Love triangles have been a crutch for many movies and TV shows. So, how can you write an effective one?
I love a good romantic comedy or drama. Love is kind of what we need in the world right now, and an abundance of love can lead to some messy situations. Like a love triangle.
For those of you who don't know, love triangles are romantic stories about one person in love with someone who might be in love or in a relationship with someone else.
These stories have been around forever. Even Romeo and Juliet had other people who wanted to be with them.
Sometimes they come across as lazy or manufactured.
But they can also be deeply affecting.
Today I want to go over how you can write effective love triangles and a few strategies to make sure your work stands up against some of the best love triangle examples.
Check out this video from Richard DeZerga and let's talk after the jump.
How does Brooklyn Create the Perfect Love Triangle?
I saw Brooklyn three times in theaters. I thought it was a perfect movie with an incredible cast and even better screenplay. The direction was superb, and you really fell for the love triangle at the center of the story.
So, why does the love triangle in Brooklyn work?
The answer is that both options are appealing.
The "One Sucks" Problem
In many romantic comedies or dramas, we get a love triangle that's lopsided. Two people are very in love, and one person is a leech or an asshole. While this helps get the audience on the side of the protagonist, it doesn't always pay off.
Those stories usually focus on one character wooing the other.
Think about Coming to America or even Jim and Pam in The Office.
While both stories are a ton of fun, they have clear people we're rooting for. Roy neglects Pam and is a terrible boyfriend. Darryl is self-absorbed, a liar, and probably cheats on Lisa.
While these are comedies that I love, the love triangles in them only create drama for the characters we want to be together.
But what happens if you have two great choices?
The "Two Choices" Solution
In movies like Sweet Home Alabama or even American Pie or TV shows like Lost and Gilmore Girls, love triangles thrive because the choices are so hard.
Jack versus Sawyer. Dean versus Jess. Nadia versus Michelle.
These are the romantic conundrums of our lifetime.
And the reason they became so popular on message boards and in our culture is that all these choices were good ones. They created fervent arguments between fans and creators. We tuned in and went to theaters because we had to know who people would choose.
How Can Love Triangles Work in My Screenplay?
Whether you're writing a pilot, sitcom, or movie, a love triangle can be an excellent addition. Not only can they help expand upon the characters we know, but if you give two solid chores, you can understand the dilemma and create debate amongst the fans.
Still, it's not that easy.
First, you need to make sure you don't have a main character that gets defined by her romantic choice.
In Brooklyn, the story is more focused on whether or not the lead stays in America or decides to settle in Ireland. Both choices have important repercussions throughout her world and romantic life, but you get the sense that either could work out for her benefit.
The drama here is so deep that a step in any direction conjures an emotional response from the audience.
Try to give your protagonist goals outside of just romantic ones. Make the romance as complicated as you can, so that there are real stakes when it comes down to choosing someone.
Can You Subvert This Angle?
There's always room to subvert expectations. In a movie like Take This Waltz, we see our lead come to regret the person she chose in her love triangle. In the great Jules and Jim, everyone dies at the end. So no one gets to be together.
Or you can do something like the animated Pocahontas does and set everyone off on their own course.
Film School Rejects has a fun article on the possible endings, though most of them have to do with one person screwing up so much they lose.
But I think that's a little too easy.
What are some of the best love triangles of all time?
Got any tips for fellow writers?
Let us know in the comments.
What's next? Learn about Film and TV Genres!
Film and TV genres affect who watches your work, how it's classified, and even how it's reviewed. So how do you decide what you're writing? And which genres to mash-up? The secret is in the tropes.