Triangles are powerful. Fulcrums are shaped like triangles. Sequences of triangles form bridges. The illuminati symbol of secret knowledge—the Eye of Providence—is an all-seeing triangle. Like triangles, the triad can bear a significant amount of narrative weight, giving the story a dynamic feeling rife with narrative tension.

Often, the triad manifests as a love triangle. However, love triangles are not the only way a triad can manifest. Sometimes, as in Princess Mononoke (1997), the triangle is a set of conflicting ethical systems and/or ideologies:

Figure 1. The character forces at play in Princess Mononoke.

Each side of the triangle is a duality—a give-and-take that can be balanced or exploited. The battle ground represents the space of your story—the setting, which includes both the physical location and the time signature of your piece (more on representing time later, in the narrative music section). How you choose to use the triangle is up to you. It’s your prism: the lens through which you see your story.

Prism refracting light.

Reading comprehension exercises

  1. Give an example of a story that uses a triad.
    1. Identify the three characters who make up the triad.
    2. Explain each character’s wants and needs.
    3. Identify where each character has the opportunity to make a compromise.
    4. Explain why the character’s choice to compromise or to refuse to compromise is important to the narrative.