Enemies to lovers is a self-explanatory trope. It starts with a few characters, usually two, who are rivals or enemies or don’t like each other. They’ve fallen in love by the end of the book/story. It’s one of the most popular tropes in fiction. One of the most compelling aspects of fiction is tension, and enemies to lovers have all types of tension. We’ve got hateful tension, inattention, and sexual tension. So, it takes the tension to the max, and readers eat that. Also, this is a trope that creators love to write but often mess up.
You can think of a million books out there with enemies to lovers that are big yikes. Thus, I’ve decided to save you the headache and give you my tips for writing this trope and mastering it by what to do and what not to do. The biggest issue is current literary trends, so pay close attention. Do you love enemies-to-lovers relationships and want to learn how to write a believable enemies to lovers romance? Then you’ve come to the right place.
How to write enemies to lovers? (Scenarios, Tropes, Prompts)
Hate to love romance is a pleasure to read and write. It makes your story more dynamic because a huge change of heart has to take place with your characters. If it’s written well, it can make your book so addictive that readers will not be able to put it down. A lot of character development has to occur for this major change of heart to feel believable to the reader.
So is it tricky to write? Yeah, but is it worth it? Yeah! Looking back on the stories that I’ve already written and the stories that I’ve been plotting in my head for years now, I realized that this is my favorite romance trope because I use it so much. I also love to read stories with hate and love romance, and evidently, many other people do. Pride And Prejudice and Anne of Green Gables are one of the best for me.
So with my experience of writing and fangirling over Hate/Enemy to Love Romance, I’m going to show you how to craft a realistic feeling and brilliant story arc that will take your characters from enemies to more than friends. Here are 15 best tips for writing enemies to lovers romance. Let’s begin!
1. Establish the reason behind the hate
Before we begin, we have to dig into the first impressions of these characters, whether they’ve loathed each other for a long time now or only met and did not hit it off. Nobody hates without reason. In fact, hate/enemy in this scenario can be better described as a negative judgment one character makes about another character based on their perspective. It sounds a little philosophical, but that’s what it boils down to.
So what negative judgments have your characters made about each other? Let’s take, for example, Pride And Prejudice. When Elizabeth first meets Darcy, she’s immediately put off by his pride and arrogance, not to mention his miserable expression. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Darcy judges the laughing and light-hearted Lizzie as barely tolerable and is repelled by her family’s lack of decency.
First impressions are usually the root of all dislike. When we don’t know a person, we’re trying to decide whether or not we should trust them and if they show any sign of being unlikable, our brain is quick to judge. So if you don’t have a first impression moment in your back story with when your characters first meet, I recommend you,
- Craft one, even if it’s backstory, write the scene, and feel the tension and conflict in these characters.
- Know the root of their problem with each other, and you’ll be able to write their problem so much better.
2. Figure out who hates who
Relationships are always more dynamic than we hate each other. As you probably noticed in the last question, much more tension and conflict are happening below the surface. But what if the bad feeling is not mutual? What if person A hates person B, but person B likes person A? Although the plot thickens technically hate to love romance, it throws a monkey wrench into an otherwise simple relationship. This is one of my favorite types of romance because there’s so much potential for many different types of plot twists.
Let’s take Anne of Green Gables, for example. When Anne first meets Gilbert, she smashes a slate over his head. Not a good first impression because he insensitively teased her. But what Anne doesn’t realize is that Gilbert likes her. Despite their competitive relationship, he admires her spirit, imagination, and determination to constantly better himself. It creates more conflict for the characters and makes the reader more intrigued to see what kind of change of heart will happen next.
3. Make a hard and soft character
Make sure there’s a reason they hate each other and let it be something that can be resolved down the road. For example, maybe they hate each other over a misunderstanding. Misunderstandings are frequently used in enemies to lovers romance. The first character is shy, and the second character thinks the first character is stuck up.
That misunderstanding leads to hate, but secretly they’re attracted to each other. It can be as easy as that formula. You want these characters to fall in love when it comes down to it. So early on, you must plan some seeds of love. First and foremost, the characters should find each other attractive, even if they don’t make it known to each other.
Obviously, attraction alone doesn’t lead to love, but it’s a good place to start later. You want to set these characters up to be forced to interact. In those instances, they must gradually drop hints about the people they truly are through their actions and words.
4. Impressions matter
The characters start as enemies, but the phrase is enemies to lovers. So, the characters have to learn to love one another, which means the reader has to love them too. If you drive the enemy idea too hard, your readers might not be able to root for them down the line.
The most obvious example from books is when the love interest, usually male, is extremely pompous and chauvinistic. I’ve seen a lot of plotlines involving a sexist man who makes tons of derogatory comments about women. At that point, you can’t convince the reader to ship the male character with anyone.
People can be enemies without being despicable human beings. Maybe they come from warring territories. Or maybe there was a miscommunication that got them off on the wrong foot. There are plenty of options that allow you to create a divide between characters without pegging one.
5. Choose the right level of enemy
Complete good and complete evil won’t combine well. So instead, choose two people who are more rivals or on opposing sides of a conflict. That would mean that they are obligated to be against each other and have been indoctrinated into different ideologies. People on different sides but who are not necessarily fundamental enemies in their hearts.
But the morals inside them, the deep things they base their lives and their perspectives on, should be somewhat the same. There should be some deep similarity between them, something they share and that they can bond over. It will also be the beginning of your romantic arc, the moment that these two have the chance to be vulnerable in front of each other and to learn what makes the other person tick.
6. Tension should be realistic
Tension is the opposite side of the coin. If your characters start as enemies, the divide between them needs to be realistic and understandable. Sometimes writers are so scared of making their characters unlikeable that they give them a flimsy reason to be enemies. The characters became enemies because one of them took the other’s donut and ate it. Call the cops! This execution may have worked if the characters in question were toddlers, but they weren’t.
So it had the opposite effect. Also, It wasn’t cute or charming, and it certainly wasn’t engaging. That made the characters look childish, which destroyed the likability factor. So, the divide between them should at some point be surmounted, but the divide still needs to be believable.
- Rivals, warring communities, or conflicting goals can make characters enemies without dipping into toxic territory.
7. Don’t add abusive scene
Enemies do not have to mean abuse. It is relevant to the first point, but it has become so prevalent in recent literature that it needs to be dressed independently. You do not need to establish enemies through abuse. If the relationship begins with abuse, it doesn’t matter how cute the relationship’s progression is. Moreover, readers are not going to be able to forget about the initial abuse. Some readers will, but they’ve got their issues.
If both characters are warriors and meet during battle, we will expect some battle. Other exceptions would be the only one kidnapping, manipulating, torturing a future love interest, attempting to strangle them to death or break their arm. All of this is too much, making it impossible to shift the characters.
- Violence is often utilized in fiction, but be careful of the implications you create because it is tough to come back from it once you cross that line.
8. Add plot twist
The shift is the moment when things start to change between your enemies. Many writers fall into the trap of making the shift something shallow. It’s usually that the characters realize they’re hot and get a big old throbbing boner. It’s great if your characters are attracted to one another. But an effective shift is a moment where respect is proven and earned. The character learns something about one another or witnesses an event that disproves their negative opinions.
- The keyword here is respect and plot twist.
Enemies do not necessarily respect one another, but lovers absolutely should. Thus, this moment plants the first of many necessary seeds to establish a future romantic relationship.
Find a way for your characters to see another side of one another. It could be as extreme as one of them. Saving an innocent bystander adds life, thus proving their heroism and moral standing. Or it could be one of them staying after work to help train a struggling intern, not sleeping with them as their future love interest had incorrectly assumed.
9. Don’t forget the halfway point of friendship
Nothing will make your hate-to-love romance seem unbelievable. Then your character goes from hating each other to loving each other. A change of heart is never sudden; It happens over time. Think of your story like the alphabet between A and Z. You have 24 other letters. You have all these other moments in your story, and that middle ground makes the change of heart believable. This is usually the place of friendship, or we don’t know what we are, but we’re getting along. Remember that!
Although it’s clear to the reader what’s going on, your characters don’t understand a thing. They won’t be able to pinpoint when their hearts start to change, even if the reader can. Also, this is what makes enemy to love romance so enjoyable, even comical. Sometimes our biology rebels against the change of any kind, which includes a change of heart from enemies to more than friends. When new feelings and ideas challenge our hard-won beliefs, we feel exposed.
- Try desperately to hold on to our old beliefs. But you have to let them fight. They feel for their nemesis if they cave to the first flicker of affection.
Every story is different, so your character’s internal conflict will be unique to them. But how they overcome their obstacles in their moment. That’s what the story is truly about.
10. Show the progression
Sometimes writers start strong, establish a compelling divide, and showcase the shift brilliantly. The characters are sucking their face. This border is on insta love because they’ve developed respect doesn’t mean they’re immediately getting into one another’s pants. Other important ingredients need to be established first: friendship, vulnerability, and trust.
You cannot create a swoon-worthy romance without these facets, and you build them up by showing the progression of their relationship. It’s also common for enemies to lovers to have a period of stubbornness.
They respect one another, but they’re still a butthead. Also, the transition from enemies to lovers is a bumpy one. So, showcase that natural progression to make it believable and satisfying.
11. Set the story from bickering to banter
We talked about three key ingredients to establish respect, friendship, vulnerability, and trust. Bickering to banter is a great way to establish a blossoming friendship between your characters. Even after your characters respect one another, they still might dislike each other. So they’re going to bicker. They’re going to poke fun at each other and get on their nerves.
But over time, as their relationship deepens, this bickering will transition into banter. We’re no longer looking at petty jabs. The teasing has become flirtatious. The laughter isn’t sardonic. This not only showcases your character’s friendship, but it’s also one of the most satisfying things to read. Readers love enemies to lovers for this reason, and they want to see the bickering and banter. Nailing this element will make the ship extra juicy.
12. Open up your characters
Every enemy to lovers ship will have a meaningful, thoughtful, and vulnerable conversation that allows them to open up and reveal the deepest scars they may resist. At first, someone may be stubborn and unwilling to share their secrets, but eventually, they spill the beans. It is when the characters establish common ground. They realize they’re far more alike than they initially assumed.
This instance of vulnerability is pivotal. After all, the healthiest romantic relationships thrive because these people can be vulnerable with one another and still feel safe, wanted, and loved. Plus, it’s plain romantic. You’ll have your readers gripping the book and thinking,
13. Save a life
This is where we establish trust. You can take this point literally if your story calls for it. The characters can save one another’s lives. But not all stories have life or death situations. In this case, you can think of it as the characters saving one another. Your emcee drops the ball at work and their former enemy, a rival at work, takes the blame. They put their promotion at risk to save the emcee from getting fired.
- The key ingredient here is sacrifice.
Your character needs to put themselves at risk for their love interest. It is beyond necessary for any enemies to be lovers in fiction because it establishes that these characters can depend on one another. Remember, they started as enemies. They hated each other. To sacrifice your well-being or job, your life establishes that the tides have turned. So, it is not only a pivotal progression in their relationship, it’s also exciting to read.
14. Resistance is futile
One of the best elements of the enemies to lovers trope is resistance. Your characters need to fight their romantic or sexual urges for one another for at least a portion of the novel. At least for a chapter or two, showing them fighting their feelings will make your readers giddy. It adds to the will they or won’t they element.
Also, It increases the tension, which is one of the best parts of fiction, let alone romance. The situations prolong the first kiss and or the first sex scene, making them more satisfying to read.
- The idea here is to make them getting together ten times more exciting, and you do that by dangling the carrot in front of the reader’s face.
15. Make a good romance
Your characters are no longer enemies. They are now officially lovers. Not only that, they are comrades and are on the same side and team. I’m emphasizing this point because many enemies to lovers plot lines mess this up. The characters become lovers, but they’re still fighting about whatever had them divided in the first place. It is dysfunctional! It’s not romantic or entertaining.
If you want to create a delicious enemies-to-lovers ship, you need to transition from the characters hating each other to being willing to die for one another. It’s a complete 180 degrees from where they began. The sense of unity is what the readers came for. They want to see the transformation, so go all in.
Enemies to lovers tropes
Before writing your enemies-to-lovers romance, keep some tropes in your head to pick the right plot. Here are some popular tropes for you.
- Friends to lovers.
- Forced Proximity.
- Stuck together – ‘trapped in an elevator.
- Second chance.
- Fake relationship.
- Amnesia/mistaken identity.
- Alpha hero.
- Work colleagues.
- Dark secret.
- Sworn off a relationship.
- Virgin/unexpected virgin.
- Bully turned nice guy.
- Love triangle.
- Afraid to commit.
Enemies to lovers prompt
You must have a motive or prompts that make your story real and easy to read. Readers want a specific plot/situation that they can start to visualize. So here are some prompts you can follow.
- The story begins on a bright summer morning in or cool nightclub.
- The heroine is determined to go on an epic road trip then she meets a guy who is annoying to her.
- One character finds the other in their tent/garden/beautiful place while camping alone.
- Character A catches character B stealing food from the restaurant where she works or any bad situation. Then they meet again in another incident.
- An undercover cop investigates a person for a crime and learns more about them. They have forced proximity.
- Two characters are in the same competition or workplace where they have to fight for their prize or promotion.
I’d love to know what’s your favorite part about Enemies To Lovers Romance? Let me know in the comments.
Here are some books that will help you get some ideas to write:
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