In defense of boning your enemies

At the beginning of Sparkwood, Robin and Finn have never met, but boy do they resent each other.

Finn has found out that his brother Luke, who ran away to live with fairies a year ago, was murdered. And Robin is a fairy—who knew Luke, and who finds Finn's bias against fairies less than endearing. Actually, really offensive.

I wrote the book for LT3's enemies to lovers call, My Dearest Enemy. Robin and Finn didn't just need to be snarky at each other—they needed to actively dislike each other. They needed tension.

One of my favorite posts on writing tension comes from CS Pacat, the author of the Captive Prince series. I actually read this post when I was doing my second big editing pass. You know, the one after we had fixed the really shitty first-pass mistakes, so that suddenly every narrative problem was blindingly clear, and I was rearranging and deleting and rewriting and weeping.

This post was like a bolt of clarity. Here's some of Pacat's advice:

In my own writing, I often ask myself: Can I play this moment later? If the answer is yes, then I reserve the moment for later. If the answer is no, then I know that I've found the right moment to play the note.

 

There's a moment—as there must be in enemies to lovers romance—where Finn needs help desperately, and there is only one person he can turn to. The poor guy has been put through the wringer, physically and emotionally.

But in earlier drafts, I had played some notes too early. The physical part of being put through the wringer—that was over and done with by the time Finn got the emotional punch in the face. It meant that some of the tension had defused—Finn was less desperate, and since he's the POV character, the stakes didn't feel as high.

What a blessing rewrites are.

Drawing out Finn's misery so that everything came to a head at once didn't just make the story better. It helped the character too: to ask for help from a fairy, Finn needs to be brought to his knees.

Conversely, you know what's great for romantic tension? Forcing someone who hates someone else to take care of them when they're physically helpless.

Sorry, Robin.

Sparkwood comes out next week! It can be pre-ordered right now from LT3.