Writing Challenge: Frenemies

by Deirdre McCluskey

This week we’ve been talking about secondary characters. One of my favourite character types is the “frenemy”. Sometimes the frenemy is just an enemy that the main character must tolerate politely. But the frenemy role I enjoy is the irritating friend who creates friction in practically every scene.

The friction might be caused by a fundamental difference in values, or by a rivalry.  Or maybe the frenemy highlights the one quality in the protagonist that she dislikes most about herself.

Maybe I like you, maybe I don't gif


Your challenge this week? Write a short (5 paragraph max) scene that shows your hero or heroine interacting with a frenemy. What does the relationship illustrate about the main character’s emotions or the romantic conflict? Can you make your frenemy annoying but somewhat likeable at the same time? (Maybe the frenemy could have his or her own book one day!)

Post your short scene in the comments below any time between now and Sunday, September 16, 2018, and we’ll check back with you on Monday!

31 replies on “Writing Challenge: Frenemies”

Rival nannies…


Jasmine would recognize that awful puke-colored knit hat anywhere. Damon was already turning in his seat to glance at what had dragged her attention from their volleying debate. It was bad enough he wouldn’t allow her to hand in her resignation as his nanny in peace. Now she’d have an audience for it.

Madison whirled around as if sensing their stares. She smiled with the whole of her face, her hand shooting up and waving enthusiastically, knit hat eschew on her head now. Most the patrons in the café stared at her. Maddy as usual wasn’t aware of the effect her weirdness had on people. She moved through life unabashedly. Not caring who or what was trampled on in her chaotic scheming.

She zipped through queue, grabbed her drink and carried a paper pastry bag to their table. “Hey,” she said, tone saccharine for Damon. She batted her fake lashes at him. Jasmine sort of wished one of them popped off and landed in her drink. It’d cramp her outrageous flirting.

“Yeah, hi,” Damon drawled, raising both brows at Jasmine’s eye roll. His mouth curled up into a smile as Maddy introduced herself as nanny extraordinaire of the Upper East Side—a self-dubbed title. She then listed the whole of her CV in under two minutes. The woman must have practiced in front of the mirror every morning. Damon’s lazy grin curled wider, his cornflower blue eyes sparkling with his amusement.

When Maddy turned and included Jasmine, she tilted her head, the knit hat flopping to a dangerous angle over her small, egg-shaped head. “Why are you so quiet, Jazz?” Jasmine gritted her teeth, hating the nickname. No one called her Jazz. It was dumb. But Maddy wouldn’t care if she told her. And she was on a roll. Looking between Damon and Jasmine, she pursed her lips and then her eyes grew large. “Oops! Was I interrupting a date?”

Love the engaging voice here, Hana! Nice job building up the tension and giving us lots of great details about the characters here.

“You’re not thinking about going over there, are you?” Casey questioned. She tugged on Dana’s arm and steered her toward the punch bowl, away from the dance floor.
Out of the corner of one eye, Dana saw Mark sidle up to Rachel Simon and put his arm around her waist. Dana turned and glared at Casey. She wanted to slap her into the middle of next week. Forget about the friendship which began in first grade. This was war.
“It’s not as if he would have been interested anyway, Casey said. “Mark Hamilton doesn’t go for former band geeks like us. He likes the prom queen type—like Rachel.”
Dana rolled her eyes. “This isn’t high school anymore. We’re adults now. Besides, I’m just as pretty as she is, right?”
Casey shook her head. “First of all, high school is just a pint-sized version of life. Second of all, you’re pretty, but you’re not that gorgeous.”

Jillesa Jordan, my friend who’d left me stranded after work the other night, stood there with her fists on her wide, shapely hips impossibly clad in vinyl leggings and looked me up and down. “B****, what the f*** happened to you the other night, why didn’t you come into work yesterday — I had to run that floor by myself — and why the hell do you look like utter s***?”

I blinked. Several times. Where do I start? “Um, hello to you too, oh lovely and caring friend of mine.”

Jill relaxed her stance. “Sorry. You really do look like s***. Let’s sit. I have a little bit of time before I have to be at work.”

“And you stopped in to check on me?” I was never sure if she really cared. I wanted to consider her a friend, but we were more like frenemies. I was a narc-magnet and she was most definitely on the narcissist spectrum.

After she had sat, with some care and maneuvering, on my couch she grabbed my hand and pulled me down with her. “Of course I did. It’s not like you to call off work. I knew it had to be bad. I tried to pry the deets out of Frank but he just shrugged and said, ‘Heroin,’ which made no sense whatsoever.” Yep, that sounded like Frank alright. “To be honest, though, now that I’m looking at you, heroin might make sense.”

“Not. Even. Trust me.” I practically growled at her. She should know by now, drugs weren’t my thing. She may not know ~why~ drugs weren’t my thing, but she should have known that they weren’t.

“Okay, girl. I get it.” She smiled in a way that proved it was still on the table in her mind. “So, tell me what happened.”

“I don’t really know.” That was the truth, but I could tell she wouldn’t accept that by the look on her face. “I woke up like this.”

Jill slapped her hand across her thigh and fell backward cackling. It took three whole minutes for her to stop and catch her breath before she righted herself and could look me in the eye again. “Whatever, Beyonce.” ~How can a person roll their eyes that hard?~ “Now, tell me what’s going on for real.”

Fun, engaging voice here, Tasha! You’ve set up an intriguing plot here, and I’m curious about what happened to the heroine here.

“Do you know who the surprise guest celebrity will be tonight?” I ask Sadie. I’m very pleased with my purchases, a black sundress with only a subtle Mickey Mouse pattern, and a strapless bra to go under it.
“No, and I don’t care. I have to get to the men’s store to buy to buy a belt for Frank. He lost seventeen pounds and all of his pants are falling down.”
“Good for him.”
“Not good for him. A customer saw his butt crack when he went to fix a leak in her sink the other day. She called the Better Business Bureau. You’re so lucky you divorced your husband.”
“I am lucky indeed.” You had to humor her when she got into these moods.
“I envy single women. You get to sleep in the bed all by yourself, you don’t have to worry about his nonstop sexual demands.”
I don’t know what to say about that.
“Of course, if I had a husband like yours, I’d get rid of him too.” My handsome, rock star ex-husband couldn’t hold a candle to her 300 pound plumber. Then again, they were still married and apparently having a hot sex life, so I suppose she was right.

“Your idiot husband profoundly angered you, with his wordsmith letter,” Charles was pleased with her perceived capitulation. “I remember how that used to feel, to be the target of your wrath. Only then, unlike him, I was not the one who actually hurt you.”

Flattered, his eyes sharpened with new opportunities, “Amaya, there’s something that I need to ask. Is he… like Henrik, like father? I’ve heard rumors!”

Amaya silenced him with one angry gesture, her palm communicating that he was not to insist. Still he tried, “I can help you!”

“Charles, when I wanted your help, I asked for it, and you called me a whore,” Amaya recited the speech she had carried in her head for so long. “I told you about Henrik, begged you to do something. You decided it was unacceptable that I let him do that. To you. And proceeded to do nothing. Continued to dine with him, every evening since.”

She took a grape from her plate, “So I will never ask for your help, again. But what I can ask is for you to stop interfering. And I will take care of… my part of the deal.”

Intriguing premise — I’m curious to know more! Don’t be afraid to give us a few more details to set up the situation and the dynamic of her relationship with Charles. 🙂 Well done!

Maranda picked up the books she had been using for her writing class. She was one of the best teachers in the Academy and people admired her. Joan admired her, and they were friends.
After the classes were over for the day, Joan walked in.
“Hey, lets go celebrate your birthday at Milestones, they have that deep chocolate ganache cake we both like. My treat.”
“Wow, thank you Joan. Yes I was preparing for a lonely birthday what with my sister and I not speaking. She just keeps hurting me and my counsellor said I just shouldn’t be with her.”
“Well you know you can trust me right?” Joan said with a glint in her eye. Maranda, if she had been raised in a loving home, would’ve seen Joan for what she was, but coming from the brutal demanding home, she didn’t see anything wrong.
“Sure Joan, I know you have my best interests at heart.” Although she wondered if she actually did. There were more than a few times when Joan would be bossy or presumptuous but Maranda chalked it up to the amazing maturity and talent which Joan always said she possessed.
Well they had a wonderful time at supper and Maranda believed that maybe she was making everything up and Joan was her friend after all. Over the next several days they exchanged class tips and Joan seemed especially interested in Maranda’s teaching style. What a good time they enjoyed.
But when Maranda came in to work the next day, she saw that her English class with the two lovely boys was canceled. She thought maybe they were sick but then she saw them in Joan’s room.
“Hi Joan, what are my boys doing in your room?” Joan smiled politely.
“Oh we were going to try something different today.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“Maranda can you come into my office? The school academy principal, Edward, asked her.
“Sure Edward,” Maranda said bewildered.
“We’ve decided to make a change.”
“We’ve who’s we’ve?” Maranda thought to herself.
“I’m going to give Joan some of your classes because she said you weren’t managing them well, and she is after all a master teacher.” Edward said smiling.
“What? She told you what?!” Maranda said.
“No need to get worked up. You will still have classes. I just want Joan to help you.”
“I don’t need Joan’s help,” she said resigning on the spot.

“I get so excited about food in aluminum foil.” Anna said as she rolled her eyes, sun gleaming off the foil and her wheat-blonde hair.
“To me, it’s a sign of summer.” Jade replied, handing the packet of foil wrapped chicken to Anna. Anna’s fiancée Mason spread out a blanket nearby on the grass next to the fast-flowing glacial creek. The water made a soft rushing sound as it flowed under the small wooden footbridge near their picnic spot.
Next, she handed Anna the container of kale salad mix. “Oh, I am going to be so glad when the honeymoon is over and I can eat like a normal human being again. I miss pizza and beer.” Anna whined, for possibly the millionth time since she got engaged. It was Jade’s turn to roll her eyes.
“Hey nobody forced you to go on this crazy diet. You totally could have bought a wedding dress that fit, you know.” Jade said with a laugh. She pulled two beers out of her pack and handed one to Mason before cracking one open herself. She took a large gulp and smiled wickedly back at Anna. Anna’s forget-me-not blue eyes narrowed.
“You’re evil. And you sound just like my mother. You should have been her daughter instead. I know she wishes you were.” She took a fork out and poked it into the chicken in the foil sulkily, adding it to her salad. Mason shook his head as he unwrapped his own roast beef sandwich from a packet of foil.
Jade cocked her head to the side and took another swig of her beer. “C’mon. Not that again. For the hundredth time. Your mother loves you. Everyone loves you. You’re getting married tomorrow. Everything’s going to be perfect.” Jade could feel her blood pressure rise as she said the words. Why does Anna always have to worry about people not liking her?

Daniela, you’ve set the scene vividly and hinted at the layers and complications of this friendship well. We can see both the playful affection and annoyance between Jade and Anna. Well done!

Hope this isn’t too long but since some of it is conversation???

Mary set the toast on the table and walked over to the sofa. Dropping down beside the doll, she hesitated only a second before grabbing it and hugging it to her chest. She rocked back and forth and sobbed into the soft pink fabric of the doll’s onesie. “Oh God, Cory… I miss you so much!”

A knock on the apartment door she’d forgotten to close made her pause and look up. Standing in the doorway was a tall, dark-haired man in a blue sheriff’s uniform with polarized sunglasses hiding his eyes.

“Excuse me, Mary. It is Mary, correct?”

She stood and dropped the doll onto the sofa. “Who are you?”

“A friend of Emilou’s. She asked me to come up here and check on you.” He stepped inside though she had not invited him.

“Why?” Moving closer, she caught the scent of his aftershave and a shiver coursed over her skin. Roger had used the same scent.

“I don’t know. Do you need checking on?” He stood with legs apart in a typical male stance of pride and power. He glanced around the room, taking it all in and shifting his stance.

Was he uncomfortable? Well, he should be. This was her personal life. He had no business here. “I’m just fine, officer—?”

“Harris. Dane Harris. I’m the sheriff in charge of the harbor patrol.” He held out his hand to her. “And you are the café owner.”

She glared at his hand. He was an intruder. Not her friend, not anyone she wanted to share her personal life with, especially since he held the position vacated by her husband’s death. “I know Emilou put you up to this but I’m just here to get closure.”


Either he didn’t know or if he did he was good at disguising it. He had that confident air about him that whispered tell me your secrets, you can trust me. Well, she didn’t.

I wasn’t sure who the frenemy was here. Is it Dane, the hero? There’s certainly friction, although he seems unaware of it! Thanks for an intriguing scene, Chrissie!

AnnaBeth Nelson picked up her wine glass and looked around the room. Andrew, Andy, Thatcher stood near the far wall talking with Seth Ramsey. Both looked up, still grinning, as AnnaBeth approached.
“Hi Annabeth. How’s are the mums working out? Were three enough or do I need to set back a couple more?” Seth asked.
“They are perfect, and I don’t need any more. I will never figure out how you know just what I need without even seeing my garden,” she said.
“He’s always been able to do that,” Andy said, and nudged Seth.
A manicured hand appeared at Andy’s elbow and loud voice giggled. Without looking, Annabeth knew that Elizabeth Roberts Ragsdale had joined the group. Mums would no longer be part of the conversation – nor would anything else not directly related to Elizabeth.

I found the number of characters here a little confusing, but I liked how you hinted at your frenemy’s personality by describing the heroine’s reaction to her arrival (and with a nice use of humour.) Thanks for participating!

“You’ve known the guy, what, a couple months? And you’ve thrown away the best job you ever had for him. You know I always have your best interests at heart, but you’re so flighty,” said Sandy.
“He had nothing to do with it.” Rebecca had finally stood up for herself after years of being everyone’s doormat. Unfortunately it had been to her boss. Now she was paying for it with the loss of her job, and, more than that, it looked like any chance of a future with her hunky ex-coworker, James. They’d stood up to management together, insisting they be allowed to run their office in their way, confident when it went up the chain of command they’d be rewarded. After all, their procedures had increased sales by 10% in three months. That wasn’t how it had gone.
“He had everything to do with it. You were crushing on him like a big dog. I could hear it in your voice,” said Sandy. Just like Rebecca could hear her gloating now from 2000 miles away.
It was so much more than a crush. She wanted to gush about the undeniable chemistry, how his touch made her melt, about the unexpected magic of that first stolen kiss, but she didn’t dare. Not to Sandy. Even more she wanted to tell her friend she was devastated that she hadn’t seen James since the big blow up at corporate, how she jumped every time her phone rang hoping it was him, how she’d give up every one of their secret trysts for just a moment looking into his ice blue eyes, having him tell her it would be all right.
“I wouldn’t say it was a crush,” said Rebecca.

This frenemies dynamic is relatable and well-drawn, with a “helpful” friend who might have her own complicated reasons for offering advice, and the advice-recipient who’s not quite ready to face her own motivations and feelings honestly. Nicely done!

A charming smile was in place, but Mason thought his former teammate’s eyes were a little too curious. He smiled thinly. Well, everyone knew that curiosity could be a killer. “I’m with the DEA. Following up on a case.” Gabe’s green eyes flickered. Mason wouldn’t have caught it if he hadn’t been watching so closely.
“Scary, that drug business. From what you see in the news, it’s getting out of hand in the rural communities as well as the cities. Glad to see there’s good men involved in combating it.” Gabe propped a lean hip against the BMW. “Speaking of seeing, have you seen Lauren Thebeau? She’s back in town as well. My mistake. It’s Campbell now, isn’t it? Shame about Jeremy.” Pressing his lips together, he shook his head. On another man, Mason would have read it as real remorse, until Gabe gave a taunting smile. “Lauren’s a beautiful woman. Was ten years ago. Have to say though, that she’s more so now. Maturity does that to some women.”
Mason clenched his fists. He’d never seen himself as the jealous type. At least he hadn’t been for the last ten years. In high school, it hadn’t been a flare of jealousy when Jer had mentioned that he kind of liked Lauren Thebeau that had washed through him. It had been regret. Sorrow. Emptiness. Regret that he wasn’t a better bet. Sorrow that he never would be. And emptiness as he’d vacated the field for someone who deserved Lauren and whom she deserved. Someone who wasn’t Gabe Portell, then or now. Mason had left the field to Jeremy years ago with a broken heart. It would take a broken jaw, hand, and cracked ribs before he’d leave anything about Lauren to Gabe.
“I always expected you to make some kind of play in that direction. You seemed to have a thing for her. Color me surprised when she and Jeremy got together. More so when they got married a short time later. That wasn’t too long after you left town, was it?” His gaze dropped to Mason’s fisted hands. “But you never know about these high school romances.” He returned his attention to Mason’s taciturn face. “I never asked her out back then. Too much of a line already. Now that she’s in town again, I might see if she’s interested.”
Mason’s jaw shifted. You hurt her and I’ll break you. He concentrated on relaxing his hands. Now wasn’t the time for an altercation with a handful of people drifting across the parking lot for a morning workout. “Good luck on that.” The slight nod from Gabe as he straightened from his casual posture against the SUV indicated that the man had interpreted the correct message anyway.

You successfully created quite a bit of tension here. I really enjoyed reading about a character who was pleasant at first glance but whose malice was just under the surface.

Liz frowned at the jars in front of her, debating which toppings to add to her frozen yogurt. Fresh berries or chocolate chips? M&M’s or graham crackers? Gummy bears or crushed Oreo’s? Bianca pushed her aside, diving straight for the rainbow sprinkles. For all Bianca’s faults, Liz had to give her friend credit for always knowing exactly what she wanted – and how to get it.

“So,” Bianca said, waving her spoon with a dramatic flourish. “I sent Mark a friend request yesterday.”

Mark? Liz’s Mark? Surely, she wasn’t taking about the man who’d shared a cubicle with her for nearly a year. The man who’d brought her coffee every morning, but hadn’t asked her out on a date – yet. All of her friends, Bianca included, knew Liz was hopelessly in love with him. Dread anchored in her gut.

Bianca’s eyes narrowed. “You don’t mind, do you?”

Liz choked down rising bile and struggled to speak. “But you’ve never even met Mark.”

“So?” Bianca scooped out a bite of her fro-yo and licked it with enough gusto to be obscene. “As much as you talk about him, I’m pretty sure he’s not an axe-murderer. Hope not, since I’m meeting him for drinks tomorrow night.” Liz fought the urge to shove the spoon down Bianca’s throat, but she silently prayed she’d choke on it.

This scene was so funny! I want to read the full story now, and I want an extra one from Bianca’s POV. Great job!

Carla knew she should have turned and walked away but he just kept nagging and taunting her. He had a way of doing things to get under her skin and she’d be the biggest fool this side of the planet for letting him.
“You repulse me. You demented idiot. Carla grumbled.
“And yet here you are along with me in my office where we used to make out every chance we got and never got caught. Don’t you remember? My sex kitten. Mike chimed. His smile would have lit up the heavens if he wasn’t such a jerk.
“I’m here because you asked me to come. Make it quick because it’s raining and I don’t want to be here any longer. Charla said.
“You used to break your neck trying to get to me. Mike said as he came round to stand in front of her. Leaning over he smelled a soft scent. Like coconut. He could almost taste her. How she used to love it when he nibbled her neck and on down to her spot that made her quiver like an arrow flying through the air. Charla backs away. She wasn’t there to reminice.
“You took that merger right from under me Mike. You knew I wanted that job and you took it from me!
Mike sighed and cuffed her chin. Charla looks angrily at him. Even though she’s madder than a two headed hornet he still sees her as a beautiful woman. A woman he once loved but when opportunity comes knocking- kiss all that other stuff good bye.
“I know this is hard for you but it seems like I was the better man for the job. I just wanted to tell you before the big meeting tomorrow and you find out otherwise. Mike explained. Are we cool?
Charla had to sit down. He stole the merger from under her feet and he expects her to be happy about it? Hell no.
If it’s any consolation, Mike began, I would like to pick up where we left off. Just something for the road so speak. I’m leaving after the meeting and I may be gone a long time. Mike manages to caress her cheek then turns her face to him.
“One last kiss goodbye. He said kissing her. For old times sake.”

While I certainly appreciate the tension you created between the hero and the heroine, I wish the frenemy came in the form of a secondary character. The enemies-to-lovers hook can certainly work well, but, given the prompt, it would have been nice to see either the hero or the heroine interact with another character.

“But look,” Rachel said.
And you did look, Duncan realized, every time that she said it. It didn’t matter if you were in the middle of a conversation you turned your head and looked at whatever it was that Rachel wanted you to look at.
“We all do it,” Jenny had said when he complained, “and anyway, she was your friend first and you never pay attention to me when I bring up a point in the conversation.”
He’d nearly convinced himself that Jenny was the only girl for him, a decision which was clearly a figment of the beer flowing at the soccer game they had attended. His team had won. Jenny was a particularly attractive woman and she made him laugh. Admittedly, he wanted to upend the table sometimes when she was sitting around with his friends, but if he really tried to stop the tide of her talk, he felt like the breeze had died down leaving stale air behind it.
“Sorry?” he said when she fixed him with that look. “Aren’t you listening?” she asked.

“Come over for brunch tomorrow,” he had said, diverting the question.
His place was tidy. It was only neat when Jenny came over. It had taken him a couple of hours to get the place ready, and some more time to cook brunch for his girl and he wanted Jenny to be his girl.
He should have known it would happen. Jenny had walked in with Rachel without even a “do you mind?”
“I ran into Rachel at the market.” Jenny said.
“Do you have that album I was looking for at the record store,” Rachel demanded.
“I’m busy,” Duncan said.
The albums were lined up in boxes against the wall, except they weren’t and the volume was turned up. Jenny hated the stereo loud except when Rachel turned it up.
“She needs it, to be creative.”
Duncan liked to work to music too and somehow that was not the same. Can you say “ear buds,” Jenny wondered.
Rachel gave him a helpless look and looked around.
“I love your place,” she said, “it’s…” and then she seemed to forget her thought.
“This is the kind of place you could raise your kids in,” she finished.
Which started another turn of conversation Duncan had hoped to avoid, who would move in with whom?
Jenny’s fingers tapped her phone.
“House for sale with a yard,” scrolling down to read the listing. Duncan could see both women smiling at the photos. “I could never live in a condo,” Jenny said.
“Before you say no,” Duncan said, annoyed, “the answer to the question can’t come before the question’s been asked.”
“If you did yoga, you would love it.” Jenny said, “You should stop going to that gym.”
“Why?” Duncan wondered, “would yoga make a difference to his refusal to think about buying a house in the most exclusive area in Vancouver?”
“What was it Jenny had said before, she wanted four kids?” Duncan remembered.
It wouldn’t matter, house prices in Vancouver were too high for families and who had four kids anymore?
“Everyone lives in condos,” Duncan said.
“But look,” Rachel said, “You could take foster kids,” her eyes far away. “You could live in a big house.”
He felt his feet struggling in quick sand,

I really enjoyed seeing how Rachel’s presence impacted the relationship between the hero and the heroine. However, while she affected their interactions, I would have liked to have seen her folded into the scene a bit more since she felt dropped in. In particular, it doesn’t seem like the hero and the heroine engage with her. She makes demands, and they talk around her.

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