Romance is NOT the primary focus of any of my stories- politics, moral problems, ethic problems and adventure are. I fought against writing romance for a few years before realizing how many layers romance adds to everything; besides the fact that it's just plain realistic.
I enjoy writing powerful female main characters and all three of my current series, plus at least two other books and one other series, feature such FMCs. Power attracts, so it's logical to me to have multiple love lines for a powerful woman, but, I don't like writing love triangles for them because it's too limiting for the scope of things I prefer to write. And it's cliche. Every book and its sister has a triangle these days. (Which does not mean I'm saying people should stop writing them.) I will sometimes write love triangles for secondary and tertiary characters but I try to stay away from them for the MCs. Human emotions are complicated things and none more so than love and loyalty. My younger sister Erudessa's usual response to me having described a new plot point or loveline is, "You just HAVE to take already complicated things and make them even MORE complicated," followed by a sigh and an eye roll. In addition to just feeling the story as it comes to me and writing it, there is a part of me that likes seeing just how complicated I can make the lives of my characters and still bring them through it all (hopefully) cohesively to a concise end, while telling the story I set out to tell in the beginning. (Okay, okay, there miiiiight be a tiiiny bit of the INTJ mastermind mentality in there, too - loving to create situations and then just sit back and watch the reactions of the characters.)
In the case of most of my stories with multiple male romantic leads, each started out as a triangle or a square- three male leads and one female lead. From there, depending on the story, it grew, adding sides until I ended up with a pentagon, hexagon, or even a decahedron.
As the story takes shape in my head and I realize I have multiple love lines, to sort them out I start asking questions and analyzing characters and dynamics; specifically, the dynamic each has with the FMC and each has or will have with the other male leads.
- Why are they attracted to the FMC? Does it stay mere attraction or does it ripen into love? Why or why not?
- Is she or is she not attracted to him in return? Does it ripen into love? Why?
- What is it about him that the other male leads don't have?
- Why would it work/not work in the end for the FMC and him to be together? (Obviously this will only have a concrete answer for those stories that end with the MCs alive.)
- Is he friends or enemies with any of the other leads?
At some point, at least one more woman usually appears, complicating things still further and prompting questions such as:
- How does she know this lead and why does she love him/is attracted to him?
- Is he or is he not attracted to her in return?
- What is her dynamic with the FMC?
Throughout the middle of the story, as the plotlines weave and interweave, the lovelines are sometimes the foreground and at other times the background of the plot. I try to show all the facets of why and how each pairing could work or won't work, highlighted within important events and catalysts. Often, the characters surprise me with some facets and I'm sitting there saying, "Oh botherATION, I've written myself into a mess and I'm not sure how to write myself out of it. You weren't supposed to be so likeable together."
'Okay', you say, 'that's fine, you've told us how you set up the story and the lines you follow through the middle'... but then you echo my friend Kate's question: "How do you decide who ends up with whom in the end?"
Traditionally, first male leads win the girl and thus the others are- from a technical, linear standpoint- just complications. However, as I believe I've stated once or twice before, I am a rule breaker. Basically: do not expect anything in my stories to follow traditional plot types. Things may work out the way you would expect based on the story so far... or they may not.
I don't write polyamory (though I do write harems), so in the end there is always a clear resolution to the shape, no matter how painful said end might be. First of all, it depends on how the story has to end to complete the arc begun by the premise. Sometimes, the politically correct match will carry the day. Sometimes love will win. In the case of love winning, the final decision always comes down to one thing- which pairing feels absolutely, without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt right. Even though there are elements in each male character that match with the female character, only one (or maybe two) has the deep complete soul connection with her that means they match on every necessary level, including love.
So, there is no formula that I use to determine the end. It's just 'instinct'. I feel the story out as I go along and then write it.
At some point, I'll post about my individual stories/series that feature pentagons, hexagons and etc; discussing how each shape happened in that particular story but to go into those now would make this post way too long.
And for those of you who might be wondering, no, I do not write massive love shapes into every story I write. :D For example, Sub Rosa- my one-third done 2014 NaNo novel- has one pairing. One MC ship. There isn't even a legitimate triangle.
Have any of you written more than two male leads with one (or two) female leads?