives revolve around B
One of these characters is often the “new kid” or at least someone who is separated from the other two more often than not. For example, A and B may go to the same school whereas C goes to a different school, but met B because he works at the grocery store.
It’s common for one of them (A, B, or C), to be the new kid in school. Sometimes they’re not immediately new. Sometimes they were new to the school the year before the story started. Either way, one member of the love angle is usually “othered” in some way.
Ways to Avoid
Some ways to avoid the above are:
- Get rid of the abuse
- Give the protagonist a personality and a role in the story
- Don’t let A and C be complete opposites
- Change their genders and sexualities
- Make it an actual triangle (A likes B, B likes C, C likes A)
- End it with a polyamorous relationship (I’ve only seen this once)
- Don’t let anyone get together at the end
- Change up who likes each other (A and B like each other, C likes B but B does not like C)
- Let A or C eventually reject B
- Let B make her “choice” long before the end of the book
- Keep the boy-girl-boy format, but change the POV character
- Let B end up with someone who was never in the original triangle
- A and C don’t know about each other and never meet
- Don’t kill one off if you don’t know how to make a decision
- Use red herrings
- Give B really good reasons to be with both A and C
A less common version, but still common, of the love angle is when A and C are not actively pursing B, but both like her. One of the boys is a childhood friend or just a good friend who is in love with her, but who won’t make a move. B is oblivious.
She goes after C, who she loves (often for reasons related to his appearance or skills), but realizes he’s not a great person. Sometime during her relationship with C, A might confess his love and then complicate things. Later on she realizes that it was A who loved her all along, so she goes to him and they’re perfect for each other. This is an extremely predictable plot.
Ways to avoid this:
- When B goes back to A to apologize and kiss him for being so oblivious, he rejects her
- Change the genders and sexualities
- When B goes back to A to apologize and kiss him for being so oblivious, they realize they’re terrible together
- A confesses his love for B before B gets with C and before he knows that B is going after C/likes C