Guide To Writing Enemies To Lovers

– I decided to format this article like its accompanying post, Guide to Writing Friends to Lovers, which you all seemed to really like. I hope this is as helpful as that, and thank you to everyone who responded to the poll that contributed the questions I answered in the “common struggles” section. I have a feeling I’ll be reaching our for direct topic-specific questions through polls more often, so keep an eye out. Happy writing!

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Take The Time To Make It Believable

There is a certain amount of care required in the depiction of these stories because they can be really touchy and very easily lead awry. It needs to be handled with care when you tell the reader that this character is going to forgive the other one for doing this, and why. Show the thought process, show the growth, show the reason, and give the story time to make that change reasonable in the reader’s head.

Roll In The Tension

Let the tension build, thicken, and sit in the reader’s tummy. That’s the most delicious part of reading this trope, and the most fun part to write, so enjoy it, and don’t ask yourself if it’s “too intense” or if you need to speed up the pace. Let it simmer, and let the reader stew in it. The longer you draw it out, the yummier the resolution will be. 

Give Up Pride, Not Values

Your characters should not end the story by forfeiting what they feel and believe in order to win the other over. That’s not how life works, and that’s not a good way to depict love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is the main theme of enemies-to-lovers stories, after all, and if you’re writing romance, you should imprint a healthy romantic story into your reader’s memory, even if it’s bumpy, tense, and dramatic for the majority of the actual events. 

Make The Relationship Improve Them Both

Romances usually hold a meaning or message about romance that the reader will take away from the story at hand. Your message should, ultimately, be that these two people, despite their differences and shortcomings, grew to forgive each other for their mutual mistakes, found common ground, and even fell in love. The end of a romance should be positive, or at least transformative to the reader in a positive way. The couple you depict, if they are meant to be a good couple in the context of the story, should improve each other, and make each others’ lives better. 

Abuse vs. Rivalry

There is a poignant difference between two people who are abusing each other and two people who don’t like one another. Abuse can be heavily romanticized or forgiven when this trope is approached with inadequate care and attention. If one or both of the members of the couple actively bring each other down, truly, in an emotional, mental, or physical way, it’s abuse, not enemy-ship, and if that’s intentional, you shouldn’t call your story a romance. Abuse is notromantic, and it never should be depicted to be so.

Common Struggles

~ Where do you draw the line between hurtful and unforgivable?… That depends on your characters’s values, and you need to think long and hard about your characters’ individual boundaries before you even start writing. Your reader will get to know your character. If your character forgives something your reader knows they would never forgive, that will destroy their personal understanding of them.

~ How do you solve the difference between them without making one change for the other?… Explain their thought processes, I recommend by choosing a flexible point of view to write the story from, and show where that understanding comes from. You need to set those boundaries within your characters that make sense for them, and you need to hold to those. The point they should be at by the end of the story isn’t in total agreement, it’s at a compromise where they meet halfway. They should learn by the end to love each other wholly, not when they change for one another. 

~ Going from actual dislike of each other to attraction without saying they liked each other the whole time… It’s simple; give them legitimate reasons for not liking each other in the first place. Don’t make their rivalry based on something like a third grade spelling bee misunderstanding with a little “he’s cute though” sprinkled on top. Show a real misunderstanding, or real clash in values, and explore its implications for the reader to understand.

~ How do you show the forgive part between them without including the forgetting?… Let the reader know by the end of the story that the characters have acknowledged the hurt they’ve caused each other,  totally and openly through an honest conversation about everything that caused their mutual dislike of each other. Show them confronting the problem, and admitting that it will always be a prominent part of their past, but that they’re willing to try in spite of it.

~ How do you show forgiveness between two people who physically fought without making it romanticize abuse?… Give legitimate evidence that a) nobody was/is a victim of actual abuse and b) they both know that the physical fighting was wrong, painful to the other, and that it can/will never happen again. Ever. In the action or more violent sort of genres, this is way more flexible, because there are more grey-area situations, but as long as you make it very clear that there is no possibility of them hurting each other, in any abusive context, during the relationship or afterward, then you shouldn’t have a problem.

~ How do you establish the growth in trust between the two characters?… Make it occur naturally and at their own individual paces.They’ll grow toward one another at different rates, and you need to pay attention to letting it grow on its own rather than fitting that growth into whatever parameters you’ve set for your story structure. Also, show the little things that make that trust bloom, along with the big ones. Make them noticeable, but simple and ultimately built upon one another.

~ How do you make two characters with completely different morals grow to love each other?… Compromise and honesty. Communication and understanding. Those are the four foundations of any relationship, and especially these ones. Make your lovers listen to each other, and make them see the other side. That doesn’t mean agree, and that doesn’t mean conform, it just means you have to make them see where the other is coming from and empathize with their process of validation. 

~ How do you write the characters’ friends growing to support the relationship?… This can be tricky, but it depends on the friends’ individual relationships with that character and their lover. With this subject, if you keep to the manner in which you’ve developed them, they should grow to understand (or not understand) their relationship in a way that makes sense to the reader and enhances the story. If there’s tension, let it lay, and if it makes sense, let it pass.

~ How do you pace the evolution of their opinions/feelings about one another correctly?… There’s a few stages to telling an enemies-to-lovers story: 1. they dislike each other 2. that dislike becomes a problem for them 3. they begin to see the other’s point of view 4. they understand the other’s perspective 5. they don’t dislike each other anymore 5. they grow feelings for each other 6. they get together. The first stage should be established and explained really well. The second should be simple but important, and very impactful to both of the characters. The third stage should be slow burning and very uncomfortable, but transformative to both of them. The fourth should happen as the result of events building on one another, not one single event. The last two should be clearly separate, and the fifth should be a slow burn on its own. This pacing strategy should allow for a lot of tension, build up, and a very satisfying ending.

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