I’m currently writing a story that features the good old friends to lovers trope. It’s one I’ve used before and one I’ll no doubt use again.
As I was writing this morning, I asked myself:
Why do I like this particular trope?
Why is it a favourite amongst readers and writers of romance?
The main characters in my current story have been friends since school. They grew up together and liked and admired each other. But… they never got together. They almost did. They certainly knew that they cared about each other, but there were several reasons why it never actually happened for them. This is part of the layering of the story and I really enjoy this element of the creative process.
In the friends to lovers trope, there might always have been a spark between the characters; perhaps they even shared a kiss, but when they meet up years later, that spark becomes a roaring flame. It’s a form of Wow! You’re all grown up now and I like you even more than before!
But there must be conflict, otherwise the story would be over and done with far too quickly and where’s the fun in that?
The hero and heroine in a friends to lovers plot need to have a common past, however long or short it is, but there must still be things for them to discover about each other. If they’ve been apart and been through different experiences, this can enhance the journey for the reader. Perhaps they’ve been hurt by the loss of a loved one, shunned by a loved one, or even society, and this makes them doubt themselves.
Whatever happens, this lovely trope gives an author plenty to work with, as well as plenty of challenges.
As I plot then write, I constantly ask myself:
What does this mean for my hero / heroine?
How has it shaped their journey to this particular time and place?
At what point will they change / see things differently / re-evaluate what it is they want?
What will hold them back and create the ultimate emotional ‘black moment’?
The important thing about friends to lovers stories, is that the relationship needs to be built on more than just physical attraction. The characters might always have been aware that the other is attractive, but something got in the way – whether it was the importance they placed on their friendship, the fear of rejection (perhaps one of them didn’t feel the same, or they were both unaware of the other’s feelings) or there could have been a third party in the friendship, creating a kind of love triangle complication. But when the hero and heroine eventually get together, their shared past means that their whole relationship deepens.
So to summarise:
There should be tension and layered conflict.
There should be a lot to lose, otherwise the hero and heroine might get together too easily.
There should be depth to the relationship and to their shared past.
But ultimately, they have to be prepared to take the risk to lose it all… because if they get together and it goes wrong, then their friendship is on the line.
Then there’s the Happy Ever After.
Achieved through an emotionally satisfying journey? Of course.
And that’s why us romance readers keep coming back for more.
What are your favourite tropes and why?