Frenemies – you know the type. It’s usually a typical trope in the friends-to-lovers trend. Or maybe it’s just an ambiguous character that used to be friendly, but now has a stick up their butt. These kinds of people are confusing enough for your protagonist to live with. You can imagine that they can confuse your readers as well. The key to avoiding this is making sure that they’re well-rounded enough to carry their own sub-plot. In this way, there are many elements in the frenemy dynamic that create the love-hate atmosphere that readers secretly obsess over. This week, I’m introducing a few different types of frenemies and why they work so well.
#1: The Ex-BFF Frenemies
This one is multi-layered and has room to evolve over the course of the story. Maybe the characters used to be close but aren’t anymore due to a fallout. You can tease this out when one character is clueless as to what happened between them to ruin their friendship. Or maybe it’s been such a long time that both have forgotten what they were even fighting about. Their conversations will be quick, stilted, and full of subtext. Weave in a good dose of arrogance into this for the antagonist, while making sure both characters remain somewhat likable. The key with frenemies is layers – just like onions and ogres.
#2: The Mutually Sarcastic Frenemies
These ones are basically best friends – but they’ll never admit it. Not even to themselves. Their entire relationship involves talking trash to each other. I’m talking petty insults, low-hanging fruit, and cruelty-made-passable by just a dash of good intentions. Greetings like “what’s up, headass” or “shut up, loser” are commonly accepted and reciprocated. Think of this like a whole backwards language and culture. Failing to properly toss back an insult is the greatest diss you can imagine. Bonus points if you can work in some flirting; the mutually sarcastic frenemy can harbor some hot-and-heavy romantic potential if you’re game for it. And that brings me nicely to my next point, which is…
#3: The Hot-For-You Frenemies
Frenemies with a crush lingering just under the surface are fantastic because they’ll always want to hide it. Mortifying – truly. Maybe it’s a soft spot for the angsty janitor who flips them off but also keeps the vending machine stocked. There are literally infinite opportunities to spark romance between two characters mortified at the prospect of romance with each other. Lip-lock: mandatory. One of my favorite ways to do this is to get them both stuck in a small, confined space. Then, sit back and let the sparks fly. It’s the ultimate in awkward scenes, and you can polish up that particular skill with this article HERE.
#4: The Do-Gooder Frenemies
Maybe when they’re not being a cocky son-of-a-you-know-what, they volunteer their free time for charity work. You can even have the opposing character stumble upon this fact at the height of their distaste. If even your most agitating character has a feasible backstory that offers an explanation, your readers will like them. But like your other characters, there’s a good chance they’ll never admit it.
As you can see, there are different ways to approach this unique dynamic. On the broader scope of the idea, make sure you create an issue or breaking point that makes sense. As one blogger suggested, ensure the disagreement or problem between the two isn’t something born out of a simple misunderstanding. Make it deep-seated, complex, and emotional. This goes back to my original point about making everything nice and well-rounded. As long as your frenemy has more going on in their head besides hating your protagonist’s guts, they’ll add plenty to your story.