Writer Wednesdays: Chemistry vs Attraction


What better way to celebrate Valentines Day than to talk about creating chemistry between characters?

As a romance writer, my job at the end of the day is to create a love affair that leaves my readers without a shadow of a doubt that the two people I’ve written should be together. No matter how different they are, no matter what path they took to get there or how much growth it took – they belong together.

Love affairs do not spark from physical attraction alone. (That means all those flooded panties and hidden erections do not a love affair make) Think about it. There are A LOT of attractive people in this world. Do you fall in love with every person you find attractive? Physical attraction may lead to sexual desire based on that attraction – sure.

But chemistry is the magic sauce. It’s that inexplicable draw that two people have to each other. It’s an intimacy that goes well beyond the physical and the sexual – and it’s often times confusing in the beginning.

Have you ever watched a movie or read a book where in the end – the couple fell flat? You had no buy-in that they belonged together at all or that they’d last past the manufactured happily ever after? Maybe all they did was have sex and the relationship was never built. Maybe there weren’t enough deep conversations to build on the characters and their relationship(s). Maybe there was no growth or change.

Most likely – there was no tension. That chemistry special sauce. There was no flipping of pages or waiting to get up and get a snack because you just had to know what was going to happen next. Would they end up together? Would they overcome all the obstacles in their way?

So how do you cook up that chemistry?

First, you should figure out what your characters want (even if they don’t know it yet) in the end. Plot out your characters interactions and plot out the tension in each scene. Tension makes readers want to know what happens next – this is especially effective when you create mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter.

When you plot out the tension – don’t get it confused with conflict. You don’t want them constantly fighting. Playful fight/flirting – tension. Actual fighting – conflict. Both equally important, but also important to know the distinction. If your characters are constantly fighting, why would we want them to end up together in the end?

(In romance, fight flirting is wildly popular and done right, adds so much romantic tension. Fight flirting is all about who gets the upper hand in an interaction. It’s fun. It’s a verbal sparring that feels like foreplay.)

What does romantic chemistry look like?

  1. They can let their guard down (eventually) with each other. They may smile more when the other person is around. Feel relaxed, happy and warm.
  2. They want to be near each other whether that is a conscious or subconscious act. They lean in closer when the other is talking. Maybe a hand reaches out to touch a forearm – and that electric connection between them ignites. They stand close to each other – and maybe even invade that personal space bubble because the draw is so strong.
  3. Arousal. Shortness of breath. Pounding heart. Mouth running dry for a moment. Pretty sure this one needs no explaining.
  4. EYE CONTACT. Eye contact is magic. It’s that smoldering thing that Edward was always doing to Bella. It’s that thing that connects two characters – when they look into each other’s eyes and see deep into each other. Maybe they don’t need words after they stare into each other’s eyes. Sounds cheesy – but it’s true. Early in the relationship, the eye contact may be so intense with things unsaid that one of them has to look away. Later in the relationship – it’s that silent communicator of emotions.
  5. Physical awareness of the other persons nearness. Not just flooded panties and unexpected erections.
  6. Being happy when they are around. Being with them makes the other character feel good. Laughing more. Smiling more.
  7. Compromise. They take the other persons feelings (again – if you are creating tension this may be subconscious or they won’t admit it to themselves) they WANT to grow. They WANT to change.
  8. Lastly – they have empathy for each other. One hurts, the other hurts. One grieves, so does the other. They have a shared joy.

Have fun with your words and your characters. Writing scenes that drive your characters to fall in love and not just into bed is the difference between an erotic romp and an epic romance that leaves your readers feeling satisfied!



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