My MC is focused on his profession; barely giving his personal life a thought. His last serious romantic relationship with a woman was when he was 22. Time for that later, he believes. Retire at 45 and then look.

He has two women who are interested in him now:

M wants him now, is very strong willed and fierce. She is a colleague of his and loves that he is more dangerous than she as it makes her feel normal. She is expert at seduction but not so at serious courtship. She ends up declaring her feelings by serenading him with ‘You’d be so nice to come home to’ accompanied by a very fine pianist who is madly in love with her.

J is a young, vivacious and quirky woman who is very professional but uninhibited and very loath to let the MC take himself seriously for more than a second. She is also a colleague of his, though in a completely unrelated field. She is more of a cheerful beacon. She has decided that the MC is certainly worth the effort and until M declared herself had even been willing to wait until the MC is ready. Now her hand is being forced.

I am considering adding two more and my question is this: would adding more potential love interests add tension or dilute it?

  • 5
    Could one of the close voters provide some feedback on what further changes you'd like to see the asker make to this question? Thank you. Sep 27, 2018 at 17:37

4 Answers 4


I think FOUR is too many interactions, you dilute the focus by having so many characters competing for the same guy, especially if the romance is a subplot. They are too hard for the reader to keep track of and remember who is who.

I would limit it to three if it were a central plot point, and two as a subplot, since the reader's attention is already distracted by what they need to remember about the main plot.

Saying it is "character driven" doesn't alleviate the load; the best character driven stories (in my opinion) devote a lot of attention to a FEW characters, not thin attention to a cast of dozens. Thin attention and deep character development do not go together.

And the young uninhibited woman can be both a professional and family rich (I've known at least one such girl) and the colleague could also be single with a son.

You can give him things to like about each; the young woman is better in bed, the colleague isn't terrible in bed, but she IS more fun to hang out with and have conversations with, she is more clever, they have a similar sense of humor, and that isn't true with the young woman. He knows because he has been to several professional events with the colleague.

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    Ironically, harem anime show it can easily be the protagonist who's least well-developed, rather the constellation of partners.
    – J.G.
    Sep 21, 2018 at 21:53
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    @J.G. Can't say I know anything about harem anime. However, just in the economics of writing something people won't put down out of boredom, imagine there were 20 potential partners. An author cannot devote the same amount of attention to 20 as they can 2. By extension, this OP cannot devote as much attention to 4 as they can 2. It may be important to the story to force the male char into a choice, but it really doesn't complicate this choice very much to increase the number; in fact it dilutes the impact; instead of ONE loser we have many, it doesn't mean as much to lose.
    – Amadeus
    Sep 21, 2018 at 22:37

You are talking about two different books. One is a book focused on the love triangle between a man and two different women --the primary conflict of the book is which one he will choose. The other book is about a man and the many possible loves in his life.

The main difference is that the love triangle version is more evenly focused around your three main characters. They not only relate to the man, they also have a relationship with each other as rivals (and, in this case, coworkers). The other version is more squarely focused on the man. The other characters are only presented only in relationship to him. One is not right and the other is wrong, it more depends on what book YOU want to write.

If you want the focus to stay on the three central characters, and their interrelationships, then I wouldn't add the others in --unless you want a twist ending where the man doesn't pick either of his two main choices.


Any number of stories see the protagonist having no romantic interests and work, or just one and work, but your question stems from wanting to do something only possibly with at least two: conflict between would-be lovers. Is two enough? Definitely, if you flesh each out adequately. You may find, for example, that it helps if J is in the MC's orbit first, only to feel she has to be more aggressive once M turns up. Do you have to do it that way? No, but it'd work, and wouldn't need B or O. You can add them (Heaven help your word count), say as people the MC is interested in even if they don't like him, while he's not as keen on M or J as they are on him. Again, this isn't the only way. I think what you really need to do is plot this story carefully (and know how many words your bullet points will get; see here) and see what you have room for.

  • I see this work as more of a series so am less concerned about word count. It is character driven rather than plot driven and I tend to dedicate the occasional chapter to a peripheral character. The cast of characters is more ensemble with a couple of stars than a narrow cast. Tertiary characters cross the stage, but the focus is on the MC. The romance is a subplot
    – Rasdashan
    Sep 21, 2018 at 19:43

Many will vote this as "opinion based". I think there is no real answer because this is subplot. He can choose all 4 and not commit, or maybe 2 are serious but 2 are convenient. Maybe he prefers 1 but she insists it stay casual…. It can be any mix and any level of importance/focus.

I don't think the audience will be confused, but the more women in the running the less likely his final choice will seem like "the one" – as opposed to just a winner by process of elimination. It's definitely less tension than 2 intense relationships.

4 women could be comic relief. It is hard to take too seriously, he just seems like a player so it does dilute. Worst case is if the choice feels arbitrary. No choice would be better than random.

But 2 women within his "zone" and another 2 just outside his "zone" to define some internal boundaries might tell us something profound about who he is. Including how he lets them down, or keeps up his guard.

  • Precisely what do you mean by outside his zone? Strangers?
    – Rasdashan
    Sep 22, 2018 at 3:01
  • LOL, How would he date strangers...? "Zone" is whatever sends him into vulnerability. Someone he'd throw it all away for…. As opposed to someone he could build a sensible life with. I'm talking about more than just women who are "blonde, redhead, etc", but women who could show different aspects of HIS OWN nature. With one he can be a father..., with another he could achieve power..., with another he has a kindred spirit…. Outside his "zone" depends on his character, for example one woman sees only good in him (which he likes but can't live up to). Deep internal character sh*t.
    – wetcircuit
    Sep 22, 2018 at 12:14
  • Considering his profession, I like that idea
    – Rasdashan
    Sep 22, 2018 at 19:22
  • By stranger, I meant someone he does not currently know but encounters at a restaurant or pub and they meet.
    – Rasdashan
    Sep 22, 2018 at 22:22
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    I added a scene where the MC shows his paternal side. Two incidents - one with his nephew and another with the distraught son of a man who detests him
    – Rasdashan
    Sep 29, 2018 at 0:12

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