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I'm editing my book currently and I have a basis for a love triangle.

Should I add one?

I feel like it would add another subplot to my story and make it more interesting, but I've never been romantically involved with someone (to any extent) so that part of the book might feel awkward since I have no real-world experience.

My book is YA fantasy, and in that genre, you often see love triangles happen. I want my book to be more 'grown up' than it is right now, and I feel that adding a love triangle could help that.

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    Mathematically, "base of a triangle" is one side (with two points). Do you mean that you have two characters and wonder if you need a third one for the sake of having a love triangle? – Alexander Sep 16 '20 at 18:43
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    @Alexander Considering we're talking of a story, not geometry, the OP is unlikely to mean the mathematical term. She probably means the basis/beginnings of a love triangle, i.e. 3 characters that could be attracted to one another. – Llewellyn Sep 16 '20 at 19:50
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    On behalf of YA fantasy readers everywhere (some exceptions apply), the last thing we (I) want is another book with love triangle shoe-horned in. Just because you can does not mean you should. – Artsoccer Sep 16 '20 at 20:42
  • @Llewellyn Yes, that's what I mean. I wouldn't add another character just to add one, especially not after the first draft. – AnnWriter19 Sep 17 '20 at 18:11
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Writing SE often gets a lot of questions in this vein:

  • "Should I include [thing] in my story, since so many other books in my genre have it?"
  • "I don't feel super comfortable writing [thing] but I feel obligated to write it, should I?"
  • "Will readers expect [thing] in my story and be disappointed if it's not there?"

The answer to all questions like this, at least from my point of view, is always the same:

If it will substantially improve the story and you want to write it, add it. Otherwise, leave it out.

Readers can tell if you're only adding something for the sake of having it, instead of being passionate about it and excited to include it. Love triangles are a trope, and while tropes are tools and there are absolutely ways to write good ones, don't feel obligated to include one solely because you're writing a YA novel.

There are so many other ways to have notes of romantic tension in a YA story without necessarily having a love triangle. You can heavily imply that one character has a crush on another without having to turn it into a subplot, and that alone will add tension, since their interactions will be colored by that character being secretly in love with the other and their dialogue and actions will subtly reflect it. Or maybe the protagonist loves a character who is oblivious to their affections, which can create both romantic tension and comic relief. My point is that there are many, many other ways to do YA romance without doing love triangles, so if you don't want to write a love triangle, don't! Try something that works better for your story and your characters.

(In addition, writing romance is very hard if you have never written one before or had personal experience to base it on, so those two things may also be reasons to not include it.)

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  • The answer is indeed always the same. I'm surprised some of them didn't get closed as duplicate. – Mast Sep 16 '20 at 12:20
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Don't worry about your lack of experience in that area

You're saying that this is a YA book, so presumably, your characters are not really all that old. Which - on the one hand - means that your lack of experience and awkwardness might actually be a lot more fitting than you might imagine, but also that it is very unlikely that your book will become more grown up by adding a love triangle. Although it sort of depends on what you mean by 'grown up' exactly. The fact that the characters are not all that old and mature yet will probably (and definitely should) come through with any romantic relationships they might form, making their young age more obvious than it would have been without.

Then again, it is absoluteley ridiculous what behaviour people in YA books get away with while the fans think it's charming. Probably because the fans are pretty young themselves. So even if you 'screw up' here or there, if your book is decent enough, people will ignore it or even come up with excuses (just think of all the extremely old men coming on to and actively stalking high school girls in vampire novels).

Should you add it? Absolutely!

Not because love triangles are fun (in fact, they tend to be very tedious to me). Not because they make the book more grown up (they won't).

But simply because the author (that's you) said:

I feel like it would add another subplot to my story and make it more interesting

As far as I'm concerned, if you as the author think something would make your story more interesting, there's really no question about it. You don't need any additional reasons. Add it.

Then again, if what you meant by that sentence was that the simple act of adding any subplot would make your book more interesting, no matter what it's about... you might want to improve your main plot.

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My advice: explore ways that this subplot could contribute to the existing, main, central plot of the storyline. If this love-triangle subplot will strengthen the main plot, add it in! But don't add it just for "extra plot". It will distract and make the whole story weaker.

Specifically, consider how this subplot will affect your protagonist's character arc/weakness, how it will connect to the existing character dynamics between central characters and the opponent, and how it will help build to the climax of the story by making the stakes higher or creating more conflict or contributing to a clever culmination, etc.

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My advice purely as a reader, unless you plan on exploring a love triangle in an in-depth, nuanced and mature way (not from a superficial "Becky the high school popular girl has feelings for Brett but Brett's dating Brenda" perspective), then no. Do not explore a love triangle. They are hackneyed, melodramatic, overused, and nearly always poorly executed. Also, rarely do love triangles ever make for a more grown-up reading experience.

Also, it sounds like it would just make the story bloated (since this is something that would be added post hoc), which you don't want. Just my thoughts as a reader and not so much a writer on this subject.

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I think you should try to consider all of your options. You're trying to provide extra layers to make the plot more interesting, and romance is a way to do that (though you shouldn't feel obligated to have one just because of the genre)

But it isn't the only way. You could avoid the issue of romantic inexperience if you instead chose to spice up your story with a different subplot. If you're wondering what your options are on that front, really anything that can be a main plot can be a subplot, so you have options.

If you're set on romance, perhaps you could try to find something besides a love triangle that you find more relatable. Have you ever had an unrequited love? Have you ever been mistaken about someone else's feelings? Try to think of a way to turn something you actually have experienced into a conflict.

Regardless if you chose romantic or otherwise, try to make sure that the subplot relates to your main plot in an interesting way (like if they both comment on the same themes) or have the subplot directly affect the main plot in a substantial way. This helps to make it feel like time spent on the subplot is adding to the main story instead of subtracting from it.

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