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Untangling Taylor Swift’s ‘Teenage Love Triangle’ Trilogy

Portrait of Nate Jones

When I was in college, back in two-thousand- *cough,* I fell down a rabbit hole of internet romance fic. I would spend hours reading plaintext HTML pages detailing the love lives of fictional teenagers in minute, melodramatic detail. If I had to guess, I’d say I was escaping a drab, uneventful life chapter by immersing myself in a fantasy of a past that I’d never experienced. So I understand completely where Taylor Swift is coming from. Folklore , the album she secretly recorded during quarantine, then dropped with 24 hours of notice on July 24, finds Swift expanding her storytelling skills with a trio of songs that collectively form what she calls her “Teenage Love Triangle” trilogy. It seems to have been the A-list pop-star equivalent of firing up AO3 . “I created character arcs and recurring themes that map out who is singing about whom,” Swift explained in a YouTube Q&A celebrating the album’s release. “These three songs explore a love triangle from all three people’s perspectives at different times in their lives.”

Swift has stayed mum about exactly which tracks form the triptych, but her lyrical Easter eggs have not been too hard to decipher. As many fans have noticed, the trio of “cardigan,” “august,” and “betty” fits the bill. Let’s run down the three songs, figure out how they work together, and see if we can untangle this time-jumping teenage entanglement.

We begin with the album’s lead single, which comes first on the track list but seems to be occurring last on the timeline. “ Cardigan ” is narrated by a woman we’ll later learn is named Betty, looking back with hindsight on an intense relationship from her youth. (Swift says she was inspired by the image of “a cardigan that still bears the scent of loss 20 years later.”) Betty remembers being lost and insecure, and she says her ex, James, made her feel held: “When I felt like I was an old cardigan under someone’s bed / You put me on and said I was your favorite.” In her telling, they had a passionate romance that ended when James cheated on her. “Chase two girls, lose the one / When you are young, they assume you know nothing.”

But Betty says, “I knew everything when I was young.” She knew she’d wear the scars from the betrayal for years, that James “would haunt all of my what-ifs.” And she knew too that James would “miss me once the thrill expired.” That appears to be exactly what happened as Betty recalls the night James tried to win her back by showing up at her front door unannounced. We don’t find out what came next: The song fades out as Betty repeats the wistful refrain “I knew you’d come back to me.”

Now it’s time for James’s paramour to tell her side of the story. “August” is a bit like “Another Suitcase in Another Hall,” from Evita , in that it’s an “other woman” singing about the end of an affair, her relative unimportance in her lover’s life underlined by the fact that she doesn’t even get a name. (Fans have taken to calling her August, but since we’ve already got one song/name overlap, I prefer “Unnamed Narrator of ‘august,’” or “Una” for short.) She barely gets mentioned in the other two songs, but “august” is her chance to assert her own narrative of the summer fling. She was young and inexperienced, and if it wasn’t love, it was at least infatuation. She sings in languid, late-summer imagery: “Your back beneath the sun / Wishing I could write my name on it.”

Una remembers her younger self as mostly unassertive, recalling the times she “canceled my plans just in case you’d call,” and how, though she wanted her and James to be a real couple, deep down it was enough “to live for the hope of it all.” (There’s also a flash of a scene of Una pulling up next to James in a car, a hint she wasn’t entirely passive.) Eventually, the romance ended when the summer did, as “August slipped away into a moment in time,” and Una is left with a bittersweet revelation: “You weren’t mine to lose.”

Finally, it’s James’s turn. While the narrators of “cardigan” and “august” both look back on the love triangle with hindsight, “ betty ” takes place in the present tense, sung from the perspective of 17-year-old James. (In a sly twist, the acoustic arrangement and Swift’s miraculously revived southern accent call back to the music she released when she was 17.) The backstory too is very Taylor Swift –era Taylor Swift: The whole thing started after a school dance, where James ditched Betty, then, after seeing her dance with some dude, stormed out in a huff. As James was walking home, Una pulled up in a car “like a figment of my worst intentions,” and things went from there. Meanwhile, Betty found out what happened through a gossip named Inez, who will be important later. Betty was so upset that she switched homerooms!

As the song goes on, a contrite James mulls how to get Betty back: “The only thing I wanna do / Is make it up to you.” Swift pulls from her familiar bag of tricks here, giving us a rousing sing-along chorus and an exhilarating key change, and it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of teenage romance. But she also throws in subtle signs that James is a bit too immature for the sentiment to stick. First, minimization: “Would you trust me if I told you it was just a summer thing?” Then, shrugging off responsibility: “I’m only 17, I don’t know anything.” Throw in some deflection: “Slept next to her, but I dreamt of you all summer long.” Finally, add in residual bitterness: “Will you kiss me on the porch in front of all your stupid friends?” The song ends on the same cliffhanger that “cardigan” does: James shows up on Betty’s doorstep, dreaming of a big dramatic reunion, as Swift rhymes “standing in your cardigan” with “kissing in my car again.”

So, that’s the basic plot — a love triangle worthy of Degrassi: The Next Generation . But there are still more questions to explore.

Why Are People Saying the Story Is ‘Queer Canon’?

This one’s easy to explain. Due to a conspicuous lack of male pronouns in the lyrics, plus the fact that Swift’s friend Blake Lively has daughters named James, Betty, and Inez, many fans have speculated that the James here is actually a girl, thus making these three songs the story of a lesbian love triangle . However, if you want to believe James is a guy, there’s evidence for that too: In “cardigan,” Betty remembers James “leaving like a father” and compares their breakup to “Peter losing Wendy” in Peter Pan . Ultimately, it works either way .

What Happened After James Showed Up at Betty’s Door?

Both “cardigan” and “betty” end with one big question unresolved: Did Betty take James back? I’m inclined to say no. There’s a small hint in the lyrics — Betty says that James “tried to change the ending,” tried being the operative word. It didn’t work; the ending was what it was. The music also points in that direction. Listen to the two songs casually, and you would not think they had much to do with each other, in tune or in tone. “Cardigan” is somber, contemplative, melancholy; “Betty” is a propulsive, major-chord jam. The gap is duplicated in the narrators’ worldviews: Betty is someone who notices everything, even unpleasant truths; James is someone who’s so good at lying that they can’t pick up that they’re lying to themselves. Consider too that our narrators are speaking to us from two different time periods. In everything that matters, these people are very far apart from each other. And there’s something about the way Swift sings “I knew you’d come back to me” in “cardigan” that pricks at my ears. It’s not triumphant; it’s a little sad, like she’s disappointed James lived up to her worst estimations.

When and Where Is All This Supposed to Be Taking Place?

Oddly enough, “cardigan” seems to be taking place in a slightly different universe from the other two. In “betty” and “august,” everyone’s in high school. There’s a homeroom, a school dance, and James is canonically 17 years old. The location feels suburban: James skateboards past Betty’s house, Una dreams of meeting behind a mall, and a lot of the action centers around cars. The first line of “august” mentions “salt air,” so we’re probably by the beach . But in “cardigan,” everyone feels slightly older. Betty reminisces about kissing in “downtown bars,” and the lyrics reference tattoos, the smell of cigarette smoke, and feminist literature. (Not that high-schoolers never do that kind of stuff, but collectively the tropes feel more early-20s.) And we seem to have moved to New York City : Besides the bars, there are “high heels on cobblestones,” and the High Line gets a shout-out.

How do we square this? If you’re the literal type, you can imagine these are three very advanced teenagers who live in Connecticut or New Jersey and take frequent trips into Manhattan. You could also take it as a sign that Betty and James did get back together, their tumultuous relationship spanning past high school and into early adulthood. I prefer to think that Swift’s employing a more impressionistic approach. “August” and “betty” are mentally caught up in that teenage moment, so their stories are set in the suburbs, where Swift grew up. “Cardigan” is a grown woman looking back on her younger self, so it takes place in the city that, for its author, symbolizes independence and maturity. (Fans have noticed that the succession of images in the track’s opening stanza mirrors Swift’s own aesthetics in her earlier album eras.) It’s her fantasy — she can write what she wants to.

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  • Josephine Lamont

Love Triangles Explained: Decoding the Drama of Love Triangles in Romance Novels

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Ah, the love triangle—the ultimate rollercoaster of emotions in the realm of romance literature. Is there any trope more tantalizing, more tumultuous, and more talked about?

In the vast tapestry of romance literature, few tropes elicit as much fervent discussion and passionate debate as the love triangle. It's a narrative device that has captured the imaginations of readers for generations, weaving a web of intrigue, emotion, and desire that keeps us eagerly turning pages late into the night.

But why is it that love triangles hold such a powerful allure? Is it the magnetic pull of forbidden love? The tantalizing uncertainty of who will ultimately win the protagonist's heart? Or perhaps it's the opportunity to explore the depths of human emotion and desire through the lens of fictional characters.

In this blog post, we're diving headfirst into the heart of this beloved (and sometimes controversial) storytelling device. From exploring the inner workings of love triangles to dissecting their popularity and real-life parallels, we'll unravel the complexities of this timeless trope that has left an indelible mark on romance literature.

So, grab your favorite romance novel, settle into a cozy spot, and join us as we embark on a journey to decode the drama of love triangles in romance novels.

What is the love triangle trope?

Imagine a delicate dance of affection, where not one, but two suitors vie for the affections of our protagonist. The love triangle trope, as the name suggests, revolves around a romantic entanglement between three characters, often leading to a tumultuous journey of self-discovery, heartache, and, of course, passion.

Are love triangles bad?

Some readers adore the delicious tension and emotional depth that love triangles bring to a story, while others find them frustrating or predictable. However, whether love triangles are "bad" ultimately depends on personal preference and how skillfully they are executed within the narrative.

How do love triangles work?

Love triangles typically unfold as the protagonist finds herself torn between two equally compelling love interests. Each suitor offers different qualities, sparking intense chemistry and emotional conflicts. The tension mounts as the protagonist must navigate her feelings and make a choice that will ultimately shape her romantic destiny.

Why are love triangles so popular?

Love triangles tap into a primal aspect of human nature—the desire for connection and the complexity of romantic relationships. They offer a compelling mix of passion, uncertainty, and emotional stakes that keep readers eagerly turning pages. Additionally, love triangles allow for exploration of character dynamics and growth as the protagonist navigates her romantic dilemma.

Do love triangles happen in real life?

They certainly do! While love triangles may seem like a product of fiction, the complexities of romantic relationships in real life can sometimes mirror these dramatic entanglements. Human emotions are messy and unpredictable, and love triangles, albeit perhaps less dramatic, can indeed occur.

How do love triangles end?

In the world of romance novels, love triangles often culminate in a resolution where the protagonist makes a definitive choice between her suitors. This decision can lead to heartbreak for one character and fulfillment for another, ultimately paving the way for a satisfying conclusion.

Love Triangles in Popular New Adult Romantasy and Young Adult Romance Books

Now, let's explore some captivating examples of New Adult Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy books that skillfully weave the love triangle trope into their narratives. Each of these books masterfully weaves the love triangle trope into the story, adding layers of tension, emotion, and depth to the storylines and characters. Whether you're drawn to epic fantasy battles, dystopian romance, or Victorian-era intrigue, these captivating tales are sure to keep you spellbound until the very last page.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass bookcover

First up is Throne of Glass .  In this epic fantasy series, readers are introduced to Celaena Sardothien, an infamous assassin with a complicated past. As Celaena navigates a dangerous world of politics, magic, and intrigue, she finds herself entangled in a gripping love triangle.

On one hand, there's the dashing Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, whose loyalty and strength captivate her. On the other, there's the enigmatic Fae Prince, Dorian Havilliard, whose charm and hidden depths draw her in. As Celaena's feelings for both men deepen, she must confront her own desires and make a choice that will shape not only her destiny but the fate of the kingdom.

"I claim you, too, Aelin Galathynius," he whispered. "I claim you as my friend."

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas :

ACOTAR bookcover

Another masterpiece by Maas is A Court of Thorns and Roses . In this spellbinding fantasy series, readers follow Feyre Archeron, a young huntress thrust into a world of faeries, magic, and danger. As Feyre navigates the treacherous politics of the faerie realm, she finds herself caught in a mesmerizing love triangle.

On one side, there's Tamlin, the powerful High Lord of the Spring Court, whose protective instincts and steadfast devotion offer solace in a world of darkness. On the other, there's Rhysand, the cunning High Lord of the Night Court, whose mysterious allure and unexpected kindness challenge Feyre's perceptions. As tensions rise and loyalties are tested, Feyre must confront her own heart and decide where her true allegiance lies.

"To the stars who listen— and the dreams that are answered."

The Selection" by Kiera Cass

The Selection book cover

The Selection is a YA romance set in a dystopian society where a lottery determines who will compete for the heart of a prince. The book follows America Singer as she navigates a whirlwind of romance, intrigue, and betrayal. Caught between her duty to her family and her growing feelings for two very different suitors, America finds herself in the midst of a captivating love triangle.

On one side, there's Prince Maxon, whose genuine kindness and dedication to his kingdom stir unexpected emotions in America. On the other, there's Aspen, America's childhood sweetheart and a member of the lower caste, whose presence ignites long-buried passions. As America grapples with her conflicting emotions, she must navigate the complexities of love and duty in a world on the brink of revolution.

"Break my heart. Break it a thousand times if you like. It was only ever yours to break anyway."

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

The Infernal Devices book cover

Set in Victorian London, this captivating series follows Tessa Gray as she discovers a world of demons, Shadowhunters, and dark magic. Amidst the danger and intrigue, Tessa finds herself torn between two Shadowhunters, Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs, in a heart-wrenching love triangle. On one side, there's Will, whose sharp wit and brooding demeanor conceal a painful past and a fierce loyalty to those he loves. On the other, there's Jem, whose kindness and compassion offer Tessa solace in a world of darkness. As Tessa's feelings for both men deepen, she must confront the secrets of her own identity and the truth about her heart's desires.

"I am catastrophically in love with you."

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone book cover

In this mesmerizing fantasy series, readers are transported to the magical world of Ravka, where darkness threatens to consume everything in its path. Amidst the chaos, we follow Alina Starkov, a young soldier with a hidden power that could save her country from destruction. As Alina navigates the dangers of her newfound abilities, she finds herself torn between two men who represent different paths and possibilities. On one side, there's Mal, her childhood friend and fellow soldier, whose unwavering loyalty and deep connection to Alina offer comfort and stability. On the other, there's the Darkling, a powerful Grisha whose seductive charm and promises of power tempt Alina to embrace a darker path. As Alina grapples with her own destiny and the choices before her, she must confront the truth about love, sacrifice, and the darkness that lies within us all.

"I've been waiting for you a long time, Alina. You and I are going to change the world."

There's No Debate— You Gotta Love a Love Triangle

Love triangles may provoke heated debates among readers, but there's no denying their

enduring allure in the world of romance literature. So, whether you're team #TeamA , #TeamB , or rooting for a surprise contender, one thing's for certain—love triangles are here to stay, keeping us captivated and craving more with each turn of the page.

Did you like this article? Are you ready to embark on an enchanting journey through captivating worlds filled with romance, magic, and thrilling adventures? Look no further! Join my exclusive newsletter community and unlock a treasure trove of fantastical tales that will sweep you off your feet and leave you longing for more.

As a subscriber, you'll gain behind-the-scenes access to exclusive content, including author interviews, sneak peeks, and special giveaways that you won't find anywhere else. Plus, receive personalized recommendations based on your favorite tropes and genres, ensuring that every book you read is a magical adventure waiting to unfold.

So, what are you waiting for? Don't miss out on the chance to join a community of fellow book lovers who share your passion for romance, adventure, and the endless possibilities of the imagination. Sign up for my newsletter today and let the journey begin!

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A detailed guide to ‘Folklore’s’ love triangle, explained through some of Taylor Swifts ‘Folklore’ and ‘Evermore’ songs

Taylor Swifts Folklore logo released in addition to her 2020 album.

Wikimedia Commons/Taylor Nation

Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” logo released in addition to her 2020 album.

Reagan Russell , Coeditor-in-Chief September 13, 2022

Taylor Swift surprise dropped her eighth album “Folklore” on July 24, 2020. For the first time in her career, Swift created multiple songs with overlapping storylines that were not related to her life. Her songs “august,” “cardigan” and “betty” tell the story of a high school relationship that ends due to a forbidden affair and an unloyal boyfriend. 

There are three characters within the songs all with different perspectives. Betty, the popular sweetheart, is the main character. She was in a relationship with James, the popular guy, until he cheated on her with Augustine, the rebellious new girl. 

Shortly after “Folklore” came out, Swift surprisingly dropped another album “evermore” five months after. The two sister albums showed many similarities and many fans were excited to have even more songs after Swift had been quiet before both albums were released. 

Fans quickly began theorizing other songs that could fit into the “Folklore” love triangle, including songs from both albums. Although there are only three songs confirmed to follow the story, there are many others that fit into a bigger storyline. 

For the bigger picture, follow the explanations listed below. The songs go in order of the story, beginning with James and Betty’s relationship and ending with the aftermath of everyone’s emotions. 

tolerate it

“tolerate it” is the fifth song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. This song tells a story about a girl who puts all the love she hopes to see into her relationship only to not get anything in return. She feels her love is tolerated, not appreciated and that James does not respect her love or their relationship. She asks James to reassure her that none of this is true and that she is simply in her head, but she comes to the conclusion that her love will forever just be tolerated by James. 

illicit affairs 

“illicit affairs” is the 10th song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells a story about a forbidden relationship. Two people lying to their friends so they can meet up in private. It describes the feelings they get when they are cheating, and the emotional damage it does to relationships. Augustine finds herself in a secret relationship with James. She knows it’s wrong, but James has a way of making her feel a way she had never felt before and wants to continue seeing him. 

“august” is the eighth song off of “Folklore” and is from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells a story about a girl chasing after a guy she knows is not hers. She wants to be in a relationship with this guy and assumes he would want to be with her, however once his intentions change she finds herself slipping away from him. Augustine, the girl who is supposed to hate relationships and feelings finds herself longing for a guy she felt vulnerable with. As summer comes to an end, Augustine finds herself slipping away from James because he was never hers to lose, a part of James always belonged to Betty. 

“mirrorball” is the sixth song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song compares someone to a mirrorball. A mirrorball is something for people to look at and admire but in reality what makes a mirrorball so beautiful is how broken it is. Betty is someone who puts on a brave face for everyone and constantly holds herself on this high pedestal so people don’t know how low she feels on the inside. Betty constantly looks happy and glowy but if people took the time to get close to Betty they would realize how much she is hurting and how broken she really is. 

“betty” is the 14th song off of “Folklore” and is from James’ perspective. 

The song tells a story about what ultimately led James to cheating on Betty, and how he plans to win her back. It describes someone who doesn’t know anything because they are still young. James likes to avoid crowds and people and when Betty’s favorite song came on, Betty chose to dance with another guy because James was nowhere to be found. James felt betrayed so he left the prom, which is where he ran into Augustine. He is talking to Betty throughout the song apologizing for what he has done and claims that all he wants to know is to be with Betty. He plans an elaborate plan to win her back and show Betty how much he cares.  

“cardigan” is the second song off of “Folklore” and is from Betty’s perspective. This song describes someone reflecting on their past partner and how they knew they were wrong for them but they had a way of making them feel like they are wanted. It describes someone who is young but knows everything. Betty trusted James despite the fact that he was immature. She no longer felt tossed aside or used when she was with James, which is why she stayed. After James cheated, it was no surprise to Betty. She knew James would eventually do this to her but is unsure if she can ever trust him again because he treated her like everyone else has. 

“gold rush” is the third song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song describes someone longing over someone who is extremely beautiful and is loved by many. She adores this man but doesn’t like she is feeling this way and ultimately decides that her and this guy could never work out. Augustine finds herself falling in love with James, this beautiful guy that has many other women interested in him. She wants nothing more than to be with him but she doesn’t like how he is making her feel. Since James is adored by many she knows that it would never work out between them. 

exile (feat. Bon Iver)

“exile” is the fourth song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from both Betty and James’ perspective. The song tells the story of a guy who is confused about his feelings for a girl. He is unable to move on from her and wants to return to what they previously had but instead is greeted to an unfamiliar world where he has to learn how to live without her. The other side of the story is about a girl who is angry with her ex-boyfriend that is unable to move on. Just as the girl is beginning to grow, her ex is unable to be happy for her because he assumes they will eventually get back together. James continues to long for Betty and does not like adjusting to a world where she is not with him. Betty wants to be able to move on from James and she feels it is unfair for him to miss her just as she is moving on because she gave him several chances. 

“the 1” is the first song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone longing for their first love and reminiscing on what they could have been. Augustine is speaking to James and explaining how good they could have been together if he had given her a fair chance. She knows they were never meant to be, but still she wishes they could have been together because she knows they would have been something truly special. 

cowboy like me

“cowboy like me” is the 11th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells the story of a thief who never planned on falling in love until she found a fellow thief like her. She knows what they are doing isn’t perfect but she knows this is a feeling she hasn’t felt before and will never feel again. Augustine fell in love with James when he was cheating on Betty. She knew that she was falling in love with a fellow rebel but it was worth it to pursue something she never intended on feeling for someone. 

coney island (feat. The National)

“coney island” is the ninth song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty and James’ perspective. The song tells a story of two people realizing their relationship is coming to an end and they are no longer meant to be a part of each other’s lives. Betty is reflecting on what they once were and is apologizing for not doing more in the relationship to get James to stay. James agrees with Betty that it could have been something but still wants Betty to reconsider while she is moving on. 

this is me trying

“this is me trying” is the ninth song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from James’ perspective. The song tells a story of someone who is lost in the new world they have found themselves in. They are trying their best but they never feel validated in what they are doing. James is pleading to Betty to try to explain to her that he is trying his best and is trying to prove to her that he still cares. He comes back to Betty without really knowing what to say but wanting her back. 

“closure” is the 14th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is on the receiving end of multiple apologies, and although they are doing better, they do not forgive them. Betty is explaining to James that she has been listening to him and understands he is trying to make up for cheating on her but she still does not forgive him. She has made peace of the situation for herself and does not want James to get the same closure she got. 

evermore (feat. Bon Iver)

“evermore” is the 15th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is reflecting on their past relationship trying to figure out exactly where they went wrong, and are trying to determine what they originally sought to get out of said relationship. Betty is questioning if she did anything wrong that would have caused James to cheat on her. She assumes that this feeling will stay with her forever but comes to the realization that this pain is temporary. 

“peace” is the 15th song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is looking to be with their love, but they know they will always lack a sense of comfort. Augustine knows James is longing for Betty but wants to prove to him that she is willing to die for their love, she wants to be enough. She knows that she can never bring him the peace that Betty gave him but is asking if her love will ever be enough. 

“ivy” is the 10th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song is about someone who tries to stand alone and be independent but finds themselves entangled in this forribedden relationship. Their partner is in a relationship but they are willing to cheat simply to be with each other. Augustine tells the story of how she slowly becomes entangled with James. To her, it doesn’t matter who else is around or judging them, she wants to be with him and doesn’t know herself without him. 

my tears ricochet 

“my tears ricochet” is the fifth song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song is telling the story of a funeral. At the funeral the last person you would expect to be there is the one who is mourning her death the most. The speaker is explaining how she loved him until he “killed” her. Betty is asking James why he is wanting her back and wanting to be with her when he was the one to kill their relationship and hurt her. Betty does not want to take James back because she feels dead when she is with him. Betty explains to James that she loved him until he cheated on her. 

“hoax” is the 16th song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Augustine’s perspective. The song is about someone who spends their time believing in a faithless love. Her partner is not fully devoted to her but she still believes in their love and wants to be with them despite the emotions involved. Augustine still continues to believe in the love she has for James and wants him to know that she is still committed if he is. 

“mad woman” is the 12th song off of “Folklore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song is about a girl talking about her emotions. She is angry with the people who have hurt her but she is talking to her previous lover explaining that it is his fault, if he didn’t like her mad he shouldn’t have made her this way. Betty is angry with both Augustine and James. She believes her emotions are not being respected by either of them, and assumes they hate her because of what they have done. She also explains that Augustine should be just as angry but knows James would not be with her if she was mad. 

it’s time to go – bonus track

“it’s time to go” is a bonus song on “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song is about someone deciding to separate themselves from a relationship and following their gut. Betty found it hard to originally separate herself from James. She didn’t want to walk away from someone she loved but she knew that leaving would lead her to much better. James wasn’t understanding why Betty was leaving him behind but Betty knew it was the right thing for her. 

“happiness” is the seventh song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone getting over a hard breakup by finding ways to be happy. They sing about how they were once happy in the relationship but will be happy now that they have left. Betty is getting her emotions in check and is happy because James is no longer a problem. 

long story short

“long story short” is the 12th song off of “evermore” and is considered to be from Betty’s perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is reflecting on their past to their new partner. They explain how they always found a way to get themselves in bad relationships and to sum it up they just weren’t with the right person, but they have found the right person now. Betty is in a new relationship and is all about her new partner. She explains to him her prior relationships but assures her new partner she is all about him and could not be happier.  

right where you left me – bonus track

“right where you left me” is a bonus track off of “evermore” and is considered to be from James’ perspective. The song tells the story of someone who is unable to move on from their partner and the fact that they are no longer together. The speaker wants to move on but is unable to process everything. James is unable to move on from Betty. When he learns about Betty’s new partner he is essentially crushed and knows he still feels frozen in time while she did not seem to be affected. A part of James will always remain in that moment hung up on Betty. 

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essay about love triangle

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Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”: Theme of Love

  • Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”: Theme of…

In the play “Twelfth Night,” Shakespeare explores and illustrates the emotion of love with precise detail. According to “Webster’s New World Dictionary,” love is defined as “a strong affection or liking for someone.” Throughout the play, Shakespeare examines three different types of love: true love, self-love and friendship.

“Twelfth Night” consists of many love triangles, however many of the characters who are tangled up in the web of love are blind to see that their emotions and feelings toward other characters are untrue. They are being deceived by themselves and/or the others around them.

There are certain instances in the play where the emotion of love is true, and the two people involved feel very strongly toward one another. Viola’s love for Orsino is a great example of true love. Although she is pretending to be a man and is virtually unknown in Illyria, she hopes to win the Duke’s heart. In act 1, scene 4, Viola lets out her true feelings for Cesario, “yet a barful strife! Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife (1).”

That statement becomes true when Viola reveals her true identity. Viola and Orsino had a very good friendship, and making the switch to husband and wife was easy. Viola was caught up in another true love scenario, only this time she was on the receiving end, and things didn’t work out so smoothly. During her attempts to court Olivia for Orsino, Olivia grew to love Cesario. Viola was now caught in a terrible situation and there was only one way out, but that would jeopardize her chances with Orsino.

It’s amazing that Olivia could fall for a woman dressed as a man, but because Viola knew what women like to hear, her words won Olivia’s heart. The next case of true love is on a less intimate and romantic scale, and more family-oriented. Viola and Sebastian’s love for one another is a bond felt by all siblings. Through their times of sorrow and mourning for each of their apparent deaths they still loved each other. They believed deep down that maybe in some way or by some miracle that each of them was still alive and well.

Many people, even in today’s society, love themselves more than anything else. “Twelfth Night” addresses the issue of self-love and how it affects peoples’ lives. Malvolio is the easiest to identify with the problem of self-love. He sees himself as a handsome and nobleman.

Malvolio believes many women would love to be with him. He likes to see things one way only, and he deceives himself just to suit his outlook on the situation. For example, in the play, he twists Olivia’s words around to make it sound like she admires his yellow cross-gartered stockings when she really despises them. Both Sir Toby and Olivia show signs of self-love but it is not as big an issue. Sir Toby only cares about himself and no one else, not even his friends.

He ignores Maria’s warnings about drinking into the night, and he continues to push Sir Andrew to court Olivia. Although he believes Sir Andrew doesn’t have a chance. Olivia cares about the people around her, but she also believes that no man is worthy of her beauty. She thinks she is “all that,” and that no one can match her.

Friendship is the third type of love expressed in “Twelfth Night.” The biggest and closest friendship would have to be between Orsino and Cesario. They barely knew each other at first, and before long Orsino was telling Cesario his inner love for Olivia. He even had Cesario running his love messages to Olivia.

The second friendship between Viola and the Sea Captain was not mentioned a lot, but they had a very deep bond between one them. They survived the shipwreck together and the Sea Captain promised to keep Viola’s idea about pretending to be a man a secret. If he had opened his mouth the entire play would have changed.

The third friendship, and definitely the strangest, is between Sir Toby and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. They are close friends but sometimes Sir Toby doesn’t show it. He sets Sir Andrew up and likes to get him into trouble. An example is persuading Sir Andrew to challenge Cesario to a dual, even though he is not a great swordsman and is unaware of Cesario’s ability. On the other hand, Sir Andrew appreciates Sir Toby’s company because he always lifts his spirits and makes him feel like a true knight.

Love plays a major role in “Twelfth Night,” and Shakespeare addresses true love, self-love, and friendship in a very compelling and interesting way. Love is great to read about because everyone deserves a little love. “Twelfth Night” is the true definition of love, and Shakespeare does a great job of explaining a somewhat difficult topic.

Related Posts

  • Hermann Hesse Narcissus and Goldmund: "Love" Theme
  • Twelfth Night: Malvolio Character Analysis
  • Merchant of Venice Act II: Theme of Love
  • Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: Act I-V Summaries
  • Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: Deception & Disguises

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essay about love triangle

Writing a Love Triangle: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan

Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

  • 7 April 2022

A love triangle story plot has everything needed for an engrossing story. There are characters, conflict, and resolution; the three things that will hook your readers in. However, love triangles can very easily become predictable and cliched. I have put together some articles, podcasts, and YouTube videos that share some great tips and advice to take on board when writing love triangles.

  • https://www.savannahgilbo.com/blog/love-triangles

Love triangles are wonderful plot devices and can have beautiful, moving results when done effectively. Savannah shares some famous love triangles from well-known literature and gives the writer ten tips to consider when writing a love triangle. These include making both suitors a viable choice for the protagonist, fully developing all three characters involved, and establishing what’s at stake with either outcome. She also tells us that it is important not to neglect the rest of your story for the sake of your love triangle.

  • https://storygrid.com/love-triangles/

Story Grid tells us that while fans of the romance genre appreciate well-written love triangles, it is important to avoid being labelled as ‘predictable’ or ‘cliched’. This article shares tips such as you don’t have to start both relationships at the same time, exploring the different types of conflict within the love triangle, and knowing where your love triangle fits in with your story. Each love triangle will carry a certain weight to the story, and there has to be a reason for including it in your novel.

  • https://www.standoutbooks.com/love-triangles/

Readers love conflict and resolution and love triangles provide the perfect frame for these. Love triangles are timeless and fit into most genres. This article advises the writer to focus on the conflict, believability, resolution, unpredictability, novelty and depth, as these are the building blocks for any great love triangle.

  • https://www.abbiee.com/2019/02/writing-love-triangles/

The reason why most love triangles are annoying and boring is because they don’t dig into the character’s internal conflict. Don’t make your love triangle simple; challenge your characters, make them confront their fears and upend their entire lives. Abbie says that you should make your love triangle a catch 22 for your protagonist. It should go all the way to your protagonist’s deepest fear, which consequently is most likely what got them into this love triangle situation in the first place. The love triangle should bring to light the real conflict that’s been boiling below the surface for a long time.

  • https://www.wonderforest.net/blog-feed/how-to-write-love-triangles-the-right-way

Wonder Forest tells the writer not to make your love triangle simple, allow it to bring out the internal conflict. Ask yourself 5 questions including what is the protagonist’s inner conflict and how did it lead them into this love triangle, how high are the stakes and how hot is the fire beneath the protagonist’s feet to make a decision, and how does this love triangle cause all 3 characters to face their fears?

  • https://goteenwriters.com/2014/04/11/10-ways-to-deal-with-the-love-triangle-in-your-book/

This article gives you some ideas to do something different with your love triangle. Shooting someone, having the liar lose, someone giving up, or the hero picking neither are all suggested.

https://writingrootspodcast.com/2020/02/s7e4-love-triangles/

Love triangles are one of the most common tropes across all genres. They are often central to many YA and romance books but are also found in subplots of fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and action novels. This podcast talks about how to use a love triangle effectively and leave your reader satisfied with the resolution.

In this video from Writer’s Block, they discuss different types of love triangles: the equilateral, the decoy, imaginary love triangle, real love triangle, and the two-person love triangle.

Phoebe talks you through 4 tips for writing an interesting and compelling love triangle.

Love triangles are great plot devices and by using these tips and advice you have the opportunity to create a compelling, swoon-worthy love triangle that readers will adore. I hope this week’s column has been useful for you. If you have any topics you would like me to cover then please get in touch.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated. A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real. Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel. Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, best analysis: love and relationships in the great gatsby.

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Book Guides

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Love, desire, and sex are a major motivators for nearly every character in The Great Gatsby . However, none of Gatsby's five major relationships is depicted as healthy or stable.

So what can we make of this? Is Fitzgerald arguing that love itself is unstable, or is it just that experiencing love and desire the way the characters do is problematic?

Gatsby's portrayal of love and desire is complex. So we will explore and analyze each of Gatsby's five major relationships: Daisy/Tom, George/Myrtle, Gatsby/Daisy, Tom/Myrtle, and Jordan/Nick. We will also note how each relationship develops through the story, the power dynamics involved, and what each particular relationship seems to say about Fitzgerald's depiction of love.

We will also include analysis of important quotes for each of the five major couples. Finally, we will go over some common essay questions about love, desire, and relationships to help you with class assignments.

Keep reading for the ultimate guide to love in the time of Gatsby!

  • George/Myrtle
  • Daisy/Gatsby
  • Nick/Jordan
  • Common Essay Prompts/Discussion Topics

Quick Note on Our Citations

Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book. To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it (Paragraph 1-50: beginning of chapter; 50-100: middle of chapter; 100-on: end of chapter), or use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.

Analyzing The Great Gatsby Relationships

We will discuss the romantic pairings in the novel first through the lens of marriage. Then we will turn our attention to relationships that occur outside of marriage.

Marriage 1: Daisy and Tom Buchanan

Tom and Daisy Buchanan were married in 1919, three years before the start of the novel. They both come from incredibly wealthy families, and live on fashionable East Egg, marking them as members of the "old money" class.

Daisy and Tom Marriage Description

As Jordan relates in a flashback, Daisy almost changed her mind about marrying Tom after receiving a letter from Gatsby (an earlier relationship of hers, discussed below), but eventually went through with the ceremony "without so much as a shiver" (4.142).

Daisy appeared quite in love when they first got married, but the realities of the marriage, including Tom's multiple affairs, have worn on her. Tom even cheated on her soon after their honeymoon, according to Jordan: "It was touching to see them together—it made you laugh in a hushed, fascinated way. That was in August. A week after I left Santa Barbara Tom ran into a wagon on the Ventura road one night and ripped a front wheel off his car. The girl who was with him got into the papers too because her arm was broken—she was one of the chambermaids in the Santa Barbara Hotel" (1.143).

So what makes the Buchanans tick? Why has their marriage survived multiple affairs and even a hit-and-run? Find out through our analysis of key quotes from the novel.

Daisy and Tom Marriage Quotes

Why they came east I don't know. They had spent a year in France, for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. (1.17)

Nick introduces Tom and Daisy as restless, rich, and as a singular unit: they. Despite all of the revelations about the affairs and other unhappiness in their marriage, and the events of the novel, it's important to note our first and last descriptions of Tom and Daisy describe them as a close, if bored, couple . In fact, Nick only doubles down on this observation later in Chapter 1.

Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. 'All right,' I said, 'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool—that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."

"You see I think everything's terrible anyhow," she went on in a convinced way. "Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I know. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything." Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. "Sophisticated—God, I'm sophisticated!"

"The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged." (1.118-120)

In this passage, Daisy pulls Nick aside in Chapter 1 and claims, despite her outward happiness and luxurious lifestyle, she's quite depressed by her current situation. At first, it seems Daisy is revealing the cracks in her marriage —Tom was "God knows where" at the birth of their daughter, Pammy—as well as a general malaise about society in general ("everything's terrible anyhow").

However, right after this confession, Nick doubts her sincerity. And indeed, she follows up her apparently serious complaint with "an absolute smirk." What's going on here?

Well, Nick goes on to observe that the smirk "asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged." In other words, despite Daisy's performance, she seems content to remain with Tom, part of the "secret society" of the ultra-rich.

So the question is: can anyone—or anything—lift Daisy out of her complacency?

"I never loved him," she said, with perceptible reluctance.

"Not at Kapiolani?" demanded Tom suddenly.

From the ballroom beneath, muffled and suffocating chords were drifting up on hot waves of air.

"Not that day I carried you down from the Punch Bowl to keep your shoes dry?" There was a husky tenderness in his tone. ". . . Daisy?" (7.258-62)

Over the course of the novel, both Tom and Daisy enter or continue affairs, pulling away from each other instead of confronting the problems in their marriage.

However, Gatsby forces them to confront their feelings in the Plaza Hotel when he demands Daisy say she never loved Tom. Although she gets the words out, she immediately rescinds them—"I did love [Tom] once but I loved you too!"—after Tom questions her.

Here, Tom—usually presented as a swaggering, brutish, and unkind—breaks down, speaking with "husky tenderness" and recalling some of the few happy moments in his and Daisy's marriage. This is a key moment because it shows despite the dysfunction of their marriage, Tom and Daisy seem to both seek solace in happy early memories. Between those few happy memories and the fact that they both come from the same social class, their marriage ends up weathering multiple affairs.

Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table with a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale. He was talking intently across the table at her and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. Once in a while she looked up at him and nodded in agreement.

They weren't happy, and neither of them had touched the chicken or the ale—and yet they weren't unhappy either. There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together. (7.409-10)

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. . . . (9.146)

By the end of the novel, after Daisy's murder of Myrtle as well as Gatsby's death, she and Tom are firmly back together, "conspiring" and "careless" once again, despite the deaths of their lovers.

As Nick notes, they "weren't happy…and yet they weren't unhappy either." Their marriage is important to both of them, since it reassures their status as old money aristocracy and brings stability to their lives. So the novel ends with them once again described as a unit, a "they," perhaps even more strongly bonded since they've survived not only another round of affairs but murder, as well.

Daisy and Tom Marriage Analysis

Neither Myrtle's infatuation with Tom or Gatsby's deep longing for Daisy can drive a wedge between the couple. Despite the lying, cheating, and murdering that occurs during the summer, Tom and Daisy end the novel just like they began it: careless, restless, and yet, firmly united.

The stubborn closeness of Tom and Daisy's marriage, despite Daisy's exaggerated unhappiness and Tom's philandering, reinforces the dominance of the old money class over the world of Gatsby. Despite so many troubles, for Tom and Daisy, their marriage guarantees their continued membership in the exclusive world of the old money rich. In other words, class is a much stronger bond than love in the novel.

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Marriage 2: Myrtle and George Wilson

In contrast to Tom and Daisy, Myrtle and George were married 12 years before the start of the novel. You might think that since they've been married for four times as long, their marriage is more stable. In fact, in contrast from Tom and Daisy's unified front, Myrtle and George's marriage appears fractured from the beginning .

Myrtle and George Marriage Description

Although Myrtle was taken with George at first, she overestimated his money and "breeding" and found herself married to a mechanic and living over a garage in Queens, a situation she's apparently unhappy with (2.112).

However, divorce was uncommon in the 1920s, and furthermore, the working-class Myrtle doesn't have access to wealthy family members or any other real options, so she stays married—perhaps because George is quite devoted and even in some ways subservient to her.

A few months before the beginning of the novel in 1922, she begins an affair with Tom Buchanan, her first affair (2.117). She sees the affair as a way out of her marriage, but Tom sees her as just another disposable mistress, leaving her desperate and vulnerable once George finds out about the affair.

Myrtle and George Marriage Quotes

I heard footsteps on a stairs and in a moment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering. She smiled slowly and walking through her husband as if he were a ghost shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye. Then she wet her lips and without turning around spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice:

"Get some chairs, why don't you, so somebody can sit down."

"Oh, sure," agreed Wilson hurriedly and went toward the little office, mingling immediately with the cement color of the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity—except his wife, who moved close to Tom. (2.15-17)

As we discuss in our article on the symbolic valley of ashes , George is coated by the dust of despair and thus seems mired in the hopelessness and depression of that bleak place, while Myrtle is alluring and full of vitality. Her first action is to order her husband to get chairs, and the second is to move away from him, closer to Tom.

In contrast to Tom and Daisy, who are initially presented as a unit, our first introduction to George and Myrtle shows them fractured, with vastly different personalities and motivations. We get the sense right away that their marriage is in trouble, and conflict between the two is imminent.

"I married him because I thought he was a gentleman," she said finally. "I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe."

"You were crazy about him for a while," said Catherine.

"Crazy about him!" cried Myrtle incredulously. "Who said I was crazy about him? I never was any more crazy about him than I was about that man there." (2.112-4)

Here we get a bit of back-story about George and Myrtle's marriage: like Daisy, Myrtle was crazy about her husband at first but the marriage has since soured. But while Daisy doesn't have any real desire to leave Tom, here we see Myrtle eager to leave, and very dismissive of her husband. Myrtle seems to suggest that even having her husband wait on her is unacceptable—it's clear she thinks she is finally headed for bigger and better things.

Generally he was one of these worn-out men: when he wasn't working he sat on a chair in the doorway and stared at the people and the cars that passed along the road. When any one spoke to him he invariably laughed in an agreeable, colorless way. He was his wife's man and not his own. (7.312)

Again, in contrast to the strangely unshakeable partnership of Tom and Daisy, the co-conspirators, Michaelis (briefly taking over narrator duties) observes that George "was his wife's man," "worn out." Obviously, this situation gets turned on its head when George locks Myrtle up when he discovers the affair, but Michaelis's observation speaks to instability in the Wilson's marriage, in which each fights for control over the other . Rather than face the world as a unified front, the Wilsons each struggle for dominance within the marriage.

"Beat me!" he heard her cry. "Throw me down and beat me, you dirty little coward!"

A moment later she rushed out into the dusk, waving her hands and shouting; before he could move from his door the business was over. (7.314-5)

We don't know what happened in the fight before this crucial moment, but we do know George locked Myrtle in a room once he figured out she was having an affair. So despite the outward appearance of being ruled by his wife, he does, in fact, have the ability to physically control her. However, he apparently doesn't hit her, the way Tom does, and Myrtle taunts him for it—perhaps insinuating he's less a man than Tom.

This outbreak of both physical violence (George locking up Myrtle) and emotional abuse (probably on both sides) fulfills the earlier sense of the marriage being headed for conflict. Still, it's disturbing to witness the last few minutes of this fractured, unstable partnership.

Myrtle and George Marriage Analysis

While Tom and Daisy's marriage ends up being oddly stable thanks to their money, despite multiple affairs, Myrtle and George's marriage goes from strained to violent after just one.

In other words, Tom and Daisy can patch things up over and over by retreating into their status and money, while Myrtle and George don't have that luxury . While George wants to retreat out west, he doesn't have the money, leaving him and Myrtle in Queens and vulnerable to the dangerous antics of the other characters. The instability of their marriage thus seems to come from the instability of their financial situation, as well as the fact that Myrtle is more ambitious than George.

Fitzgerald seems to be arguing that anyone who is not wealthy is much more vulnerable to tragedy and strife. As a song sung in Chapter 5 goes, "The rich get richer and the poor get—children"—the rich get richer and the poor can't escape their poverty, or tragedy (5.150). The contrasting marriages of the Buchanans and the Wilsons help illustrate the novel's critique of the wealthy, old-money class.

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Relationship 1: Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby

The relationship at the very heart of The Great Gatsby is, of course, Gatsby and Daisy , or more specifically, Gatsby's tragic love of (or obsession with) Daisy, a love that drives the novel's plot. So how did this ill-fated love story begin?

Daisy and Gatsby Relationship Description

Five years before the start of the novel, Jay Gatsby (who had learned from Dan Cody how to act like one of the wealthy) was stationed in Louisville before going to fight in WWI. In Louisville, he met Daisy Fay, a beautiful young heiress (10 years his junior), who took him for someone of her social class. Gatsby maintained the lie, which allowed their relationship to progress.

Gatsby fell in love with Daisy and the wealth she represents, and she with him (though apparently not to the same excessive extent ), but he had to leave for the war and by the time he returned to the US in 1919, Daisy has married Tom Buchanan.

Determined to get her back, Gatsby falls in with Meyer Wolfshiem, a gangster, and gets into bootlegging and other criminal enterprises to make enough money to finally be able to provide for her. By the beginning of the novel, he is ready to try and win her back over, ignoring the fact she has been married to Tom for three years and has a child. So does this genius plan turn out the way Gatsby hopes? Can he repeat the past? Not exactly.

Daisy and Gatsby Relationship Quotes

"You must know Gatsby."

"Gatsby?" demanded Daisy. "What Gatsby?" (1.60-1)

In the first chapter, we get a few mentions and glimpses of Gatsby, but one of the most interesting is Daisy immediately perking up at his name. She obviously still remembers him and perhaps even thinks about him, but her surprise suggests that she thinks he's long gone, buried deep in her past.

This is in sharp contrast to the image we get of Gatsby himself at the end of the Chapter, reaching actively across the bay to Daisy's house (1.152). While Daisy views Gatsby as a memory, Daisy is Gatsby's past, present, and future. It's clear even in Chapter 1 that Gatsby's love for Daisy is much more intense than her love for him.

"Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay."

Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor. (4.151-2)

In Chapter 4, we learn Daisy and Gatsby's story from Jordan: specifically, how they dated in Louisville but it ended when Gatsby went to the front. She also explains how Daisy threatened to call off her marriage to Tom after receiving a letter from Gatsby, but of course ended up marrying him anyway (4.140).

Here we also learn that Gatsby's primary motivation is to get Daisy back, while Daisy is of course in the dark about all of this. This sets the stage for their affair being on unequal footing: while each has love and affection for the other, Gatsby has thought of little else but Daisy for five years while Daisy has created a whole other life for herself .

"We haven't met for many years," said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as it could ever be.

"Five years next November." (5.69-70)

Daisy and Gatsby finally reunite in Chapter 5, the book's mid-point. The entire chapter is obviously important for understanding the Daisy/Gatsby relationship, since we actually see them interact for the first time. But this initial dialogue is fascinating, because we see that Daisy's memories of Gatsby are more abstract and clouded, while Gatsby has been so obsessed with her he knows the exact month they parted and has clearly been counting down the days until their reunion.

They were sitting at either end of the couch looking at each other as if some question had been asked or was in the air, and every vestige of embarrassment was gone. Daisy's face was smeared with tears and when I came in she jumped up and began wiping at it with her handkerchief before a mirror. But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room. (5.87)

After the initially awkward re-introduction, Nick leaves Daisy and Gatsby alone and comes back to find them talking candidly and emotionally. Gatsby has transformed—he is radiant and glowing. In contrast, we don't see Daisy as radically transformed except for her tears. Although our narrator, Nick, pays much closer attention to Gatsby than Daisy, these different reactions suggest Gatsby is much more intensely invested in the relationship.

"They're such beautiful shirts," she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. "It makes me sad because I've never seen such—such beautiful shirts before." (5.118).

Gatsby gets the chance to show off his mansion and enormous wealthy to Daisy, and she breaks down after a very conspicuous display of Gatsby's wealth, through his many-colored shirts.

In Daisy's tears, you might sense a bit of guilt—that Gatsby attained so much just for her—or perhaps regret, that she might have been able to be with him had she had the strength to walk away from her marriage with Tom.

Still, unlike Gatsby, whose motivations are laid bare, it's hard to know what Daisy is thinking and how invested she is in their relationship, despite how openly emotional she is during this reunion. Perhaps she's just overcome with emotion due to reliving the emotions of their first encounters.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete. (6.134)

In flashback, we hear about Daisy and Gatsby's first kiss, through Gatsby's point of view. We see explicitly in this scene that, for Gatsby, Daisy has come to represent all of his larger hopes and dreams about wealth and a better life—she is literally the incarnation of his dreams . There is no analogous passage on Daisy's behalf, because we actually don't know that much of Daisy's inner life, or certainly not much compared to Gatsby.

So we see, again, the relationship is very uneven—Gatsby has literally poured his heart and soul into it, while Daisy, though she obviously has love and affection for Gatsby, hasn't idolized him in the same way. It becomes clear here that Daisy—who is human and fallible—can never live up to Gatsby's huge projection of her .

"Oh, you want too much!" she cried to Gatsby. "I love you now—isn't that enough? I can't help what's past." She began to sob helplessly. "I did love him once—but I loved you too."

Gatsby's eyes opened and closed.

"You loved me too?" he repeated. (7.264-66)

Here we finally get a glimpse at Daisy's real feelings— she loved Gatsby, but also Tom, and to her those were equal loves . She hasn't put that initial love with Gatsby on a pedestal the way Gatsby has. Gatsby's obsession with her appears shockingly one-sided at this point, and it's clear to the reader she will not leave Tom for him. You can also see why this confession is such a blow to Gatsby: he's been dreaming about Daisy for years and sees her as his one true love, while she can't even rank her love for Gatsby above her love for Tom.

"Was Daisy driving?"

"Yes," he said after a moment, "but of course I'll say I was." (7.397-8)

Despite Daisy's rejection of Gatsby back at the Plaza Hotel, he refuses to believe that it was real and is sure that he can still get her back. His devotion is so intense he doesn't think twice about covering for her and taking the blame for Myrtle's death. In fact, his obsession is so strong he barely seems to register that there's been a death, or to feel any guilt at all. This moment further underscores how much Daisy means to Gatsby, and how comparatively little he means to her.

She was the first "nice" girl he had ever known. In various unrevealed capacities he had come in contact with such people but always with indiscernible barbed wire between. He found her excitingly desirable. He went to her house, at first with other officers from Camp Taylor, then alone. It amazed him—he had never been in such a beautiful house before. But what gave it an air of breathless intensity was that Daisy lived there—it was as casual a thing to her as his tent out at camp was to him. There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year's shining motor cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered. It excited him too that many men had already loved Daisy—it increased her value in his eyes. He felt their presence all about the house, pervading the air with the shades and echoes of still vibrant emotions. (8.10, emphasis added)

In Chapter 8, when we get the rest of Gatsby's backstory, we learn more about what drew him to Daisy—her wealth, and specifically the world that opened up to Gatsby as he got to know her. Interestingly, we also learn that her "value increased" in Gatsby's eyes when it became clear that many other men had also loved her. We see then how Daisy got all tied up in Gatsby's ambitions for a better, wealthier life.

You also know, as a reader, that Daisy obviously is human and fallible and can never realistically live up to Gatsby's inflated images of her and what she represents to him. So in these last pages, before Gatsby's death as we learn the rest of Gatsby's story, we sense that his obsessive longing for Daisy was as much about his longing for another, better life, than it was about a single woman.

Gatsby and Daisy Relationship Analysis

Daisy and Gatsby's relationship is definitely lopsided. There is an uneven degree of love on both sides (Gatsby seems much more obsessively in love with Daisy than Daisy is with him). We also have difficulty deciphering both sides of the relationship, since we know far more about Gatsby, his past, and his internal life than about Daisy.

Because of this, it's hard to criticize Daisy for not choosing Gatsby over Tom—as an actual, flesh-and-blood person, she never could have fulfilled Gatsby's rose-tinted memory of her and all she represents. Furthermore, during her brief introduction into Gatsby's world in Chapter 6, she seemed pretty unhappy. "She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented "place" that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village—appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand" (6.96). So could Daisy have really been happy if she ran off with Gatsby? Unlikely.

Many people tie Gatsby's obsessive pursuit of Daisy to the American Dream itself—the dream is as alluring as Daisy but as ultimately elusive and even deadly.

Their relationship is also a meditation on change —as much as Gatsby wants to repeat the past, he can't. Daisy has moved on and he can never return to that beautiful, perfect moment when he kissed her for the first time and wedded all her hopes and dreams to her.

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Relationship 2: Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson

In contrast to Gatsby and Daisy's long history, the novel's other affair began much more recently: Tom and Myrtle start their relationship a few months before the novel opens.

Tom and Myrtle Relationship Description

Myrtle sees the affair as romantic and a ticket out of her marriage, while Tom sees it as just another affair, and Myrtle as one of a string of mistresses.

The pair has undeniable physical chemistry and attraction to each other, perhaps more than any other pairing in the book.

Perhaps due to Myrtle's tragic and unexpected death, Tom does display some emotional attachment to her, which complicates a reading of him as a purely antagonistic figure—or of their relationship as purely physical. So what drives this affair? What does it reveal about Tom and Myrtle? Let's find out.

Tom and Myrtle Relationship Quotes

"I think it's cute," said Mrs. Wilson enthusiastically. "How much is it?"

"That dog?" He looked at it admiringly. "That dog will cost you ten dollars."

The airedale—undoubtedly there was an airedale concerned in it somewhere though its feet were startlingly white—changed hands and settled down into Mrs. Wilson's lap, where she fondled the weather-proof coat with rapture.

"Is it a boy or a girl?" she asked delicately.

"That dog? That dog's a boy."

"It's a bitch," said Tom decisively. "Here's your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it." (2.38-43)

This passage is great because it neatly displays Tom and Myrtle's different attitudes toward the affair . Myrtle thinks that Tom is spoiling her specifically, and that he cares about her more than he really does—after all, he stops to buy her a dog just because she says it's cute and insists she wants one on a whim.

But to Tom, the money isn't a big deal. He casually throws away the 10 dollars, aware he's being scammed but not caring, since he has so much money at his disposal. He also insists that he knows more than the dog seller and Myrtle, showing how he looks down at people below his own class—but Myrtle misses this because she's infatuated with both the new puppy and Tom himself.

Myrtle pulled her chair close to mine, and suddenly her warm breath poured over me the story of her first meeting with Tom.

"It was on the two little seats facing each other that are always the last ones left on the train. I was going up to New York to see my sister and spend the night. He had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes and I couldn't keep my eyes off him but every time he looked at me I had to pretend to be looking at the advertisement over his head. When we came into the station he was next to me and his white shirt-front pressed against my arm—and so I told him I'd have to call a policeman, but he knew I lied. I was so excited that when I got into a taxi with him I didn't hardly know I wasn't getting into a subway train. All I kept thinking about, over and over, was 'You can't live forever, you can't live forever.' " (2.119-20)

Myrtle, twelve years into a marriage she's unhappy in, sees her affair with Tom as a romantic escape. She tells the story of how she and Tom met like it's the beginning of a love story. In reality, it's pretty creepy —Tom sees a woman he finds attractive on a train and immediately goes and presses up to her like and convinces her to go sleep with him immediately. Not exactly the stuff of classic romance!

Combined with the fact Myrtle believes Daisy's Catholicism (a lie) is what keeps her and Tom apart, you see that despite Myrtle's pretensions of worldliness, she actually knows very little about Tom or the upper classes, and is a poor judge of character. She is an easy person for Tom to take advantage of.

Some time toward midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face discussing in impassioned voices whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy's name.

"Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!" shouted Mrs. Wilson. "I'll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai——"

Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand. (2.124-6)

In case the reader was still wondering that perhaps Myrtle's take on the relationship had some basis in truth, this is a cold hard dose of reality. Tom's vicious treatment of Myrtle reminds the reader of his brutality and the fact that, to him, Myrtle is just another affair, and he would never in a million years leave Daisy for her.

Despite the violence of this scene, the affair continues. Myrtle is either so desperate to escape her marriage or so self-deluded about what Tom thinks of her (or both) that she stays with Tom after this ugly scene.

There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. His wife and his mistress, until an hour ago secure and inviolate, were slipping precipitately from his control. (7.164)

Chapter 2 gives us lots of insight into Myrtle's character and how she sees her affair with Tom. But other than Tom's physical attraction to Myrtle, we don't get as clear of a view of his motivations until later on. In Chapter 7, Tom panics once he finds out George knows about his wife's affair. We learn here that control is incredibly important to Tom—control of his wife, control of his mistress, and control of society more generally (see his rant in Chapter 1 about the "Rise of the Colored Empires" ).

So just as he passionately rants and raves against the "colored races," he also gets panicked and angry when he sees that he is losing control both over Myrtle and Daisy. This speaks to Tom's entitlement —both as a wealthy person, as a man, and as a white person—and shows how his relationship with Myrtle is just another display of power. It has very little to do with his feelings for Myrtle herself. So as the relationship begins to slip from his fingers, he panics—not because he's scared of losing Myrtle, but because he's scared of losing a possession.

"And if you think I didn't have my share of suffering—look here, when I went to give up that flat and saw that damn box of dog biscuits sitting there on the sideboard I sat down and cried like a baby. By God it was awful——" (9.145)

Despite Tom's abhorrent behavior throughout the novel, at the very end, Nick leaves us with an image of Tom confessing to crying over Myrtle. This complicates the reader's desire to see Tom as a straightforward villain. This confession of emotion certainly doesn't redeem Tom, but it does prevent you from seeing him as a complete monster.

Tom and Myrtle Relationship Analysis

Just as George and Myrtle's marriage serves as a foil to Tom and Daisy's, Tom and Myrtle's affair is a foil for Daisy and Gatsby's . While Daisy and Gatsby have history, Tom and Myrtle got together recently. And while their relationship seems to be driven by physical attraction, Gatsby is attracted to Daisy's wealth and status.

The tragic end to this affair, as well as Daisy and Gatsby's, reinforces the idea that class is an enormous, insurmountable barrier , and that when people try to circumvent the barrier by dating across classes, they end up endangering themselves.

Tom and Myrtle's affair also speaks to the unfair advantages that Tom has as a wealthy, white man. Even though for a moment he felt himself losing control over his life, he quickly got it back and was able to hide in his money while Gatsby, Myrtle, and George all ended up dead thanks to their connection to the Buchanans.

In short, Tom and Myrtle's relationship allows Fitzgerald to sharply critique the world of the wealthy, old-money class in 1920s New York . By showing Tom's affair with a working-class woman, Nick reveals Tom's ugliest behavior as well as the cruelty of class divisions during the roaring twenties.

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Relationship 3: Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker

We've covered the novel's two married couples—the Buchanans and the Wilsons—as well as the affairs of three out of four of those married parties. But there is one more relationship in the novel, one that is a bit disconnected to the others. I'm talking, of course, about Nick and Jordan.

Nick and Jordan Relationship Description

Nick and Jordan are the only couple without any prior contact before the novel begins (aside from Nick apparently seeing her photo once in a magazine and hearing about her attempt to cheat). Jordan is a friend of Daisy's who is staying with her, and Nick meets Jordan when he goes to have dinner with the Buchanans.

We can observe their relationship most closely in Chapters 3 and 4, as Nick gets closer to Jordan despite needing to break off his relationship back home first. However, their relationship takes a back seat in the middle and end of the novel as the drama of Daisy's affair with Gatsby, and Tom's with Myrtle, plays out. So by the end of the novel, Nick sees Jordan is just as self-centered and immoral as Tom and Daisy, and his earlier infatuation fades to disgust. She, in turn, calls him out for not being as honest and careful as he presents himself as.

So what's the story with Nick and Jordan? Why include their relationship at all? Let's dig into what sparks the relationship and the insights they give us into the other characters.

Nick and Jordan Relationship Quotes

I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before. (1.57)

As Nick eyes Jordan in Chapter 1, we see his immediate physical attraction to her , though it's not as potent as Tom's to Myrtle. And similarly to Gatsby's attraction to Daisy being to her money and voice, Nick is pulled in by Jordan's posture, her "wan, charming discontented face"— her attitude and status are more alluring than her looks alone . So Nick's attraction to Jordan gives us a bit of insight both in how Tom sees Myrtle and how Gatsby sees Daisy.

"Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon."

"Of course you will," confirmed Daisy. "In fact I think I'll arrange a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and I'll sort of—oh—fling you together. You know—lock you up accidentally in linen closets and push you out to sea in a boat, and all that sort of thing——" (1.131-2)

Throughout the novel, we see Nick avoiding getting caught up in relationships—the woman he mentions back home, the woman he dates briefly in his office, Myrtle's sister—though he doesn't protest to being "flung together" with Jordan. Perhaps this is because Jordan would be a step up for Nick in terms of money and class, which speaks to Nick's ambition and class-consciousness , despite the way he paints himself as an everyman. Furthermore, unlike these other women, Jordan isn't clingy—she lets Nick come to her. Nick sees attracted to how detached and cool she is.

"You're a rotten driver," I protested. "Either you ought to be more careful or you oughtn't to drive at all."

"I am careful."

"No, you're not."

"Well, other people are," she said lightly.

"What's that got to do with it?"

"They'll keep out of my way," she insisted. "It takes two to make an accident."

"Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself."

"I hope I never will," she answered. "I hate careless people. That's why I like you."

Her grey, sun-strained eyes stared straight ahead, but she had deliberately shifted our relations, and for a moment I thought I loved her. (3.162-70)

Here, Nick is attracted to Jordan's blasé attitude and her confidence that others will avoid her careless behavior—an attitude she can afford because of her money. In other words, Nick seems fascinated by the world of the super-wealthy and the privilege it grants its members.

So just as Gatsby falls in love with Daisy and her wealthy status, Nick also seems attracted to Jordan for similar reasons. However, this conversation not only foreshadows the tragic car accident later in the novel, but it also hints at what Nick will come to find repulsive about Jordan: her callous disregard for everyone but herself .

It was dark now, and as we dipped under a little bridge I put my arm around Jordan's golden shoulder and drew her toward me and asked her to dinner. Suddenly I wasn't thinking of Daisy and Gatsby any more but of this clean, hard, limited person who dealt in universal skepticism and who leaned back jauntily just within the circle of my arm. A phrase began to beat in my ears with a sort of heady excitement: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired." (4.164)

Nick, again with Jordan, seems exhilarated to be with someone who is a step above him in terms of social class, exhilarated to be a "pursuing" person, rather than just busy or tired . Seeing the usually level-headed Nick this enthralled gives us some insight into Gatsby's infatuation with Daisy, and also allows us to glimpse Nick-the-person, rather than Nick-the-narrator.

And again, we get a sense of what attracts him to Jordan—her clean, hard, limited self, her skepticism, and jaunty attitude. It's interesting to see these qualities become repulsive to Nick just a few chapters later.

Just before noon the phone woke me and I started up with sweat breaking out on my forehead. It was Jordan Baker; she often called me up at this hour because the uncertainty of her own movements between hotels and clubs and private houses made her hard to find in any other way. Usually her voice came over the wire as something fresh and cool as if a divot from a green golf links had come sailing in at the office window but this morning it seemed harsh and dry.

"I've left Daisy's house," she said. "I'm at Hempstead and I'm going down to Southampton this afternoon."

Probably it had been tactful to leave Daisy's house, but the act annoyed me and her next remark made me rigid.

"You weren't so nice to me last night."

"How could it have mattered then?" (8.49-53)

Later in the novel, after Myrtle's tragic death, Jordan's casual, devil-may-care attitude is no longer cute—in fact, Nick finds it disgusting . How can Jordan care so little about the fact that someone died, and instead be most concerned with Nick acting cold and distant right after the accident?

In this brief phone conversation, we thus see Nick's infatuation with Jordan ending, replaced with the realization that Jordan's casual attitude is indicative of everything Nick hates about the rich, old money group . So by extension, Nick's relationship with Jordan represents how his feelings about the wealthy have evolved—at first he was drawn in by their cool, detached attitudes, but eventually found himself repulsed by their carelessness and cruelty.

She was dressed to play golf and I remember thinking she looked like a good illustration, her chin raised a little, jauntily, her hair the color of an autumn leaf, her face the same brown tint as the fingerless glove on her knee. When I had finished she told me without comment that she was engaged to another man. I doubted that though there were several she could have married at a nod of her head but I pretended to be surprised. For just a minute I wondered if I wasn't making a mistake, then I thought it all over again quickly and got up to say goodbye.

"Nevertheless you did throw me over," said Jordan suddenly. "You threw me over on the telephone. I don't give a damn about you now but it was a new experience for me and I felt a little dizzy for a while."

We shook hands.

"Oh, and do you remember—" she added, "——a conversation we had once about driving a car?"

"Why—not exactly."

"You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver, didn't I? I mean it was careless of me to make such a wrong guess. I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride."

"I'm thirty," I said. "I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor." (9.129-135)

In their official break-up, Jordan calls out Nick for claiming to be honest and straightforward but in fact being prone to lying himself . So even as Nick is disappointed in Jordan's behavior, Jordan is disappointed to find just another "bad driver" in Nick, and both seem to mutually agree they would never work as a couple. It's interesting to see Nick called out for dishonest behavior for once. For all of his judging of others, he's clearly not a paragon of virtue, and Jordan clearly recognizes that.

This break-up is also interesting because it's the only time we see a relationship end because the two members choose to walk away from each other—all the other failed relationships (Daisy/Gatsby, Tom/Myrtle, Myrtle/George) ended because one or both members died . So perhaps there is a safe way out of a bad relationship in Gatsby—to walk away early, even if it's difficult and you're still "half in love" with the other person (9.136).

If only Gatsby could have realized the same thing.

Nick and Jordan Relationship Analysis

Nick and Jordan's relationship is interesting, because it's the only straightforward dating we see in the novel (it's neither a marriage nor an illicit affair), and it doesn't serve as an obvious foil to the other relationships. But it does echo Daisy and Gatsby's relationship , in that a poorer man desires a richer girl, and for that reason gives us additional insight into Gatsby's love for Daisy. But it also quietly echoes Tom's relationship with Myrtle , since we Nick seems physically drawn to Jordan as well.

The relationship also is one of the ways we get insight into Nick. For instance, he only really admits to his situation with the woman back at home when he's talking about being attracted to Jordan. "I'd been writing letters once a week and signing them: "Love, Nick," and all I could think of was how, when that certain girl played tennis, a faint mustache of perspiration appeared on her upper lip. Nevertheless there was a vague understanding that had to be tactfully broken off before I was free" (3.170). Through Jordan, we actually see Nick experience exhilaration and love and attraction.

Finally, through his relationship with Jordan, we can easily see Nick's evolving attitude toward the wealthy elite. While he allows himself to be charmed at first by this fast-moving, wealthy, and careless world, he eventually becomes disgusted by the utter lack of morality or compassion for others.

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Discussion and Essay Topics on Love in The Great Gatsby

These are a few typical essay topics surrounding issues of love, desire, and relationships you should be prepared to write about. Some of them give you the opportunity to zoom in on just one couple, while others have you analyze the relationships in the book more generally. As always, it will be important to close-read, find key lines to use as evidence, and argue your point with a clearly-organized essay. (You can read more of our essay writing tips in our Character Analysis article .) So let's take a look at a few common love and relationships prompts to see this analysis in action!

Is there any couple in The Great Gatsby that has true love?

For any essay topic that asks if characters in a book represent some kind of virtue (whether that's true love, honesty, morality, or anything else), you should start by coming up with a definition of the value . For example, in this case, you should give a definition of "true love," since how you define true love will affect who you choose and how you make your argument.

For example, if you argue that true love comes down to stability, you could potentially argue Tom and Daisy have true love, since they actually remain together, unlike any of the other couples. But if you argue true love is based on strong emotion, you might say Gatsby's love for Daisy is the truest. So however you define true love, make sure to clearly state that definition, since it will shape your argument!

Remember it's also possible in a prompt like this to argue that no one in the book has true love. You would still start by defining true love, but then you would explain why each of the major couples does not have real love, and perhaps briefly explain what element each couple is missing.

Is The Great Gatsby a love story or a satire?

Some essays have you zoom way out and consider what The Great Gatsby's overall genre (or type) is. The most common argument is that, while Gatsby is a tragic love story on the surface (the love of Gatsby and Daisy), it's really more of a satire of wealthy New York society, or a broader critique of the American Dream. This is because the themes of money , society and class, and the American Dream are pretty constant, while the relationships are more of a vehicle to examine those themes.

To argue which genre Gatsby is (whether you say "it's more of a love story" or "it's more of a satire"), define your chosen genre and explain why Gatsby fits the definition . Make sure to include some evidence from the novel's final chapter, no matter what you argue. Endings are important, so make sure you link Gatsby's ending to the genre you believe it is. For example, if you're arguing "Gatsby is a love story," you could emphasize the more hopeful, optimistic parts of Nick's final lines. But if you argue "Gatsby is satire," you would look at the sad, harsh details of the final chapter—Gatsby's sparsely-attended funeral, the crude word scrawled against his back steps, etc. Also, be sure to check out our post on the novel's ending for more analysis.

Is what Gatsby feels for Daisy love, obsession, affection, or accumulation/objectification? What is Fitzgerald's message here?

A really common essay topic/topic of discussion is the question of Gatsby's love for Daisy (and sometimes, Daisy's love for Gatsby): is it real, is it a symbol for something else, and what does it reveal about both Daisy and Gatsby's characters?

As we discussed above, Gatsby's love for Daisy is definitely more intense than Daisy's love for Gatsby, and furthermore, Gatsby's love for Daisy seems tied up in an obsession with her wealth and the status she represents . From there, it's up to you how you argue how you see Gatsby's love for Daisy—whether it's primarily an obsession with wealth, whether Daisy is just an object to be collected, or whether you think Gatsby actually loves Daisy the person, not just Daisy the golden girl.

Analyze the nature of male-female relationships in the novel.

This is a zoomed-out prompt that wants you to talk about the nature of relationships in general in the novel. Still, even though we have clearly identified the five major relationships, it might be complicated for you to try and talk about every single one in depth in just one essay. Instead, it will be more manageable for you to use evidence from two to three of the couples to make your point .

You could explore how the relationships expose that America is in fact a classist society. After all, the only relationship that lasts (Tom and Daisy's) lasts because of the security of being in the same class, while the others fail either due to cross-class dating or one member (Myrtle) desperately trying to break out of her given class.

You could also talk about how the power dynamics within the relationships vary wildly , but only the couple that seems to have a stable relationship is also described as "conspiratorial" and often as a "they"—that is, Tom and Daisy Buchanan. So perhaps Fitzgerald does envision a sort of lasting partnership being possible, if certain conditions (like both members being happy with the amount of money in the marriage) are met.

This prompt and ones like it give you a lot of freedom, but make sure not to bite off more than you chew!

What's Next?

Wondering how else you can pair these characters in an essay? Check out our article on comparing and contrasting the most common character pairings in The Great Gatsby .

Why is money so crucial in the world of the novel? Read more about money and materialism in Gatsby to find out.

Need to get the events of the book straight? Check out our chapter summaries to get a handle on the various parties, liaisons, flashbacks, and deaths. Get started with our book summary here !

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream: Greek Love Triangle

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Published: Apr 29, 2022

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WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®

WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®

Helping writers become bestselling authors

Planning the Perfect Love Triangle

April 11, 2017 by Writing Coach

essay about love triangle

It’s spring. The sap is rising. Let us talk of love triangles.

These are potent story devices, even if the triangle isn’t the story’s main concern. When I work with authors, one of the most common issues is underdeveloped plot situations, and love triangles definitely fall into this category. So here are some questions for you to think about, to make sure you don’t miss an angle.

For linguistic clarity, I’ll assume the simplest configuration: an established couple and one outsider – the lover. Of course, you might have several nested triangles, but the principles are still the same.

Why does it happen?

Consider why the lovers are attracted. For the cheating character, it’s usually something missing or unsatisfied. What does the lover add? It might be a dash of excitement or danger in a life that’s become too routine, but it might be the other way round. Perhaps the lover represents security and safety – like a gangster’s wife seeking refuge with a protection officer or a police investigator.

Is this the first time the cheating character has strayed, or do they make a habit of it? Again, what are they seeking?

They might be a philandering scumbag or a normally faithful innocent who let a situation get out of control. Whatever the details, there will be a push-pull between two opposing forces, and this might open a crack to the bottom of their soul. Will they be forced to make a difficult choice and confront their own duality?

And turn the telescope around – what is the lover looking for?

Will they try to resist?

Decide if your cheating character is going to fall in eagerly or if they’ll resist. Fans of the Hero’s Journey approach will refer to this as ‘refusal of the call’. Whether your character resists or not, what makes them want to continue? What makes them want to stop? How might this change over the course of the story?

What dilemmas does the affair present?

In most kinds of fiction (i.e., not erotica), the most gripping story situations are dilemmas. Look for all possible complications where the affair will present difficult choices, especially in other important areas of the plot. An affair isn’t just satin sheets and snatched embraces. It can upset the rest of the characters’ lives too.

Do all the characters care equally as much?

Most triangles are not equilateral. Are all three characters equally committed to their relationships? Does one character care far more, while for another it’s just a game?

Three’s a crowd

essay about love triangle

What jealousies could arise? Is the interloper jealous of the cheating character’s official partner? Does the cheating character have a reason to be jealous or suspicious of the lover? Lies beget lies. The need to deceive can become corrosive. And remember the fundamental dynamic of the situation: we have two people embroiled with a third. In this case we might consider that the shape is not a triangle, but an arrowhead.

Do they all know each other in other contexts?

Much delicious conflict can be gained if the interloping lover already has a close connection with the other member of the couple. They might be business partners, or king and adviser, or members of a band, or old school friends.

Who must never find out?

Secrets are great currency. Which other characters might find out about the affair and what trouble might that cause? Do any of the characters have children who could be affected? Are the lovers teenagers in school, and what would happen if everything came out?

And what might the principal characters have to do to keep the secret? Could somebody be blackmailed?

Dormant parts of the triangle

Are all members active in the triangle at once? One might be dormant – perhaps a former lover who is estranged but still harbours powerful feelings. Broken couples can make for poignant stories of sacrifice or self-understanding, or even tragedy or revenge. A former lover who is cast out might become a significant antagonist.

Is part of the triangle invisible?

This may be stretching the definition of triangle, but a character might have an admirer they’re not aware of. If this attachment is sufficiently strong or obsessive, it might cause the ‘lover’ to act in drastic or extreme ways. As a variation, two characters may be competing for a third, who might be completely unaware he or she is inspiring such feelings.

Who is in control, and might this change?

Perhaps at first, the person who is cheating is most in control. After all, they decide to bend the rules of their existing relationship and take a new lover. But stories are more interesting if the balance of power shifts. Look for ways to do this. Could the lover become more influential? What about the original partner?

Push-pull – who will win?

What should the end be? Story endings always depend on your genre, and love triangles are no exception. Triangles are intrinsically unfair to some characters, and involve betrayals and selfish behaviour. Does your genre have a particular moral climate? Will cheating on a partner be tolerable to your readers? Certain kinds of romance would definitely disapprove. Certain kinds of thriller or noir tale would say affairs are par for the course. Who will be left unhappy or disappointed?

Does your story world require a sense of punishment, a setting to rights? Or is the affair just part of the rich and warped tapestry of life?

The end of the affair ?

If the affair ends a long time before the final pages, it’s not necessarily the last word. If the original partners get back together, there will have been a change. If the affair was discovered, trust will have to be re-earned, or perhaps the faithful partner will be shaken into doing new things. If the affair is not discovered, it might be a time-bomb throughout the rest of the story.

Develop all three characters thoroughly

Because the love triangle situation challenges characters so fundamentally, all three participants must be developed as rounded people. You need to understand their inner workings, life hopes, world views, role models, and comfort zones. Questionnaires might be particularly useful because if you fill in the same questions for all three characters it will encourage you to compare them directly and discover new areas for them to bond or clash. (Psst: I’ve got questionnaires in my book Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel 2. )

essay about love triangle

Roz published nearly a dozen novels and achieved sales of more than 4 million copies – and nobody saw her name because she was a ghostwriter. A writing coach, editor, and mentor for more than 20 years with award-winning authors among her clients, she has a book series for writers, Nail Your Novel, a blog , and teaches creative writing masterclasses for The Guardian newspaper in London. Find out more about Roz here and catch up with her on social media.

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Reader Interactions

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April 14, 2017 at 5:06 pm

That’s a great post Roz and I will feel emboldened about development of the love triangle when I start working on my next novel – I see the possibilities for investigating the cracks that might open to the bottom of a character’s soul! I’m bookmarking this one. And thanks btw for showing me the way to this website. I love the idea of writers helping writers. More to investigate!

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April 16, 2017 at 3:56 pm

HI Maria! Great to see you here. Enjoy quarrying those cracks.

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April 12, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Fantastic post Roz. Indeed, triangles are tricky and all elements of the character’s motives for entering should be brought to light to give the reader insight into the characters in the triangle. Readers need to know if they should be angry at the characters or sympathize because of how the situations came about. 🙂 Sharing!

April 13, 2017 at 8:15 pm

Hi Debby! What an excellent point you raise – about whether the reader should be angry or sympathetic. Yes, we always want to think careflly about what we want the reader to feel. Thanks for a great comment.

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April 11, 2017 at 7:22 pm

Thanks, Roz.

I chuckled at your exclusion of erotica. I haven’t read much in the genre, but it usually doesn’t include much conflict or plot or motivation except for lust and desire and … well, you get the picture.

A novel sitting on my hard drive involves a love triangle. When I get to the edits, I’ll read this post again.

April 12, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Hi Kathy! I chuckled as I wrote it. There I was, sanctimoniously typing ‘what the reader really wants is dilemmas’, and a little voice reminded me that there was a rather significant exception. Thanks for stopping by!

April 11, 2017 at 3:30 pm

My pleasure, Angela – thanks for inviting me!

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April 11, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Such a TERRIFIC post, Roz! Triangles shouldn’t be easy to overcome, and this is best brought about by each partner supplying something that is missing from the main character’s life, a need that isn’t being satisfied. We’ve all see triangles where one choice is clearly not ideal and the main character simply has to become aware of it, but this can be an “easy out.” What does a protagonist do when their love is pulling them in two directions, and the paths are each worth exploring? That’s a tough one…and makes great reading. Thanks so much for posting on this. 🙂

[…] Planning the Perfect Love Triangle – WRITERS HELPING WRITERS® […]

[…] Puglisi havae invited me to their blog to be a guest tutor, and the subject I’ve chosen is love triangles. In spring, a young man’s fancy, etc […]

essay about love triangle

A Midsummer Night's Dream

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A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play about love. All of its action—from the escapades of Lysander , Demetrius , Hermia , and Helena in the forest, to the argument between Oberon and Titania , to the play about two lovelorn youths that Bottom and his friends perform at Duke Theseus's marriage to Hippolyta—are motivated by love. But A Midsummer Night's Dream is not a romance, in which the audience gets caught up in a passionate love affair between two characters. It's a comedy, and because it's clear from the outset that it's a comedy and that all will turn out happily, rather than try to overcome the audience with the exquisite and overwhelming passion of love, A Midsummer Night's Dream invites the audience to laugh at the way the passion of love can make people blind, foolish, inconstant, and desperate. At various times, the power and passion of love threatens to destroy friendships, turn men against men and women against women, and through the argument between Oberon and Titania throws nature itself into turmoil.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream , love is a force that characters cannot control, a point amplified by workings of the love potion, which literally makes people slaves to love. And yet, A Midsummer Night's Dream ends happily, with three marriages blessed by the reconciled fairy King and Queen. So even as A Midsummer Night's Dream makes fun of love's effects on both men and women and points out that when it comes to love there's nothing really new to say, its happy ending reaffirms loves importance, beauty, and timeless relevance.

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How To Write Love Triangles - The Right Way

Hi writerly friends!

This week, in Freelancing, we’re talking about the dreaded love triangle. I know, I know, some of you are moaning and groaning about this, but what if I could tell you there is away to write the love triangle trope in such a way that won’t get you crucified by your readers? What if I told you not all love triangles are bad?

Okay, now you’re rolling your eyes.

But hear me out—the reason bad love triangles are bad is because they’re shallow and have no substance. The characters have no real connection with each other, the reader feels no real connection to the characters, and ever move they make is founded in shallow, superficial misbelief. With these kind of love triangles (most love triangles, if I’m being honest) is that everything is so painfully surface level.

Not only do the characters have no real connection to themselves or the reader, but they lack connection to their internal conflict as well. Everything is stagnant and predictable, and chances are, you’ve got it all figured out by page two. Who wants to read a book where they’ve got the love triangle figured out by page two? I certainly don’t, and I’m sure neither you nor your readers want to do so either. So, is there a way to actually make this plot device interesting? Is there a way to revolutionize the love triangle and breath fresh life into it? Yes. That’s why I’m going to show you the secret to a good love triangle (yes, it does exist). It all begins with know what NOT to do.

Don’t make your love triangle simple

essay about love triangle

Three friends enjoying an afternoon drink together. Photo by Helena Lopes .

Of course, usually, I would advise the KISS method (Keep It Simple, Sweetie) but this time I’m advising against it. The reason so many love triangles fall flat is because they’re too simple and predictable and the reader can figure it out by the end of the first page. This is old and well overplayed since most of the time we already know who the main character will end up with anyways. The reason it’s a love triangle and not a love line is because it’s supposed to be confusing, complicated, and challenging to the main character (remember the three C’s and you’ll be fine). And perhaps we should do away with love triangles altogether —a love web would probably be the better descriptor for what we’re shooting for, since a web is less linear and therefore lest predictable. Weave together plots and characters’ unique storylines, use suspense, character, pacing, rising and falling tension, and amp up the drama in your love story.

Allow the triangle to bring out the internal conflict

This pretty much applies to any genre or method of storytelling, but if something doesn’t challenge your characters, force them to fight for their desires, confront their fears and upend their entire life as they know it, then the reader will lose interest. Now, I don’t mean they have to go on some crazy big adventure, but whatever internal and external conflicts they are dealing with need to be meaningful, they need to matter, and they need to be able to shape your characters in a non-superficial way. Put your characters out of their comfort zone instead of simple asking “which one will she chose,” especially if by the end of page one, we already know which one she will choose.

Not only is this overdone and sooo predictable, but it’s devoid of the electricity that lights up a story—the internal conflict—when the protagonist is forced to confront their greatest fear, crush their misbelief about the world, and ultimately achieve their greatest desire all while developing as a character and delivering a powerful message to the reader. When it comes to story writing, everything happens for a reason, and therefore, the reader needs to know why something matters to the characters. If the reader doesn’t see why it matters to the characters, then they won’t see why it should matter to them.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here: you can use any literary device in your story, no matter how cliché or overdone it is, so long as it directly engages with the main characters inner conflicts, brings them to a fear versus desire decision and forces them to reckon with despair before reaching their aha moment that will bring their character development full circle. That’s right, any device. You’re welcome.

If the external conflicts are continuously forcing your character closer to their internal conflict, then you’re doing it right. Additionally, if the other characters are doing the same thing—being forced to confront their internal conflict—then using a love triangle would make so much more sense not only are the external forces at play here, but everyone’s messy emotions and tangled inner conflicts should be at play as well. Consider how your love triangle can cause all of your characters to either confront their fears or run from them?

Make the love triangle a catch 22 for the protagonist

For the most part love triangles should really only be used to force your characters to make a decision they otherwise would shy away from and force your readers to feel for the characters in said sticky situation. Anyone who reads and enjoys the trope will tell you they aren’t reading it because it’s realistic—in fact I’ve venture to guess most of us never have and never will find ourselves in such a predicament but it’s the ability to put ourselves in another’s shoes and feel for them and the tough decisions they have to make that makes the love triangle work.

However, their decision really has to mean something to the character. It needs to be an ultimatum for them, and it needs to really holds weight for it to resonate with your readers. It cannot simply be “which person will I chose”.

essay about love triangle

Three college students standing on campus. Photo by Alexis Brown .

The stakes just aren’t high enough and pressure for the reader to stay invested isn’t painful enough in this case. It goes way deeper than that—it goes all the way to your protagonist’s deepest fear and greatest desire.

Ask yourself these questions before using the love triangle

There are a few questions to ask yourself before writing the love triangle. It might take you a while to come up with the answers for these but trust me, it will make writing convincing, compelling, and challenging situations for your character much easier and you will better understand how the love triangle is directly linked to the characters internal conflicts. Additionally, your readers will be so engrossed in your story, they won’t even notice that you’ve just revolutionized one of the most hated tropes of all time. 

Here are the questions:

What is my protagonist’s inner conflict and how did it lead them into this love triangle?

If they’re being honest with themselves, the real reason they’re stuck in this love triangle is because_________?

How does this love triangle cause all three characters to face their fears?

What would it take for the protagonist to overcome their fear and make the right choice?

How high are the stakes and how hot is the fire beneath the protagonist’s feet to make a decision?

Answer those questions and you’ll know how to link the internal conflict and the love triangle in a meaningful way. Trust me when I say, as long are you’re drawing on the internal conflict, you can’t go wrong and the reader certainly will be invested. It’s all in the way you play with the protagonist’s greatest desire and deepest fears.

And that’s it for my guide on how to do love triangles the right way. I know, unpopular opinion, but I think they can be done, and well, I might add. I think the reason we’ve seen so many badly written love triangles, is because it’s a plot device (something used to drive the plot) and instead writers are using it as a surface-level element. Over the years, we’ve forgotten how to really use this device effectively and that’s why it had gotten to exhausting and boring to read over and over again.

Anyways, that’s it for this week’s post in Freelancing . I hope you enjoyed reading this and if the guide helped you better your love triangle game, let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to like and sign up for my email newsletter to get awesome, actionable writing advice straight to your inbox each month! As always writerly friends, thanks for reading!

Further reading:

How To Write The Perfect Meet Cute

How To Write Best Friends to Lovers Romance - That Feels Realistic

The Top 10 Worst Romance Tropes EVER

5 Supernatural Romance Reads for February 2020

5 Contemporary Romances Everyone Should Read

Classic Romance Reading Challenge for February 2020

Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love

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What is love? 

It’s the question that relationship therapists, psychologists, and songwriters all have on their minds. Love isn’t just one act, feeling, or state of mind. Love can be expressed or felt in many ways. It exists in friendships, partnerships, in families, and in marriages. Despite this one idea being at the center of stories, songs, crimes of passion, and political campaigns, it is hard to break down what love “is” and what makes a relationship a loving one. 

Robert Sternberg made an attempt to break down love with his triangular theory of love.

What Is the Triangular Theory of Love?

The Triangular Theory of Love does not suggest that all love exists within a perfect, equal triangle. As you will see, the different aspects of love may appear or not appear in a loving relationship. The idea of a triangle, says Sternberg, is merely a metaphor. 

Sternberg's theory attempts to explain what is present in love, how love can be defined, and how feelings of love may change or evolve over time. Ultimately, we all feel love differently, but this theory helps to narrow down the ways in which we approach and identify our love for another person. 

About Robert J. Sternberg

Robert J. Sternberg is an American psychologist and Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. He has written many books on the subjects of love and intelligence. His most famous theories on this subject all have one thing in common: the number three. In addition to his Triangular Theory of Love, Sternberg has written about the Triarchic theory of intelligence and The Three-Process View, which describes different forms of insight. 

Three Aspects of Love (aka Triangular Model of Love)

Let’s talk about these three aspects of love. These aspects may or may not appear in your romantic, platonic, or familial relationships. Sternberg believes that the three aspects of love are intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. 

Intimacy does not necessarily refer to physical intimacy. In this definition, intimacy is more about closeness. If you feel a close connection to a friend, family member, or partner, you experience intimacy with them. This is a good, warm feeling that many of us seek in and outside of romance. 

Passion is the aspect that refers to more physical closeness. This is the drive that leads us to be physically attracted to someone and want to engage in sexual activity. But not all motivation or arousal has to be of a sexual nature for two people to experience passion. 

Last but not least is decision/commitment. When you enter into a relationship with someone, you may decide that you love them. You may feel a commitment to stick by that person and continue the relationship in the long-term. Not all relationships have decision and commitment. You may decide that you love someone, but not commit to spending your whole life loving them. You may decide that you are committed to having a relationship with someone, but you do not necessarily love them. 

Eight Types of Love 

We all experience relationships that have one, two, or all three of these different aspects of love. Not all of these aspects are felt in the same capacity, but they still influence the way that we treat the other person or label the relationship. 

Sternberg labeled eight different types of love based on which aspects exist within the relationship. 

If a relationship is devoid of intimacy, passion, or decision/commitment, Sternberg says the relationship is actually nonlove. One of these aspects must exist for a relationship to have love. 

Liking may not seem like love - intimacy is present to some degree, but passion and decision/commitment are not there. You may like your coworker and feel that you can trust them at work, but you may not feel any passion. You may not have decided that you love them either, and don’t want to commit to the relationship outside of work. 

Infatuated love occurs when passion is present, but intimacy or decision/commitment is not. You may meet someone at a bar and be instantly attracted to them, but you do not feel warmth or closeness. No decisions or commitments are made, either. 

Empty love occurs when decision/commitment is present, but intimacy or passion is not. Maybe you decide to say that you love an estranged family member, even though you have not felt any warmth from them in a long time. Couples who have been married for a long time, and are only saying together for the children, may experience periods of empty love. 

Romantic love occurs with the presence of intimacy and passion. Let’s say you start to get to know the person from the bar a little better. Your passion drives a desire to become more intimate with them, and the intimacy continues to stoke the flames of passion. Things start to get romantic! 

Companionate love occurs when intimacy and decision/commitment are present. This could be the relationship of two very good friends who feel close to each other and have committed to being best friends in the long term. They act as companions, rather than lovers.  

Fatuous love occurs when intimacy is missing, but passion and decision/commitment are present in the relationship. I’ll go back to the example of the person at the bar. Let’s say, instead of truly getting to know this person, you decide to follow your passion and elope to Vegas shortly after meeting each other. There is no real intimacy or sense of warmth in the relationship, but you’ve made a commitment and the passion is still there!

Finally, we come to consummate love, also known as complete love. If all three aspects of love are present in the relationship, congratulations! You have reached a complete love. 

Shapes May Change Over Time

The presence or absence of these three aspects is just one way to classify or describe a relationship. Within these descriptions is a lot of wiggle room. The amount of passion or satisfaction that you may experience in one romantic relationship may be different than the amount of passion that you experience in the previous romantic relationship. These aspects may also change over time. We have all seen, heard, or experienced a love story that started out as a friendship. Maybe you did not have the intention of turning companionate love into a passionate relationship - but once that passion enters the relationship, there’s no denying that the relationship and love have changed. 

Maintaining Relationships 

Aspects of love may also fade out over time. A couple experiencing complete love may find themselves engaging in sexual activity less and the passion dying out. They are still committed to each other and have a warmth that keeps them together, but temporarily (or permanently) they just don’t experience that arousal or motivation to be physically intimate. 

Dr. Sternberg says that while it can be easy to achieve complete love with someone, the real challenge comes when you have to maintain it. Couples who have been married for years know this to be true. Love is not just a feeling; Dr. Sternberg says that it’s a verb. You have to work and work to maintain the “spark” and the commitment to each other through different trials and tribulations. 

In addition to “triangles of feeling,” Sternberg says that love can be experienced in “triangles of action.” Be aware that these two triangles are very different. You may feel passionate toward someone, but if you are not acting upon that passion, that passion may not serve to increase the other two aspects of the relationship. 

Define What Is Best For You 

When does infatuated love become romantic love? When does romantic love become complete love? What will it take for you to maintain complete love with someone? The answer depends on you. You must be the one to define what kind of love you want to experience and how that love is expressed or felt. We all have different “love languages,” for example, that categorize the ways that we share love with others. For someone, words of affirmation may be a sure sign of intimacy or decision/commitment. For others, words of affirmation are not recognized in the way that acts of service or gifts are recognized. 

Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love Today

When Reddit user CarsonF asked, "How much credence is still given to sternbergs triangular theory of love?" many users responded. One user said, "I can say, as a college level psychology teacher - It is still definitely taught in the textbook for introduction to psychology. Not sure about application in the lab or real world though." You can read the whole conversation here . 

How do you make your idea of love known to your friends, family, and partner(s)? Communicate! Get to know yourself. Talk to a therapist if you need to. This is a lifelong process that, like loving relationships, may change over time. Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love is a great place to start analyzing and reflecting on how you identify and maintain love in different types of relationships.

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by Liz Bureman | 6 comments

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Ahhh, the love triangle . Stephenie Meyer's favorite plot device. When you're writing a love triangle from a first person or third person limited perspective, it's hard to write a lot of multi-directional triangles. However, writing from a third-person omniscient perspective gives you the freedom to explore the other two prongs of the love triangle.

Love Triangles

Photo by Jin

Classic Love Triangles

Say you've got a classic love triangle where one character (I'll call her Leslie) is interested in two other people (who I'll call Charlie and Ted).

In a first person or third person limited story, you would get to know Leslie and her particular quirks and how she views each of these gentlemen, and the pros and cons of her developing a relationship with either of them.

Omniscient Love Triangles

However, with an omniscient narrator, you also get to see how Charlie and Ted each view Leslie, and, if they are acquainted with each other, how they feel about her.

You could have an alternative love triangle where Leslie is interested in Charlie, but Charlie is interested in Leslie's friend Gwen. Maybe Gwen doesn't want to compromise her friendship with Leslie, but she still really likes Charlie, and then all of a sudden they get together and now have to keep this blossoming relationship (or one-night stand) a secret from Leslie.

Or maybe Leslie is interested in both Charlie and Ted, and decides to have flings with both of them in order to determine which one she likes better. Maybe Charlie and Ted know about this, or maybe they're both oblivious. Maybe only Charlie knows, and he's ok with it. Maybe Ted is the only one who knows, and it's eating away at his conscience.

Two may be company, but three is where things get interesting, especially if your reader knows more than each of the individual characters do.

Do you like love triangles in books and films or do they drive you nuts?

Write a love triangle scenario with an omniscient viewpoint. Post your practice in the comments when you're finished.

essay about love triangle

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Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.

essay about love triangle

I haven’t fleshed out the narrative — yet. But I’d be interested in knowing how much you can get from the story by just listening to the dialogue. Basically, that’s all there is, right now.

SHEILA’s RETURN (707 words or so…)

She’s going to kill us.

No. she won’t kill us. She’ll nag us to death. She will never get over it –

She needs to keep us alive so she can nag us to death about it.

I could say I was drunk.

Won’t work.

Too much of a cliché?

I don’t drink.

That’s the point. If you say you were drunk then she’s going to kill me for taking advantage of you.

You did take advantage of me.

I thought you wanted to.

I did. I just mean…

I wouldn’t have raped you, and you definitely weren’t drunk. Beat. We can’t tell her.

I tell her everything.

No you don’t.

You didn’t tell her about this. Beat. Did you? She would have told me if you did…

Damn. What does she tell you? Everything?

Within reason. But this is a little bigger than dishing about your choice of underwear.

What if I didn’t know, myself?

[no response]

What if I… I just figured it out…?

Is that possible in this day and age? Is that even possible?

I didn’t know. I swear. I had no idea. I just thought…

So you had your suspicions.

Yeah. I just thought it was… I dunno…

Something you ate?

Yeah, really. It was the pastrami. Pause. But I didn’t’ know…

What didn’t you know? That you’re gay, that you wanted to get naked with boys…

I’m not gay.

That you maybe had some feelings for me…

I do have feelings for you. We’ve been friends for a long time. But I’m not gay. Not entirely. I love her.

I… love her too. But that doesn’t make me want to sleep with her. So you’re going to go with bi…

I don’t know. This is the first time – [whisper] this is the first time –

Friend nods.

I’ve been with anyone…

Since you’ve been together.

Yeah. And it’s been good. Being with…

So is this a mistake?

[Long pause.]

I… I liked being with you… that way…

[Longer pause.]

I… I liked being with you too. But I never suspected…

So you’ve felt that way about me, too?

Since we met. [laugh]

I thought you hated me.

I did hate you.

No. when I first met you, I was completely in lust over you and insanely jealous.

I got to be glad that she had you as a friend.

As a boyfriend.

[sigh] I had my suspicions, but after –

Wait. You thought I was gay?

I didn’t know what your story was. Looks like my first impression… wasn’t very far off.

I guess not. Why didn’t you ever tell me? Did you tell Sheila?

What did she say?

She said “[I don’t care. ]Stay away from him; he’s mine.”

I’m still hers, you know.

I know. [moves toward the other side of the bed.]

[smiles] But you are pretty hot in bed.

Don’t you forget it. [Pause] Actually, you’d better forget about it.

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.

They lie there together for a while.

Please don’t ask.

No. really… Can I kiss you?

Why… would you want to do that?

We’ve done everything else.

No. No we haven’t. [Stares] at Doug. Oh, why the hell not?

Doug rolls on top of Cary. They share a deep kiss. Doug feels himself swelling.

Really? Cary quipped. Again?

You do that to me.

So dopes a stiff breeze. Why the hell are you so horny?

Doug smiled and went in for a kiss again. He leans down near Cary’s ear. You know I love you too.

Uh, let’s go back to kissing.

Sure thing, Doug said. As they kiss, he grinds on top of Shawn. God this feels good…

The light comes on. She drops the shopping bag and something breaks: something like a vase. (I think these guys are in the living room. They think she is gone shopping and won’t be back for hours.

She says “You got that right.” She says. “Fuck!”

End of story. 12.46-14.24. Written at the farm.

Heather

Yes, I think you got the story across with just dialogue. Well done. It’s quite hard to read so much dialogue, though, and some narrative helps reduce the need for so much dialogue. Good use of humour in the 4th line and later with the “pastrami” reply. I’m not sure about the word “nag.” Nag is what you do when you want someone to pick up their clothes, or take out the rubbish, but I don’t think it applies to finding out your boyfriend is sleeping with his gay friend. It works to throw the reader off the scent, but makes less sense when you know the story.

Thank you so much for making the effort to read and decipher the story in my script. I think you’re right about the “nag” word. Many things need to happen with Sheila emotionally well before she gets to “nag”. But I am not clear on what her reaction is likely to be — to the extent that Shawn knows her well enough to predict her response. I’m open to suggestion, and your feedback is welcome on this. Thanks again!

Karoline Kingley

Katrina barely knew them. Both Bennet and Devyn entered her life at the same time, yet they had already known each other for years. Katrina connected with Bennet right away. His laid-back nature, love of laughter and accidental flirting mirrored her own characteristics so exactly that they got along like old friends after meeting only a week ago. Devyn came like a quiet storm. He crept on her, bringing rain which, wasn’t really a problem since she always danced in the rain. It was the lightning he brought which made them clash. His words though few and far between were sharp, witty and laced-with secrecy. Altogether alluring. Yet still, his childish stunts ruffled her feathers and they did not reconcile to become friends until they had endured much at each other’s hands. Bennet assured Katrina that Devyn was a good man. And when Katrina wondered if Bennet was falling for her, it was Devyn’s honest input that gave her cause to evaluate Bennet, and to trust Devyn’s word. Bennet remained unaware that Katrina recognized his feelings. As Devyn and Katrina continued to become better acquainted…something happened. The cards turned. One moment, Devyn was still convincing Katrina that she and Bennet should be together. And the next, he seemed to be obtaining information for his sake. Katrina was less fickle. She knew she was falling for the quiet and mysterious boy. Yet would she risk admitting her feelings when Bennet had been nothing but a faithful friend?

Joy

This sounds like a base for a romance novel. Have you considered turning this into something larger?

Sandra D

I love your intro into Bennet and Devyn. It propelled me right into the story.

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To live for the hope of it all: the folklore love-triangle

Taylor’s surprise eighth studio album, folklore , dropped in July of 2020. That summer, her music gave us the imagery of cobblestones in the garden, clandestine meetings, sweet tea, ivy, and far off lands. She also used this album to present a number of both fictitious and biographical stories, including the one that touched the masses; that of a teenage love-triangle, the emotion and passion of adolescent feelings and forbidden romance.

This is that story, as pieced together from lyrics and the narrative provided from Taylor herself.

“betty” – written by Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn

We begin on the doorstep of a girl named Betty, where a 17 year old boy, James, begs for her forgiveness after making what has so far been the worst mistake of his life. Summer has ended, and at Betty’s back to school party, James shows up to explain what happened when he cheated on her with a mystery girl. This song is James’ final plea, using his immaturity as an excuse for what he did.

I was walking home on broken cobblestones Just thinking of you when she pulled up like A figment of my worst intentions She said “James, get in, let’s drive” Those days turned into nights Slept next to her, but I dreamt of you all summer long

Watch Taylor Swift's Debut Performance of “betty” at the ACMs | Pitchfork

Taylor performs “betty” at the ACMs

James and Betty went the school dance together, but he left early by himself. That’s when “she” pulled up right next to him. He spent the summer with this girl, and the rumors flew as they do in high school. Betty eventually hears from her friend Inez, and proceeds to react as anyone would after finding out they got cheated on.

In this song, James confirms it was true. He asks her if she’ll ever forgive him, or if she’ll ever believe him when he tells her it was just a summer thing. He tries to convince her that despite all the time he spent with this other girl, he dreamt of Betty the whole time. His point, “I’m only 17, I don’t know anything, But I know I miss you”.

Taylor went into detail on country radio, “[James] has lost the love of his life, basically, and doesn’t understand how to get it back.” She said using one of the songs to tell it from the teenage boy’s point of view was a way connect to everyone’s individual perspective. “I think we all have these situations in our lives where we learn to really, really give a heartfelt apology for the first time. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody really messes up sometimes..”

This song means a lot to me. To hear something from the person who is at fault in the situation is a game changer in terms of storytelling. The song swells with pure confession and romantic country twang, it seems genuine. However, we don’t get to hear Betty’s response.. or so we thought.

cardigan – written by Taylor Swift and Aaron Dessner

Taylor explains in Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions that “‘cardigan’ is Betty’s perspective from 20 to 30 years later looking back on this love that was this tumultuous thing.” This reveals that the most heart-wrenching and well written song on this album, about lessons learned and longing sadness, is Betty’s reflection on her relationship.

Folklore by Taylor Swift: 6 songs that explain the new album - Vox

“cardigan” music video

We learn that James’ efforts worked, and that night he stood on her doorstep begging for forgiveness, she forgave him. “In my head, I think Betty and James ended up together, right? In my head, she ends up with him, but he really put her through it.”, Taylor said. However, although she forgave James, she clearly never forgave herself, nor did she forget.

I could go on for hours, reflecting on each and every lyric of this song and what it means to this character and to myself, but I’ll just choose a few of my favorites.

This is my favorite part. Everyone knows what it’s like to sit beside your phone, constantly checking for the phone call or text. For that ounce of attention from the person you like. And when you finally get that halfhearted acknowledgement, it’s somehow enough to keep you going. To cancel plans in hopes of having others. SHE LOVED HIM!!! This poor girl cared for James and simply wished he cared for her too.

Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions review – A triumphant debut

Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions on Disney+

Although “cardigan” is probably the most well written and poetic song from folklore , “august” did the most for me. It showed me to look at the bigger picture in every situation, to look at it from everyone’s point of view.

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This is the kind of music analysis I could spend hours reading! You did an amazing job of going in-depth and relating it to your own personal thoughts and emotions. This trio of songs also reminded me that everyone sees things differently, and the same situation could conjure different feelings.

I really loved your analysis and how you see these connected songs. Your retelling was really engaging!

Hello! This was a beautifully written blog post of the analysis of the Folklore Love Triangle. I have only been a fan of Taylor Swift for a little over a year now, so I’m a tad bit late to knowing and understanding all of the stories within her songwriting. As for the Folklore Love Triangle, I have heard bits and pieces of the songs connected, but I never understood or heard how there were intertwined. Your deep dive analysis of the Folklore Love Triangle is simple to understand and made my perspective of those three songs change. Originally, I I saw James as the “good guy” who just wanted forgiveness over a mistake he had made and how the thought and intentions behind his actions mean more than what he had done. After reading your analysis on Cardigan and August, I’ve realized that regardless of his intention or thought process after the fact, he had hurt more than one person. The hurt that Betty and Augusta/Augustine were feeling is beyond comparable to the hurt James must have felt. I think it is important to make note of the fact that both girls believed that he had loved them, and how James was never clear with either girls until the end of who he “truly loved.” Overall, the Folklore Love Triangle is a triad of beautiful and poetically written songs that thousands of fans can relate to or emotionally understand in some way, and for that it is some of Taylor Swift’s best written pieces of music.

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Industrial Scripts®

How To Write a Captivating Love Triangle: The ULTIMATE Guide

Hunger Games Love Triangle

How To Write a Love Triangle

This article will offer some key pointers on that most time-trodden (and wildly successful) cinematic device – the love triangle – and hopefully assist those looking to craft an original and effective one.

  • Using a few films which incorporate love triangles into their narratives, we will discuss the key aspects to a successful and interesting love triangle.
  • We will highlight how love triangles are typically a plot device for romance films. Many of these are romantic-comedies, but not exclusively.
  • As we will discover, this plot device is also often employed in other genres, such as Action and Musicals. 

We will look to some of the following films for examples:

Famous Film Love Triangles…

 1.  Bridget, Mark and Daniel ( Bridget Jones Diary )

 2.  Bella, Jacob and Edward ( Twilight )

 3.  Katniss, Peeta and Gale ( The Hunger Games )

 4.  Carrie, Charles and Hamish ( Four Weddings and a Funeral )

 5.  Iris, Jasper and Ethan ( The Holiday )

 6. Satine, Christian and the Duke ( Moulin Rouge! )

 7. Rose, Jack and Cal ( Titanic )

These are just a few characters part of famous love triangles.

What Is A Love Triangle?

As the name suggests, love triangles centre on love and conflict .

“ A love triangle (also called a romantic love triangle or a romance triangle or an eternal triangle) is usually a romantic relationship involving three or more people.”

Love triangles typically centre on a protagonist and their two love interests.

  • However, all three characters are fully developed.
  • The love interests must both have equal development and be equally suitable for the protagonist. They must make the ‘decision’ for the protagonist very difficult.

Despite both being suitable, they tend to be very different. Stereotypically, there is the good guy vs the bad guy. This is most evident in a film such as Bridget Jones Diary .

The plot device hooks the audience and adds drama to the seemingly perfect, smooth narrative. Love Triangles throw the protagonist off their path and help make them appear layered, relatable and real.

Love triangles feature in other genres: dramas, musicals and action, but the underlying common theme is romance despite love not always being felt by all parties. Moulin Rouge!, Leap Year, The Great Gatsby  and Titanic  illustrate this.

For Example…

  • In Moulin Rouge! , the love triangle is between Satine, Christian and the Duke. The romance is between Satine and Christian. However, the Duke is offering Satine freedom, success and fame.
  • In Leap Year , the love triangle is between Anna, Declan and Jeremy. As with Moulin Rouge! a romance develops between Anna and Declan. However security, status, and wealth are what Jeremy is offering her.
  • In Titanic , the love triangle is between Rose, Jack and Cal. The ‘Love Triangle’ occurs due to Rose’s engagement to Cal- someone who is offering her financial stability and status. However, Rose loves Jack, a working-class man who is not ‘suitable’ for her.
  • In The Great Gatsby , the love triangle occurs between Daisy, Gatsby and Tom. As with the previous example, Daisy is married to Tom for status, wealth and security, however she loves Gatsby .

With all three of the love triangles above, the main concepts to focus on are the protagonists’ NEED VS their WANT .

This is a key aspect to character development and creating an arc in general. And it’s an important factor to consider when writing a love triangle.

GREAT GATSBY Trailer (2012) Movie HD

What’s The Point In Writing Love Triangles?

Typically, people who enjoy romance films tend to favour love triangles in the narratives as it adds a layer of drama and conflict for the protagonist .

But why write a love triangle?

  • A plot device to add drama to the narrative.
  • To engage the audience by adding new characters/ altering the seemingly simple narrative.
  • Making the protagonist more interesting and layered – revealing their inner conflicts.
  • Show the protagonist’s true nature/ personality.
  • Involve the viewer- they themselves taking a side on which love interest is most suitable.

The Romance-Comedy Genre In Writing A Love Triangle:

As we have already discussed, the rom-com tends to lean on the love triangle plot device. So, we wanted to briefly outline a few aspects of the rom-com narrative structure with regards to love triangles.

Elements Of A Rom-Com Love Triangle…

  • The Set-up: The protagonist (character 1) is introduced as being ‘out of love’ and desiring a partner who is not interested/available (an obstacle). The protagonist has an unfulfilled desire.
  • Meet Cute 1: There is a catalyst/inciting incident in the narrative. Character 1 meets their first love interest (or is already seeing/fantasising about them (i.e. Bridget Jones) and develops feelings for them. OR in some cases, there is an obstacle – the other person already has someone.
  • An Incident/Event…occurs bringing the characters together: There is a development in the narrative. They happen to meet again. Typically followed by a hook in which the sexual tension is confronted.
  • Turning point 1: Characters are together/dating. Romance and the narrative appear smooth.
  • Conflict…which leads to a dark moment : A conflict between character 1 and the first love interest (want different things etc). Character 1 is back to the beginning and is feeling ‘out of love’.
  • Meet Cute 2 : Character 1 meets the second love interest and starts seeing them – typically underlying sexual tension when they first meet. This can be introduced earlier on in the narrative (i.e. Bridget Jones Diary).
  • Turning point 2 : Character 1 seems content with their new relationship.
  • Dark moment 2 : A conflict occurs between character 1 and the second love interest. This makes character 1 face their inner fears (love interest needs to leave, becomes ill etc.)
  • Confrontation : Character 1 must confront their want vs need and either choose the first or second love interest (or in some instances, neither).
  • Resolution : typically, in rom-coms there is a joyful resolution.

This formula is not exhaustive, but these are the stages which typically appear within the ‘love triangle’ structure.

Let’s Dive into the Detail of the Different Aspects and Key Components Required To Write a ‘Love Triangle’.

1. the set-up of the protagonist:.

Bridget Jones Love Triangle

Make sure you set-up your protagonist effectively and fully-develop them throughout the film.

First, you must establish the following aspects:

  • Where is your protagonist in their life?
  • Are they content with their job/life? (typically not)
  • What is the state of their love life? Are they dating? Do they like someone?
  • Why are they single (if they are)?
  • What is their WANT and what is their NEED?
  • You need to know your character inside and out
  • Make them likeable and relatable
  • What’s their biggest fear? ( internal conflict – this will play a key part later on in the film)

Effective Character Set-ups Include:     

  • In The Holiday , the narrative follows joint protagonists Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) who are both unhappy with their lives. However, the love triangle primarily revolves around the character of Iris.
  • Iris is set-up as a hopeless romantic and a woman desiring the unrequited love of Jasper (and as a viewer we’re meant to empathise with her).
  • In Bridget Jones Diary , we are introduced to the protagonist, Bridget, in one of the most iconic and amusing film openings: Bridget in her pyjamas singing ‘All By Myself’. This set-up encompasses the idea of an alone protagonist desiring a love interest (the desire and want is clear).

Love Triangle Exceptions…

  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral the protagonist is Charles. The love triangle surrounds his interest in Carrie, who marries Hamish.
  • We are still introduced to Charles as a person unhappy with his life and desiring love. This is most humorously conveyed through the emphasis on his lack of a partner at the wedding.
  • Twilight  and The Hunger Games  are not Romantic-Comedies, however they do fall into the teenage Romance- Action genres. 
  • In Twilight , Bella is an outsider. She is the new girl in school and lacks friends.
  • Despite there being to imminent WANT for a love interest, in the opening scene there is a meet-cute between her and Jacob hinting at an underlying love interest.
  • Likewise, in The Hunger Games , the is no immediate nod towards Katniss desiring love. She is introduced in a maternal way, caring for her younger sister, Primrose.

In ALL of the above cases, we are introduced to characters who are lacking love. They all, to a degree, share a desire and want for a relationship.

Katniss is an exception in that she is an extremely strong-willed and independent character from the offset.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (2/12) Movie CLIP - To the Adorable Couple (1994) HD

2. The First Love Interest And The ‘Meet Cute’:

Like with your protagonist , make sure you fully-develop the first love interest to make them a layered, real character AND a viable, suitable choice for the protagonist .

Questions to consider:

  • Their Meet-Cute. Is the protagonist already with the first love interest?
  • Are they likeable? Do they have an interesting personality?
  • Do they have a flaw?
  • Has the protagonist liked the person for awhile?
  • Is the love interest unavailable?
  • What is the main conflict/challenge the protagonist faces?
  • How is the love interest(s) appealing?
  • What is the love interests NEED and WANT?

Examples To Consider…

  • In The Holiday , we witness Iris’ devotion and love for Jasper. Her clear affection for him is shown through her Christmas present for him. Here, we see Jasper’s manipulation as he falsely leads her on, only to then announce his engagement to another woman.
  • In Bridget Jones Diary the ‘Meet-Cute’ between Bridget and Mark Darcey is when Bridget attends a Christmas party at her parent’s house.
  • The interaction between the two is extremely awkward and there is NO hint of romance. But, the relationship and dynamic between the two is established.
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral  Charles meets Carrie early-on at the first wedding and they ‘hit it off’ immediately.  Later that night we see the two sleep together, solidifying their mutual interest in one another.
  • In Twilight , as mentioned, Bella meets Jacob early on in the opening scene. However, much like in Bridget Jones Diary , there is no love element hinted at- they are presented as being friends.
  • In The Hunger Games , it is hinted at that Katniss and Peta have a history (we see through flashbacks). However, their first interactions come after being selected to go into the games. There is a lack of ‘love’, seemingly being represented as just friends.

We can assess that for the majority of these first love interest interactions, the characters do not directly convey their attractions to one another. They function effectively at foreshadowing their future relationships and later interest in one another.

The Main Take Away: 

  • Characters must meet and express some opinion on the other person (in these instances either hatred or attraction).
  • The groundwork has been laid for future interactions.

The Hunger Games (2/12) Movie CLIP - Saying Goodbye (2012) HD

3. Conflict With The First Love Interest (Protagonist’s Inner Fears Are Hinted At)

  • What does the conflict/crisis reveal about your protagonist?
  • Does it reveal a flaw?
  • How are they being tested?
  • How does this conflict impact the rest of the plot?

As we’ve emphasised, there is no set narrative structure for how to write a love triangle. However, a common-thread amongst films which feature this dynamic is that there is frequently a conflict that soon arises between the lovers.

Typically, after the initial relationship develops between the protagonist and the first love interest, there tends to be a conflict. This impacts their relationship, putting a halt or temporary end to their relationship/storyline.

  • In The Holiday , as we’ve discussed, Iris is initially rejected by Jasper. Therefore, the first conflict is his engagement to another woman, leaving her alone and depressed. So with regards to the stages outlined earlier, this is the moment in which ‘the individuals want different things’.
  • In Bridget Jones Diary , Bridget did not ‘hit it off’ with Mark Darcy, and throughout the film there are several awkward situations/conversations between the two.
  • To pin-point an exact moment is difficult as Bridget sees her second love interest Daniel throughout.  However, the first ‘conflict’ between her and Darcy is when he and Daniel fight in the street, resulting in her rejecting them both.
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral , the first lovers conflict, is when Charles wants to pursue a relationship with Carrie after sleeping with her and developing feelings. However, Carrie soon becomes engaged to Hamish, reflecting the ‘individuals wanting different thing’ stage.

However, there is not always a set ‘moment’ that a conflict between the characters occurs. In the cases of Twilight and The Hunger Games the Love Triangle develops and lasts throughout the film trilogies.

  • In Twilight , throughout the trilogy Bella’s romantic interest goes between Edward and Jacob. The main conflict between Bella and Jacob occurs in the second and third films, when Bella denies having any feelings for Jacob.
  • As with the  Twilight saga,  The Hunger Games trilogy’s ‘love triangle’ is prolonged throughout the films.
  • However, in the first film the initial conflict between Katniss and Peeta is her belief that his love and admiration for her is fake and was only expressed as a means of getting sponsors. This adheres to the ‘stage’ of the lovers ‘wanting different things’.

As highlighted earlier, a central part and cause of a love triangle is the result of the protagonist ‘s inner fears. What do they fear? How is this brought out? What’s the flaw with the love interest?

This stage should be introduced to test the protagonist and their relationship with the first love interest. Will this ‘crisis’ be resolved with the introduction of the second love interest?

The Hunger Games (6/12) Movie CLIP - Star-Crossed Lovers (2012) HD

4. The Second Love Interest’s Introduction And Their Character Development:

  • Why introduce them now?
  • What do they add to the plot?
  • How are they different to the first love interest?
  • What’s their desire?
  • What do you want them to bring out in the protagonist?

This relationship can start at ANY POINT. They can be introduced at the same time as the other love interest, however perhaps it is more interesting to have them introduced slightly later to have a solid character development and comparison to the first love interest.

As with the first love interest, make sure you fully-develop the second love interest to make them a layered, real character AND a viable, suitable choice for the protagonist .

The meet-cute typically occurs after the protagonist is again out of love and is desiring love again. They are in the same position where they began the film- back to square one. This is when the meet the second love interest, who seemingly fills the void of loneliness.

However, they may also be introduced (as in The Hunger Games  and Twilight ) as another individual interested in the protagonist who is offering something the first love interest isn’t (a desired physical appearance, more affection etc), thus is a rival with a vested interest in stealing the protagonist away.

  • In The Holiday, it is when Iris has travelled to Los Angeles she meets her second love interest, Miles.
  • The ‘meet cute’ occurs when Miles arrives at the house Iris is staying at with his girlfriend. He is a ‘good guy’ in a relationship.

Character Development:

However, as the narrative develops Iris and Miles’ relationship develops (they go on dates etc.) and spend more ‘couples’ time together. He is the ideal match for her. But Jasper arrives in Los Angeles attempting to seduce Iris back.

  • In  Bridget Jones Diary, from the offset Bridget’s romantic interest in Daniel is evident through their flirtation at the office. Daniel is a ‘bad boy’ type.

As the narrative develops the two date and it becomes obvious that Daniel is not overly suitable for her. She witnesses him cheating and decides to leave.

  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral, as already discussed, early on in the narrative the Love Triangle primarily centres around Charles, Carrie and  Hamish. In this instance, the new ‘love interest’ is Hamish.

As the narrative progresses, Charles remains alone and still interested in Carrie despite Fiona’s confession of love for him.

Whereas…

  • In Twilight, the second love interest is Edward.
  • The ‘meet cute’ is during a science class. The first interaction is awkward and cold- there is no hint at their future storyline but it effectively lays the groundwork for the development of their relationship.
  • In The Hunger Games, Gale is the second love interest. He starts as Katniss’ friend. Throughout the film and during the course of the film their relationship develops romantically.

The Main Take Away And Questions To Ponder…

  • What does this love interest offer?
  • The second love interest needs time to DEVELOP and to show how they are suitable for the protagonist
  • What is the main difference to the first love interest?
  • Is there a vested interest?
  • What’s the motivation of the love interest?

Four Weddings and a Funeral (7/12) Movie CLIP - Carrie's List of Lovers (1994) HD

5. Conflict With The Second Love Interest:

  • How will this conflict affect the protagonist?
  • What will the protagonist have to confront as a result?
  • What is their flaw?

After significant character development of the second love interest, there needs to be a conflict/challenge that throws the protagonist off their path. It needs to shake their new relationship and make them question what they need and what they want.

Additionally, the first love interest tends to make another appearance and shake the narrative up.

  • In The Holiday , the conflict/crisis between Iris and Miles occurs when Maggie begs Miles for forgiveness. Also, Jasper arrives in Los Angeles and asks Iris to be his secret lover again.
  • In Bridget Jones Diary , the conflict with Bridget and Daniel occurs when she finds out that he has been cheating on her. She ends their relationship.
  • Meanwhile, Bridget’s relationship with Mark begins and the two begin to date. Conflict arrises when Mark and Daniel fight over her and she kicks them both out.
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral , the love interest aspect is not that significant.
  • In Twilight , the love triangle develops throughout the course of the film trilogy. However, in the first film the conflict arises due to Edward being a vampire. He does not want to endanger Bella.
  • In The Hunger Games , the love triangle develops over the course of four films. However, the main conflict between Katniss and Gale is Gale’s involvement in Primrose’s death. This ends their relationship and plays a significant role in Katniss ending up with Peeta.

This stage is important when writing a love triangle. There needs to be an instance in which the suitability of the second love interest is tested. This stage should force the protagonist to face what they really need vs their want.

Twilight (8/11) Movie CLIP - I Can Never Lose Control With You (2008) HD

6. Protagonist Must Be Active And Confront Their Inner Conflict:

  • What is the protagonist’s inner fear?
  • What do you want the outcome to be? Who do you want them to end up with?
  • Protagonist is now alone again- they need to reflect.

Following on from their relationship with the second love interest and the conflict/crisis/new challenge, the protagonist must be active and motivated .

The protagonist is at a low point (similar to at the beginning) and needs to decide what to do/who to choose.

  • In The Holiday , Iris has the realisation that she likes Miles and wants to pursue their relationship. We see the two share a kiss during Arthur’s speech (Iris’ greatest fear not finding love).
  • In Bridget Jones Diary , Bridget comes to the realisation that she loves Mark and wants to pursue their relationship further. The last scene shows Bridget running and kissing Mark In the street (Bridget’s greatest fear being alone).
  • In Four Weddings and a Funeral , It isn’t the protagonist, that has the realisation, it is Carrie. She arrives at his doorstep and the two promise to stay together for life (Charles’ greatest fear not being with Carrie)
  • In Twilight , after claiming to love both Jacob and Edward (and kissing Jacob in New Moon ), she chooses Edward (believing him to be the love of her life). Her greatest fear is losing Edward.
  • In The Hunger Games , Katniss’ love for Peeta is depicted when she cares for and kisses him. Katniss’ inner fear is losing her family and by the end of the trilogy, her greatest fear is losing him.

The Main Take Away And Questions To Consider…

  • What is your protagonists inner fear?
  • What has the love triangle brought out in the protagonist?
  • How do you want the love triangle to be resolved?

7. Decide Who You Want The Protagonist To End Up With:

At this stage the protagonist should have undergone an Arc. They should have changed as a result of the love triangle. It is up to you whether there is a happy ending.

Ultimately, the protagonist will have either decided to be with…

Love interest one,

Love interest two

      Neither!

The ending of the love triangle can have occurred for many reasons. However, this typically is due to the protagonist having undergone a change (an Arc) and come to a realisation and acceptance of what they need .

  • The Holiday:  Iris starts a relationship with Miles.
  • Bridget Jones Diary: Bridget accepts her feelings for Mr Darcey and the ending implies that they are now a couple.
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral: Carrie visits Charles and informs him of her separation from Hamish. They will start to see one another.
  • Twilight: Bella and Edward become a couple and despite Jacob’s attempts at stealing her affections throughout the trilogy, Bella and Edward end up together.
  • The Hunger Games: at the end of the trilogy Katniss and Peeta are a couple.
  • This occurs towards the end of the narrative. It is important to know who you want your protagonist to end up with. However, when outlining your narrative, you should have an idea already on the outcome of the triangle at the beginning of your writing process.

You Should Ask Yourself…

  • Why is X more suitable for the protagonist than Y?
  • How do you want your protagonist to progress? What will happen to them once the film is over?
  • How will the love triangle end?

Four Weddings and a Funeral (12/12) Movie CLIP - Not a Proposal (1994) HD

8. Final Questions To Ask Yourself And To Bare In Mind When You Write A Love Triangle:

  • What are the internal and external conflicts as a result of the love triangle?
  • Have you made sure to write a love triangle with fully developed, engaging and active characters?
  • Have you developed all 3 characters equally? Are they flawed?
  • Is your protagonist interesting and relatable?
  • Have you made both love interests equally as suitable so the decision for the protagonist is harder?
  • Does your love triangle serve a purpose?
  • What is the love triangle’s narrative significance?
  • Does the character need to grow and learn something about themselves that they will only achieve through the love triangle?
  • Have you avoided cliche and predictability to keep the audience engaged?

And Remember…

Do not make the narrative suffer for the sake of the love triangle. You need to have a solid plot outside of the love triangle.

The knack of a love triangle is how it adds to the narrative. It’s a complication, a challenge and another bump in the road for the protagonist . Make sure that you’re not resting the story solely on the love triangle and instead using it to escalate the stakes, protagonist ‘s goals and dramatic tension . 

To write a successful love triangle you must make sure that the triangle fits neatly in the shape of the narrative as a whole, as well as making each end of the triangle as sharp as possible. 

  • What did you think of this article?  Share It ,  Like It , give it a rating, and let us know your thoughts in the comments box further down…
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This article was written by Milly Perrin and edited by IS Staff.

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How to Write a Good Love Triangle

How to Write a Good Love Triangle – Full Guide

Whether you’re writing a romance-based novel or you’re writing a story that includes some level of romance in it, you’ve likely already stumbled upon the love triangle trope. The love triangle trope is one of the most popular ones and was used a lot in YA fiction for a good number of years–we can all thank Twilight for that. But love triangles can sometimes be annoying or may not be as exciting as the writer intended for them to be. A lot of the time, love triangles turn people away. Alright then, how does one write a good love triangle? Well, let’s take a closer look: 

Also check out my article on writing a good enemies-to-lovers story!

What is a Love Triangle?

A love triangle means literally what it sounds like. There is a person who is torn between two other people. Typically, the main focus of the love triangle is a female protagonist and the two ends of the triangle are the main male characters. There’s typically a bit of a rivalry between the two male characters as they fight for the love of the female character. 

Love triangles have been observed in literature and entertainment in general for a long time. There is a sense of heightened excitement when two characters seem to need to fight over one central person. There is also a sense of excitement looking at the female character as she’s being fought over by two male characters. Whatever the underlying reason behind why we love love triangles so much, it’s undeniable that it’s a popular trope. 

Often times, the love triangle features a male character who the female character seems to obviously be impartial to from the very beginning. Take Twilight for example. Sure, Bella fawns over Jacob a bit, but it’s very obvious and very clear that she’s much more interested in Edward from the very beginning. 

Some love triangles are a bit more balanced. The Hunger Games saw Katniss being obviously torn between Peeta and Gale, with her finding no qualms in kissing Gale and Peeta within the same book. She’s very torn, but ultimately she does pick one. 

YA fantasy and sci-fi saw a big boom in the popularity of the love triangle trope. We had stories like The Selection, Matched, The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, etc… all employ some level of a love triangle system. Some were obviously better than others, as is evidenced by a greater presence in pop culture for some of them. So, let’s analyze a bit more about what makes a good love triangle. 

What Makes a Good Love Triangle?

1. good character development is key.

One of the biggest and most important factors in a proper love triangle is character development for all the characters involved in this triangle. There are some love triangles where I’ve noticed that one love interest character gets significantly more development than the other. Obviously, no reader will be invested in the less-developed guy, right? 

Spend a proper amount of time on each member of the love triangle . You want to show the readers why they need to be invested in this love triangle, so you need to give them people to root for. The key word here is “people,” not stereotypes, caricatures, etc…

Typically, what I’ve noticed is that female main characters at the center of this love fiasco tend to be shallow, kinda stupid, and not very cool. I’m not saying that she needs to be like a ninja who can beat up a giant or anything–though, if you want to write that go right on ahead–but don’t remind me every five pages how your MC is “weak and fragile” or “cute and small.” Guys, please, let’s leave this era behind on Wattpad, OK?

2. Building Tension is Super Important

One of the things that makes a good love triangle a good love triangle is the idea of building tension. The idea of tension in romance is basically when the characters clearly want to be in love or they are trying to be together, but there are very large obstacles hindering any potential of a relationship for them. These obstacles can cause things like anger, frustration, and other negatively charged emotions. 

By building tension in a love triangle, you showcase why/why not a particular character may be able to be with the other character. It also adds more excitement and anticipation for your readers, who will be extremely invested in how those obstacles are overcome. 

3. Have the Protagonist Choose Someone, but Throw Some Curveballs in There!

The protagonist will likely be pursuing someone from the beginning like in Twilight, or they may be choosing someone once the second love interest shows up. However you choose to introduce the love triangle pieces, that’s up to you. However, have the protagonist basically actively pursue somebody and try to be with them. And then throw a curveball or two in there.

By curveball, the rival love interest suddenly getting close to the protagonist is one idea. This curveball should present some sort of challenge to the other actively pursued love interest. 

4. Make the Reader Root for Both Love Interests

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen in love triangles is that the readers will root for one side the entire time because the author literally gives NO REASONS why you should root for the other side. This is annoying and it makes the love triangle just a thing tacked on for the sake of tacking it on. Case-in-point, it’s a bad love triangle if you root only for one. 

So, what’s the resolution? Make sure your readers love both characters. Show the readers that both options are actually viable and that one option is not the most obvious pick. Give the readers two teams that they root for. Just because you root for one side doesn’t mean that the other side can be demonized the entire book. That’s not a love triangle anymore. 

5. Don’t Make it Obvious the Entire Book

One of the most annoying things in a love triangle is summed up perfectly by this Reddit user: 

“It’s about when it’s discussed directly. “Two people like me, what should I do?” is annoying. It falls under the show don’t tell umbrella but for some reason telling relationships is especially annoying for me.” (u/keep_trying_username). 

And that’s precisely the thing that gets really annoying in love triangles. A love triangle doesn’t need to be shoved down the reader’s throat on every page. That’s not entertaining, that’s just annoying. 

Be subtle about it, guys. Write it naturally. Stop telling me that you’re writing a love triangle and just show me that you’re writing a love triangle. 

6. Present Real Conflict, Not Just Love Conflict

When you’re writing a story with a love triangle in it, present real and external conflicts that impact the main character. The conflict of your story cannot and should not solely revolve around a love triangle problem. You need to build a story, at the end of the day. 

And this is pretty important and I want you all to pay close attention to this thing I’m about to say: your love triangle is not the only thing in your story!!!!

Yeah, pay attention to that. The love triangle exists as an element and an aspect of your story. Even if your story is under the romance genre, there has to be more going on than just a romance, you know what I mean? Talk about the other conflicts. Present real obstacles and issues in the world surrounding the main character. 

Ignore the Negativity Towards Love Triangles

I’ve noticed this a lot too, but many writers will often say to not write love triangles. Many argue that they’re predictable, overdone, and boring. While they are rightfully valid in their arguments–and I personally do not like writing love triangles–they do not represent everyone and they do not represent all readers. 

There is an audience for every type of story, so don’t feel discouraged if you want to write something that interests you. There will be an audience for you too. 

Before you head on out, check out my series The Fallen Age Saga . You can buy my books over on Amazon as well !

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Love Them or Hate Them?: A Love Triangles Roundtable

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Whether you enjoy them or despise them, love triangles are a literary staple. It would be difficult to find a reader who hasn’t come across this trope from time to time. But despite their frequency, there can be some pretty big differences between them—how they’re constructed, the role they play in the story, and what they add (or don’t add) to the character development. And because love triangles can provoke such different reactions, we at WWAC decided to get together to talk our experiences and approaches to this often divisive trope.

Love triangles: Do you tend to love them or hate them? Or do you fall somewhere in between?

Ray Sonne: I am so very tired of love triangles. It’s clear that they became what the publishing industry sought out after Twilight, except while it worked for Twilight, because that book was intended to be trashy romance smut, it doesn’t work for every young adult novel. For Twilight, the love triangle was most of the plot. For many other young adult novels, it makes no sense why there’s a love triangle present at all. Presumably, it’s because the author and publishers expect their teenage girl demographic to project themselves into the main character, and they want them to feel desirable, but that doesn’t mean the dynamic fits structurally.

And speaking of two boys, love triangles are often still written as super heteronormative. Even when the stories are set in the future! What, you really think the future is filled with monogamous straight people only? Just bang them both, girl, and get it over with. If they loved you that much, they’d let you keep each other! Hell, while you’re at it, add a fourth person and get yourself a girlfriend, too.

Wendy Browne : Love triangles are on the YA checklist that I am so fond of. Read: Hate hate hate. That said, while I do hate all the tropes that YA authors tend to fall back on or are forced into by publishers seeking the next Twilight , I am not totally opposed to them, if they are done well by serving a purpose for the lead character’s development beyond selling #TeamWhoever t-shirts.

Jamie Kingston: I take love triangles on a case by case basis. Some are well written. Some are cliche, and I don’t invest in either suitor. Some are so well written that I actually wish a threesome was the resolution.  

Paige Sammartino: I dislike love triangles for the very selfish reason that the protagonist and I never seem to agree on which love interest is the right one. My heart’s been broken by more YA love triangles than by causes outside of books. Taking personal bitterness out of the equation, I agree with Jamie that some love triangles work really well and others don’t. I always dislike when a love triangle feels tacked on for drama, but I respect when authors put effort into building those relationships and balancing the love stories and plot.

Romona Williams: I am fine with love triangles, as long as they’re done well. Just like two-person romances (a love line) or a rejection of romance (a love circle): If it’s well crafted, it’s welcome on my bookshelf. While it is extremely doubtful that I will ever read a book because there is sexy intrigue, I am totally open to a plot that happens to contain elements of “will they or won’t they?” or “who will s/he choose?!”

Emma Houxbois: I’m into it when there’s a genuine dilemma at work and it doesn’t seem to be perpetuated just to cycle through basic bad behavior and misunderstandings that any reasonable person would talk through with another person.

What do you think makes up a good love triangle?

Ray: About the same thing that makes up any romance. Romantic subtext, sexual tension, a slow build-up. So that by the time the novel reaches the point where the character kiss, the reader wants it so bad they almost scream. Love triangles where both parties aren’t opposite sex to the protagonist are very nice, too.

Wendy : Everything Anna Tschetter describes in her piece, “ In Defense of the Love Triangle .”

Jamie: Both characters vying for the affections of the third have to be complementary. I don’t like it when there’s a good boy/bad boy dynamic, and which will the girl choose?? When it’s just about attraction without the relationship having meaning beyond the hormonal surging.

Paige: A good love triangle is one in which the end result isn’t telegraphed. If I can tell after the first book in a trilogy which love interest is endgame, why bother? In those cases, authors should just write the couple they want to write and put aside the triangle gimmick. Jaime hit the nail on the head when she bemoaned the prevalence of the good boy/bad boy dichotomy as well; triangles that rely too heavily on tropes or put a protag between two polar opposites feel formulaic.

One for the Money, Janet Evanovich, Scribner, 1999

Emma: A situation that heightens the emotions involved and feels germane to the story. I’ve been told that there’s supposedly a love triangle in the Hunger Games books, but I’ve yet to actually find it or puzzle out what it could possibly offer that narrative if it really is there.

If you tend to avoid love triangles in literature what is it that makes them off putting?

Ray: Mostly that they’re entirely straight and offer nothing new. I could give you a pass if you write nothing new, BUT a queer love triangle because queer readers don’t have the privilege of getting as many stories as straight people. I’m bisexual, so you’d think that heterosexual love stories would still appeal to me, but actually I’ve been sick of them for at least the last five years now. When straight romances aren’t biased and imbalanced due to friction between gender roles, they’re still boring.

Another thing straight people don’t think of is that it’s quite difficult to find other queer people in real life, to date or otherwise. If anyone needs the fantasy of being able to pick between two extremely tempting love interests, it’s queer readers.

Wendy: I don’t actively avoid them unless that’s all the description of the book is pushing. I feel that way about romance in general in YA books, because the characters seem to so often be reduced to their romantic and sexual parts, as if that’s all there is to young adults. When the plot and character development (or lack thereof) can only exist if the protagonist has to focus first and foremost on their romance options, then I’m going to drop that story like it’s hot.

Paige: If I’m reading a romance-driven story, I’m more apt to seek out New Adult or just plain romance novels versus YA, so I don’t encounter as many love triangles as I did in my reading in high school. The romantic subplot is enough of a YA staple that I still read plenty of triangles across genres, though. The major deal-breaker is when the romantic subplot usurps the actual plot, either in how much time is devoted to it or how much weightier the drama feels compared to the actual plot. I get that experiences like first love are even more heightened for teenagers, but when love blinds them to everything, I feel like the narrative isn’t giving teens enough credit. If the world is ending, a teenager can prioritize the world ending.

Emma: I don’t know that I avoid them so much as I just don’t really encounter them in the novels I read or they’re about straight people and I don’t care! I’ve never been a romance reader because it’s typically a secondary or tertiary concern for me, and the genre is just plain never going to deliver anything that reflects my interests. Queer as it manifests as a political identity is not a sensibility I ever see being reflected in romance writing in any kind of significant way because it actively resists so much of the fundamental building blocks of that kind of writing. The L Word model of sort of aspirational petit bourgeoisie with a dollop of rough trade is what I’ve mostly observed there. What I’m interested in only really manifests in urban fantasy and other genres that don’t really advertise relationship dynamics on the jacket, or if they do, it isn’t a huge part of the story.

What are some examples of novels where a love triangle is “done right?”

Ray: I didn’t think Erin Bow’s love triangle in The Scorpion Rules was perfectly done, yet I still enjoyed it. The main character, Greta, never explicitly states what her sexuality is, but I could easily read her as a fellow bi person. And that’s the first time I’ve ever been able to do that in a published novel!

Wendy: Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series comes to mind. The book actually starts with Blue’s prophecy about true love’s kiss, which implies that the romance is at the forefront, but the series goes so far beyond that. The love that comes with friendship and family are the priority, and the love triangle develops into something quite interesting and more diverse by the end.

I’ll also add Sarah J. Mass’ Throne of Glass —but only that book. Caelena develops two wonderful relationships with the prince and his captain of the guard in the first book, based on her various interests and involvement with them, and because the two men are good friends, there’s no competitive aspect to it. However, all of this starts to fall apart by the second book, and by the third, when another love interest is introduced, Caelena’s purpose as an assassin and lost queen seem to be a distant second to her need to make kissy face and prance around in lingerie in scenes that are jarringly out of character. When Maas let’s Caelena develop strong friendships with the other characters, it’s a beautiful thing. When she’s just fulfilling all the Tumblr shipping requests, it makes me rage.

Elizabeth May’s The Falconer is on my YA short list, because May takes some of the “necessary” YA tropes, like the love triangle, and subverts them quite nicely.

Jamie: DC for a while had a Barbara Gordon/Dick Grayson/Koriand’r love triangle. That was interesting. Both women were powerful in different ways and complemented Dick in different ways. Plus, they both had respect for each other and there was no pending cat fight over whether he chose one of them or the other.

Emma: As far as proper novels, go, uh, The Millennium Trilogy. Not really a love triangle in the sense of how it typically manifests, but there was a lot of time spent on examining Erica Berger and Mikael Blomkvist’s perspectives on polyamory and how Mikael’s kind of blythe, self serving vision of it alienated and confused Lisbeth.

A situation in comics that I really enjoyed was how Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti handled Harley dating Mason Macabre in the context of her relationship with Poison Ivy. Harley finds out that Ivy reached out to Mason, and after a certain amount of anxiety on the matter, resolves that she doesn’t need to know what was said. It was a fun moment of emotional maturity that saw her call out cruddy sitcom style writing, but it also effectively outed her as polyamorous.

The most recent volume of Sunstone was really unique, because there wasn’t really a love triangle going on, but the appearance of one created this escalating conflict of personal anxieties that translated into a pretty astounding sense of urgency and heightened emotion. I guess in all three examples, the key to them working as compelling stories is that how they explore where polyamory can both work and break down rather a strict binary choice. You see the joke a lot that polyamory is the cure for love triangles and indecision over who to ship, but I treasure stories where the potential pitfalls are embraced just as much as the benefits.

Christa Seeley

Christa Seeley

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What You Need To Know About Writing A Great Love Triangle

  • by Rebecca Langley
  • August 19, 2019

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Everybody loves a good love triangle… as long as they’re not part of it. It’s a sad fact of human nature: other people’s drama makes us feel better about our own lives. Not only that, when things are complicated, they need to be resolved. There’s nothing a reader loves more than conflict and resolution , even if the ‘resolution’ comes in the form of shock, death, infidelity – all manner of ‘bad’ endings can still be satisfying if the conflict has been set up right.

The love triangle provides the perfect frame for conflict and resolution. Done right, a love triangle can mean double success: readers enjoy the complexity, the ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe they did that’ factor, and the deep sigh of satisfaction when everything’s finally resolved.

Done wrong, a love triangle feels cheesy or cliché and can make readers run faster than another ‘dark and stormy night’.

Even so, love triangles are timeless features of many stories. Even the less likely genres – action, horror, and children’s lit – include them. They can be a main feature or an enriching subplot; adding tenderness or agony, joy or heartache, purpose or distraction to any narrative. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re easy to write, which is exactly why we’re here…

Conflict is the vital ingredient for storytelling. Few stories can manage to be interesting without it. Relationships are flat without it. Love triangles are 100% boring without it. However you configure your love triangle, there should be some struggle, discomfort, inner strife, and maybe a duel or two.

You may write a classic triangle in which two parties vie for the heart of the third, in which case conflict is inherent. Or the two adjacent parties may be completely unaware of each other, and the fulcrum character struggles to make a choice. If you’re writing a modern moral exposé in which the polyamorous throuple is perfectly content to buck the norm and live in three-way harmony, great… but there must still be conflict. It may come by way of one character struggling to break free from the mores of their upbringing, or perhaps the conflict is with the characters’ families or society at large.

To create conflict that feels realistic, don’t simply decide what the conflict will be and try to shoehorn it into an existing story line. Take the story and characters that you have so far and ask open-ended questions. How might So-and-so’s actions affect the people around them? Who stands to lose something in this situation? Are they aware that they stand to lose something? Are there any secrets anyone’s protecting, and who absolutely can’t find out what those secrets are? What’s the internal struggle for each character? Does each person truly know what they want ? Who has the strongest motivation and why? If other characters are less motivated, what does motivate them?

Finding the desire will lead you to the conflict. Take your characters out of the story for a while and imagine them in the real world. Give them the faces of close friends and family members. When you imagine people you know intimately in the situations you’ve set up for your characters, it can be easier to access their potential emotions and responses.

Believability

Part of creating convincing conflict is setting up a legitimate choice in the first place. Romantic legitimacy is, admittedly, a subjective matter. There are people who look at the love triangle from The Phantom of the Opera and balk: how could anyone seriously consider the Phantom? He’s a murderer, for crying out loud! Others pine after the Phantom’s impeccable tenor and dark intrigue, empathizing with Christine’s anguish and yet feeling a sense of rightness when she opts for the more upstanding Raoul. Who knows? There may be a Phantom fan base somewhere wishing she had chosen him in the end.

So there will be some subjectivity at work in any story, but most people should relate to the reasoning behind your character’s behavior and decisions. All points of the triangle should have genuine appeal.

In the Phantom’s case: you feel sorry for him, his talent is unparalleled, his love seems – on some level – genuine. Raoul, on the other hand, is a good guy. He really loves Christine, he’ll take good care of her, he doesn’t kill people, and he’s seriously rich, which can’t hurt. For most fans of the story, there’s a genuine pull, though it may be tempered by an undercurrent of, ‘Wait, she won’t seriously end up with the Phantom… will she?’ Christine’s a good girl. Had she been Sandra D, she might have gone for the bad boy, but readers ultimately know where she’ll land. Until then , they’ll feel the same pull she feels. They’ll feel her pain. There’s legitimate desire in both directions. How different (and boring!) the story would be if the Phantom were a straight-up murderer with no charm, no voice, no nothing. Make sure your readers feel just as torn as your character(s).

The moment of resolution may vary from one plot to another, but it should always be near the end . Don’t give away your hand early on. Only Moulin Rouge ever pulled that off, and probably exclusively because of Ewan McGregor’s voice and Nicole Kidman’s eyes. The placement of resolution may offer a unique quality to the final pages of your story, depending how you choose to do it. Try writing the story as it comes to you, and then cutting the final paragraph, page, or even chapter, depending on how long your instinctual resolution took. Consider the effect of a more abrupt ending. Is it more intriguing? More poignant? Too truncated? Too confusing?

Imagine, too, an ending without resolution. If your love triangle is a subplot, try resolving the main conflict and leaving the love story still unraveled. See the recently concluded sitcom Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for a story where (spoilers) the protagonist ultimately doesn’t choose any of her three love triangle points, but all four characters resolve their stories in a satisfying way. (Hint: it turns out that hooking up wasn’t the be-all and end-all of their journeys.)

Remember, too, that since you made all points of the triangle feel like valid choices (at least as far as their love interest is concerned) the reader probably cares about where they all end up. Don’t feel the need to ruin a character’s life just because they didn’t end up with the protagonist. On the other hand, don’t overextend in order to give a side character a blissful ending (by, for example, making it so they actually loved a magic baby the whole time). It’s enough just to show how that one decision didn’t end their whole life.

Finally, don’t cheat. If you kill a character or have them move overseas because you can’t figure out how to resolve the conflict, and they weren’t going to die or move overseas anyway, it won’t feel real.

Instead, spend some more time getting to know your characters. Use some of our resources , run your characters through a personality assessment , or roleplay a Q&A session to better understand your characters’ desires, barriers, strengths, and weaknesses.

Unpredictability

Write like you don’t know what’s going to happen. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t know what’s going to happen. Instead of deciding, ‘Okay, Pete, Joe, and Mary have this thing. Pete’s the protagonist and he’s a super-swell guy so, in the end, Mary picks him. Joe might move to Botswana or die or something,’ work on the characters . Ask about their goals in life, their goals in the timeline of the story, their fears, and their growth arcs from ‘once upon a time’ to ‘the end.’ By the end of the book, how much will they have grown? Will they achieve their goals, or at least be closer to doing so?

What happens in real life relationships isn’t determined by The Relationship. It’s determined by the people in the relationship(s). We wouldn’t think, in real life, that a man having an affair is predestined to leave his wife for his lover or vice versa. The man’s character, growth, desires, values, friendships, children (or lack thereof), etc. will influence his life choices – including whether or not to carry on the affair. Too often in writing, authors aspire to force a plot onto their characters, rather than allowing their characters to influence the direction of the plot.

Your readers will enjoy the conflict and resolution more if they feel like it’s their own conflict. They’re not sure how things will end, or even how they want things to end. They’re deeply immersed in the story, taking ownership over the conflict and thus feeling real relief – or perhaps total frustration and heartbreak – at its resolution.

Novelty and depth

In adult fiction, cliché love triangles are a death sentence. To make sure your story doesn’t fall into well-worn ruts, do these two things:

First, don’t let movies or YA fiction guide you (unless you’re writing screenplays or YA fiction, obviously). Other factors influence the success of these genres. On screen, good acting excuses a multitude of narrative sins. In the case of YA fiction, the target readers aren’t sick of cliché love triangles yet – they only just discovered them.

Second, focus your energies on writing a strong story and strong characters. It’s hard to pull off a romance that’s just a romance anymore. The Notebook is probably as close as we’ve come in recent years. Its unique twist makes its heavy reliance on romance more palatable. In most cases, though, romance has been done and done again. The characters need depth and the story needs intrigue. 

Keeping your characters’ motivations in the foreground will help. Think about the ‘why’ for everyone. Why are they where they are in life? What are they hoping for deep down? How does their situation affect other people? Consider the real, deep impact of secrecy, blackmail, abuse, manipulation, lust, sorrow, neglect, passion, split affections, psychosis, love, and hatred. Put aside whatever memories you have of love triangles in literature and other media, and ask instead about the people and values your characters represent.

Triangulating love

With conflict, resolution, believability, unpredictability, novelty, and depth as your building blocks, you’ll be sure to create an alluring love triangle – one that won’t make readers groan and toss the book aside. Be intentional about the relationships in the triangle, and be ready to admit if they’re not working for your story. You may need to reinvestigate the source of conflict, or spend a little more time getting to know your characters as people rather than pawns, but once you nail the characters involved and what they want, the hard part is over.

Have you written a love triangle before or are there any in literature that you love/hate? Share in the comments below (I always love hearing from you) and check out The 3 Golden Rules Of Writing An Amazing Romance and Writing Romance: Why Perfect Men Make Boring Heroes for more great advice on this topic.

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Rebecca Langley

Rebecca Langley

5 thoughts on “what you need to know about writing a great love triangle”.

essay about love triangle

A good article, but I would argue that love triangles in YA are just as risky as in the adult genre. The love triangle has become a huge cliche in YA literature, and a large portion of young adult readers hate it. YA readers have already read countless love triangles, and many are frustrated by this, so if you’re putting in a love triangle it should be very different than typical.

essay about love triangle

A very fair point, Juliette, thank you for bringing that up. I was probably thinking of allure of the love triangles in the Twilight and Hunger Games series, for instance. They thrived despite being pretty formulaic (at least in the case of the Hunger Games we can chalk this up to the creative twist on the post-apocalyptic genre).

But you’re right: YA readers are as put off by the cliche as their older bookworm counterparts. We could extend your remark to every literary device that’s been overdone. You can make anything work, if you do it uniquely.

All my best, Rebecca Langley

essay about love triangle

Hi and yes I have written a love triangle for a major character, but not the main protagonist. I feel it is unique. Girl meets boy. She has always dreamed of a handsome prince coming and taking her away from her present boring life. This does not happen. Abductors kidnap her brother and sister (the agenda of these kidnappers comes out later – the major story line) as well as her. (Turns out her abduction was a complete mistake!) But she falls in love with one of the men and decides he is the one. There is something holding him back. You guessed it. There is another love interest (fiancee) at home. (Reader knows it is something like this) She is furious about the duplicity on their return

However once the sister of this girl explains about the life and virtues as well as the sadness of her sister’s life, the furious fiancee’s heart melts and she dumps her man with disgust as she knows her rival is a better woman. Then she decides her rival’s brother is the one for her, but he is appalled at her blatant claim on him. Heaps of conflict there even though it’s obvious this sparring couple are meant to be.

However there is at least one character with his own agendas who is displeased his daughter has dumped her fiancee and focused on the wrong man.(he thinks) This brother of both ladies, wants to take the remaining sister back home but she is to be married off to someone. This someone only wants the other sister who is now going to marry her sweetheart kidnapper. (very good reasons for his desire for the other sister)The substitute sister volunteers herself because she knows her sister loves her man, although she desperately wants to return home with her brother. Her brother will resort to murder to save his sister and take her home.

Basically there are two triangles enmeshed in each other. The success of one, destroys any hope of the other resolving/happening. Yet if the other is successful , as in murder being committed and two escaping, then the feisty ex-fiancee will be heartbroken and this has already happened once.

It is an event story set in a past time, with mystery involved, so the fact it has love triangles is just part of the subplots and character driven story-line.

essay about love triangle

I completely disagree that romances on their own don’t work. Romance novels sell at a much higher rate than those of any other genre. I don’t personally write romance, but I do read it on occasion. The only self published authors I know who make a living at fiction are romance authors, in fact.

essay about love triangle

You can’t write a great love triangle, because the concept is inherently garbage. Try actually learning how to build proper character development instead of trying to force it with love rival nonsense.

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Taylor Swift's teenage love triangle songs on Folklore explained

essay about love triangle

It wouldn't be a Taylor Swift album release if it didn't spawn theory after theory about who or what each song is about.

And although Swift has been characteristically mum on the particulars of most of the songs on Folklore , there are three that she's revealed quite a bit about: the triptych of songs exploring young love that she refers to as "The Teenage Love Triangle."

During the release of the music video for the album's first single, "Cardigan," Swift joined fans on YouTube to answer some questions about the song and the new album, which dropped at the same time. At one point, she wrote, "One thing I did purposely on this album was put the Easter eggs in the lyrics, more than just the videos. I created character arcs & recurring themes that map out who is singing about who."

Her note continued, "For example, there's a collection of 3 songs I refer to as The Teenage Love Triangle. These 3 songs explore a love triangle from all 3 people's perspectives at different times in their lives."

Okay, so Swift hasn't explicitly said which three songs on the 16-track album she's referring to, but based on the lyrics and the singer-songwriter's own explanations, we think we've figured it out. So what are the three songs, who (if anyone) are they about, and what happens in each? Let's break it down:

"Betty"

Starting with "Betty" seems to be a natural choice here, as it's the song that provides the most direct information about the affair, including some of the names of our characters and several high school references, leaving no doubt that it's told from a teenager's perspective. First things first: Although the three names mentioned in the song—Betty, James, and Inez—are a playful nod to her friends Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds ' daughters, the song is not about them (that'd be weird). In her album intro , Swift says that her imagination ran wild when writing the album: "I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I've never met, people I've known, or those I wish I hadn't." Her admission on YouTube that she "created character arcs" with regard to the Teenage Love Triangle would seem to suggest those three songs fall into the former category: songs about people she's never met.

Moving on to the song itself, "Betty" seems like James' account of how the affair started, and their attempts to win Betty back by showing up to her party unannounced and apologizing. "Would you tell me to go f--- myself/Or lead me to the garden?/In the garden, would you trust me/If I told you it was just a summer thing?/I'm only seventeen, I don't know anything/But I know I miss you," James tells us. In the bridge, it's explained that the affair between James and the unknown girl started as James was "walking home on broken cobblestones" and she pulled up in her car. "She said 'James, get in, let's drive'/Those days turned into nights/Slept next to her, but/I dreamt of you all summer long," Swift sings.

The song makes a reference to someone named Inez ("You heard the rumors from Inez/You can't believe a word she says/Most times, but this time it was true"), and some fans have taken that to mean she's the "other woman" in the love affair, but it's more likely that Inez is just the local gossip. After all, it'd be pretty weird to start rumors about your own affair to the face of the other woman involved.

The song ends with James on Betty's front porch, preparing to apologize, but it's not clear (at least in this song) how Betty responds, but importantly, there is a reference to her cardigan: "Standing in your cardigan/Kissin' in my car again/Stopped at a streetlight/You know I miss you." Which brings us to...

"Cardigan"

Remember how Swift said she put "recurring themes that map out who is singing about who" in the three songs? That reference in "Betty" to a cardigan feels pretty obvious here, but "Cardigan" has other bits of imagery that pop up in the other two songs. For instance, the cobblestones from "Betty" also appear at the start of this song: "Vintage tee, brand new phone/High heels on cobblestones/When you are young, they assume you know nothing." And there's a reference to kissing in cars later in the song, as well. Swift tells us in her album intro that one of the images she was inspired by was "a cardigan that still bears the scent of loss 20 years later." From that, we can infer that this time around, we're getting the perspective of the cardigan-wearing Betty—the girl that was cheated on—as she reminisces 20 years year later about her lost young love. In it, she tells us that she knew James would come back to her, and even makes a reference to the failed apology: "I knew you'd miss me once the thrill expired/And you'd be standin' in my front porch light/And I knew you'd come back to me." It seems then, that even though the love left an indelible mark on her, as young love often does, Betty walked away with the upper hand.

"August"

And finally, we make it to the song told from the perspective of the "other woman." In her intro, Swift only says of this song that she was inspired by the image of "the sun-drenched month of August, sipped away like a bottle of wine." So how do we know this is the third song in the teenage love triangle trio? Once again, it's the recurring images Swift uses to paint the picture, and we can infer that it's told from the other woman's perspective because she repeatedly refers to the fling as something that was "never mine." As far as similar imagery goes, in "Betty," James tells us the affair "was just a summer thing," and in "August" the narrator says, "So much for summer love and saying 'us.'" The car scene referenced in "Betty" is also mentioned again here, but from the woman's perspective: "Remember when I pulled up and said 'Get in the car'/And then canceled my plans just in case you'd call?" And, even though it's not mentioned in the other two songs, it's worth mentioning that a meeting at the mall is referred to multiple times in this song, which is about as "summer teenage romance" as you can get.

Like "Cardigan," "August" feels like a song told from a point in the future (albeit an indeterminate one) from a woman who is reminiscing on a lost love, while "Betty" is told from the point in time during which the affair took place. In short, the three teens were caught up in a summer love affair that left its mark on each of them but ultimately ended with all three going separate ways.

It should be noted that James' gender is never explicitly stated, and in keeping with that tradition, they were not given a gender here. I have my own theories, namely that Swift's use of male-oriented metaphors in "Cardigan"—"I knew you/Tried to change the ending/Peter losing Wendy, I/I knew you/Leavin' like a father"—suggests that James is male. But far be it from me to take those sapphic love story theories away from you, dear readers.

After all, as Swift herself notes in her album intro, folklore is something that is "passed down and whispered around," and "the lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between truth and fiction become almost indiscernible." This is just one of many attempts to pass down the stories Swift has given us.

Related content:

  • The best lyrics off Taylor Swift's Folklore
  • Taylor Swift's 'Mad Woman' picks up where 'The Man' left off
  • The wild true story behind Taylor Swift's 'The Last Great American Dynasty'

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Sternberg Love Triangle Essay

essay about love triangle

Show More Nowadays, love is everywhere. Movies, books, music, and art commonly revolve around love. Whether it’s a cheesy romance novel, or an abstract sculpture, there are hundreds of pieces about it. One common theme in these pieces in the concept of the “love triangle”. Consumers of media have heard the phrase “ love triangle” for decades. In this context, two people are in love with the same person. This, however, is not the only meaning behind the phrase. Robert Sternberg, an American psychologist, proposed an entirely separate meaning behind the term. Understanding Sternberg’s theory of love is a great way to explore oneself on a deeper level, and possibly even improve personal relationships (Ciccarelli, 2017). Love is a spectacular thing, with …show more content… This element discusses commitment, and how that impacts and defines love. Sternberg suggests that a major element of love is choosing to love. Decision is the divider between attraction and love. If someone is attracted to a person, it is only love when both people choose to work to cultivate and preserve their relationship and love for one another. Marriage is a tangible example of this point of the love triangle. The decision to stay in love until death is the very definition of what commitment and decision mean (Psych 424, n.d.). This third concept completes the triangle and completes the way to categorize the …show more content… By combining different points, it is simple to pinpoint the values behind individual relationships. From these three types, eight types of love can be found. These types are non-love, liking, infatuation, empty love, romantic love, compassionate love, fatuous love, and consummate love. These types provide a wide range of relationships, ranging from an absence of all three, to the “ultimate love”, possessing all three. Looking at the eight types, it essentially names the unnamable. Love was, at one point, a concept too abstract to touch, An unidentifiable feeling. Sternberg provided a simple way to help psychologists, and the general public, to be understand what they are feeling and

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It's a Good Thing 'Wednesday' Is Leaving Its Love Triangle Behind in Season 2

Wednesday's romantic life was getting in the way of the series showcasing far more interesting storylines.

The Big Picture

  • Season 1 of Wednesday was a massive hit for Netflix, becoming the platform's second most watched series ever.
  • The love triangle subplot in Season 1 received mixed reviews, with fans anticipating its removal in Season 2.
  • Season 2 of Wednesday will focus less on romance, leaning more into horror and mysteries while introducing new characters.

When Netflix first announced they'd be making a show about Wednesday Addams, fans of both the original television show from the 1960s and the cult classic 1990s films were understandably skeptical. Would the streamer be able to pull off a remake featuring the classically kooky family? The series succeeded by first zeroing in on Wednesday as the centerpiece of the story. Although all the main characters from the originals would make appearances (including Gomez, Morticia, and Pugsley), Wednesday would focus on the macabre teenage girl herself, played by Jenna Ortega . Plus, the show would take place at Nevermore Academy , where Wednesday would try to fit in with her classmates (despite her morbid and cold personality). By blending a coming-of-age story with some seriously dark supernatural vibes, Wednesday was destined to be a hit and win over all of those initial skeptics. The inclusion of a romantic love triangle was seen by some as an unnecessary aspect to an otherwise fantastic series, and those who believe that will be happy to know that that love triangle is going bye-bye.

'Wednesday' Became a Runaway Hit for Netflix

Season 1 of Wednesday debuted in November 2022, and within three weeks of its release, had grown to be Netflix's second-most watched English-language series ever (reaching around 150 million households with 1 billion viewing hours ). The series also received 12 Emmy nominations (and four wins) and two Golden Globe nominations (for Best TV Comedy Series and Best Actress for Ortega). Many critics praised Ortega's deadpan delivery, the series' gorgeous cinematography, and the visionary Tim Burton 's direction of four episodes. But some critics believed that the show was formulaic, especially when it came to the series' romantic storyline . The love triangle between Wednesday, local barista Tyler ( Hunter Doohan ), and mysterious classmate Xavier ( Percy Hynes White ) ended up feeling like more of a tired trope when so much of the rest of the series felt fresh and fun. The good news for fans is that it seems like the focus on Wednesday's love life will soon be a thing of the past.

Season 1 of 'Wednesday' Was Bogged Down By Its Love Triangle

Wednesday spent most of Season 1 trying to survive life at the unconventional Nevermore Academy (a boarding school that consists of teenagers who just happen to be sirens, werewolves, and other magical creatures). Despite her best efforts to remain a loner and hone her cello and fencing skills, Wednesday formed a close friendship with her roommate , a sparkly, girly girl named Enid ( Emma Myers ), who was the exact opposite of Wednesday in every way. Wednesday also had psychic visions of strange attacks and deaths occurring on campus and was drawn into the complicated mystery of what was really taking place at the school. But in between her attempts at crime-solving, Wednesday had time to get ensnared in a love triangle between Tyler and Xavier . Tyler originally seemed like a safe ally, and Xavier appeared to be hiding something. The tables were turned by the end of the season , but not before Wednesday often became completely distracted by their attention.

Instead of focusing on her goal of solving the deepening mysteries at Nevermore (or even on her academics or many hobbies), Wednesday seemed to fall into the age-old YA theme of getting caught between two guys . This predictable teenage plot felt misaligned with who Wednesday is: a fiercely independent and self-assured girl. So, fans are rejoicing now that it seems that the love triangle will be 100 percent over . It was recently announced that White will not be returning in Season 2 . Percy Hynes White's presence in the second season has been debated after White faced allegations of sexual misconduct (which the actor denies), with some rumors saying he was written off, while other reports alleging that his option had been extended with the main cast . Ortega announced that the show simply decided to drop the romantic arcs for Wednesday, opting to lean into more of the horror aspect of the show .

'Wednesday' Season 2: Cast, Teaser, Plot, and Everything We Know So Far

'wednesday' is now set up for an impressive season 2.

Although the rumors surrounding White have resulted in some switch-ups with the cast, fans are actually thrilled that the romantic aspect of Wednesday's life won't be as much of a focus. It seems like Ortega herself echoes this sentiment. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon last year, Ortega said the team was going to "up the horror aspect, and get Wednesday out of the romantic situation, and just let her be her own individual and fight her own crimes." This is an exciting shift that could allow the series to improve even more going forward. Along with this change, there will also be some new, exciting names added to the cast list, including Steve Buscemi as a series regular and guest appearances by Christopher Lloyd (who played Uncle Fester in the Addams Family movies), Joanna Lumley ( Absolutely Fabulous ), and Thandiwe Newton ( Westworld ).

Without wasting her time chasing boys, who knows what antics Wednesday will get into with these new characters? And there are plenty of other exciting storylines that can be explored. Fans love the connection between Wednesday and Enid, as well as with her other intriguing classmates (like siren Bianca ). Because Ortega has already teased more 'action and horror' in Season 2, it's likely that fans will be treated to a brand-new spooky mystery that Wednesday will need to solve (with the help of Thing most likely).

Netflix hasn't announced an official release date yet for Season 2 of the series (it likely won't be until 2025), but production has just begun in Ireland. With the same co-showrunners as Season 1 ( Miles Millar and Alfred Gough ), chances are the same magic that was captured in Season 1 will also be delivered in upcoming episodes. Plus, by steering clear of any romantic plot lines in the immediate future, Wednesday can focus on what she does best: using her psychic visions to decipher clues to whichever haunting mystery she's trying to solve. Wednesday can work on finding her place at Nevermoor , while still leaning into what makes her truly unique (what other teenage girl loves to write ghoulish stories or play cello under the moonlight?). Season 2 can continue to bring in characters that are beloved in the franchise, while introducing new fan favorites .

Season 1 of Wednesday is available to stream on Netflix.

Watch on Netflix

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Love Triangles on Screen: 15 Memorable Romantic Entanglements

Posted: May 10, 2024 | Last updated: May 10, 2024

<p>A love triangle, but also a triangle of deception, with plenty of chemistry and tension on the screen. In 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom) share an instant connection. However, their love must endure many obstacles, including Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) obvious attraction to Elizabeth… and perhaps hers to him?</p> <p>While Elizabeth was keenly aware of her 'pretty privilege' (as the kids say today), it’s undeniable that as she got closer to Jack, she did so not only out of necessity for her goals and survival but also because she genuinely liked him. However, in the end, it was the hopeless romantic Will who emerged victorious.</p>

Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)

A love triangle, but also a triangle of deception, with plenty of chemistry and tension on the screen. In 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) and Will (Orlando Bloom) share an instant connection. However, their love must endure many obstacles, including Jack Sparrow’s (Johnny Depp) obvious attraction to Elizabeth… and perhaps hers to him?

While Elizabeth was keenly aware of her 'pretty privilege' (as the kids say today), it’s undeniable that as she got closer to Jack, she did so not only out of necessity for her goals and survival but also because she genuinely liked him. However, in the end, it was the hopeless romantic Will who emerged victorious.

<p>In the current film landscape, Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most interesting directors. And one of his most acclaimed films is “The Favourite,” a period dark comedy in which Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz play two cousins trying to win the favor of the queen of England (Olivia Colman).</p> <p>The film is not only hilarious and unhinged, but it’s also an exploration of desire, ambition, deception and betrayal. While one might think that these two young ladies are faking their affections for the Queen, there are real feelings underneath, which makes the story even more complex and appealing.</p>

The Favourite (2018)

In the current film landscape, Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most interesting directors. And one of his most acclaimed films is “The Favourite,” a period dark comedy in which Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz play two cousins trying to win the favor of the queen of England (Olivia Colman).

The film is not only hilarious and unhinged, but it’s also an exploration of desire, ambition, deception and betrayal. While one might think that these two young ladies are faking their affections for the Queen, there are real feelings underneath, which makes the story even more complex and appealing.

<p>This might be controversial, as Bernardo Bertolucci’s 'The Dreamers' revolves around a love triangle involving siblings. However, the director beautifully navigates its themes, imbuing the story with much more depth than mere shocking taboos.</p> <p>The movie follows a trio of idealistic film enthusiasts immersed in a hermetic, explorative lifestyle amidst the backdrop of the 1968 Paris student riots. Eva Green portrays a girl deeply enamored with her brother, Louis Garrel, while exchange student Michael Pitt finds himself drawn to both of them.</p>

The Dreamers (2003)

This might be controversial, as Bernardo Bertolucci’s 'The Dreamers' revolves around a love triangle involving siblings. However, the director beautifully navigates its themes, imbuing the story with much more depth than mere shocking taboos.

The movie follows a trio of idealistic film enthusiasts immersed in a hermetic, explorative lifestyle amidst the backdrop of the 1968 Paris student riots. Eva Green portrays a girl deeply enamored with her brother, Louis Garrel, while exchange student Michael Pitt finds himself drawn to both of them.

<p>When it comes to teen romance, the films that defined the late 2000s and early 2010s were the 'Twilight' saga. It was inescapable, and part of its popularity had to do with the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob.</p> <p>While it’s true that there wasn’t much mystery regarding the choice she would make in the end, the tension that Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner brought to the screen was enough to drive teens crazy.</p>

The Twilight Saga (2008-2012)

When it comes to teen romance, the films that defined the late 2000s and early 2010s were the 'Twilight' saga. It was inescapable, and part of its popularity had to do with the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob.

While it’s true that there wasn’t much mystery regarding the choice she would make in the end, the tension that Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner brought to the screen was enough to drive teens crazy.

<p>One of the reasons why love triangles are irresistible to audiences might be the knowledge that someone is inevitably going to get hurt in the end. And sometimes, that someone is precisely the hero we are rooting for. A case in point is Christopher Nolan’s 'The Dark Knight.'</p> <p>Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) may feel ready to leave Batman behind and finally be with the love of his life, Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). However, she isn’t so sure, and thus, she is dating Harvey Dent, Gotham City's District Attorney. The resolution of the film is even more sad as we know Rachel's real feelings.</p>

The Dark Knight (2008)

One of the reasons why love triangles are irresistible to audiences might be the knowledge that someone is inevitably going to get hurt in the end. And sometimes, that someone is precisely the hero we are rooting for. A case in point is Christopher Nolan’s 'The Dark Knight.'

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) may feel ready to leave Batman behind and finally be with the love of his life, Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal). However, she isn’t so sure, and thus, she is dating Harvey Dent, Gotham City's District Attorney. The resolution of the film is even more sad as we know Rachel's real feelings.

<p>It seems like Humphrey Bogart is always at the center of the crime scene when it comes to love triangles. In this classic film, he portrays Linus Larrabee, the eldest, smartest, and most sensible brother of the millionaire Larrabee family. Yet, he still finds himself captivated by Audrey Hepburn’s ever-charming Sabrina. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.</p> <p>First, Sabrina will be swooning over Linus’ younger brother, David, played by William Holden. The family won’t approve of this affair, prompting Linus to enter the picture with a cold-hearted plan... until his own feelings also get in the way. It just doesn’t get any better than this.</p>

Sabrina (1954)

It seems like Humphrey Bogart is always at the center of the crime scene when it comes to love triangles. In this classic film, he portrays Linus Larrabee, the eldest, smartest, and most sensible brother of the millionaire Larrabee family. Yet, he still finds himself captivated by Audrey Hepburn’s ever-charming Sabrina. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

First, Sabrina will be swooning over Linus’ younger brother, David, played by William Holden. The family won’t approve of this affair, prompting Linus to enter the picture with a cold-hearted plan... until his own feelings also get in the way. It just doesn’t get any better than this.

<p>As the modern version of 'Pride and Prejudice,' 'Bridget Jones's Diary' also brings the tension between Darcy, Elizabeth, and Wickham to the 21st Century, complete with an actual love triangle and plenty of messiness.</p> <p>Initially infatuated with her charming, playboy boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), Bridget soon realizes that he might not be what she's truly looking for. Instead, she finds herself drawn to Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), the seemingly boring and serious lawyer she initially dislikes.</p>

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

As the modern version of 'Pride and Prejudice,' 'Bridget Jones's Diary' also brings the tension between Darcy, Elizabeth, and Wickham to the 21st Century, complete with an actual love triangle and plenty of messiness.

Initially infatuated with her charming, playboy boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), Bridget soon realizes that he might not be what she's truly looking for. Instead, she finds herself drawn to Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), the seemingly boring and serious lawyer she initially dislikes.

<p>In "The Philadelphia Story,” Tracy Lord, portrayed by Katharine Hepburn, is a wealthy socialite preparing for her second marriage… And her fiancé is not even one of the love interests. She will be caught between her charming ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven, played by Cary Grant, and an earnest tabloid reporter, Mike Connor, portrayed by James Stewart.</p> <p>Dexter, still harboring feelings for Tracy, sees an opportunity to win her back amidst the chaos of her impending wedding. Meanwhile, Mike's genuine affection for Tracy challenges her perceptions of class and societal expectations, forcing her to confront her own vulnerabilities and desires.</p>

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

In "The Philadelphia Story,” Tracy Lord, portrayed by Katharine Hepburn, is a wealthy socialite preparing for her second marriage… And her fiancé is not even one of the love interests. She will be caught between her charming ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven, played by Cary Grant, and an earnest tabloid reporter, Mike Connor, portrayed by James Stewart.

Dexter, still harboring feelings for Tracy, sees an opportunity to win her back amidst the chaos of her impending wedding. Meanwhile, Mike's genuine affection for Tracy challenges her perceptions of class and societal expectations, forcing her to confront her own vulnerabilities and desires.

<p>The most recent addition to the list, 'Challengers,' is a sports romantic drama starring Zendaya in her first lead role, alongside Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, the film follows three tennis players who meet as teenagers and then... well, they become entangled for the next 15 years.</p> <p>If we consider that a love triangle should involve three people who are in love with each other, well, here it is. Not only are O'Connor and Faist's characters vying for the affections of the same girl, Zendaya’s Tashi, but there's also an exquisite tension between them, having been best friends since childhood, which the film explores very well.</p>

Challengers (2024)

The most recent addition to the list, 'Challengers,' is a sports romantic drama starring Zendaya in her first lead role, alongside Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, the film follows three tennis players who meet as teenagers and then... well, they become entangled for the next 15 years.

If we consider that a love triangle should involve three people who are in love with each other, well, here it is. Not only are O'Connor and Faist's characters vying for the affections of the same girl, Zendaya’s Tashi, but there's also an exquisite tension between them, having been best friends since childhood, which the film explores very well.

<p>Written and directed by Alice Wu, "The Half of It” is a special movie by all means. It’s a coming-of-age story that follows a shy, Chinese-American student, Ellie, who agrees to help the school jock write love letters to a girl named Aster… However, in the process, some feelings will change.</p> <p>However, this trio will find themselves connecting and learn about the nature of love, and all of its messiness and complications. But, apart from the love triangle, you can expect a story about learning to be yourself, as well as reflections around identity, diaspora and more.</p>

The Half Of It (2020)

Written and directed by Alice Wu, "The Half of It” is a special movie by all means. It’s a coming-of-age story that follows a shy, Chinese-American student, Ellie, who agrees to help the school jock write love letters to a girl named Aster… However, in the process, some feelings will change.

However, this trio will find themselves connecting and learn about the nature of love, and all of its messiness and complications. But, apart from the love triangle, you can expect a story about learning to be yourself, as well as reflections around identity, diaspora and more.

<p>Before 'Twilight,' before 'The Hunger Games,' before 'The Vampire Diaries'... One of the most angsty love triangles was in 'Reality Bites.' In the film, Winona Ryder’s Lelaina has to choose between Ethan Hawke’s Troy or Ben Stiller’s Michael.</p> <p>One is trouble, the other is secure... The choice seems obvious, right? Well, that’s exactly what lies at the heart of the film. Not everything is as it seems, and there’s more to love than meets the eye. 'Reality Bites' is one of the best coming-of-age movies and features an unforgettable love triangle.</p>

Reality Bites (1994)

Before 'Twilight,' before 'The Hunger Games,' before 'The Vampire Diaries'... One of the most angsty love triangles was in 'Reality Bites.' In the film, Winona Ryder’s Lelaina has to choose between Ethan Hawke’s Troy or Ben Stiller’s Michael.

One is trouble, the other is secure... The choice seems obvious, right? Well, that’s exactly what lies at the heart of the film. Not everything is as it seems, and there’s more to love than meets the eye. 'Reality Bites' is one of the best coming-of-age movies and features an unforgettable love triangle.

<p>One of the most iconic romantic comedies of the 1990s, and featuring one of the most iconic love triangles as well. While admittedly less flashy than other films on the list, it's clear that the feelings Julianne (Julia Roberts) and Michael (Dermot Mulroney) have for each other are more complicated than just friendship.</p> <p>These feelings create a lot of trouble ahead of Michael’s wedding to Kimberly, played by Cameron Diaz, who remains oblivious to it all. There’s tension, there’s yearning, there’s madness… and there are lessons learned along the way.</p>

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

One of the most iconic romantic comedies of the 1990s, and featuring one of the most iconic love triangles as well. While admittedly less flashy than other films on the list, it's clear that the feelings Julianne (Julia Roberts) and Michael (Dermot Mulroney) have for each other are more complicated than just friendship.

These feelings create a lot of trouble ahead of Michael’s wedding to Kimberly, played by Cameron Diaz, who remains oblivious to it all. There’s tension, there’s yearning, there’s madness… and there are lessons learned along the way.

<p>For many, 'Casablanca' stands as the ultimate love triangle, fascinating audiences across generations. Beyond its brilliant script, the film delves into some of cinema's most discussed romances, posing the timeless question: What would you do for love?</p> <p>Set against the backdrop of World War II, Rick Blaine (played by Bogart) has forged a new life for himself in the Moroccan city of Casablanca, far removed from Ilsa (Bergman), the woman who left him years earlier. However, when she unexpectedly enters his gin joint with her husband, Czech resistance leader Victor Lazlo (Henreid), seeking refuge from the Nazis, it becomes clear that their past isn't quite finished.</p>

Casablanca (1942)

For many, 'Casablanca' stands as the ultimate love triangle, fascinating audiences across generations. Beyond its brilliant script, the film delves into some of cinema's most discussed romances, posing the timeless question: What would you do for love?

Set against the backdrop of World War II, Rick Blaine (played by Bogart) has forged a new life for himself in the Moroccan city of Casablanca, far removed from Ilsa (Bergman), the woman who left him years earlier. However, when she unexpectedly enters his gin joint with her husband, Czech resistance leader Victor Lazlo (Henreid), seeking refuge from the Nazis, it becomes clear that their past isn't quite finished.

<p>Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” opens up with the line “This, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl.” And, of course, that girl is Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker’s neighbor and long-time crush. However, unexpectedly, Peter’s best friend will also enter the picture, making the first move to win her heart.</p> <p>Over the course of the trilogy, the three of them will have to deal with their feelings, as well as the lies and truths of their relationship. And, while we as audience root for Peter and Mary Jane to end up together, the complexity of their dynamic with Peter's best friend adds layers of tension to the story.</p>

Spider-Man (2002)

Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” opens up with the line “This, like any story worth telling, is all about a girl.” And, of course, that girl is Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker’s neighbor and long-time crush. However, unexpectedly, Peter’s best friend will also enter the picture, making the first move to win her heart.

Over the course of the trilogy, the three of them will have to deal with their feelings, as well as the lies and truths of their relationship. And, while we as audience root for Peter and Mary Jane to end up together, the complexity of their dynamic with Peter's best friend adds layers of tension to the story.

<p>Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Y tú mamá también’ is one of the most important Mexican films ever, as it not only launched the cast to new levels, but it also served as a catalyst for important conversations in the country about identity, gender, and social inequity.</p> <p>The movie follows a road trip from Mexico City to a paradisiacal beach in Oaxaca, during which upper-class teenager Tenoch (Diego Luna), his humbler best friend, Julio (Gael García Bernal), and a Spanish visitor, Luisa (Maribel Verdú), become entangled in ways that challenge their notions of manhood.</p>

Y tu mamá también (2001)

Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Y tú mamá también’ is one of the most important Mexican films ever, as it not only launched the cast to new levels, but it also served as a catalyst for important conversations in the country about identity, gender, and social inequity.

The movie follows a road trip from Mexico City to a paradisiacal beach in Oaxaca, during which upper-class teenager Tenoch (Diego Luna), his humbler best friend, Julio (Gael García Bernal), and a Spanish visitor, Luisa (Maribel Verdú), become entangled in ways that challenge their notions of manhood.

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Pride Month - Embodying Love As Resilience  - Kai Cheng Thom Author Event

Pride Month - Embodying Love As Resilience - Kai Cheng Thom Author Event

Kai Cheng Thom offers a revitalizing perspective on the meaning of love in a time of intense social strife and political polarization.

Date and time

Ben Franklin Place, Chamber

About this event

  • 1 hour 30 minutes

Drawing from over 15 years of queer and trans advocacy, as well as over a decade in practice as a wellness professional, trauma recovery expert, and conflict transformation facilitator, award-winning author and spiritual teacher Kai Cheng Thom offers a revitalizing perspective on the meaning of love in a time of intense social strife and political polarization : How do we understand love not as a fuzzy feeling, not as an intellectual concept, but as a discipline and set of practices that we can apply to strengthen our resilience and deepen relationships for the purpose of pursuing justice? Love as our greatest power in the struggle for social change? This highly engaged, practically focused presentation will leave you with: 1) A simple but powerful psychological framework for understanding love and resilience as a practice, 2) 3 simple tools that you can use to resolve conflict and engage in meaningful conversations with people who may hold bigoted or prejudiced beliefs, 3) A visualization practice for self-care and personal development.

There will be a Q&A and book signing with the author to follow the event.

Free event.

This is a hybrid event: the program is in-person, but we will also stream live on OPL's YouTube page.

Registration is for the in-person portion of the event.

In-person attendees will get the chance to win a copy of Falling Back in Love with Being Human .

This event is made possible thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library Association.

About Kai Cheng Thom:

Kai Cheng Thom, Master of Social Work, MSc Couple & Family Therapy , is a Certified Somatic Sex Educator, Qualified Mediator, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Certified Professional Life Coach based in tkaronto/Toronto. She is the author of six award-winning books in various genres, including the Publishing Triangle Award-winning essay collection on Transformative Justice, I HOPE WE CHOOSE LOVE , the New York Times- featured picture book From the Stars In the Sky to the Fish in the Sea , and the recent Canadian bestseller Falling Back In Love With Being Human .

Kai Cheng's work as a noted practitioner and teacher of Somatic Sex Education, Sexological Bodywork, and Somatic Coaching focuses on the intersection of social justice, pleasure activism, and transformative approaches to healing conflict and harm. She maintains a private practice as a hands-on sex and intimacy coach with individuals, couples, and polycules, as well as a consultancy as a master facilitator and leadership coach with organizations across North America. She also teaches as Adjunct Faculty at the Institute for the Study of Somatic Sex Education and Faculty at The Embody Lab, having trained hundreds of practitioners in body-based, trauma-informed, and anti-oppressive approaches to individual and social change.

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The Un Certain Regard Section Offers a Different Perspective at the Cannes Film Festival

While not receiving the same attention as the main competition, the sidebar is where you often glimpse the future of cinema.

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Groups of people in tuxedos, suits, and dresses stand on a red carpet, as photographers stand nearby, cameras in hand.

By A.J. Goldmann

The British filmmaker Molly Manning Walker was on vacation in Rome on May 26, 2023, when her phone rang. A week earlier, her feature debut “ How to Have Sex ” had premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Now, festival organizers were calling because her movie, about a group of 16-year-old girls who spend a debauched booze and sex-soaked summer vacation on the Greek island of Crete, had won a prize that would be announced at that evening’s closing ceremony back on the Côte d’Azur.

“I had to drive to the nearest airport really quickly and get on the next plane and I ran in three minutes after the film had been announced,” Manning Walker, 30, recalled in a recent phone interview.

She wasn’t exaggerating. She did, in fact, bolt into the cinema wearing a lime green T-shirt and black tennis shorts. “ What the hell is going on? ” she asked the audience in disbelief. The answer was that “How to Have Sex” had won the top award in Un Certain Regard, the sidebar section at the festival that is known for recognizing films by new and emerging directors.

While the starry main competition at Cannes — which begins on Tuesday, and this year features new work by David Cronenberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Yorgos Lanthimos and other established filmmakers — attracts most of the media’s attention, Un Certain Regard, which translates to “a certain look,” is where one can most reliably glimpse where world cinema is headed. In the words of Thierry Frémaux, Cannes’s artistic director, “U.C.R. discovers and celebrates the new generation and expands the frontiers of cinema.”

In an email interview, Frémaux, who heads the viewing committee that selects the films that screen at the festival, said that Un Certain Regard’s purpose was “to bring out new trends, new paths, new countries of cinema. It’s a selection that favors young filmmakers, especially female directors, and prepares the emergence of future generations.

“We’re looking for style, originality, narrative force and conviction,” he wrote.

Peter Bradshaw , the chief film critic for The Guardian, said Un Certain Regard was a game changer when it was founded in 1978 by Gilles Jacob, Frémaux’s predecessor.

“It doubled the size of the official festival, basically,” Bradshaw explained in a phone interview. “Twenty extra titles in what is a very important sidebar — it’s taken very seriously — and with that sidebar it created a huge challenge to the other festivals because, you know, other festivals which might have wanted those titles find they’re being hoovered up by Un Certain Regard,” he said, since the films that screen at Cannes are typically world premieres.

In addition to attending Cannes as a critic since 1999, the year he started at The Guardian, Bradshaw was also a member of the Un Certain Regard jury in 2011 that was headed by the Serbian director Emir Kusturica, a two-time winner of the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize.

The Un Certain Regard awards, Bradshaw added, are particularly valuable for emerging filmmakers like Manning Walker, since it means that “you can come away from Cannes with a prize which is absolute gold for a distributor or sales agent.”

Lately, Un Certain Regard has launched many of Cannes’s most discussed films, such as the lavish Austrian drama “Corsage” (2022), the rugged Icelandic epic “Godland” (2022) and the polarizing Belgian film “Girl” (2018), about a transgender ballet dancer.

In his email, Frémaux stressed that the same committee curated the entire festival program, the “sélection officielle,” which includes various noncompetitive sections in addition to the main slate competition and Un Certain Regard. How a film winds up in one section or another, he stresses, is anything but arbitrary.

“The most important thing is that each film, for what it is, finds its best place,” he said. Noting that young filmmakers, including first-time directors, can be selected for the main competition and even win prizes there, Frémaux explained that sometimes a film initially selected for Un Certain Regard has ended up in competition.

“It’s important to take risks, as this allows us to make new discoveries,” he said. At the same time, he emphasized that Un Certain Regard is where many filmmakers feel most at home at Cannes, away from the hue and cry of the main competition. But he also cautioned against the perception of Un Certain Regard as the festival’s second tier.

“When U.C.R. was created, it did indeed look like an inferior section,” he said, but added that “U.C.R. has indeed found a real identity in recent years, because we’ve changed its mission. It’s no longer the ‘second division,’ it’s a section in its own right.”

“Even without Un Certain Regard, you can’t see everything,” Bradshaw said of the often-hectic experience of being at Cannes. “But it does create a new level of FOMO, because you think, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s some brilliant movie that everybody’s talking about,’ and ‘you might not have seen it because it’s slightly off the beaten track.’ And of course, once that gets out, everybody scrambles to try and see the hot film that everybody’s talking about. In a way, Un Certain Regard is almost brilliantly constructed to create this alternative reality,” he said.

Over the past decade, many of the filmmakers most closely associated with Cannes got their start in Un Certain Regard. A decade before Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” (2019) won both the Palme d’Or, and the Academy Award for best picture, the Korean director’s film “Mother” stunned the Un Certain Regard audience. And the Swedish filmmaker Ruben Ostlund , who won Palmes for “The Square” (2017) and “Triangle of Sadness” (2022), took home the Un Certain Regard jury prize for “Force Majeure” in 2014.

Another example is Xavier Dolan, the 35-year-old French Canadian auteur who serves as the Un Certain Regard jury president this year. Two of his films, “Heartbeats” (2010) — made when Dolan was 21 — and “Laurence Anyways” (2012), were shown in Un Certain Regard. His next two features “Mommy” (2014) and “It’s Only the End of the World” (2016) both won top prizes in the main competition.

The jury this year also includes Luxembourg-born Vicky Krieps, who won the Un Certain Regard prize for best actress for “Corsage”; the Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir, winner of last year’s Un Certain Regard directing prize; the French director Maïmouna Doucouré, whose 2020 film “Cuties” weathered controversy over its portrayal of young girls in a hypersexualized culture; and the American film critic and historian Todd McCarthy. They will judge an international lineup of 18 films, including eight feature debuts.

“Last year was a great year,” wrote Frémaux of Un Certain Regard, calling out “How to Have Sex,” El Moudir’s award-winning documentary “The Mother of All Lies,” and Thomas Cailley’s dystopian fantasy, “The Animal Kingdom,” which went on to win five César Awards (the French equivalent to the Oscars).

“I believe that what young filmmakers are putting forward this year is also very exciting, you will see,” Frémaux added.

As Un Certain Regard’s reputation as a reliable launchpad for the best of world cinema has grown, some consider it even more interesting and vital than the main competition. Among certain critics, Bradshaw of the Guardian suggested, this attitude has practically become a cliché.

“And sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it’s not,” he explained.

“It’s very important as part of Cannes’s presence in terms of international cinema that they can cover the waterfront in Un Certain Regard and find some prize winners and really good movies that can become critical darlings all over the world,” he added.

Manning Walker, who is currently developing her second feature as part of a residency in Paris sponsored by Cannes’s program for emerging filmmakers, the Cinéfondation, said that winning Un Certain Regard’s main prize piqued audience interest in “How To Have Sex,” and also helped it get taken seriously in the industry.

“Through Cannes, we got to travel really far with the film,” she said.

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Dan Schneider Sues ‘Quiet on Set’ Producers for Defamation, Calls Nickelodeon Abuse Docuseries a ‘Hit Job’

By Ethan Shanfeld

Ethan Shanfeld

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29:  Writer/producer Dan Schneider (C) accepts the Lifetime Achievement Award onstage with actors Maree Cheatham and Christopher Massey onstage during Nickelodeon's 27th Annual Kids' Choice Awards held at USC Galen Center on March 29, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Dan Schneider has filed a defamation lawsuit against the producers of the Investigation Discovery docuseries “ Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV ,” which uncovered alleged abuse and misconduct at Nickelodeon and became Max’s biggest streaming title ever .

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Schneider himself said in a video posted after the launch of “Quiet on Set,” “Watching over the past two nights was very difficult. Facing my past behaviors, some of which are embarrassing and that I regret. I definitely owe some people a pretty strong apology.”

In a separate statement sent to Variety alongside the legal complaint, Schneider wrote: “Recently the docuseries ‘Quiet on Set’ highlighted mistakes I made and poor judgment I exhibited during my time at Nickelodeon, most of which happened decades ago during my early career as a producer, working on shows for Tollin/Robbins Productions. There is no doubt that I was sometimes a bad leader. I am sincerely apologetic and regretful for that behavior, and I will continue to take accountability for it. However, after seeing ‘Quiet on Set’ and its trailer, and the reactions to them, I sadly have no choice but to take legal action against the people behind it. In their successful attempt to mislead viewers and increase ratings, they went beyond reporting the truth and falsely implied that I was involved in or facilitated horrific crimes for which actual child predators have been prosecuted and convicted.”

Schneider continued: “I have no objection to anyone highlighting my failures as a boss, but it is wrong to mislead millions of people to the false conclusion that I was in any way involved in heinous acts like those committed by child predators. I owe it to myself, my family, and the many wonderful people involved in making these shows to set the record straight.”

Variety has reached out to ID for comment.

In addition to Dan Schneider, “Quiet on Set” also investigates other people working at Nickelodeon at the time, including dialogue and acting coach Brian Peck. Interviewed in “Quiet on Set” is “Drake & Josh” star Drake Bell, who alleges he was a victim of Peck’s sexual abuse. In 2003, Peck, 43 at the time, was arrested on 11 charges  — including sodomy, lewd act upon a child 14 or 15 by a person 10 years older, and oral copulation by anesthesia or controlled substance — but the victim was not previously named.

“Quiet on Set” also mentions Jason Michael Handy, a production assistant who was arrested and charged with a lewd act with a child under 14. The mother of a former child actor who appeared on “The Amanda Show” claimed on “Quiet on Set” that Handy sent her daughter a photograph of him naked, masturbating. Another Nickelodeon staffer, animator Ezel Channel, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for committing lewd acts on a 14-year-old boy and showing him pornography.

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