Cliches aren’t an inherent problem. Shocker. I know. You’d never expect Rosie to say something like that, but it is true. Cliches are not an inherent problem in writing or life. The problem with cliches is twofold sincerity and whether or not they’re boring. A cliche fails when it feels insincere. Let’s put it another way your partner can say “You look great”, but you’ll usually be able to tell when they are really serious or just spouting platitudes. Why? Because there is a difference in tone. Whether your reading a book or a blog you can tell the difference between someone writing passionately and with more than a passing interest to get a concept out.
I say this because I think there are a lot of writers who like the idea of writing and the concept of telling a story, but who don’t want to dig into what they’re writing enough to make it feel authentic. You pick up a book or read someone’s story page and your met with an obvious love of the concept of a character or a relationship, but the writer hasn’t made the story worth your while. They love the idea of this handsome young lad sweeping this girl off her feet…but there is actually no relationship between them except for the writer telling you so. They never have serious conversations or bond beyond steamy scenes, and even if your’re left with a bit of enjoyment you can’t quite believe in their relationship.
Plenty of blogs and stories that I started have not been finished for that very reason. They’re concepts with no depth, and that’s how you fall into the cliche. You don’t sound sincere even if you sincerely want to tell your story. D.D Griggs and I talked about this the other day. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction there are cliches and themes. She writes self-help books, and 70% of them are similar or have similar themes that are cliches we can all spout to a certain degree. Writers like her put those cliches into a context and a way of living that is incredibly important, but we’re all familiar with self-help stereotypes of conferences, yogis, and hippies. Most people can tell you one common philosophy in self-help, but neither of those things are inherently bad. What makes a self-help book succeed or fail is a matter of someone liking the author’s style, but more so it is a matter of whether that author is speaking from a place of sincerity and belief. That’s what keeps those cliches from being a problem.
When cliches become a problem is when they’re boring and don’t feel genuine. A blogger talking about “the power of positivism” and working out won’t grab your interest if they are just issuing copy-pasted ideas to their audience. If they don’t let you in to who they are you don’t feel like you can trust them because all you see is surface cliches. The same thing happens in fiction. If you have a book about a werewolf romance that is just paint by numbers it may make money…but it won’t make you an audience for the next book. It won’t get you the sort of repeat readers you want because the readers can tell you aren’t in it and you’re not giving them anything interesting. By that same token, someone else can write the exact same plot (and people do this and do it well) but they make the characters more sincere and write with more passion. They try to keep the story interesting and their readers see that. In blogging and ebook writing I see a lot of people just regurgitating what they think will get them blog follows or downloads, and then I go to forums of people upset and complaining about not getting sales. Well, you aren’t giving a unique product. You give something that is pain by numbers…and so have hundreds of thousands of others, which has hurt the market in many ways all on its own. These writers just don’t see how the cliches aren’t what hurts or helps a story or blog or what have you. It is a matter of how something is written and the tone that allows readers to connect.
Cliches can be powerful tools not only when you subvert them, but when you embrace them with the intention of making them interesting and bringing somethign new to the table with all the sincerity you can muster. This not only applies to the page or screen, but to how you talk to people as well. I hope you keep that in mind when writing holiday cards this season or are getting ready for New Years.
Beating back the tide.
A child with wet open palms laughs.
Another quietly hums her way through playing architect in the sand.
And I am here,
Wet and warm and open like a half healed wound.
I shall never be closed again.
The humor is lost on me,
But I am here.
Beating back the tide.
Someone somewhere asks if I’ve had enough.
“Child with dark skin and kinky hair.
When will you stop being angry?”
When you stop saying my passion,
The humor is not lost on me.
But I am here.
Beating back the tide.
Someone somewhere asks if I’ve ever tried harder.
The onslaught of rejections is smaller than,
The mountain of passive hurtful silence.
Words on a page run like old coffee down a drain,
Staining the sink in heart shapes,
in teddy bears and barbie dolls,
in blood splatter and sweat stains.
More art there, I wonder, then inside.
The humor is just irony.
But I am here.
I hope I am alive.
Beating back the tide.
My tight neatly trimmed lines blur into,
Uneven screams of terror that are quickly dismissed as,
Selfishness for wanting and pleading to not be as poor as,
Those who came before with their beauty and their lessons drilled into,
My head, disrupting old familiar patterns on quilted brain,
Synapses digging into tangled thread caverns,
Empty prayers to gods no one else believes in,
about a god everyone believes in.
A tricky silence.
Beating back the tide.
He quietly laughs plopping in sharp cheeses.
Ooey gooey garlic blends with favorite butters and love.
Carefree dog sits on the sofa, staring out at things only he notices.
The squirrels run away even if he doesn’t bark.
I like that about him, & whisper “good dog”.
Hands get tangled in clothes and hair.
Lines get trimmed with kisses.
A moment of forgetfulness.
A moment of peace.
I am here.
Riddle me this, dear reader, how many articles on publishing e-books have you read that actually give specific advice? I have read roughly 50 articles and one and a half books. My rough estimate is about five or six of them actually break down the advice they give. Don’t get me wrong I get why that happens. As a writer you want to give advice that can be applied to numerous situations and ,let’s be real, you want to keep some tricks in your pocket despite wanting others to succeed. However after reading these articles I just have been left with an overwhelming feeling of their own inadequacy. Once again I’m not saying these articles lack all redeeming value. I have found them incredibly helpful in my self-publishing journey. However they say to “market” and that “marketing” includes email lists, blogging, facebooking, and joining forums. Now that last one I think is the easiest for me, as a techie, who joined her first forum as a young teen to understand. However I just gave you the sum total of what 90% of those articles I’ve read advocate. The rest of those articles are usually all persuasive speeches convincing writers, who notoriously hate marketing as a group, why they should market. When you take out the having to convince people that those things matter. Yeah, it sums it up.
So I’m left with a question, perhaps you’ve thought the same…”How should I and do I do any of those things?” Now, this post is going to focus on blogging from this point on, but I can and will get into those other things in the future. Oh I’m excited for it dear reader.
“Well, What the Hell Do I Blog?”
I often believe that these article authors tell you to blog without specifics in an effort to keep their ideas from influencing you and from becoming too common if their article should become popular. However by not explaining why blogging works beyond “you develop an audience who likes what you do.” you do a disservice to a certain extent. How do you blog as a writer? I do not claim to be an expert, but I can claim to be an avid blog reader and a writer who has been paid for guest blogs and essays. There is a method to blogging that begins with being Organically You even if you are presenting a particular brand of you.
As a writer you do have to present a brand that has a theme and/or message. That theme can be “Let me take you into my life, so you can understand my books better,” or “Here is a blog about salsa and OH YEAH I wrote a book about it…here it is,” or “I have ideas and thoughts about nerd culture that you may like.”
So here you begin. You figure out what blog would best serve you as an author and what you’ll start writing about to begin with. I know that must be confused because I asked what you write about. So I’m going to explain with an example. I write short stories and novels that tend to be very romance centered if they are not romantic or erotic books. So from there I began researching blogs and how blogging works as marketing.
The trick is you can’t so much marketing. You are producing. Don’t blog forty posts about your book in one week, but do blog about the process of writing, about exciting scenes or character, and about overall joy you find in writing. The key isn’t to market, but to 1) convince people your content has value 2) Producing content that has value 3) Producing content that has value, which then invites people to your priced content by demonstrating value thus convincing those people your priced content is worth it. Your goal is to enjoy yourself personally, but the goal in regards to your career comes down to this formula:
Production= Demonstration +/- quality = Content Value which is <, >, or equal to your persuasion
Or another method of breaking this down:
(Demonstration +/-Quality)= Convincing*Word of mouth = Sales
That gets you to the bottom line. When you understand those things you aren’t “selling out” you are understanding how money, audience, and your writing work together. Sales in that formula can be equal to reads or downloads. It doesn’t matter.
Now what is that content going to be? Well it does vary, but for writers quality content relevant to your subject matter is paramount. I detailed this earlier but here are examples of what writers can blog about:
How to write
Their writing process
How to get through writers block
How their personal life impacts writing
Reviews of other stories/books
Serials not suited for publishing (which can eventually be gathered into a book)
Writing with family and other obligations
Prompts, writing challenges, etc.
Politics can even work if you’re willing to go there and tread carefully
That list is my reference, but I will tell you it is no where near all I will and can blog (or have blogged on not defunct blogging sites.). Within every single one of these categories I can list three to five specific articles I plan to produce here. You are a clever person, and you will no doubt be able to build on this list and go beyond it.
**I carry a little notebook with me and I often jot down blog ideas, titles, or prompts that would add to this blog. Sometimes I’ll give some of them away to interested friends or people I feel would be better suited to write**
On Blogging Personal Life Details.
Plenty of articles say blogging or making statuses about your life is unprofessional, but that depends on what you write and your relationship with your audience. I know very successful writers who blog politically all the time. I know others who blogged politically and half their audience dropped. Same thing happened with blogging about their kids. It really varies. My belief is that you have to set limits in regards to how much you blog about your life, when you blog about your life, what events will make you blog about your life, and if blogging about your life is helping to build your persona and/or demonstrate to the world who you are. Blog honestly, in moderation unless you are consistently putting out twenty articles of content or five photo albums of content (read VALUABLE content) a day. I’m not an overtly open writer. I am very private. I live quietly. But I will tell you sexual interests OR what is outside of my sexual and how I use them to inform my story because that is part of my writing process and I want to give you an inside peek. You do have to draw a line about how much of your life is open to the public and how much the public wants to know. You will only know that by taking yourself seriously as a blogger and putting yourself in the shoes of your readers.
All this being said you can and should vary your content a bit, but make sure your readers know what to expect. I had a tumblr for a bit, and the problem with tumblr is that it is too much, too entertaining, and it becomes very easy for even diligent tumblrites to begin sharing things beyond the scope of what their blog originally focused on. One artist I used to follow got into an argument with a good friend of mine over child rearing. That artist, whom my friend still vaguely respects but not vice versa, lost 40% of her followers. Not because some of those followers didn’t agree with her, but because they didn’t follower her for her feelings on raising kids and quite frankly they didn’t like how she responded to my friend. My friend, as a result, got a ton of “pity follows” that turned into 100 or so real follows because she began reblogging other artists in place of the one who bad mouthed her. One stuck to a theme and the other stuck to a theme…but less so. That friend ultimately began reblogging a bit too much and lost 60 followers. You should never be afraid to be forward and honest.
You should be aware of how people can react to what you say, do, and reveal about yourself. That isn’t political correctness or paranoia. That is being smart.
The internet is fickle as hell, but the reason is because people are inundate with constant information. We all have to pick and choose what does and doesn’t irritate you. Your best bet is to be consistent, however don’t be afraid of changing things up, inform your readers if your expanding your subject matter, REACH OUT to those readers for input, and then listen to what is happening in response to new content.
As bloggers we have to give interesting content from perspectives that feel honest, content that hooks a reader, content that offers insight, content that presents the person we want people to know, and we as writers can’t just tell each other to go blog. Blogging is hard. Coming up with regular content is hard.
That is why I’m offering this…if you want help figuring out how to blog then message me, leave a comment, or shoot me an email. I will be your brain storming buddy. I will be your extra set of eyes. Every single writer needs that, and though I’m doing this journey alone I want to help others feel a bit less so. This is just one article, unproofed, unedited, because I want you to see me for who and how I am in regards to this subject because I am not perfect. I am not the best blogger. I am not the most articulate person. However, I am a friend if you will let me be one. This article isn’t the last on this subject, and it isn’t the last response to other articles on how to market. This article is merely one in a series. It may not be every day, but there will be more.
From the time we are born we are told to do our best even if we’re born into terrible circumstances our societies say, do your best. However their is a real genuine fear of failure and, more than that, a fear that what we write may be mocked. Those are two different things. We can think of one or two successful loved books that are mocked. Success is scary and writing adds an overwhelming amount of vulnerability. Whether your characters have nothing to do with you and they live on worlds that orbit stars beyond our comprehension you expose yourself by creating those things. You’ve spent so much of your life hearing you have to do your best. For younger writers we often hear that we have to do our best, and when we say its too much pressure we get called whiny. Either way we learn to fear failure.
When you were a child did you fear coloring outside the lines? Did you fear the way the pens and crayons seemed to defy your hand? Sometimes perhaps, but more often than not you enjoyed freedom to create. Somewhere a lot of people lose that to fear.
I found my own cure for fear. I know this will sound simple and crappy. I know its cliche. However once you actually believe this you see that this attitude is marvelous. It can’t conquer every fear, but it is a start. It can get you to pick up a pen. Here it comes:
If you never put a word to paper you will never create what you want. You will have already failed. If you create something then you never fail. It may not be what you wanted, or intended. It may be bad. It may be excellent. How will you know? You can’t until you begin. You can take your time. You can stretch out a project in fear. Lord knows I do. However so long as you try you are pushing yourself to the next level. Some days I can’t write a paragraph. So then I write words by hand. Fun fact writing by hand stimulates your brain more than typing in a different way(I’ll do an article on this soon), so by engaging with words in a different way I can begin to provoke thought. Written. Typed. Just quick words that pass through my mind. Sometimes they become simple poems because when you stop saying “I can’t write” or “I am afraid” and just write without pretense things get interesting. It feels like, and this is vulgar but true, like you’re brain was constipated, but now its relaxed and passed a little something even if it isn’t what it really needs to. That a bit freeing. That is a good start.
Our fears are natural, learned, and many. All we can do is our best at addressing them…sometimes it just means ignoring them as best we can.
I know you are a good writer. I know you can write. You aren’t a failure. You have plenty of reasons to be afraid and yet those reasons don’t outweigh the thousands of reasons you should be brave. Be brave. I hope I helped you a little. I hope maybe you will think about my words and not just assume they’re crappy nonsense. I truly mean every word. I hope that comes through. You deserve to be brave and move through fear. And…you can despite how it feels.
Ah, love. On the surface it is one of the most simple and effortless things in the world, but truthfully it is one of the most complex. Much the same can be said of writing romance. I grew up on my share of Lifetime Movie and Hallmark Channel dramas(before they got crappy), as well as a love of Japanese anime with heavy romance themes, like Sailor Moon, and anime’s graphic counterpart manga. All over the world we tell great and sweeping love stories that capture the mind, pull on the heart, and make you feel as though you’ve fallen in love yourself. It doesn’t matter where you are people share these amazing stories. One of the most complex love stories I’ve ever read is a manga called Hot Gimmick, which has since been novelized. Nothing has compared to “not really siblings” falling in love, semi-abusive emotionally fragile lovers, easy siblings, hurt childhood friends, and the complexity of Japanese morality. Those are only some of the major parts of that series. What makes that series so gripping is those plot points are not uncommon in Japan, but the grace and intricacy Mika Aihara put into the story made it superbly unique in romance fiction across the globe.
Overall there is a trend in romance towards over simplicity and cliches without depth or real intrigue. That isn’t inherently bad but I want to explain what makes those cliches feel tired, and how to make them fresh. The fact is the same old plot points, relationships, and character arch types aren’t inherently bad. There is a reason we all gravitate towards them. However we often miss the boat on what makes those stories work. So I’m going to make a short basic list on what you need to do as a writer. The short hand for this list would be: Question Everything. Don’t just write. Think. Because if you don’t you may miss out on what could make your next story, book, script, poem, etc. a true gem. Worst of all you may miss out on reaching a whole host of wider audiences. Without further ado let’s get to the nitty gritty.
Do engage with familiar troupes, cliches, characters, and story telling techniques, but try to surpass them and complicate them. The very basis of my writing style is that “Authors complicate the common into the uncommon.” What does that mean? It means that our job is to take basic concepts like love, romance, sex, magic, history, or science and make them compelling. That isn’t easy. Millions of people want to write, hundreds of thousands actually do, and out of those groups only a small percentage of them will know how to tell a truly intriguing story.
I wrote stories for years thinking that I made them compelling when I just made them long and dramatic. Most stories I never even finished. Why? Drama doesn’t automatically make a story compelling or even make what you’ve written into a story. Plenty of cliched stories have drama and it means absolutely nothing. It’s fine if you just want to fill a niche and write stories people won’t remember. However the best friend of an author is making sure readers remember your name and what you write because word of mouth is what gets your writing sold. Word of mouth gets people to try new things. These old forgettable stories just don’t cut it like they used to.
“Grandpa left me this farm and now only sexy farm hand Jake can teach me, a city girl, how to save my family legacy.” A new one of these stories premiers every month on Hallmark. They’re almost all white people who are young attractive and make small town America look idyllic. They all look almost exactly the same and out of the dozens I have watched I couldn’t tell what from what except for those that made themselves stand out. This is one half of why the romance genre is thought of so poorly. We retell the same stories and rarely complicate them. Of course people want their fluff. After all their familiar, warm, and toasted marshmallows taste great! But you can’t eat marshmallows every day. It is just silly to do it. Not to mention that eventually 90% of people get sick of it as each one tastes almost exactly like the last. You don’t know if your readers are coming in on their first marshmallow. You don’t know if they’ve never had any before yours. However, chances are you will be someone’s last marshmallow if you don’t do something vaguely special with your writing. Ask yourself what you can bring to the marshmallow game? Hot cocoa in the marshmallow? Can you dip it in chocolate and add nuts? Can you make glutton free Marshmallows? Maybe you will decide to sell s’mores instead. When you start to ask questions you begin to complicate what you’re doing.
What makes your story unique? What makes Gale moving from the city matter? What makes the family legacy matter? What is Jake other than good looking and kind?If you cannot answer those questions you’re probably telling the same story you’ve read a dozen times. You have to reach out of this boring little box because otherwise your works won’t sell as well as they could, but more than that if you only pay lip service to cliches then you won’t elevate yourself as a writer. You deserve to read better and write better. You deserve to get more out of a page whether it is your own or someone else’s. This is a simple path towards unlocking a new array of story telling in yourself. All it comes down to is thinking. Now I’m going to demonstrate more examples of success and failure across media. These cliches exist for a reason and you should take every opportunity to ask yourself what you can do to make your take on them more unique.
Warm Bodies and World War Z(the book not the movie) take basic genres and genre elements then completely morph them into something new. WWZ is essentially a gathering of interviews and a sort of post-plague diary recounting this terrible outbreak and that allowed it to reach levels of success even in the height of the zombie craze. Yes, that novel probably hit at the right time, but so did a dozen other movies, books, and even CDs. I can only remember a few of them a few years later because very few of them managed to do something new. Warm Bodies combines zombie cliches with Romeo & Juliet. Hell, it even has love bringing R back to life! This shouldn’t work. Logically it should fail spectacularly, but it doesn’t. Why do these things work? Not only are they well executed, but they tip standard zombie affairs into something newer by doing the unexpected. Now why do you think knock-offs or even adaptations fail? Let’s talk about Pride, Prejudice, & Zombies the film versus the book. I read most of the book and saw parts of the film. The book embraced what the genre was. It like the two previous movies I mentioned dived into the style and source material with wit without sacrificing sincerity. However, the film did not. It wasn’t poorly done, but the film didn’t embrace many aspects of Regency romance, and instead cut itself into an action set piece. Worse unlike the UK trailer the US trailer sacrificed every ounce of this so those why may have been interested in the unique blend got nothing.
Stories fail because they don’t manage to grasp what makes them work. They don’t get that the cliches are inverted or turned on their head. They don’t get that the story isn’t just a love story or a zombie story its both. They don’t get that the book isn’t just a zombie movie or a war diary…its a book about a plague, about zombies, and its written with the mindset of a person having lived through and trying to understand them both. Those twists aren’t just pomp and circumstance. They are sincerely crafted to add something new and meaningful to their genres.
Write characters and situations together. Don’t just constantly try to crank things up to eleven or paint by numbers.I recently read that “great authors tell simple stories with complex characters and amateurs tell complex stories with simple characters”. I know this is true because I was that novice. It is so easy to get wrapped up with the grand story of story telling that we forget to convince the reader “Why does this matter?”.We just tell a story…and expect people to care, but why should they? Our job is to make them care.
The biggest problem with Bella in Twilight and 90% of female characters is we are never told why we should care about them because they don’t have a personality. Bella isn’t a character so much as she is a prop in a complex story. Truthfully the elements of Twilight could be absolutely fascinating. However they are executed in such a way where the situation goes under explored and that characters given this facade of depth when they are in fact extraordinarily simple. Their motives and characteristics are paper thin or not fully explored. When that happens you find yourself disconnecting from the story regardless of how interesting the situation can be. This is great for other writers like me who see your story and say “I can do it better,” and write their own take of a genre or story element that surpasses your own. But you don’t want them to do that because your goal is to be that author. Your goal is to create characters and situations that work together, and when you fail even a fun thing can turn bad.
*For clarity you can write blank slates as protagonists/narrators, but even in the best stories there is a character even if that character is a whole town(like in A Rose for Emily). The difference is doing your best to execute that by understanding what makes a character feel present versus feeling empty. Bella feels shallow and empty, which isn’t bad. It makes for a light read if not necessarily a great one. However your intentions to make a reader/author insert need to be felt and understood in the text.
Recently my brother and I discussed the recent Hang Over movies, I know random, but he said something very poignant. He stopped liking the movies because the “world became mean”. This was absolutely fascinating, so I asked him to explain further. In his eyes the movie essentially removed many of the redeemable characteristics of these men and with these increasingly exaggerated “Uh oh what did we do now?” moments he began to wonder why he should root for any of the characters. Their wives and normal lives became shallow nagging things, while the abnormal situations and spaces where the insanity takes place simply became parodies of themselves without getting the junk. Essentially my brother felt that nothing in the characters redeemed these increasingly violent and weird plots anymore. At some point it stopped being “these guys find themselves in crazy positions when they drink” to making a chunk of the audience wonder “What’s wrong with these guys where this not only keeps happening but things get more and more out of control?”. The stories shifted from the comedic abnormality to being about the slapstick, the situation, and ultimately the characters became lifeless props he could not care about. That is the worst possible thing that can happen in any genre, but especially comedy. As a viewer my brother was convinced not only does no one in those movies matter, but that they cause so much sheer chaos to innocent and immoral people alike that he actively wished for the characters to meet a grim ending just so none of the other likable side characters would suffer.
When you fail to make your stories and characters truly depend on each other you fail to tell a convincing story. It can happen in any genre even comedy where many times people are supposed to be just props, so don’t think your story will be an exception.
Don’t assume opposites attract: More importantly convince us they do! I like realism in my escapism. What do I mean? You and I have both heard a dozen stories about couples who bicker like Punch and Judy, but who really love each other. This is a specific cliche, but I think it is broad because it speaks to a larger issue of writing, which we just touched on moments ago…convincing the reader your story works. Often our characters get together because we decide they should. As writers that is just what we do, but as writers we have an obligation to make sure our character’s motives can be interpreted and understood as appropriate. As romance writers you have to create scenarios that feel viable and real to people. **This extends to people who used to be in relationships as well. At some point they loved each other, and if we don’t get it then it is a missed opportunity**
If you have two characters who despise everything about each other then why would they get together, and why should I, as a reader of your story, believe a word of their romance? One common example…Draco and Harry is very popular as a fan pairing in the Harry Potter fan fiction universe. They have nothing in common from what I’ve understood. No interests or hobbies. No love of their crafts. Nothing. Draco was raised to despise people with muggle blood and while he certainly can and does get over that in time it is a prime reason for him never to be involved with Harry. The mutual horrors they witness as Draco struggles with his own growing sense of purpose, morality, and angst simply wouldn’t give way to a relationship under even the best of circumstances. And I’ll tell you authors rarely bother to make the circumstances make sense for the relationships. To them it doesn’t matter. To them it is a distraction from enjoying it and you shouldn’t judge them. Well I’m judging.
The main reason these pairings happen is “Oh its hot.” I have read dozens of stories with the same sort of pairing and it almost always comes down to altering the characters initial personalities to put them together or making their hate sex so steamy they inevitably fall in love. It feels insincere, not holistically enjoyable, and quite frankly dull.
That isn’t how emotions work. Try as you might to do this (even if I enjoy your story) I walk away thinking “Harry and Draco are done-zo as soon as the puppy love wares off”. Why? You haven’t built a a strong relationship. It is just strong sex and if that is your intention then go forward with the grace of the gods and my blessings, but if not…redraft! I have built many a story around characters in love who actually have no reason to love each other…and thank god I now know better! It has radically improved my story telling into something far more engaging.
Plenty of people believe they write a simmering back and forth with sexual and emotional tension. A great example of that would be Kyle and Maxine from Living Single(circa the 90s). They were incredibly intellectual, snarky, enjoyed culture, had great sex, and could keep up with each other on an intellectual level few could. They thought they wanted partners who were “perfect” in the traditional sense; partners who would be exciting, un-aggressive, but loving in their intellectual debates. But over time they came to realize what they wanted and needed was a challenge. They reacted heatedly not because they genuinely disliked each other, but because they enjoyed poking fun, and the depths of how much they enjoyed each other genuinely scared them. When most authors write that is what they think they are building. 9 times out of 10 what they are actually building is a heal-face-turn, an abrupt and sudden, change in character and their dynamic. These characters had no reason to hate each other or their hate changes in an instant after one event, reducing multi-faceted characters to simple props while eliminating key differences between them. Play with those difference. Figure out how people fit together. This only helps you in the long run
So what does this all mean?
GO DEEPER. Just like sex. If all else fails take your time, slow it down, and then just try your best to go deeper. Understand your characters. Understand their motivations. Write out what sort of person they believe they want to love, and then write out who would actually be a good fit for them. If you cannot take the characters who are supposed to fall in love and say 50% of what would be a good fit and 20% of what they think they want is in their love interest then you probably don’t have a good case to convince the reader that this love is real.
Essentially if you don’t do this Dido won’t go down with your ship….and let me say that again for certain types of erotica: No one will go down if the characters relations don’t convince them they’d fuck. Strangers, people who meet online, friends with benefits, long time lovers, employers, and whomever got their relationship to that point, so make us believe how and why. It is your number one job in this genre.