The most important thing to remember when it comes to 'enemies to lovers' is that deep down, your hero and heroine don't actually 'hate' each other. There is no great loathing. They didn't hurt the other beyond repair. It's just there is something about the other person that drives your character insane. Something that gets under their skin. Something that makes them say 'I can't stand that person!'
This is called tension. And why Enemies to Lovers is a popular and intense trope. How will these two people overcome whatever it is that's keeping them from getting along? That's the question your reader needs to ask.
So here are the top things I've noticed are needed to really pull off an enemies to lovers story.
This should be obvious. If your characters aren't going to get along, they need to each want something different. Something that opposes each other's goal is ideal. For example, your ...
A Past Incident or History
You may have your characters meet on the other side of an opposing goal, but you can add another layer by also giving them a past. This might mean you include the 'reunion' trope - where your character's are ex-lovers - or your hero and heroine may have known each other from childhood or worked together in the past. But if they have a past, something had to have happened to now cause the friction between them. Maybe they were each on the different side of one goal in the past, the hero won and the heroine is still sour. Having a past incident where your characters clashed is a great way to enhance your Enemies to Lovers story.
Something about another persons personality can really get under a person's skin. However, we are talking romance and therefore it can't be a deal breaker. But a risk taker will frustrate a person who's more careful with their decisions. A messy person will drive a clean person insane. An introvert might want to avoid an extravert. So consider if your characters may need an opposing personality trait in order to help increase the tension between them.
Thirdly, if your characters are going to fall in love, they need to be attracted to each other. And if the hero really gets under your heroine's skin because they both want different things and he's bettered her in the past, then the fact she thinks he's gorgeous, that he's also kind to her, and her heart flutters uncontrollably in his presence is really going to frustrate her. A woman doesn't want to be attracted to a man who stands in the way of her goal. But the important thing is, your characters need to have that friction from their past or opposing goals that affects the way they feel about each other now, causing them to resist their attraction and snipe at each other, which makes a highly intense and entertaining story.
So this is just my thoughts on the key aspects of an Enemies to Lovers story, yet there are a lot more you can add by including other tropes such as 'Best Friend's Sibling', 'Reunion', or many others.
Above are also some of my favourite Enemies to Lovers stories.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is a classic example of a hero and heroine clashing over class and personality, with a small thread of the hero hurting the heroine (by breaking up Jane and Mr Bingley). Elizabeth and Mr Darcy never 'hate' each other, even though she may think she does when she declines his first proposal, but they soon learn more about each other and realise that while their personalities weren't originally compatible, their morals are and they fall in love.
Undead Series by MaryJanice Davidson
I discovered these in high school and haven't read them since, but other than the snippy dialogue and awesome characters, Betsy and Sinclair's friction (at least in the first couple of books) comes from the fact that he's alpha, rich, powerful, and believes she's the prophesied vampire queen while Betsy doesn't want to be the vampire queen, finds him a bit stiff, and outrageously sexy. Her attraction for this man she can't believe she wants makes her a snippy and very funny heroine. But of course, as Betsy says, 'resistance is futile' and they fall in love. Eventually.
So that's just a little about Enemies to Lovers, a fun romance trope that can create great heights of tension and humour if you choose to go that way.
Hope you enjoyed this post.
Until next time,
Rachel is a writer of romantic fiction who enjoys discussing tropes. This blog thread will focus on identifying different tropes of romance fiction, as well as other crime, thriller, and fantasy tropes. Rachel will share her thoughts on each trope, discuss their vital elements, and discuss books featuring each trope.