If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably heard of the love square trend, but maybe you’re wondering exactly what it is and how to go about writing love squares in your stories. In fiction, relationships full of conflict attract readers and keep them flipping pages until the very end.
And that is exactly what we want from our stories.
In this guide, I’m going to share with you 13 things you need to know about writing love squares. Sit back, relax, and let’s talk romantic geometry.
What Is a Love Square?
A love square is when four characters in a story become romantically involved with each other. Think of it as a love triangle, but with four people. Each person in the love square should connect to the other three. Love squares are also called love quadrangles, love rectangles, or love boxes.
I think it’s really important to start with a simple definition.
Next, let’s explore why you should consider writing love squares into your book and how exactly they work.
Why Write a Love Square Story?
Ok, so you understand love stories, but why write one in the first place?
There are several good reasons you might consider writing a love square into your next story:
- They show more complex character relationships.
- They add conflict and tension to your story.
- They add length to your story (the more characters, the more story to write).
The Language of Love Squares: Definitions
Just as in any topic, there are specific terms sometimes used when talking about love squares. The terms in this section come courtesy of Kirstin Huiber on Reddit.
The terms help writers understand and write love squares. The terms are not meant for readers. You don’t need to put the terms in your story. Most of these words originally come from the concept of love triangles.
- Hinge: A person loved by more than one person in the story.
- Arms (or corners): Two or more characters in love with the same person.
- V-shaped relationship: Basically, a love triangle within the square. Two characters love the same person.
How Do Love Squares Work?
Love squares basically work just like love triangles but can easily get really complex.
Love squares usually work in two ways: All four characters in the square get romantically involved with each other, or three characters vie for the love of one character. There are almost endless variations.
You can follow a process I’ve dubbed “The Love Square Formula”. We’ll dive into the specifics throughout this article, but here is the basic breakdown:
- Establish four characters in your story.
- Set up the connection between each pair in the square (aka, “meet-cutes”).
- Chart the relationship arc for each couple.
- Focus on high conflict moments and turning points.
- Give readers satisfying resolution.
How To Set Up a Love Square?
As you might imagine, you can set up love squares in many different ways. The main thing is to come up with a plan, chart the plan, and look for ways to improve the plan by adding layers of conflict, tension, and anticipation.
So, how do you set up a love square?
To set up a love square, create “meet-cutes” for all four characters. If all four characters get involved with each other in your story, then every pair in the square will get their own initial meeting. If three of the characters all like the same, fourth character in the square, then each of those three characters gets a “meet cute” with the one, focus character.
Let me share a few quick charts that might help clarify how to set up love squares.
This first chart shows the “love triangle +1” type of love square: (looks more like love octopus to me 🙂
In this chart, you can see how characters B, C, and D, all point toward character A. Character A is the focus character, probably the main character or protagonist in the story. All three characters (B, C, and D) compete for the love of the focal character (A).
That’s one form of the love square.
Here’s a second chart to show you a slightly more complex model of love rectangles:
In this second chart, you can see that pairs of characters (A & D and B &C) connect to each other. This complicates the relationships and the plot.
Why is this useful?
- You can write a longer story.
- More tension and conflict in the story.
- The story seems more real to readers.
Ok, one last chart to show an even more complex love square story:
In this chart, all four characters (A, B, C, and D) form romantic relationships with each other. There might even be a series of love triangles within the love square.
Yes, it can get complicated.
That’s why it’s usually a good idea to plan your love squares and chart out the relationships. Otherwise, you might get confused 200 pages into your story. You might find yourself asking, “Wait, who is Lisa supposed to be in love with?” or, “Did Mark sleep with Julia and Ben?”
Love Square vs. Love Triangle: Which Is Better?
There is a long history of love triangles in storytelling. The love triangle definitely is a powerhouse of a literary technique that, while a modern trope, still sells books.
So, that begs the question, “Which is better—a love square or a love triangle?
Both the love square and the love triangle are great plot devices. One is not better than the other. When you consider the different love shapes, think about the length of your story and your experience as a writer. If you are a newer writer or want to write a shorter story, go with a love triangle. If you are more experienced or want to write a longer, more complex love story, write a love square.
The choice is completely up to you!
Since love squares require more complex relationships and more moving parts in your story, I suggest that you only tackle them once you have written a few simpler love stories that involve two or three characters.
What Makes a Great Love Square or Love Rectangle Story?
Let’s talk about how to write a great love square or love rectangle. After all, if you’re going to write one into your story, you might as well write an epic one.
You’re in luck.
Great love squares share the folllowing things in common:
- Establish all of the relationships early in the story (in the first third of the story, and as soon as possible).
- Establish each “pair” or “couple” one at a time.
- Clear distinctions between couples (each pair is different or unique in some way).
- Creative “meet-cutes”.
- Equal time is given in the story to all of the relationships.
- There is relationship crossover (more than one character is involved with two or more other characters).
- All of the relationships change over the course of the story.
- There is a clear resolution to all of the relationships.
Love Square Examples
Sometimes the best way to learn something new is to see examples. Therefore, I thought it might help to share a few examples of love squares. I encourage you to read the stories or watch the movies in the list to see how the love squares play out in actual narratives.
What are some good love square examples? The following chart shows a variety of different love squares in different genres:
|Midsummer Night’s Dream||Lysander, Demetrius, Helena, and Hermia||$||Visit Here|
|Lost (complete series)||Jack Shephard, Kate, Sawyer, Juliet Burke||$$$||Visit Here|
|The Love Square||Penny, Thomas, Priyesh, Francesco||$||Visit Here|
|The Walking Dead||Rosita, Gabriel, Siddiq, Eugene||$$$||Visit Here|
|The Square (Shape of Love Book 2)||Alec, Danny, Christine (unique shape)||$||Visit Here|
The movie Squared Love is another modern example. It follows the last book in the table (The Square) by using three main characters to tell a love square story. You might want to check it out as another way to apply love squares in your fiction.
7 Creative Ideas for Better Love Squares
As a writer myself, I know how difficult it can be to come up with new ideas. I hopefully took some of the work off your shoulders by compiling a list of 7 creative ideas for better love squares.
Here is your cheat-sheet list of creative ideas:
- Mix personality types (creative, logical, bad boy, or bad girl, etc).
- Mix races and ethnicities (not only is this more inclusive, but it’s also more accurate).
- Mix genders (again, this is more inclusive, real, and interesting).
- Mix sexual identities and preferences.
- All four of the characters should be very distinct in appearance, speech patterns, personality, clothing, etc.
- Give some of the characters physical symbols that remind other characters of them (for example, a watch, a picture, a necklace, etc).
- Create “surprise” connections between at least a few of the characters that you foreshadow but reveal later in the story.
When brainstorming characters, think outside of the box. For example, read my article on writing a character with down syndrome.
How To Resolve a Love Square?
You’ve set up a series of interlaced romantic relationships, advanced them through turning points, dark moments, changes of heart, betrayals, shifting interests, and surprising revelations. Now it’s time to end them.
How do you end or resolve a love square?
The best way to end a love square is in a logical but unexpected resolution. Foreshadow the ending, lead readers to expect one resolution, and then give them a logical but surprise twist. Some of the couples in the square might end up together. Others likely will not. Some characters will choose no one. You can even have a character choose more than one lover.
How to choose the correct endings for your couples?
Consider your plot and theme. What’s your story about? What do you want readers to learn or contemplate? Once you’ve asked those questions, keep digging.
Experiment with different endings. What if they end up together? What if they don’t? How does that impact your story?
You’re not done yet. Keep in mind each character’s story goal, personal arc, and change over the course of the story. Have the characters “earned” a happy ending through actions, struggle, and transformation?
Asking these types of questions will help you decide how each of the couple’s relationships (or pairings) in your love square end.
A pro tip is to not include too many of the same kind of couple resolutions—variety matters! Also, most readers like happy endings, so at least one couple probably should end up as “happily ever after”. Most of the couples that don’t end up together can (and probably) should still be happily single.
Love Square Trope
Yes, the love square is a trope, but not all tropes are bad. Most story concepts rehash early plot devices common among many stories.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to hate tropes. You don’t even have to avoid them. In my opinion, the most important way to handle tropes is to know them, understand them, and apply them intentionally and strategically to stories.
Love squares might not be new, but they have not yet been overdone by millions of movies and books. Besides, you can always come up with fresh angles to revitalize any trope. So, don’t worry about using any love shape in your story. Just make sure that you understand the shape (as you are doing right now—good job!) before you use it.
Love Square Mistakes Even Experienced Writers Make
When writing love squares, you want to avoid some common mistakes. Usually, beginners or less experienced writers make these mistakes, but even veteran writers sometimes make them, too.
Common love square mistakes:
- Some of the characters come across as too perfect.
- Some of the characters come across as obvious choices (therefore, there is no tension).
- Some of the characters come across as too flawed.
- There is little to no conflict or tension between who any of the characters will choose.
- The author didn’t write complex or gray characters.
- The author didn’t create any minority characters.
- The author didn’t mix genders, sexual identities, or preferences.
- The characters don’t have strong enough internal motivation to handle the relationship conflicts.
However, the worst thing you can do with love squares is to try to force them into stories where they don’t belong.
Should I Write a Love Square Into My Story?
How do you know if you should or shouldn’t add a love square (or any lusty shape) to your story? While only you can ultimately decide if a love square fits, I want to offer you a few ways to make your decision.
When I consider love shapes in my stories, I ask myself, “Does the plot require it?” and “Will it make a more interesting story?”
Some stories focus more on actions and events than character relationships. Think of some thrillers, horror movies, and mystery fiction. Other stories, such as romances and comedies, commonly include love triangles, rectangles, and other romantic geometry. So, consider genre conventions when making your choice.
Also think about the themes, character goals, and plot of your story. Does a simpler romantic subplot suffice? Will a love square distract from the story?
By asking and answering these reflective questions, you can better determine if a love square is a good fit for your story.
Thank you for reading my article. If you enjoyed it, here are a few others that you might also like.