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What would an involving and engaging story be without some sort of conflict written into it? And what could possibly be a bigger conflict in a romantic/erotic story than a direct rival for the love and affections of the boy of your protagonist’s dreams, right? Here he is, making all the right moves, saying all the right things…and here comes some drop dead gorgeous stranger to throw a monkey wrench in the whole works and screw it up for everybody involved! Arrrgh!!! How upsetting is that?
Today, we’re going to talk about ‘love rivals’ in our erotic stories…and how we can use them and the complex situations they bring with them to our advantage.
When you’re writing about love, especially if it’s young love or first love, there’s an added intensity to the idea that you’ve finally found perfection in a mate of your choosing. What happens when that perfection is challenged? As I wrote in a past story once, when you’re building something beautiful together…you have everything to gain. But once you’ve got it…you have everything to lose. And if you want a love rival to be a part of your story’s conflict, that’s something to keep in mind. Because it can take just one mistake, one moment of weakness…to destroy everything and send your happy couple right back to square one. The threat of that happening can be devastating to your main characters, so use that to twist the story into a knot and keep your readers engaged as to what might happen next.
What you want from a rival is a certain look or personality that is incredibly appealing. Not only to the love interest, but to the protagonist as well. There should be something about him that is instantly noticeable, maybe even addictive. Whether they be drop dead gorgeous, super rich and/or famous, really funny, or particularly charming. Maybe this other guy has a certain something in common with the love interest that the main character doesn’t. Maybe they share a passion for something, or they spend an awful lot of time together. The idea is to raise suspicions and doubt as to what would happen if these two were left alone for an extended amount of time, and accidentally ‘shared a moment’ that they decided to surrender to. Write their interactions as ‘innocent’, but more than friendly. Put yourself in your characters’ shoes. How would you feel if the love of your life was giggling and trading inside jokes with another guy who was just as cute as you were, if not cuter? Let the tension reach a slow boil, until questions have to be asked and lines have to be drawn. Done right, your readers will begin to take sides between your characters. Some will side with your protagonist, some will think he’s being over protective, and some…will just end up falling in love with the rival because they like him best! (Hehehe, if only I had a nickel for every time I had THAT happen in one of my stories!) Either way, your audience will be more involved, and their further involvement is what writing a story is all about. You’ve got their attention. Spotlight, on. Now put on a good show.
While there are nearly infinite types of love rivals that you can use for your story, I’m going to talk about what I consider to be the main three.
Number one…”The Schemer”!
Now this is probably one of the first love rivals that comes to mind, as it is one of the most dangerous. The schemer is an actual ‘villain’ in your story. He’s devious, he’s determined, he lacks sympathy or any sort of moral compass when it comes to breaking up a relationship in order to get what he wants. And what he wants is your boyfriend. Now, the important thing to remember when writing this kind of rival is not to make them TOO despicable. You want to intrigue your readers, not frustrate them. I’ve found that the best way to create the scheming rival is to play with varying degrees of ‘evil intent’, all while adding in a hint of purpose and reason into what they’re doing. Meaning, they’re not completely detestable just for the sake of being detestable. Maybe your rival has true feelings for his target and is just trying to snatch him up for himself. His affection is real, and he can’t let it go. Maybe it’s someone who’s been hurt before, or someone who is manipulating the situation because he thinks he’s a better match. It’s fun to play with their dark side a little bit, but remember to make them human. The reason that they’re an actual threat to your hero is because, despite their sinister ways, they are charming enough to possibly win your love interest over if given the proper opportunity. If he’s just a jerk that nobody likes, there’s no threat at all. Remember to make his presence an actual menace to the rest of the plot. You can only do that if your devil has a decent disguise.
Number two…”The Clueless Beauty”!
Now this kind of love rival, I feel, works best when it’s used to bring your main character’s insecurities to the surface, creating an inner conflict that your readers might identify with. The Clueless Beauty is usually someone who is everything you’re main character is not. Usually a total knockout in the looks department, firm body and a sexy smile. Often very popular, extremely witty, smart…the kind of boy that anybody would fall head over heels in love with if given the chance. But he’s not a schemer. He just happens to be the dreamiest boy on Earth, and he’s wandered into the lives of your main characters, creating a sense of paranoia and projection every time he’s around. He may not have any ill intentions at all, but the very fact that he’s around is a temptation in itself. A temptation that might make your protagonist crazy with worry that he’s not good enough to hold on to his boyfriend with ‘Mr. Perfect’ always smiling in his directions. Now, there’s a lot of ways that you can play with this kind of rival…it can create arguments between the two main boys, or it can cause a drastic change in your main character’s behavior, or it can actually cause them to withdraw from one another. Whether you want to go as far as to have something ‘happen’ with this beauty during the telling of your story is up to you. But the idea behind the Clueless Beauty rival is that he’s not there to deliberately create havoc between your lovely couple…even if he ends up causing it anyway.
Number three…”The Divided Heart”!
Where the other two rivals are most often paired up with the love interest, leaving your main character to ache and worry about it, the Divided Heart rival is a challenge that is more attached to your protagonist than his boyfriend. What makes this rival so interesting is that he can either be a schemer or a clueless beauty or something else entirely. The idea is to have someone that develops feelings for your main character, and provides a temptation of his own that will challenge him to stay true to his boyfriend. There’s an added intimacy here, because there’s the obvious ego stroke of meaning so much to someone else, as well as an opportunity to dig deeper into the inner thoughts and feelings of your character. This rival should have an alluring quality about them that actually implants thoughts of ‘what if’ in your protagonist’s mind. He’s happy with his boyfriend…but there’s a ‘novelty’ in this other person. Something that is attractive, and opens up that naughty part of the brain that is always looking for a way to have it all. Perhaps he fits into a tiny little spot of his heart where his boyfriend doesn’t. Having even a slight interest in him could create some real tension in your story, as your main character struggles with the ‘grass is always greener’ idea. Maybe he feels bad about it. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe it catches him by surprise. Or perhaps it’s an old love or a long lasting crush that he just can’t seem to let go of. Play around with the way you write the idea, and have him sway back and forth between his admirer and his true love. Make sure to display why both choices are so tempting with your writing, and you’ll be able to keep your audience swaying along with you.
So, there you have it! If the story you’re writing is going to toss a love rival into the plot as an obstacle and a threat to the peace and harmony shared between your two main characters, try to keep some of these ideas in mind. Whether he’s a conniving bastard, an innocent cutie pie, or a love struck dreamer, it can strategically add some playful drama to your project. And it will keep your readers thinking and talking about it after they finish the current chapter. That’s always a good thing!
Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope this helps! And I’ll seezya next month with more!