How to Write a Love Triangle Like Jane Austen

Jane Austen wrote some of the most romantic stories in literature. But Austen's love triangles don't look like you typical YA love triangles! Here are 4 subtle differences to help you learn how to write a love triangle like Jane Austen!Lately, I’ve been on a Jane Austen movie binge. I just can’t resist the empire gowns, the cravats, the balls, the wit and humor, and Mr. Darcy (insert swoon here).

But in typical writer fashion, of course I couldn’t just enjoy the stories like a normal person–I had to be curious about how Jane Austen constructed them, too. Much like a builder staring up at a domed ceiling and instead of appreciating the beauty thinking, how did they do that?

Yes, I have a problem, but today it’s to your benefit because I’m going to show you how to write a love triangle like Jane Austen 😉

Jane Austen’s design behind her love triangles struck my curiosity because usually I’m not a fan of love triangles. Usually, I find them annoying and predictable. But I was surprised to find that the love triangles in Austen’s works didn’t bother me, and I was able to enjoy them.

Why was that? What had she done differently?

Of course I couldn’t resist analyzing and breaking it down to try to find an answer, and today I’m going to share my findings with you. It turns out, Jane Austen’s love triangles have subtle differences from the typical love triangles I’ve come across in YA novels and even a lot of romance films. Before we break down those differences, let’s take a peek at a typical YA love triangle.

A Look at a “Typical” YA Love Triangle

Most YA love triangles I’ve encountered look something like this:

The heroine falls in love with two guys at the same time. They are both great guys, though usually one is more edgy, distant, aloof, harder to obtain, etc. and/or has a bad boy side.

Guy #2 is usually the more “practical” choice as he’s “safer” and would be “better for her.” He tends to be the boy-next-door or best friend type.

The heroine agonizes over which guy she should choose as both fight for her heart. She goes back and forth between the two and just can’t make up her mind.

Examining Jane Austen’s Love Triangles

Now, on the other hand, let’s examine the elements of the type of love triangle Jane Austen creates.

1. First, the heroine does not fall in love with both men at the same time. She has feelings for only one at a time. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett has a crush on Wickham for a while. After she learns his true character her feelings subside, and it is only then that her heart begins to turn towards Darcy.

In Sense and Sensibility, Marianne Dashwood ignores the attentions of Colonel Brandon, thinking him too old and unromantic, and falls in love with the dashing Willoughby. But she realizes what Willoughby is really like when he abandons her and breaks her heart. Eventually, Marianne gradually falls in love with Colonel Brandon.

 2. Not both men are good options. In most YA love triangles both love interests are good options, and for the heroine it’s just a matter of deciding who she loves more and wants to spend her life with.

Jane Austen wrote some of the most romantic stories in literature. But Austen's love triangles don't look like you typical YA love triangles! Here are 4 subtle differences to help you learn how to write a love triangle like Jane Austen!But in Jane Austen’s novels, one man is the “right” choice while one man is the “wrong” choice, and it’s up to the heroine to learn their true character in order to make her decision.

Basically, Austen encourages readers not to decide on a man with your heart or romantic feelings, but to judge and know his character.

In many YA love triangles, often the emphasis is placed on feelings and physical attraction and little is revealed about the character of the love interest. But Austen has her heroines learn the character of the love interest so they have a reason to like them that runs deeper than physical attraction.

3. While one man is meant to be the wrong option, both men might appear to be good options. Austen loves to show that charms and dashing good looks do not reveal a man’s true character, and are not enough to build a lasting love.

For example, in Pride and Prejudice Wickham is very charming, good-humored, and handsome. It seems like he’s a decent man and would make a good love interest–until his true character is revealed. Similarly in Sense and Sensibility, Willoughby is dashing, romantic, and charming, but his character is lacking. And in Emma, Frank Churchill is yet another charming man of shallow character.

Austen loves to create characters who appear to be good love interests because they’re handsome, charming, romantic, etc., but in the end it’s the men who possess qualities that matter such as loyalty, commitment, devotion, compassion, honor, responsibility, etc. who end up winning the heroine’s heart.

4. The heroine is decisive and does not waver back and forth between the love interests. The main reason I have such a hard time with modern YA love triangles is that after a while it drives me nuts when the heroine can’t decide between two guys.

I hate the constant jumping back and forth and eventually I want to grab the heroine and shake her and scream just pick one already! I can put up with it for a while, but if it’s dragged out for too long–or over an entire series–it begins to wear on me.

I think authors feel this increases the tension and in a way it does, but it can also make the heroine seem very fickle or as though she is toying with the two guys. Jane Austen avoids this problem by having her heroines feel for only one man at a time, though two men might be interested in the heroine at the same time.

For example, in Pride and Prejudice Mr. Darcy and Wickham are interested in Elizabeth at the same time, but she is only interested in one of them at any given time. And in Sense and Sensibility, both Colonel Brandon and Willoughby are interested in Marianne at the same time, but she only likes one of them at a time.

I find this slight shift in love triangle dynamics interesting, and I can’t help but wonder what these stories would have looked like had the heroines been interested in both men at once!

Jane Austen wrote some of the most romantic stories in literature. But Austen's love triangles don't look like you typical YA love triangles! Here are 4 subtle differences to help you learn how to write a love triangle like Jane Austen!

Final Thoughts

Even though the differences in the way Jane Austen designs her love triangles are subtle, I feel like their impact is much deeper and emotional than that of many modern love triangles out there today.

Austen’s love triangles aren’t about choosing the hottest guy, or the guy who’s the best kisser or the best in bed, or the guy you have the best chemistry with. They’re about choosing the guy with the best character, a man who will truly love and commit to you. They’re about avoiding rogues in gentleman’s clothing, or villains with the face of a Disney prince.

Personally, I find this type of love triangle more realistic and relatable. The romance it creates also provides more depth because we get to truly know the characters–not just read lengthy descriptions of heated make-out scenes.

Which type of love triangle do you prefer? Are there any other differences between typical YA love triangles and Jane Austen’s that I missed? What do you think Jane Austen’s stories would have been like if they were done in the style of a typical YA love triangle? Leave you thoughts below!

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100 Agents to Submit Your YA Novel to Right Now!

A giant list of 100 #agents looking for #YA stories! Plus, a FREE organizer to help you keep track of your submissions! Are you looking for YA literary agents to submit your novel to? You’ve come to the right place!

I’ve rounded up a ginormous list of one hundred literary agents who are looking for the next great YA novel (which is going to be yours, right?).

The links will take you to the agent’s profile or submission guidelines so you can find out more. Some agents listed specific stories they were looking for so I included those here. If there’s nothing specific listed beside an agent they are likely open to all genres, but always double-check and do your research as things may change!

And of course, before you submit your novel to any agent always edit it first! (Preferably until you want to cry. Or sleep for days.)


Giant List of YA Literary Agents

Last updated: April 15, 2015

1. Maria Vicente of P.S. Literary

2. Kurestin Armada of P.S. Literary–select YA

3. Eric Smith of P.S. Literary–seeking diverse YA, particularly Sci-Fi/Fantasy

4. Lydia Blyfield of Carol Mann Agency–seeking YA with strong hooks/modern themes. NO High Fantasy.

5. Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency

6. Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency

7. Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency–any, preference toward Sci-Fi/Fantasy & Romance

8. Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency

9. Melissa Jeglinski of The Knight Agency

10. Luara Zats of Red Sofa Literary–particularly interested in retellings & contemporary. NO dystopia or paranormal/contemporary romance.

11. Dawn Frederick of Red Sofa Literary

12. Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

13. Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

14. Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency–open to a wide range of genres, with particular interest in diversity, contemporary/realistic, magical realism, mystery, horror, and fantasy.

15. Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency

16. Gemma Cooper of The Bent Agency–preference for contemporary settings, standout romance, strong friendships, & sibling relationships

17. Heather Flaherty of The Bent Agency–any YA, but would love to see contemporary stories with Sci-Fi or Fantasy elements, retellings, and horror.

18. Louise Fury of The Bent Agency

19. Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency

20. Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency–open to mystery, fantasy, scifi, humor, boy books, historical, contemporary (really any genre).

21. Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency–any, but favorite genres include historical fiction, suspense, mysteries, and romance

22. Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency

23. Brooks Sherman of The Bent Agency–seeking “young adult fiction of all types except paranormal romance. I would especially love to get my hands on a creepy and/or funny contemporary young adult project. “

24. Taylor Haggerty of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

25. Kirsten Carleton of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

26. Holly Root of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

27. Scott Waxman of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency

28. Reiko Davis of Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency–“Actively looking for young adult and middle grade fiction—whether it be contemporary, historical, high fantasy, or simply a story with a timeless quality and vibrant characters.”

29. Miriam Altshuler of Miriam Altshuler Literary Agency–“most interested in contemporary and historical YA… She loves dystopian worlds and great stories that have some fantasy to them…but that are not strictly in the fantasy genre.”

30. Sara Crowe of Harvey Klinger Inc.–“She is consistently ranked among the top three YA and MG agents in Publishers Marketplace.”

31. Andrea Somberg of Harvey Klinger Inc.

32. Laura Rennert of Andrea Brown Literary Agency–“particularly seeking contemporary, multicultural, sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal, alternate history, retellings.

33. Caryn Wiseman of Andrea Brown Literary Agency–contemporary YA, NO fantasy

34. Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency

35. Jennifer Rofe of Andrea Brown Literary Agency–seeking contemporary, romance, and urban fantasy.

36. Jennifer Mattson of Andrea Brown Literary Agency–particularly drawn to fantasy

37. Stacey Kendall Glick of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

38. Jim McCarthy of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

39. Lauren Abramo of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

40. John Rudolph of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management

41. Rachel Stout of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management–“Believable and thought-provoking YA as well as magical realism.”

42. Erin Young of Dystel and Goderich Literary Management–“Interested in all forms of young adult fiction, particularly fantasy, paranormal, and magical realism.”

43. Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management

44. Katie Reed of Andrea Hurst & Associates–any, but particularly seeking contemporary, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, retellings.

45. Genevive Nine of Andrea Hurst & Associates–seeking sci-fi/fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, retellings (classics, fairy/folk tale, myth), contemporary.

46. Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary–“currently very keen to find a powerful big YA fantasy (in the vein of Kristin Cashore) and unique contemporary, realistic fiction; also loves historical, so long as it’s got strong appeal to contemporary teens. “

47. John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary–“Particularly keen to see fast-paced/thrilling/heart-breaking stories, contemporary realism, historicals, speculative fiction, sci-fi and fresh fantasy.”

48. Sandy Lu of L. Perkins Agency–particularly seeking Victorian historical thrillers or mysteries.

49. Leon Husock of L. Perkins Agency

50. Rachel Brooks of L. Perkins Agency

51. Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency

52. Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary Agency

53. Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency

54. Amy Boggs of Donald Maas Literary Agency–“All things fantasy and science fiction, especially high fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk (and its variations), YA, MG, and alternate history.”

55. Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maas Literary Agency

56. Elizabeth Kracht of Kimberly Cameron and Associates

57. Pooja Menon of Kimberly Cameron and Associates–“looking for stories that deal with the prevalent issues that face teenagers today. She is also interested in fantasy, magical-realism, and historical fiction.”

58. Kathleen Ortiz of New Leaf Literary–“She would love to see a beautifully written YA set within other cultures and experiences.”

59. Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary

60. Jess Regel of Foundry Literary + Media

61. Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

62. Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

63. Tricia Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency

64. Frank Weiman of Folio Literary Management–endearing characters, strong voice, no paranormal

65. Erin Harris of Folio Literary Management–seeking “Contemporary, voice-driven novels that approach the universal experience of being a teenager from a surprising or an unlikely perspective.” Also, thrillers and mystery.

66. Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary Management–“fiction set in another country…I’d also like to see: Contemporary YA that’s not afraid to explore complex social issues, historical fantasy…and good, old-fashioned YA romance.”

67. Melissa Sarver White of Folio Literary Management–“I’m attracted to realistic contemporary stories with a strong sense of voice…I’m also looking for YA mysteries, thrillers, horror, science fiction, urban fantasy, speculative, historical with a twist (alternate historical or historical with magical realism).”

68. Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary Agency–contemporary YA

69. Kim Lionetti of Bookends Literary Agency–any except sci-fi or fantasy

70. Beth Campbell of Bookends Literary Agency

71. Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency

72. Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management

73. Stephanie Rostan of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

74. Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency

75. Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown LTD

76. Jonathan Lyons of Curtis Brown LTD

77. Alice Tasman of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency

78. Laura Biagi of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency

79. Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

80. Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

81. Lauren E. MacLeod of The Strothman Agency

82. Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary

83. Adrienne Rosado of Nancy Yost Literary Agency

84. Lisa Rodgers of JABerwocky Literary Agency

85. Joanna MacKenzie of Browne & Miller Literary Associates

86. Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates

87. Katie Kochman of Don Congdon Associates

88. Maura Kye-Casella of Don Congdon Associates

89. Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio

90. Sarah Heller of The Helen Heller Agency

91. Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman

92. Emily Forland of Brandt & Hochman

93. Emma Patterson of Brandt & Hochman

94. Faye Bender of Faye Bender Literary Agency

95. Jason Anthony of Lippincott Massie McQuiken Agency

96. Folade Bell of Serendipity Literary Agency

97. John Weber of Serendipity Literary Agency

98. Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary

99. Ted Malawar of Upstart Crow Literary

100. Alexandra Penfold of Upstart Crow Literary

You’re welcome. 😉

Now what are you waiting for? Get to querying!

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8 Stories YA Agents and Publishers Want Right Now

8 StoriesNo clue what to write next? It might feel frustrating, but you’re actually in a great position. How so, you may ask?

Well, you have the opportunity to consider what agents and publishers want before you become attached to a new story idea. Think of it as fishing with bait as opposed to tossing out a net and hoping for the best.

Knowing what the people who are buying the stories want will definitely be to your advantage! Here are 8 stories you can use to hook an agent or publisher right now.

#1: Diverse Protagonists

There’s a huge need for diverse books, and publishers and agent are eager to get their hands on some. YA is flooded with way too many protagonists who are white American females–we need to see some representation of other cultures!

#2: Strong Male Protagonists

I honestly can’t even remember the last time I read a book with a male lead. I can’t even name five…the only ones I can think of off my head are Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

There’s no denying it–YA is inundated with female protagonists. This is probably because the majority of YA authors are women. It may be challenging to write from a male’s perspective, but this is definitely something publishers are looking for.

#3: Stand-alone Novels

Believe it or not, we writers don’t have to make every story a trilogy. Publishers are actually getting worn out on trilogies and are looking for stand-alones, especially dystopians. The thinking behind this is it’s less investment on the reader’s part and frees up more time for them to read other books rather than commit to a whole trilogy or series.

#4: Fairy tale Retellings

Fairy tale retellings are really popular right now, and not just in books. There’s the t.v. series Once Upon a Time, and Disney is taking advantage of the trend with it’s recent film remakes: Snow White and the Huntsman, Malificent, the upcoming Cinderella, and the recently announced Beauty and the Beast.

If you can come up with a fresh twist on a classic tale you will definitely catch an agent’s attention.

#5: Steampunk

There’s not a whole lot of steampunk in YA, and I think that’s part of the reason why agents are looking for it. They’re getting tired of all the paranormal and even (dare I say it) dystopian stuff. It’s time to explore new territory.

#6: New Adult

This is a newly emerging genre, featuring characters aged 18-25 either entering or already in college. There’s not much NA out there right now because it’s so new, so agents and publishers are eager to find some captivating stories in this fledgling genre.

#7: Crime and Con Artists

There seems to be a spark in interest relating to crime, spies, con artists, and heists. Think Heist Society or the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter.

#8: Historical Fiction

With the avalanche of fantasy and dystopians out there right now, there’s not a whole lot of historical fiction. It’s definitely something agents are looking for, however. Especially historical events that haven’t been done a lot or bring a fresh, interesting take.

But What If…

So, what if none of these ideas are what you want to write? Don’t stress. Always write what you are passionate about, no matter what the trends of the market are or what agents and publishers are looking for. You have to love what you write above all else. And someone’s gotta start the next trend, right? 😉

What kinds of books would you like to see on the market?

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10 Worn-out Cliches in YA

#Cliches are everywhere, especially in #YA. Learn what's been overdone and how to avoid it or make it new. Cliches are everywhere, especially in YA fiction. Some things seem to catch on and repeat themselves over and over, despite readers rolling their eyes.

Not only do cliches bore readers, but even worse, they bore publishers. Which can spell disaster for your novel. So what’s a writer to do?

Learning what cliches are out there in YA and becoming aware of them will help you to avoid them in the future. It will also help you to get creative and find ways to break the cliches or turn them on their head.

Here’s 10 tried-and-true cliches in YA to get you started.

#1: The Obscure Prologue

This seems to be a requirement for beginning any YA novel. Often a vision or dream. Basically tossed in to arouse interest with  a vague, cryptic scene or a punch of random action because what if the reader bails before the author gets to the good part?? Almost always unnecessary to the story.

#2: Love Triangles

These are a staple in YA. Why, I’m not sure since they seem to frustrate many readers to no end. Yet books with love triangles continue to do well, which is probably why we’re stuck with them.

(Side note: one reason readers tend to hate love triangles is because they are predictable–it’s obvious who the heroine favors. One love triangle book I have  enjoyed and thought was done well was the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. She made you love both male characters and it wasn’t obvious who the heroine would choose in the end.)

#3: Beauty Blind

No one likes a heroine who bemoans about how hideous and repulsive she is when she’s actually gorgeous. Despite her friends and family telling her she’s beautiful, she will insist she is ugly. That is, until the Love Interest comes along and she is shocked that he is attracted to her. Suddenly she realizes she is beautiful after all! *eye roll*

#4: Insta-Love

You know the drill. Girl sees boy. Boy sees girl. Their eyes meet. BAM. Instant, undying passion and devotion. They would die to be together! Even though they’ve only known each other for like 5 minutes. Or one song. (I’m looking at you, Marius & Cosette).

#5: Mr. Tall, Dark, and Perfect

Not only is the love interest super-model hot, but he’s also perfect. Because heaven forbid the heroine fall in love with a man with flaws! I’ll take a fixer-upper any day.

#6: The Brooding Bad Boy

Closely related to Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome, he is also super-model hot except he is tragically flawed. He has a dark, secretive past and is no good for the heroine. But she pines after him because she is inexplicably drawn to his irritable, brooding personality. The bad boy has the emotional range of a teaspoon and won’t let inferior emotions such as happiness dull his swagger.

#7: Royal Realization

Surprise! The hero/heroine was a prince/princess this whole time and didn’t even know it! This might have been a good plot twist if we hadn’t seen it coming from page 1…

#8: Undiscovered Powers

This has become a staple in YA fiction. The hero suddenly discovers powers he never knew he had, usually when he comes of age.

#9: The Problem with Parents

The death toll of parents in YA is staggering. If the heroine’s parents are lucky enough to be alive, they’re often negligent or clueless. Or, she is living with abusive step-parents, guardians, etc. Where are the normal, happy families in YA?

#10: The Trilogy

Is there some unwritten law that every YA novel must be a trilogy? They’re popping up everywhere these days, and it’s getting kind of tiring–not to mention time-consuming.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good trilogy, but the problem is too many trilogies tend to go downhill and should’ve stopped at the first book. Must we make *every* story into a trilogy?

BONUS: The Chosen One

Not to be outdone, the Chosen One is also a popular choice in YA. The hero or heroine is the *only one* in the entire universe who can defeat the villain and save their world. Usually they have been destined to do so because of a prophecy.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have my hero save the day because he found the strength to do so on his own, not because of some mystical prophecy.

So does this mean you can never use any of the things on this list that have been deemed ‘cliche?’ I don’t believe so! It’s true that everything has been done so many times that everything more or less starts to feel somewhat cliche, and it’s hard to be original.

I think rules are meant to be broken. Knowing the cliches allows you to realize how they might work against you, but it also helps you to make wise, informed decisions about whether or not to use them. So whether you decide to use, avoid, break, or bend these cliches, I think it depends upon your creative intent and your story.

Which cliches get under your skin? Which ones have you used?

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