Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Fictional Frenemies: Partners? Maybe.

~ We are delighted to welcome historical mystery author Ann Parker to our blogging team. ~

When it comes to partners in fiction, there are all types, including love birds, best buds, and sidekicks of all kinds (for some great advice on sidekicks and how to develop them, check out Diana’s post from Feb. 1). Another flavor of fictional partner, which could overlap with the above in certain cases, could be termed the "frenemy."

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a frenemy is: "a person with whom one is friendly, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry" or "a person who combines the characteristics of a friend and an enemy." I thought this was a very recent term, so imagine my surprise to find it dates from 1953 and was first coined by the newspaperman Walter Winchell in the Nevada State Journal in an article titled "Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?" (Oh, how I love to wallow around in the OED!)

Frenemies can be fun to read and write. Can you trust them? Can your protagonist? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The dynamics of the relationship can increase the tension and conflict in your story.

So, who are some fictional frenemies?

Well, just as OED is my friend for words, Google is my friend for questions such as these.

A quick search shows that, sure enough, someone has already tackled this topic. (Am I surprised? ;-) ) On HuffPost, writer Katie Finn examines frenemies in novels in the article “9 Fictional Frenemies Who Remind Us That Relationships Are Complicated.” Among the couples she cites are sisters Jo and Amy March in Little Women, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (I love her takeaway line for Dr. J and Mr. H: "Proof that you can sometimes be your own worst frenemy."

Goodreads also has a list of Popular Frenemies Books—more than 900 novels are listed, so I guess the frenemy partnership is not an unusual one in fiction.

Thinking of my own Silver Rush historical mystery series, I believe there’s a bit of of a frenemy on-again, off-again partnership between my protagonist, Inez Stannert, and another returning character, madam Frisco Flo. The year is 1880, and Inez runs a saloon in Leadville, Colorado, while Flo runs a high-class Leadville parlor house. The two cross paths in the first book of the series, Silver Lies, where Flo only plays a “bit part” in the story. But Flo isn’t content to stay in the shadows and keeps popping up in book after book. Sometimes Inez and Flo are at odds. In other stories, they work together, particularly in the newest in the series, A Dying Note, coming April.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 005
The freewheeling madam and the proper saloon-owner: Sleuthing partners? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
(At the Moulin Rouge, The Dance
, by Henri de Loulouse-Lautrec)

Is this frenemy dance between these two strong-minded businesswomen premeditated and deliberately choreographed on my part? No! I truly have no idea where this relationship is going from book to book. All I know is that when Flo shows up and plays a significant role, I have great fun writing the scenes in which Inez and Flo are together, and readers often comment how much they like the interactions between the two characters. So, their partnership (a tenuous one at best) is an experiment, a journey. We shall see where it leads.

What about you? Are there frenemy partners in fiction that you enjoy reading? Let me know!

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for “editor/writer”). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit AnnParker.net for more information.

14 comments :

  1. Welcome to BRP Ann! It's great to have you with us :-)

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    1. Hi Elle... Thank you! I’m glad to be here. BRP is one of my all-time favorite blogs. :-)

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  2. I love this "frenemy" post, Ann! Jumping from one side of the frenemy fence to the other adds depth and elements of surprise to characters that might otherwise be dull and unmemorable. It's so good to have you aboard. I look forward to many more of your posts as well as your comments on our posts. :-)

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    1. Hi Linda! I agree with your “jumping the fence” comment... and thank you so much for the warm welcome! It’s great fun to read what everyone has to say on their posts. :-)

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  3. So glad to see you here, Ann. Two of my Dead Wrong characters are frenemies...Cop Maggie Gutierrez and her mentor Detective Prince. He wants her to succeed but gives her a very hard time along the way. She absorbs the good advice and is appreciative, but bucks his authority whenever she can.

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    1. Writing refenemies is fun, right, Pat? Adds extra tension and uncertainty to a story. :-)

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  4. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Two who characters who want the same thing for different reasons creates great tension. What happens when they achieve the goal then have to battle each other over the ultimate outcome?

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  5. Hmmm. Tried to post a response and it disappeared on me. Trying again.
    You pose an interesting situation, Diana. Once the common objective has been reached, what then? No longer partners? A return to enmity? Or maybe, having found some common ground, they can continue as occasional partners? I could see a writer setting this up many ways!

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  6. Welcome to the blog, Ann. Great to have you here, and with such a fun post. Got me thinking.

    The first frenemy character that come to mind is on one of my favorite private eye TV series, The Rockford Files, with James Garner. The character, Angel, is a sometime collaborator in one scheme or another, but Angel is not to be trusted. Before the show is over, Rockford will be backstabbed, but in an amusing way, at least to the viewer. I try never to miss a rerun when he's on.

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  7. A fun and interesting post, Ann. Love frenemy characters.

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  8. Good way to think about characters as we develop new ones. Could make for some fun motivations.

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  9. Sorry I am late welcoming you to the blog, Ann. Was trying to come down with a cold on Tuesday - not on purpose - so I was slugging Emergen-C and hanging out on the sofa most of the day. I was not familiar with the term "frenemy," and I found your post quite interesting.

    The closest I've come to writing frenemy characters is in my book Boxes For Beds. Leslie, who is accused of kidnapping babies in rural AK in the early 60's has an ally in a deputy, Gus, who does not believe she did it, but he has to do what the sheriff says.

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  10. Welcome aboard, Ann. Inez and Flo - yeah, those two! :D

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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