Inkpop Blog

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How to create love triangles

Posted by inkpop on April 17, 2010

inktip #25: Wings author Aprilynne Pike gives tips for making the most of characters’ lusty relationships

“Who doesn’t love the Edward/Bella/Jacob triangle?” asks Aprilynne Pike, author the Wings series, about a teenage girl who discovers she is a faerie.

Good question. Whether or not you’re a Twilight fan, the intrigue and mystique of the trio’s love triangle keeps readers turning pages.

There are dozens of variations of love triangles, but there is one key characteristic: three people in a romantic entanglement. “Like geometrical triangles, they can be equilateral, or skewed one way or another,” Pike says. “There can be the girl, the best friend you silently root for, and the boyfriend. There can be the new boyfriend, the old boyfriend, and the torn girl. Or you can go the other way and have the confused boy and the popular girl and nerd girl who like him.”

Shortly before Aprilynne Pike’s live inkpop Forums chat on April 17, the New York Times best-selling author shares her how-to basics for creating love triangles in fiction writing.


First things first: Select one of two basic love triangles—the balanced or the unbalanced. 

1. A balanced love triangle is one in which the reader does not know which person the main character is going to choose, because the author does not create a “one true love” situation.

In Wings and the forthcoming Spells, Pike created a balanced triangle between the books’ main characters, Laurel, Tamani, and David. “This works best in a story where the romance is definitely a subplot and the main plot is not dependent upon the main character’s choice,” she says. “It doesn’t mean the love triangle has to be any less fun or intense, in fact, it can add more mystery.”

2. Pike says that in an unbalanced love triangle, it’s always obvious who the true love match is, and the third person is basically an intruder. “And I use that word lightly, because it doesn’t means he’s a bad guy,” Pike says. “But he’s not the ‘right,’ guy and the author makes no secret of that.”

Pike’s example of an unbalanced love triangle is the now-classic Bella and Edward romance. “An unbalanced story is really great for a story that is a true romance, where the relationship is the central plot point,” she says. “It’s not the only plot point, but it is central.”

An unbalanced triangle works because the reader can embrace the romance—and therefore the plot—without being afraid that the whole plot is going to be yanked out from under their feet. “Then the question becomes not who will the heroine or hero chooses, but why, and how, and how that fits into the subplots,” Pike says.


To keep things interesting in a love triangle, make sure the two love interests are unique.

“Even identical twins are different on the inside,” Pike says. “If your main character is choosing between two guys who are essentially the same, the reader will lose interest because, really, does it matter who she chooses? They’re both the same guy!”

The best love triangles, Pike says, have two very different versions of the perfect man or woman. “And the choice is not who is good and who is bad, but who is good and who is better!”


Sure, accidents are bound to happen in romance. For instance, Laurel kissed Tamani just before she “officially” got together with David, and Jacob got Bella to ask for that one kiss.

“Things do happen and sometimes attraction gets the better of your main character’s self-control,” Pike says. “But don’t have your main character casually making out with both sides. Readers will lose sympathy if she gets to have her cake and make out with it, too.”


Writers have the opportunity to create the world’s most beautiful characters—so why shouldn’t they? Afterall, who doesn’t like to read about and envision hot bods?

This is all fine and good, Pike says, but it’s important to make your characters attractive on the inside, too. “We love the rippling abs, the dreamy eyes, that cocky grin. But after that, there has to be something more. Hot will certainly take you pretty far … but not far enough,” she says.

Trying to figure out how to make your characters beautiful on the inside in order to make them three-dimensional? Ask yourself, “Why does your main character like this guy?” and “What’s below that exterior?”

“On the opposite side, if you go for a less-than-hot love interest, show us what is so amazing about them that they become hot in the reader’s eyes because they fall in love with him too,” Pike says.


Pike is straight up about this advice: No total jerks allowed.

Sure, it’s natural to show some loser-type tendencies in a character, but don’t create a total moron in the triangle. The whole time you’re reading the book, you’re “yelling” at the heroine to stop dating the loser that everyone in the whole book hates—including the reader—except for her and go with the perfect guy instead.

“That makes it too easy and also makes your main character look like an idiot,” Pike says. “And no one wants that.”


Love triangles are fun, right? They’re often the elements of a story that keep the readers hungry for more. Pike’s final advice is to use love triangles wisely.

“Don’t throw in a love triangle in the middle of your book to suddenly replace the plot,” she says. “Triangles should be something you do on purpose and for a reason. If you are stuck on a scene, don’t think introducing a third person will solve everything.”

inkpop Forums Topic: Does your story have a love triangle? Read. Write. Connect.

This inkpop blog post was written by Amy Schroeder (aka inkpopAmy)

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4 Responses to “How to create love triangles”

  1. elizabethmay said

    I also think love triangles should not be a central point of the book, especially if it’s a series. It starts to feel like the two people in the triangle fighting over the one person are being strung along, and I start to feel worn out just reading it.

    LJ Smith does love triangles well. They’re a side point – she makes it clear that the overall plot is the central focus.

  2. Nella said

    This is really an intresting info on love triangles.
    I used to love them but they’re okay now.

    It’s interesting that she likes the Edward/Bella/Jacob triangle but she says that characters must be more than hot and no jerks allowed.

    Personally I would’ve appreaciated a Leah/Sam/Jacob triangle.

  3. DEKROSS said

    am very glade to visit this sit

  4. […] also recommend reading Aprilynne’s fantastic writing tips over at […]

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