Fan of the girl/boy next door love story? Carolyn Hector talks about how, although our relationship with our neighbors has changed in the real world, add the right trope and you could have a great romance novel!
Gone are the days where we pop over to borrow a cup of sugar or collect mail while our neighbor is on vacation. I cringed when the neighbors across the street moved in and posted a basketball goal at the end of their yard. Then my boys got a basketball goal of their own, so I couldn’t say much.
In books I need the boy/girl next door story paired with a good trope. In real life, or as my kids will say IRL, falling in love with your neighbor can be messy. (Grab the popcorn, ‘cause I am here for that!) But let’s use the words “next door” loosely, because there are different levels of next door.
Do they live right next door to each other? Are they on different floors of the same building? Across the street? Neighbor-adjacent? Neighbor of a best friend? An inherited neighbor? Proximity can change things.
My first guy/girl next-door books came from my childhood hero author, Judy Blume. She gave us wonderful stories with heartbreak and family disappointment and I always saw the potential for future romance for her next-door neighbors.
You know, Judy Blume just may be the reason I started writing romance books...
But for right next door/different floors stories, check out Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, or Fudge-a-Mania. These books pulled me in because there was the enemy-to-potential boyfriend/girlfriend trope (hey, I was a kid… I knew nothing of lovers back then). There’s Sheila Tubman and Peter Hatcher, who hated each other, whether in the same building or on vacation together and bound by their grandparents. The budding romance writer in me wanted to see them get together when they got older. And speaking of next-door neighbors and feuds, check out Phyllis Bourne’s hilarious Feud.
For neighbor “adjacent”, see Margaret and Moose in Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret. Moose was the best friend of Margaret’s best friend’s brother - make sense? - and there was a scene at a dinner table where their hands brush that still makes me smile. It was a small sweet part of the story, but I wanted them to grow up and get married.
For new neighbors, Iggie’s House tapped in to my early desire to see interracial romance. I need a follow up. Did Winnie and Glenn ever start dating?
The basic first love trope is “we were best friends since knee high to a grasshopper” and they’re okay. If that’s your taste, go for it! Just make sure to include that all-important conflict. Then there’s the Enemies-to-Lovers trope. I think the best way to pull that off is with a romantic comedy. I want to know why these neighbors are enemies. Was it part of an Unrequited Love Trope. Did one neighbor carry a torch up until the other chose the “nice girl” from down the street over them even though they pinky-swore at the age of eight to love each other eternally?
Then there's the occupation. You could spice things up with A Cowboy… as in a Cowboy Next Door. Or a Prince Next Door. The Seal, The Fireman, The Beauty Queen etc. Insert any of these jobs and I’m intrigued. Or you could do “The Office Next Door” or “The Cubicle Next Door” and tap into the Office Romance trope.
I get the draw of next-door love. I have a “next door” WIP and I do get excited when it is inevitable these two are going to bump into each other. I haven’t finished it—hence WIP—but I also realized if the relationship next door doesn’t work out or have potential, there’s always the house on the other side of you or right in front of you.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m grown now, old, and married… and find myself more like Gladys Kravitz (y’all remember Bewitched) peeping out the window. I may groan at the basketball goals and the full-blown football games in front of my house but I also find my neighbors a good source of plot bunnies. For example, the guy next door would disappear for weeks on end and return home with a full beard and would sleep for three days straight. And he became the muse for my WIP, “Special Forces Next Door.”
So, keep peeking out those windows, you never know where inspiration may strike!
Carolyn's latest book is Falling for the Beauty Queen You can find out more on Facebook, Twitter and at CarolynHector.com
Are you a fan of the girl/guy next door love story? Was your favorite story paired with another trope? What was it about the story you loved? Have you ever written one or been inspired to write one by a mysterious neighbor in the real world? Let us know in the comments or by joining the discussion on our Social Media using #Neighbors