Writing Relationships: Enemies to Lovers.

These types of relationships can be some of the most interesting and enjoyable, both to read and write, because they show us many sides of the same characters and the growth from a hatred to mixed feelings and finally to genuine love and acceptance is often heartwarming to experience. But relationships like also require finesse to portray in a believable, healthy manner.

Before we begin, some ground rules:

1. Stay away from abuse.

A hate to love relationship is not an “abuse to love” relationship, and none of these tips are aimed toward writing such a thing. Check this list for things to keep out of your healthy end-game relationships.

2. These characters need to be ‘ship-able’ already!

If your character would not naturally end up in the end-game relationship, you’ve got a problem. The character’s ability to be friends – shared interests, enjoyment of each other’s company, comparability in communication – is crucial for the transition from hate to love.

Now then, how do we set up this hate to love relationship?

1. Examine why the characters hate each other.

There’s a slew of different reasons two characters might start out hating each other, including (but certainly not limited to):

  • They come from opposing sides of a war, feud, or have some other group-oriented dislike.
  • They have very bad first impressions of each other.
  • They already hold distasteful misconceptions about each other based on what trusted companions have told them.
  • One (or both) of them are acting or believing something the other has good reason to hate.

In order to pull off the first part of the relationship – the hate – you have to both have a reason for the characters to hate each other and convince the reader that the reason is a good reason.

Unless you’re writing in omnipresent, you’re telling the story through your character’s eyes. No matter how good their current ‘enemy’ may be on the inside, the pov character won’t be looking for that goodness. They’ll see all the flaws and turn offs they anticipate the character to have, and this will likely (hopefully) effect them on an emotional level the reader can connect with.

2. What needs to change for this hate to be repealed?

Hate to love relationships can be broken into two basic categories: misunderstandings and ‘worth-the-hatred’s.

Misunderstandings: These two characters are both genuinely decent people. They should have areas in which they need to grow, but it’s not their flaws that make them hate each other, but rather a lack of knowledge. In order for hate to transition to love, the characters need to be forced to look closer at who the other person is and start to understand them.

The simplest way to initiate this is to force the characters to work together on something. Present more and more opportunities for them to show all their good qualities and shut down the misconceptions through actions.

  • It means little for one character to say ‘I’m not the person you think I am.’
  • It means a lot more for them to deliberately show the other character that they’re not that person.
  • It means the most for the other character to catch them being that person when it wouldn’t benefit them at all.

‘Worth-the-hatred’s aka ‘I need character growth before I can be with you’s: One of both of these characters have wrong or hurtful beliefs (causing equally wrong and hurtful actions) which they need to confront and move past before they can be in a healthy loving relationship.

character development (often in the form of a redemption arc) is absolutely needed as a foundation for this change. Keep in mind from the relationship standpoint that the other character will have no reason to trust the redeemed character has grown as a person unless they witness the growth firsthand, and even then they aren’t likely to run to the other’s arms without another thought. Growth should lead to gradual acceptance and then the further developing of the relationship.

Embarking on the change: The value of a slow transition.

While slow burn is nice but not necessary for your average romance, it is often great for hate to love relationships, as the relationship must gradually move from hatred, to acceptance of the other person, to friendship, and then finally to something deeper.

But how slow is slow enough? This all depends on how much focus the character’s relationship is given. You can have a hate to love relationship take place in a shorter story if the story is focused directly on the two characters and they have no periods of backsliding, but it may take three whole books for a similar hate to love relationship to realistically run its course if the romance is a side plot filled with misunderstandings and drama.

Plotting things out. For those of you who like to do a bit of outlining before writing, (or who are trying to tweak a rough draft that didn’t turn out quite smoothly enough) here’s a nice, simple question-answer format you can adjust to your basic hate to love needs:

The hatred. 

  • What do these character hate about the each other (real and/or misunderstandings)?
  • How do these characters meet?
  • What negative qualities are re-enforced during their meeting?
  • Are there any ‘confusing’ positive qualities one character realizes the other exhibits?
  • How do they feel coming out of this meeting?

The acceptance. 

  • Why are the characters forced to interact after this first meeting?
  • What is preventing them both from leaving, fighting (or in some cases, killing), the other person?
  • What traits, growth, etc do the characters witness in each other during this timeframe?
  • At what point do they make the decision not to hate each other anymore? (The more important this choice is, the better. Having them decide not to be at odds while sitting calmly by the fire does not have nearly the impact as the same decision made during a tense situation where one character’s life depends on the other.)

The friendship.

  • What common plot-related goal do these characters share?
  • What topics of conversation can they touch on which don’t revolve directly around the plot? (If you don’t have a vague idea of this, try writing a script for a random au scene in which they’re doing something ordinary. They should be able to carry on an interesting conversation without plot stimuli.)
  • What does each character enjoy about the other?
  • What are two or three scenes in which these two characters can directly aid, support, or save each other in a healthy manner.

The romance. (Or the platonic love.)

  • At what moment to they finally realize they’re in love with each other?
  • What triggers this understanding? (For the love of all things good, it should not be while they’re having lusty physical contact. If the characters can’t figure out they love each other unless they’re consumed with sexual desire, then they don’t really love each other. They’re just horny.)
  • How do they show their love openly?
  • How does their love effect the plot? (I.e. if they did not fall in love, would there be a different ending?)
  • Do they have further trials to undergo in order to be together, and if so, what are those? (If the romance is the focus of the story, then there should always be further trials until the end of the climax! Those may be conflicts within the relationship, social external conflicts like family and expectations, or physical external conflicts like distance or blackmail. If the romance is a side plot, then further trials are often still nice, but not necessary so long as the main plot and other side plots can support the increasing tension of the story.)

For more on writing healthy, friendship based romances, go here!

Want to read about a bloodthirsty siren fighting to return home while avoiding the lure of a suspiciously friendly and eccentric pirate captain? You can purchase Bryn’s debut novel, Our Bloody Pearl, today!

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