Romance Trope Tuesday: Writing Enemies-to-Lovers

CoffeeCookiesBackdropToday concludes my look at the enemies-to-lovers trope in romance fiction as part of the Romance Trope Tuesday series. In case you missed it, check out  what it is and why it’s so popularhow it works within a film, and a suggested reading list.

This Tuesday I’m providing some best practices for writing your own tale with this trope. Please note that I’m not a writing expert; these suggestions are more what I’ve seen and learned from reading some awesome enemies-to-lovers romances and writing my own (i.e., mistakes I’ve made). I’m enjoying Romance Trope Tuesday so much because I’m learning so much about the genre, storytelling, and writing, so if you’ve got a tip to add here, please comment so we can learn from each other!

What should you consider when writing a story of two lovers who start out as enemies? Four things:

If you want to use this trope, embrace it. Don’t make nice too soon.
While a lot of romances have parts where lovers are quarreling or are upset with one another, enemies-to-lovers romances will have the main characters at pretty significant odds with each other, at least at first. If you’re going to do this, don’t shy away from conflict or try to ease the tension too soon–that’s what keeps a story (and pages) turning! Make the hero and heroine fight. Make them uncomfortable around each other if they’re forced to work together. Make them dislike each other, then have the hero steal a client from the heroine. Your readers will wonder how they’re going to get together, and that question will propel them forward.

But give them some common ground.
You don’t want to make the enemies aspect of the romantic relationship too easy to defeat, but you do want there to be some avenue for the couple to find their way to each other eventually. If they’re opposites, as some of these stories are, show them sharing a similar trait, belief, or even a quirky habit. Have them discover they both need to team up on a quest, because they have a common enemy. Make us believe that these two people who hate each other are actually meant to be, whether they know it or not.

Make the journey to love at least a little gradual.
Even the most abrupt shifts from hate to lust like the Slap-Slap-Kiss still offer little clues along the way to show two characters starting to see each other as more than antagonists. If they’re fighting, throw in a brief heated look. If they’re both stuck on a deserted island, have the heroine grudgingly offer the hero half the fish she’s caught. Show animosity slowly giving away to reluctant respect, tentative friendship, or fiery lust. One way to do this is to render one character vulnerable–sick, too drunk to drive, upset over a breakup–and their enemy in the reluctant role of white knight because no one else is around or able to handle it.

An HEA means their dukes should be down.
Once your story concludes and your enemies are now lovers, don’t have one of the characters keep disrespecting the other. If there’s a relationship there, that’s no longer sexy; that’s abuse. Show us they’ve learned and see their love interest in a new, kinder way. Of course, if they’re opposites or they are competing in the same field, there may be some tension in the union that causes disagreements or witty insults from time to time, but make these playful, or at least work-through-able. Respect is key. They need to be at a better place than when they started. Readers don’t want to have to worry that sleeping in the same bed means your heroes both have to keep one eye open lest they get a knife in the back.

But of course, until that HEA, which may be the end of the book (or run until the end of a seven-book series), all’s fair in love and war. Kiss, kiss, slap, slap.

For writers out there, what do you think about these tips? Do you agree? Any considerations I’ve forgotten?

In case you missed it, check out why this trope is so popular, how it works in a film, and a reading list of relevant books.

Trope Tuesday (1)I’ll be back to Romance Trope Tuesday next week, where I’ll turn to a new trope for July: second-chance romance.

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  1. Good tips. This has been fun!

    Looking forward to next month, since the romance subplot in my new series is of the second-chance variety.

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