Guide To Writing Friends To Lovers

– This is one of those topics that I get a lot of the same questions about, so I decided to break down the subject in one all-encompassing guide to you all. In here, there will be some tips, advice, and other stuff that will hopefully help. I based this off of questions I’ve received in the past about the subject, so if you’ve asked about this, chances are your question has been addressed here.

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Make The Friendship A Large Part of The Story

If you’re writing a friendship that is going to turn into something more, that’s a very obvious trope to the reader. That’s totally okay, as long as you make the trope enjoyable. The friendship is the slow burn of the story, and that’s where the tension and conflict builds. Don’t ignore the friendship aspect, because it’s the part everyone hate-loves.

Let It Be Awkward At First

The beginnings of relationships between people who have a very strong friendship will always be awkward, because no matter how much they like each other romantically, the shift from platonic to romantic is still very strange. However, the awkwardness should be somewhat entertaining, whether it be a cute awkward, a sexy awkward, or a comedic one. This depends on the characters’ own coping mechanisms with discomfort.

Make The Reader Care 

Your characters have to really need each other in some way. This usually translates to “you’re my really good friend and I lean on you for most emotional support and if this doesn’t go my way, you might cut me out of your life”. This risk, in particular, should be somewhat plausible, so the reader knows there are stakes to be wary of. The reader shouldn’t be totally comfortable in saying “well it’s a love story so of course everything will work out fine” the whole time. There should be doubt.

Getting The Reader To Ship Your Characters

First, you have to make your readers care about the characters individually, then show the reader that the characters complement each other, and make each other better. Show the reader that the characters are, at the core, supportive and kind to each other, and that they push the other to improve and try to be happy, even if that happiness doesn’t come from them. Show the reader why they would be happy together, and then the reader will want that for them. 

Common Struggles

~ hinting at the beginning of a romance… There will be small, tiny things that your characters do or say that will not seem super romantic at first, but once they build up in the reader’s memory, will connect to create that tone in their mind. You have to trust your reader to pick up on the little things, especially because they picked up a romance story on purpose. 

~ delaying the romance… The romance should be plenty delayed by the development of their existing friendship and budding emotions toward each other. If you’re starting your story in the middle of them pining after each other, that takes away a lot of the development time, and it doesn’t allow the reader to understand the dynamic of their friendship before you completely change it. 

~ enemies to friends to lovers… This article isn’t really about enemies to lovers, but it gets asked about a lot, and this is sort of just friendship to lovers with an extra bit tacked on. The enemies part should be the pre-friendship stage, and should be just as developed as the other two stages of their relationship. There should be development of their enemy-style relationship, then the shift to friendship and development of that dynamic, and then finally a shift to romance and a resolution that shows how that relationship functions. 

~ avoiding “lust at first sight”… These characters are friends at first, and friends don’t lust after each other. It’s perfectly alright for your characters to acknowledge the fact that their friend is attractive, but the friendship dynamic sort of means they didn’t think much of it at the beginning. If you take that away, you just have people who aren’t dating but like each other, and then they’re dating, which isn’t friendship to lovers.

~ fixing the romance to be less forced… If you’re struggling with fixing the way you’ve written the romance following the first draft being completed, my advice is to go back, read through the story, and find the scenes that suggest a romance. Observe the way that they build upon each other and how they work to push the romance forward. If a scene seems very sudden and forward, change it. Don’t mistake the problem to be the big scenes either. The little scenes build up, and they’re usually what are screwing everything up.

~ establishing their friendship dynamic… Whether it be through banter that slowly turns into subtle flirting, or making horribly offensive jokes that make each other laugh, or making odd inside references, you have to find a unique way that accurately portrays two things: a) the way your characters interact with each other, and each other alone, and b) how your characters enjoy each other’s company. It doesn’t have to be through conversation either. Maybe they have a special place they only go to with each other, or they have a certain routine they follow when they’re together, or a specific way to interacting with each other’s families. Find a way to establish their friendship that is unique to your story and your characters.

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