Romance writers like to pretend love triangles create this big mystery. Who will the protagonist choose? THE ANGST!!! But I’ve noticed some pretty good foreshadowing factors that are (almost) universally present.
1. Survival of the Hottest
Consider who is hotter. Who does the author most describe with words like “sultry,” “muscled,” “slender,” “lean,” shapely,” etc.? It is nigh impossible that they will be used equally between the love interests and you can always tell who has the hotness advantage.
2. Tragic past
Next, look at who is most damaged, most unstable, and/or most in need of serious psychological treatment. Unhealthy coping mechanisms are a favorite of writers and generally include smashing things, taking out emotions on innocent bystanders, and/or murdering random people. (A horrible life gives you a free pass, apparently).
3. NEVER the Best Friend
You know that sweet character who’s been secretly in love with the protagonist forever? Knows their birthday, favorite candy, and waits around for them even after he/she gets a boy/girlfriend? Yeah, they’ve got a snow ball’s chance in hell.
4. Unrequited feelings
In a mutilation of the previous point, if the protagonist has feelings for a person with a boy/girlfriend, it tends to go the other way. That boy/girlfriend is automatically an obstacle and must therefore die.
Okay, maybe not die, but the author usually makes them into a cheesy terrible or cheesy perfect person, both of whom we hate on principle (and not just for the love triangle itself).
5. Good to be Bad
Pretty much every romance series has a bad boy/girl. Even Jane Austen had bad boys. Writers love bad boys/girls. You can see the author’s teen bad boy/girl fantasies just bleeding off the pages 9 times out of 10. Typically, the jerk or shamed slut is redeemed by love (and usually life changing sex) , then subsequently made a “decent man”/“honest woman.” I might vomit just thinking about it.
With one exception, I have always been able to predict the outcome of love triangles. Always. Because they are predictable and pointless and should be burned at the stake and bleh.
Can you usually tell how a love triangle will end? Was there a time when you were surprised and how did you feel about it?