How to handle book with two love interests for my MC?

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Laer Carroll

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I woke up a few weeks ago with an idea for romance novel heroine and the beginning of her story.

I dismissed it as dumb and went back to the current book I'm working on. I'm a man and straight. I'm a romance fan but just don't see how a man can do justice to a romance novel.

The next morning as I rose out of sleep she came back to me and I learned a little more about her. I banished her and went back to my other book.

The NEXT morning she was back again. And the next. And the next.

Argh! The only way I can banish her ghost is to write her story. It'll be crap, but she will go away.

Now I have a problem. She's met one hot guy and is getting closer to him. But another shows up competing for her attention.

How would you handle such a story? Two great choices. Which to pick? How? How to tell the story?
 

Elenitsa

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It's nothing wrong with men writing love stories. There had been several in the past (e.g. Victor Hugo's love stories in "Les Miserables", "Han d'Islande" and others, Balzac's, and many others) and there are some now too (just that, in the most cases, they sign under female pen names due to the prejudice that they couldn't. But Nicholas Spark signs his own name :) )

Write it (or outline the story how the ideas are coming, return to your ongoing one, and continue this one based on the outline and upcoming inspiration afterwards). Sometimes love triangles do exist. And the outcome might be different, depending on the story you want to tell.
 

Pterofan

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Since I write erotica, I don't see anything wrong with her having both men. :evil If you're not planning on publication or aiming for a particular market at this time, just write your story and see what happens.
 

Jeneral

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Love triangles are absolutely a trope in romance. I say just write the story. I'm sure as you do, the story will determine which relationship is right for her.
 

Hbooks

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I've read great love stories, women's fiction and romances by men. Anyone can tell a great story in any genre. One way two great choices in a love triangle can work out is if a side character becomes the obvious better choice for the choice your MC doesn't choose and it becomes obvious he and side character have better chemistry and have had strong friendship feelings-->more all along. Then it's a HEA for all. Or sometimes I've read book one unresolved for the unchosen person in the triangle, then they get their match in book two! Great way to set up a series!
 

Chris P

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It's hard for me to provide input without telling you to write it how I would, but I would be intrigued by a story in which she had a "half dozen of one, six of the other" choice to make. Guy #1 makes her dreams come true in some ares, while Guy #2 does in others but (sorry pterofan! :)) for whatever reason she has to choose one or the other (perhaps a twist she chooses neither?). And old, old story, but do it in a way with heart and you've got me hooked.
 

Roxxsmom

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With the genre romances I've read, love triangles do need to resolve in a way that leaves little doubt that the woman made the right choice in the end*, in a way that serves narrative justice (meaning the rejected suitor, if he is a good guy, finds someone else to love him by the end, or is otherwise okay withe the FMC's final decision).

With love stories or stories with romantic arcs that aren't genre romance, you can do pretty much anything you'd like for a resolution to a love triangle, from tragic, to bittersweet, to an unexpected twist, to a romance-style HEA.

There are male genre romance writers. Most write under female pen names. As for love stories that aren't genre romance, some are written by male writers who don't hide their gender at all. The Notebook was written by Nicholas Sparks, for instance.

*The exception being genre romance being specifically written to an audience who wants polyamorous HES (where everyone is happy with it in the end). I'm guessing that's a relatively small niche, but I'm sure such a subgenre exists within romance.
 
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Marian Perera

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The exception being genre romance being specifically written to an audience who wants polyamorous HES (where everyone is happy with it in the end). I'm guessing that's a relatively small niche, but I'm sure such a subgenre exists within romance.

Yes, it does. Kelly Jamieson's Rhythm of Three and Becca Jameson's Bound to be Taken came to mind at once. So did Maya Banks' Colters' Legacy, where the premise is that there are three sons in each generation and they all fall for the same woman.

With love triangles, all I can ask is that the wrong suitor not be characterized as roast evil with ugly sauce on the side, because when that happens, usually the only way to keep the tension going is for the heroine to be blind to his glaring flaws.
 

ElaineA

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One thing you can do, Laer, is try to stop thinking of it as romance--because of the genre expectations--and think of it as romanTIC instead. Nicholas Sparks-style, as Roxxsmom mentions. Maybe that will help you let the words flow. If, on the other hand, your interest is in making sure this is a genre romance, then 6 of one, half a dozen of the other can be problematic. I'm not a big fan of love triangles (outside of menage stories) because invariably I like the guy that gets the boot, and in a romance, that can be a problem.

But I'm definitely with the others in the "write it!" camp. You don't know what you have until it's on the page.
 

Marian Perera

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I'm not a big fan of love triangles (outside of menage stories) because invariably I like the guy that gets the boot, and in a romance, that can be a problem.

Yes, this happens to me too. Both love triangles and historicals where one of the MCs is married, so you know the author will kill off the unlucky spouse, and I always end up feeling sorry for the victim as a result.
 

Jan74

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My only pet peeve with love triangles is when the author makes it too convenient for the mc to choose. Like the hunger games, I liked that Catness ended up with Peta, but I hated how the author gave Catness an easy out. Life isn't usually so tidy....people get their hearts broken when one makes a choice over another. In a real life triangle somebody has to choose...and inevitably someone has their heart broken. So as a reader I'm not a fan of the convenient way out that many triangle authors choose.
 

indianroads

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I’m cautiously posting here even though this is not my declared genre. Please be gentle.

That said, every novel I’ve written has an element of romance in it. I use a MMC rather than a FMC, and the sex is more hinted at than explicit. As an author I’m interested in the relationships my MC has, and I think it’s really important to explore them.

A side note is that I volunteer some of my time as a ‘guide’ on a site that deals with infidelity. The reality of that situation is that it’s not romantic in the least. I suggest that if your writing delves into that subject matter that you do some research.
 

Pterofan

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My only pet peeve with love triangles is when the author makes it too convenient for the mc to choose. Like the hunger games, I liked that Catness ended up with Peta, but I hated how the author gave Catness an easy out. Life isn't usually so tidy....people get their hearts broken when one makes a choice over another. In a real life triangle somebody has to choose...and inevitably someone has their heart broken. So as a reader I'm not a fan of the convenient way out that many triangle authors choose.

Speaking of an easy out ... how about the way George Lucas resolved the Luke-Leia-Han triangle in the Star Wars trilogy? Talk about convenience. To this day I believe that was a last-minute decision on his part, simply to avoid having his characters (and himself as the writer) forced into making a choice. So he pulled a cheat instead. Not cool.

Laer, it's your story, but please, if you can possibly help it, do not use the Star Wars solution. It's not fair to the characters, and definitely not to the readers.

Having Darth Vader wake up and realize it was all a dream is not acceptable either.
 

call-of-the-mind

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I think love triangles are a little overdone, but at the same time you could totally change the way the trope presents itself. Don't make it a Team Jacob/Team Edward thing - everybody pretended to pick sides and love it but honestly it was a really gross injustice of the potential they all had to feel things.

My advice is to go with your character, and see who she pics. If she can't decide, maybe she shouldn't have either.
 

CWatts

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I think love triangles are a little overdone, but at the same time you could totally change the way the trope presents itself. Don't make it a Team Jacob/Team Edward thing - everybody pretended to pick sides and love it but honestly it was a really gross injustice of the potential they all had to feel things.

My advice is to go with your character, and see who she pics. If she can't decide, maybe she shouldn't have either.

Agreed. Think about compatibility and the difference between Mr. Right vs. Mr. Right Now. Someone doesn't have to be a bad person to be wrong for you.
 

Lone Wolf

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I think love triangles are a little overdone, but at the same time you could totally change the way the trope presents itself. Don't make it a Team Jacob/Team Edward thing - everybody pretended to pick sides and love it but honestly it was a really gross injustice of the potential they all had to feel things.
@call-of-the-mind
I'm writing a love triangle romance myself so I'd love you to explain what you meant by that please - a gross injustice of the potential they all had to feel things - ??
 

lianna williamson

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Re: Men writing Romance/Romantic Fiction: go for it! Don't convince yourself it's impossible to convey a female perspective before you've even tried. It might be challenging and require more help from betas or CP's than your usual projects, but that just means you'll grow even more as a writer.

Re: love triangles: IMO, what makes love triangles fail is often that the "right" choice is so blindingly clear to the reader. I'm always amazed that anyone thought for a second Katniss would wind up with Gale, even if they preferred him as a character; to me, it was obvious the story was telegraphing she belonged with Peeta.

Also, often the choice feels more like choosing between two ice cream flavors rather than a wrenching dilemma. I'm reading a book right now (One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid) with an absolutely heart-wrenching love triangle. The MC loses her love-of-her-life husband in a helicopter accident, and after a few years of soul-crushing grief gradually rebuilds her life and learns to love again, eventually getting engaged. And then the presumed-dead husband comes back. This is a real "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation.

I haven't read these books myself, but I've heard the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare cited as an example of an effective love triangle. In this case, the two male love interests are good friends who love and care about one another, so it's not just two guys scrambling to best each other in a love contest. Neither wants to see the other get hurt, which makes the whole thing more poignant.
 
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Velvet27

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I haven't read these books myself, but I've heard the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare cited as an example of an effective love triangle. In this case, the two male love interests are good friends who love and care about one another, so it's not just two guys scrambling to best each other in a love contest. Neither wants to see the other get hurt, which makes the whole thing more poignant.

Oh man, that love triangle was a killer! Loved it, and sobbed my way through the end. I thought that was a great series of books, I think I enjoyed it more than her more famous Mortal Instruments.

I love love triangles, but everyone here has pointed out some big downsides to writing them, because they can be done very poorly, or done in an obvious way. The YA Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand had a great love triangle in it too, I thought it was quite well balanced, and I don't think it was completely obvious which way she would go.

For me, the best love triangles are the ones that present an impossible choice for the MC in the middle, with two great love interests that might suit the MC in different ways, or bring out different things in the MC.

I do like a character evolution resolve as well, in that a character might begin with one understanding of the world and that suits love interest #1 but as they grow and change they become suited to love interest #2, but torn by this love they had that in the "past" that might still resonate.
 

Marian Perera

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For me, the best love triangles are the ones that present an impossible choice for the MC in the middle, with two great love interests that might suit the MC in different ways, or bring out different things in the MC.

This is one reason Gone with the Wind worked so well for me. Rhett is obviously the better choice for Scarlett, but at the same time, Ashley is intelligent, courteous and handsome (and that's before we even get into his representing the Old South, which Scarlett misses even though she becomes more than willing to adapt to the New South). And that ties into what you said about character evolution as well.
 

Velvet27

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This is one reason Gone with the Wind worked so well for me. Rhett is obviously the better choice for Scarlett, but at the same time, Ashley is intelligent, courteous and handsome (and that's before we even get into his representing the Old South, which Scarlett misses even though she becomes more than willing to adapt to the New South). And that ties into what you said about character evolution as well.

I hadn't thought about GWTW that way, but you are right, that fits really well. I think probably because I was all about Rhett for me :p Although, it's been many many years since I last read it, so my opinions of the characters and the relationships and my preferences may have changed. Just like characters evolve into a new love interest, I evolve into liking different love interests as my world view changes.
 

frimble3

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This is one reason Gone with the Wind worked so well for me. Rhett is obviously the better choice for Scarlett, but at the same time, Ashley is intelligent, courteous and handsome (and that's before we even get into his representing the Old South, which Scarlett misses even though she becomes more than willing to adapt to the New South). And that ties into what you said about character evolution as well.

And, both men were aware of each other, and self-aware. Rhett knew he was a better match for Scarlett, and that she had romantic feelings for Ashley. Ashley knew that he and Scarlett would never work, while he and Melanie were well-suited. He also knew that Scarlett had feelings for him.
Scartlett was her own worst enemy, by ignoring Rhett, while chasing after Ashley, even once he was married.
 

Marian Perera

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I always thought that the tragedy at the end could have been averted if any one of the four people involved were even a little different. It's obvious in Scarlett's case, but Rhett didn't help matters by being either cagey or sardonic about his feelings for her, and sadly he did that even during the times when they might have drawn closer.

As for Ashley, he couldn't be blunt about the fact that what he felt for her was lust and dependency, so he gave her just enough positive feedback that she kept hanging on. Plus, when he had a chance to get away from Scarlett, he got roped into managing one of her mills, and he wasn't strong enough to refuse, even though he knew it would be a strain on her marriage and his peace of mind. Melanie's the most innocent of the four, but if she had been a little less trusting and idealistic, she would either have realized that there was something going on (especially after people caught Scarlett and Ashley embracing) or she would have been able to endure a confession of the truth from her husband.

Everyone's faults result in the relationships not working out. It was never Romeo and Juliet plus some third party keeping them apart.
 
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Somehow throughout the course of the story you will have to find a way for her to be drawn to one over the other. Brainstorming might help: Soul mates? More physical attraction? Go through a trauma together? Connect emotionally? More common interests?
 

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