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Beyond the Book: Friends to Lovers Trope by Taryn Kincaid

Last week I floated the idea of discontinuing the First Sale feature and while there are fans of the feature, many others chimed in to say that they had First Sale fatigue, like me. Based upon the suggestion of FiaQ, I tossed out the idea to authors to write an “author’s cut” feature about a particular trope. I asked specifically for authors who were writing about the friends to lovers trope as it is one of my favorites. Taryn Kincaid offered up her take on why she likes to write about this trope and why it may it appeal to readers:

EMMA

Mr Knightley! Mr Knightley. I stopped you ungraciously just now and gave you pain. If you have any wish to speak to me about anything you have in contemplation, as your friend I cannot refuse you. Indeed, as your old friend, I will hear whatever it is you wish to tell me.

MR KNIGHTLEY

Emma! You want our friendship to remain the same as it has always been, but I cannot desire that.

Emma Knightley

EMMA

But why? I know I make mistakes, but had you been here the last few days you would have seen how I have tried to change! Please tell me I am your friend.

 

MR KNIGHTLEY

I do not wish to call you my friend, because I hoped to call you something infinitely more dear.

~~~~~~~

Harry

You realize, of course, that we can never be friends.

Sally

What do you mean?

 

Harry

What I'm saying – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can't be friends. The sex part always gets in the way.

~~~~~~~~

Harry and Sally, Cher and Josh, Emma and Mr. Knightley.   Friends to lovers all.

The trope is as tried and true as the characters are to each other (at least until some annoying third wheel attempts to come between them and threaten a relationship as old and comfortable as a faded sweatshirt). They know they have each other's backs. They know their "friend" will always be there for them-if only they can dispose of that aggressive/arrogant/pompous/bitchy (your adjective goes here) interloper over whom their oblivious pal seems to be making a cake of himself.

The conceit is particularly delicious for us, the reader or movie-goer, because we know something the hero and heroine don't:   that while they are confiding in each other as friends,   either bemoaning their lack of a sex life or dishing the deets of their relationship with someone else (someone obviously, hideously wrong) - they are absolutely, positively, awesomely right together.   We are rooting for them both.

Yes, Harry, despite the sex part getting in the way. That just makes our little secret all the more delectable.

Admittedly, there are times when we want to shake our reluctant hero and heroine: Why can't you see you are made for each other? We do. But when those odd ripples of sexual tension start crackling between two old chums, we are ready to stand up cheer.

In a novella, there is not always enough time or space to build to the first sizzle of awareness and attraction between your heroine and that mysterious hunk of strange she just bumped into at Starbuck's (or engaged to lead a wagon train across treacherous country,   or to transport precious spices into deep space twenty-nine, or gets a sudden yen to offer her neck to when the moon is full because he seems to be a little antsy and hairy and long in the tooth).

The "friends to lovers" trope helps shorthand the cute meet sometimes. The mysterious push-pull forces are still present, of course. Just-different.   There's already history. There may be some unwieldy baggage.   It's ideal.

Healing Hearts Taryn KincaidIn Healing Hearts, my Regency novella just released from Carina Press, my hero and heroine knew each other as youngsters. Until circumstances came between them, they were old family friends. Both Adam and Emma are surprised by the changes time has wrought, as well as the long-remembered characteristics left intact. Catching Emma spying on him from afar, Adam calls her out of hiding:

"You did not expect me to know you, Miss Whiteside? You've changed a great deal. But I'd know you anywhere."

One of the things that's so tantalizing and intriguing for us, the reader or viewer, about the "friends to lovers" premise is watching the way old friends go about discovering each other anew, in a more highly-charged way.   We, of course, feel a little smug and superior because we knew it all along! Don't you think that's true? We delight in watching our hero and heroine fall back on the comfortable and familiar, the things they were in "like" with all the time- even as that same crooked smile is suddenly worthy of   notice and sets them ablaze.

Luckily, their old pal can always be counted on to be there, fanning the flames.

So what do you think?   What is it about friends-to-lovers that we all love much?

~ Taryn Kincaid

Taryn Kincaid lives in the historical, mystical Hudson Valley, just a throw of a pumpkin head from New York City.  She is a member of RWA, Hudson Valley RWA and RWA's Beau Monde, and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapters. She is the author of Healing Hearts, a Regency novella from Carina Press, and Sleepy Hollow Dreams, >an erotic paranormal from The Wild Rose Press. Visit Taryn  at http://dreamvoyagers.blogspot.com or follow her  on Twitter, Facebook,  Goodreads and eHarlequinCommunity.com.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

34 Comments

  1. Sara Brookes
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 06:18:30

    Fantastic article, Taryn! For me, I think the friends-to-lovers works simply because we get to bypass the “awkward” stage of strangers falling in love. It’s there already, we know it, we just have to wait (sometimes impatiently) for it to happen. It’s a form of torture where you already know the outcome, but we, nonetheless, wait and cheer them on. Though, as you said, fist shaking all the way because we know the inevitable.

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  2. Taryn Kincaid
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 06:24:10

    Absolutely. None of that, “what’s your sign,” “what do you do for a living,” “are you one of the Savannah Smiths?” stuff!

    (And thank you, Jane, for inviting me in today!)

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  3. Wendy Soliman
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 06:25:32

    Thought-provoking post. How could Emma not have known how Mr Knightly felt? Perhaps because she was too busy interfering with other people’s lives. Personally, I think you know as soon as you meet someone whether that ‘spark’ is there but, if Emma had known, it would have made for a pretty short book.

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  4. Liia Ann White
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 06:28:12

    I agree with Sara.
    Friends already know each others’ quirks and don’t need to go through those awkward conversations.
    I always feel the need to shout ‘just together already, dammit’ at heroes and heroines who just can’t see they’re perfect for each other!

    This is a great post – well done.

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  5. Norah Wilson
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 06:52:19

    I love this trope, for all the reasons mentioned. It’s also why I tend to enjoy reunion romances, as well. There’s already a lot of emotional investment, not to mention baggage. Remember the scene in The Abyss where Ed Harris’s character Virgil sees Lindsay approaching: “God, I hate that bitch,” he says. To which Hippy replies, “Probably shouldn’t have married her then, huh?” We know instantly what’s going to happen, and sit back and wait for events to drive them to the wake up call.

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  6. MJ Fredrick
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 07:02:19

    I love friends-to-lovers stories! They have that shared history, know all the skeletons, and aren’t afraid to use that knowledge! And like Sara said, we get past all that awkward getting-to-know-you (which can be fun, but…)

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  7. Patricia Preston
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 07:06:45

    I think the friends to lovers plays best in romantic comedies. Great post!

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  8. Adrienne Giordano
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 07:39:35

    Hi Taryn. I love watching friends discover each other in a new way. They may know a lot about each other’s habits as friends, but there is something fun about watching them discover things like which side they sleep on or what they do first thing in the morning.

    Great post!

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  9. Liz Fichera
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 07:46:12

    I do love the friends-to-lovers trope but the circumstances of them being thrown together have to be realistic and believable, along with their character flaws.

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  10. Eleri Stone
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 07:57:00

    I like the friends to lovers trope, especially if it’s something in their past that’s keeping them apart. It can go really wrong for me though too. I lose patience if the reason they’re not together is because the main characters lack any sense of self-awareness or when they’re not brave enough to take a chance. Draw that out a little and I love it. Too much and I will hate it with a passion.

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  11. Lynne Connolly
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 08:18:00

    What a great post!
    You nearly lost me with your first example, because I think Emma is an interfering busybody, and once she’s married to the local squire, she’ll be even worse. I think Austen may have known that!
    But you went on to do one of my absolute favorites. When Harry met Sally did it right, so well.
    I’m struggling with the story of a couple who split up years before. It would be so easy to make their break-up external, a plot thing, but it wouldn’t further the romance!

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  12. Hailey Edwards
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 08:36:19

    You had me at Emma… In all seriousness, the friends to lovers trope is a favorite of mine. There are so many ways a relationship can go not-right, without going wrong. Circumstances can force people into a box they want out of, but don’t know how to lift the lid. In a capable author’s hands, the results can be absolutely delicious.

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  13. Shoshanna Evers
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 09:02:47

    Great post, Taryn! You hit the nail on the head – the friends-to-lovers trope creates instant history, issues, and familiarity with each other that makes it all the more believable when the H/h fall in love, especially in the short confines of a novella.

    Plus, I’m sure everyone can relate to lusting after a hot friend, LOL :)

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  14. nell dixon
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 09:18:20

    I love the friends to lovers thing, it’s about people seeing each other properly for the first tiem – out of the box they have consigned them too. I think that’s why I like boss and secretary type books too. It’s that sudden twist in a familiar relationship that changes everything.

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  15. dick
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 09:29:41

    Never thought this trope was very accurate, myself. Friendship is not very mysterious; a passionate relationship always is.

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  16. Claire Robyns
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 10:04:12

    I’m another lover of this trope, and I can totally understand and believe how difficuly it is to act on a feeling (or just plain lust) when a long-term friendship is involved. Say what you’re feeling and he doesn’t feel the same, you lose your best friend as well. This so works for me!!! Although, I’ve never known a friend-to-lover story to happen around me in real life, lol

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  17. Nicole North
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 11:22:04

    Awesome post! I’m a big fan of this trope. It’s much easier to believe the instant attraction and quick get together of a novella or short story if the two already know and like each other, and if they’ve had interactions sometime in the past. I also love the emotional baggage that comes along with it.

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  18. Sarah
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 11:41:53

    I love the reference to Cher and Josh! Truly one of my favorite friends to lovers movies, even if it is based on Emma.

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  19. Wendy S. Marcus
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 12:33:15

    Great post, Taryn!
    Healing Hearts was a terrific friends to lovers story.

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  20. Elise Warner
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 13:10:39

    Exciting and sometimes surprising when you see another side to someone you’ve thought of as a friend.

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  21. becca
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 14:52:35

    given that my own romance was a friends-to-lovers one (it took us 12 years to get there, but in my own defense, I was married to someone else when I first met my current husband – I did divorce first husband before the transition to lovers, however), it’s a trope that really resonates with me… I love seeing all the ways that people can make that journey.

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  22. Jade
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 18:41:37

    I’m always drawn to the trope because I actually married my best friend. We were friends for a while before we (that is, me), made the decision to be more. Granted, the hubs never saw me as JUST a friend, but I gotta say…life has not been without passion just because we changed gears. :D

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  23. Taryn Kincaid
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 18:49:37

    Becca and Jade, I love your personal stories!

    In your case, Jade, sounds like Harry may have been partially right! I wonder if men ever really see their gal pals strictly as gal pals.

    What do you think?

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  24. jayhjay
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 18:51:05

    @Claire Robyns: “Although, I've never known a friend-to-lover story to happen around me in real life, lol”

    I actually sort of do, believe it or not. My two friends grew up together, we all went to middle and high school together. They didn’t start dating until college though and ultimately got married.

    I love this trope, in part b/c of the skipping the initial “meet cute” kind of stuff as others have mentioned. But I also love to see the moment(s) when it all changes for them and they suddenly see the person in a new way. I think it crystallizes the “why they are in love with each other” in a way that you can’t always get across so simply in other types of stories.

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  25. Jenny Schwartz
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 19:05:40

    I think one aspect of why I like this trope so much is because the two friends already have a high degree of trust between them. So often in romance (and romantic suspense, which I really, really like) a fair bit of the novel has to show the building of trust. With friends-to-lovers the trust is there, and it presents a different challenge — not to betray the trust, but to add hope and (romantic) love and take the relationship somewhere new.

    Thanks for the post, Taryn, and for making me stop and think about why I like this trope.

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  26. Susanna Ives
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 20:37:23

    Wonderful post! I love friends-to-lovers stories and WHEN HARRY MET SALLY is my all-time favorite. That sex thing sure got in the way!

    I’ve downloaded your novella and am looking forward to a free moment to read it. Maybe when my friend-turned-husband returns from his business trip.

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  27. Willamae
    Mar 14, 2011 @ 21:40:42

    God, friends-to-lovers is the best! I am so glad you started with this. But it is true that in some romance novels the love part of the relationships feels forced. Sometimes it isn’t love, it’s just great sex. I never worry about that with a friends-to-lovers book, and it is great.

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  28. Ros
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 03:36:16

    @Wendy Soliman: Even if you meet when you’re five years old?

    That’s the thing I love about friends-to-lovers is that there needs to be a moment of transition. And because it isn’t at a first meeting, it gives an author a lot to play with.

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  29. Lisa Fox
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 10:26:38

    I love friends-to-lovers trope because of the depth of the relationship the characters share.

    Really great post Taryn!

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  30. Jennifer Probst
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 15:41:32

    HI Taryn! I don’t care how many times I read this theme – it is one of my favorites! Along with the marrige of convenience which I can’t seem to get enough of. Wonderful post.

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  31. Tara Stearns
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 16:59:58

    Hi Taryn! I love the friends to lover stories. I think they have a special tension you just don’t get with a first meet.

    Great post!

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  32. Link Roundup « Nisaba Be Praised
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 18:25:25

    [...] “Beyond the Trope,” where authors take on a specific trope. Taryn Kincaid talks about Friends to Lovers trope, which is possibly my absolute [...]

  33. Kathleen Dienne
    Mar 15, 2011 @ 18:58:37

    I also married my friend-turned-lover (and wrote my own book with the trope ;)). The comfort factor means there’s a foundation for all the passion. It’s a lot harder to light a fire from scratch than it is to get coals to blaze up.

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  34. Regina Jeffers
    Mar 16, 2011 @ 11:51:39

    As we often say, “If it is not broke, why fix it?” The same is true with this concept. Friends to lovers gives everyone hope that our “Cinderella” syndrome will find happiness, even if the Prince is a toad in disguise.

    ReplyReply

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