I have set down books that fail to build proper inter-character chemistry. Why? Because there is nothing more awkward than reading stiff lifeless interactions that feel forced or unwelcome. They should flow and feel organic to the reader. I love a story that sucks you in, makes you feel at home and a part of the story. So if conversation or interactions fall flat, chances are I’ll either slog it out or set it down. As a writer that would be the ultimate worst to know someone felt that way. Therefore I spend extra time building the relationships, good or bad.
So what do I do when it comes to interactions? I know that I respond/react/interact differently with different people. This should be true for my characters. If I don’t have a clear set idea of how that is I will make sure to keep notes on it in my character bio’s. I Cant have Amber being friendly with Sasha for no reason. Or Anne talking silly with Tony. These aren’t always super obvious things either, a reader will appreciate the detail even if they don’t outright notice it. In fact, they may appreciate it more if they don’t.
Some things that a person might do with one person but not necessarily another
Touching – touch an arm, back or hand
Intent listening undivided attention
Eye rolling or sneering behind back
Chemistry isn’t always about romance or the potential for it, however, it is what people think of when the subject comes up. It is a big factor in story telling. So I will focus on that as well. Building romantic chemistry is a very serious business. A lot has to happen. Physical cues, verbal suggestions, behaviors, actions, and reactions. It’s an elixir of buildup. If I’m writing a sudden ‘romantic’ chemistry the scene will be intense and hold a lot of action tags and cues. If I can build it up over time I like to sneak in little tidbits. Like touching of hands, blushing and things like seeking out their company over others and maybe doing small favors that have great meaning. Subtle and flirty.
Since chemistry is an internal thing, for me it is tricky. I don’t use internal or first person POV. So I use a lot of action and description to show the chemistry instead of telling the reader it’s there. I find this is the best way to suck the reader into the romance and build the hope that the couple will get together.
The chemistry between friends should, in my opinion, be about making each other happy or comfortable. Set them at ease and or rev them up for stress releasing fun. An awkward show of friendship in the form of stiff interaction or conversation would be unbelievable to the reader. Real friends chill, tease and care.
Dale leaned his head back on the sofa. Scott handed him a beer and flopped down next to him. After a long draw, Dale sighed heavily. Scott glanced over at Dale’s miserable face, picked up the remote and turned on the game. Distraction was necessary.
Scott decided to go fishing for the right conversation topic. “Amber was weird today.”
Dale nodded. “Sure was.” he lifted the beer bottle to his lips.
Scott smiled slyly. “Rachael tripped today. She did a fantastic face plant into the meeting-room floor.”
The tension left Dale’s shoulders. The non-Amber conversation welcome. “Oh?” He finished the last half of his beer in one chug.
“No blood, but the clients got quite the show.” Scott got up to retrieve Dale another bottle. “Thanks.” Dale took the offered drink, sat back and settled in to watch the game.
“You should have seen it.” Scott began to tell the spiteful story.
Romantic chemistry seems easy to write, but in reality, it can be difficult to stay in POV and show instead of telling. Fluid movements and simple reactions are, in my opinion, the best way to illustrate this.
The stars twinkled in the cloud-free moonless sky. Anne breathed deeply the cool air as they left the restaurant. Immediately Tony slipped his hand in hers lacing their fingers. With a small smile, she glanced at the delighted gleam to his face.
“I’m not used to this.” Her confession needed no explanation.
“I know.” He squeezed her hand gently and rubbed his thumb over the soft skin.
“How?” She licked her lips. “How do you know?”
“Because.” He lifted their hands and kissed the back of hers. She sighed softly and he smirked. “You react to every little thing I do as if it were some grand romantic gesture.”
“Oh.” She looked away and swallowed several times. It was true, she just didn’t know it was obvious.
“Don’t act like it’s a bad thing, Anne.” Tony stopped, let go of her hand and made her face him.
“It’s not?” Anne blinked slowly as his right hand brushed her cheek, cupping her face.
His lips parted and he leaned closer. “No.” His warm breath played across her lips and she shivered. Their eyes locked and she held her breath. “I’d say it’s a good thing.”
It was all she could do to nod her head, speaking was not an option.
Whether it’s romantic, platonic or rivalry, the interaction between two people should be personal. I do my best to keep it this way because it not only reads better but it elicits emotions from the reader. I really try not to mix styles between characters. Scott and Dale can chill and depend on the other for distraction, I wouldn’t have them behave the same way exactly with other characters. This quiet understanding is strictly for them. Same goes for Anne and Tony, he’s not her first boyfriend, but he’s the only one she gets breathless around.
My advice about building chemistry.
Start from the first moment characters meet. If they have met or already know each other before the story starts, show their comradery or chemistry subtly and often in little ways that will endear the reader to them and their Symbiosis.
Other romantic posts
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