Building chemistry

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

Joking around
Teasing
Flirting
Show respect
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.

-Sheryl

Other romantic posts

Setting the mood

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Fishing
Symbiosis
Elixir

Rules rule the rules

Rules. They are meant to be made, followed, broken and even disregarded completely. There are those that abide them to the letter and those that avoid the responsibility of even knowing them. So it would stand to reason that I would write such personalities into my characters.

The struggle to abide by rules is real, its tangible because most people have encountered a moment in life where the rules simply cannot apply.  There are self inflicted rules, rules imposed by others and rules imposed for safety or the law.

Almost everything is governed by rules:
How to write, how not to write
How to edit, revise and review writing
What to wear and how to wear it
Who to socialize with and when
What to eat and drink, when to eat and drink
How to do a job or task
How to drive
Basically how to live. The rules are never ending some serious and some ridiculous.

As a writer rules are everywhere, some I abide by, some I take with a grain of salt. A lot of rules “made up” are just that, made up. Somones over inflated ego passing off opinion as fact. However when it comes to writing about rules or implementing life rules in my writing, I am in charge, I choose who follows what and when. More importantly I control who breaks them and causes trouble.

I like to have someone straight laced be forced to break a rule or forced by circumstance to decide to break a steadfast rule they hold true to normally. It can be equally fun to have a rebellious persona find need to follow one too. The inner turmoil this might dredge up can be fascinating to both write and read.  All I do is think about how I personally feel when faced with a rule that is either holding me back or keeping me safe. I apply my state, emotions and reactions to my writing.  Not all rules are good some can be restraining, cause problems and even tension.

Scott stood outside Clifton’s office and glanced down at the article on his cellphone. He had the code to get in, in fact he had all Clifton’s security codes. It was easy to get the overly cautious boss’s codes from his overly snoopy spy program. Only because it was installed wrong and Clifton had no clue about anything. This would mean termination if he was found or caught, but he had to know.

With a heavy sigh he wiped his sweaty palms on his pants that bespoke his nervous state. He glanced up and down the hall then punched the three digit code into the pad and the door opened. Slipping in and easing the door closed behind him he let out his pent up breath. The computer was already on and not logged out.

“Idiot.” Scott whispered to the bright sunlight office as he sat and began his search.  “First things first.” He took out his cellphone with the picture of Baylor Crowen from he news. He thought he recalled seeing this guy before come in for a meeting. He showed up early, went into Clifton office and disappeared before Clifton even showed up. The boss was weird so nobody questioned it.
“Holy sh…” Scott leaned closer to the security footage of the day Baylor attacked Sasha. It was him, no doubt. Heart racing and palms sweating Scott glanced at the door as someone walked by. He could lose his job for this.

“No.” Amber shook her head and looked away from Scott.
“Ah come on Amb’s I need your help.”
“Oh like hell you do. You just want me to take the heat for your snooping like usual. I told you to let it go. I told you not to go into Clifton’s office.”
“Since when do you care about the rules?” Scott smiled sweetly. “I’d love it if you did this for me.” 
She narrowed her eyes. He was too attractive. Why Sasha didn’t jump at the chance to be with him she would never understand. She pushed Scott to pursue Sasha hoping he would realize she was as warm as a tundra stone in mid winter. 
“No. I can’t.”
“Can’t?” Scott tilted his head seductively. “Or won’t”
“Both. If you want to break into Valerie s personal email and the companies HR files you’re on your own.”
“But just think of all the juicy ammo you could get.”
She sighed. “Three days ago I’d be all over that offer. I can’t Scott. I hate that I even know. And for what? Sasha? She doesn’t like you. It’s pathetic that you moon over her, that you chase her shamelessly.”
Scott laughed loudly. “Oh hello kettle.” He wiped his eyes. “So rich coming from you!”
Clenching her jaw she threw the binder at him and stormed out of his office.
She couldn’t help her feelings. As she approached her desk she watched Dale work, engrossed in an edit he didn’t see her approach. Dale did love his work and he was exceptionally good at it. Did she help the wrong guy get the promotion? She looked back down the hall toward Scott’s office who laughed at her constantly then back at Dale who helped and encouraged her consistently. The sudden burning in her stomach made her turn toward the washrooms instead of her desk.

Breaking rules can be so much fun and can take a story in so many different directions. The options are endless and I’ll often think out a few different scenarios before committing to one.

My advice about Rules.
The same rules that apply in live, apply for writing life. Rules exist, they can be ignored and broken, followed and worshiped. It’s totally up to you how you want your characters to respond to rules and the potential of breaking them. 

-Sheryl

Other posts

Eating emotions

Spell check doesn’t catch them all.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Bespoke

Inviting innuendo

Teasing is fun, it can be light and friendly or mean. No matter what, it should be a part of a story at some point. At least in my opinion, why? Because people tease, they joke and they banter. It is in human nature to want to laugh or improve our environment by introducing joviality.

Fun and light friendly banter is a great way to knit relationships together a bit more but what about flirtatious teasing? Or even sexually charged banter? Between strangers it can be challenging or come across as “tacky pick-ups” or between two pre-sexual relationship it can make for some fun chemistry and tension building. For a sexual couple it can spark a lot more than just a giggle when teasing becomes innuendo.

Anne looked up from the menu at the nurse who swept her off the very feet he helped her on to when she sprained her ankle. Since then, Tony had pursued her like a man plucked out of a historical romance novel.

“How was your day?” Anne set the menu down carefully.

“Pure hell until about ten minutes ago.” Tony looked at her through his extraordinary dark lashes from across the small intimate table setting. “And yours?”

“Oh.” She licked her lips and straightened the fork and knife on the napkin. “Boring and predictable as always.”

“Maybe we can change that.”

She stopped fidgeting and looked at his lips then finally his steel-blue eyes. “It would have to be something very out of the ordinary.”

“I can be unconventional Anne.”

“I bet.” Anne tucked a strand of auburn hair behind her ear. “But it would take a lot to shake my day up.”

“Hmm.” Tony eyed her flushed cheeks as he sipped his water.

….

Valery sighed heavily, plopping her chin in her hand and resting her elbow on the table. He hunger was sated, but not her appetite.

Jackson glanced at her pretty pouty face as she drummed her manicured fingers on her lips. “What’s eating you Val?”

“Nothing.” She smiled through her fingers. “Or rather no one.”

“Naughty woman.”

“I can be.” She giggled and stood to put the plates in the sink.

“You make it too easy.” Jackson got up and stopped in the doorway to the hall.

“I can play hard to get.” Valery’s sultry smile made him chuckle low in his throat.

“So can I.” He looked down then back up as she followed his gaze, her mouth opened as her tongue darted out to wet her lips.

It is easy to make conversation stiff and boring, so I steam it up with some heated banter. From simple flirting to outright suggestion getting the right chemistry is key. Finding the right balance is key, too much and someones going to come across as slutty or creepy. Too little and it might be missed. I make sure I know the characters and work within their parameters.

My advice about innuendo.
Find a good balance and don’t overdo it. Oh and it doesn’t have to lead to sex, they could be interrupted by drama or danger or it could be just plain old-fashioned flirting.

-Sheryl

Other fun posts

Yes… no… maybe?

The joy of pretend world

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Sated

It’s a personal thing

I learned something interesting recently. It is something I was already doing, however, now I have a better understanding of how to make it work for me. I’m talking about personal items. The things I keep around me reflect who I am and what I like. This goes for anyone and everyone including characters of a story.

Personalizing the space around a character can tell you a lot about a person in a very short time. It can give a person opportunity to exhibit a bit of personality. Things that are common but can be very personalized.

Personal things that can strongly suggest a personality or like/dislike
Keychains (Big opportunity here)
Photographs/Calendars
Jewellery
Clothes (Like a sports team or band concert shirt)
Tidy or untidy desktop
Scuffed shoes
Personalized pens
Nail polish/hair colour
Tattoos
Purse/handbag/wallet
Books
Handheld electronic devices
Ringtones on cellphone
Music
Car
Computer desktop wallpaper

Not going over the top, I’ll have Cal interact with three different people.

Cal walked into the office stopping at Ralph’s desk. Cal was the new guy here and paying attention was paramount. Ralph nodded at him pointing at the obvious phone to his ear. Cal smiled and surveyed his desk. Ralph’s Mexico calendar had the days crossed off with a big circle on the twentieth. A stress ball and an Acapulco coffee mug sat among stacks of files. He set the receiver down.
“How can I help you? Detective Thorn.” Ralph said his name like a question.
Cal smiled sweetly at the tired man. They had met three times already, though his apathetic attitude spoke volumes.
“Two more weeks before you go scuba diving in Mexico Ralph, I’m envious. Do you have the evidence report on Cowen that was sent to the Judge for me?” 
He had it, the question was would he give it to him right away.
“It can’t come soon enough Detective.” Ralph rifled through the stacks on his desk. “Well soak it up and do nothing important, only fun. You deserve a little R and R.”
“Oh, I plan on it, Detective.” Ralph smiled handing him the file.
“Thanks, Ralph I appreciate how fast you got this for me.”
“No problem.”

Someone like Ralph is unhappy about work, tired and looks forward to his yearly jaunt to Acapulco enough that Cal’s small talk about his trip would go a long way. Now compared to someone with a clean and tidy personal memento free workspace.

Cal approached Nancy next knocking on her open door and waiting for her permission to enter. “Detective Thorn.” She nodded at him to sit as she straightened her keyboard and put her pen back in the holder. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I got a call this morning that Baylor Cowen got out on bail.”
“Most unfortunate.” She laced her fingers placing her hands before her on the desktop. “The judge is not on our side it seems.”
“What is it going to take to get her under investigation? The evidence was solid.”
“So was your fist Detective. A black eye and a greased palm were enough to get him out.” She tutted once. “That being said I cannot fault you, I would have enjoyed seeing that man go down. If you want to look into the Judge and her decisions, I’ll see it approved. Have Nunez start combing the records.” Her curt nod was his dismissal and he stood and left. ‘No nonsense Nancy’ he had been warned on his first day at the precinct to be straight up with her about everything.

The no-nonsense Nancy would not appreciate small talk and would respond better to matter of fact straight to the point conversation.

Cal stopped at the evidence room before leaving. Trish was biting the end of her Party-Harty pen and the faded club stamp was still visible on her wrist. She sat up straighter when she saw him.
“Good morning Trish.” She blushed furiously at his use of her name.
“Good morning Detective you’re here early.”
“How’s that new club you said you were going to on Saturday?”
“Oh Club Hyperbole? It was a blast, great music, glow in the dark shots and lots of hot guys.”
“Glow in the dark sounds fun.” He gave her a charming smile and leaned on the tall counter. “I have to go see a witness this morning.”
“Lucky witness.”
“Would you happen to have an original printout of the evidence from the Crowen Case? Before it was submitted to the Judge or Crowen’s Lawyers?”
“I sure hope so.” She took out her key-chain with a clear pink mini martini glass dangling from it. She unlocked the cabinet and rifled through.
“Lucky you too.” She photocopied it and handed him the copy.
He took it with a wink. “Thanks, Trish.”
“For you? Any time Detective.” She watched him walk away.

Flirty objects on or around a person might suggest they are open to or respond best to flirting or personal remarks. My only caution with this type of interaction would be to be aware of personality. While Cal is a detective and likely to see these clues, Sasha would not necessarily be so in tune. Not everyone is a sleuth or intuitive, and not everyone has the personality to pull each interaction off without coming across as smarmy or as an opportunist.

This is also a good way to give the reader a better insight to the protagonist through the eyes of another character say if they visit their home.

My advice about personal items.
I wouldn’t say to use them for everyone all the time, just if you need a snapshot into someone minor or when introducing someone new. Instead of the standard head to toe description with a telling of who they are and how they fit in, try showing who they are in a first impression style.

-Sheryl

Other posts

The FAB pencil

Labor of love

Who’s who in the grand scheme of things

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Hyperbole
Record
Volume

Awkwardly awkward

It is super hard to read awkward writing. The kind stuffed full of filler words, superfluous action tags, jargon, perspective swapping and a whole lot of tell. I’ve written about those issues, but what about writing an awkward scene?

This can be fun. I love awkward moments. Why because they happen all the time in real life. Only in a story I get to create the moment and shape it accordingly. I also get to make it so much worse than real life if I want to. I can add layer after layer of discomfort employing my super evil laugh as my protagonist squirms. 

“At least it’s just drinks.” Sasha got out of the taxi. She drove home earlier, showered, changed and put on makeup. Valery kept calling it a date. Sasha kept denying it even though it was clearly a date. She brushed her hands over her dark-blue jeans and soft sweater that matched her brown eyes. She risked the pending rain and wore her favorite three inch calf high suede boots.
“Sasha.” Scott approached quickly. “You look fantastic.”
She bit back her usual snarky remark, smiled and responded. “Thanks. You too.” His dark jeans and black t-shirt made her heart beat faster as he put his hand on her back to lead her inside.
The bar was not what she expected. No dance floor, modern with glass tables. Meant for mingling and conversation the music was background and not overpowering. She jumped up into the chair at the high table and picked up the menu as Scott moved his chair closer and prattled on about a new car he was thinking about purchasing.
With drinks in hand she sipped quickly until the familiar warmth cascaded through her. Casting glances in the direction of the exit. Twice she pulled her hand out from under his as he rambled.
“So what do you think?”
Sasha whipped her head back to Scott wide eyed. She wasn’t listening and had no idea what he was asking about.
“Um.” She stalled and took a long gulp of her third drink as his hand slid up her thigh.
“You keep looking at the door. My place is closer, we can go now or wait a bit.”
She choked on her drink.
“Later then.” He laughed and ordered another round as she recovered and removed his wayward hand.
“You’re confidence is astounding Scott.”
He leaned closer brushing the back of his fingers over her jaw. “For good reason.”
She sucked her breath in as she looked over his shoulder, he misread and moved in for a kiss. Dodging his lips she leaned away.
“What the hell Sasha?” Scott cleared his throat and regained his composure. “Sorry, you throw off mixed signals.”
She was about to reply when Cal strolled by and stopped. Head cocked to the side he smiled. “Good evening Sasha, how nice,” Cal’s eyes slipped to Scott then back, “to run into you here.”
The chair did not swallow her up and she silently cursed it. “Um.”
“Who are you?” Scott’s arm slid around her waist. “Who is he Sasha?”
“Ah, he’s Detective Thorn. This is Scott from work.” She peeled his arm from her waist ungracefully. Cal extended Scott his hand. “He was the one that saved me from that guy that attacked me last week.”
“Oh right.” Scott shook Cal’s hand. “You sort of mentioned that.”
Her eyes narrowed. She had mentioned it in great detail after Amber caught wind of her whoring it up bringing home a bad man for a one night stand. She only told them to set the story straight. Neither he nor Amber asked after her welfare then.
“What brings you here?” Scott asked edging his chair closer to Sasha’s.
“Meeting a friend and his new husband for drinks.”
Scott relaxed noticeably and muttered. “Oh good.”
“It was nice to meet you Scott.” Cal looked at Sasha once again as she pushed Scott’s hand away. “I won’t keep you from your,” he flicked his eyes at Scott, “date.”
“It’s not a date.” Sasha’s quick response made the corner of Cal’s mouth curl as he walked away.
“What the hell do you mean it’s not a date?” Scott spoke through clenched teeth and she slipped off the chair and dropped two twenty dollar bills on the table.
“Goodnight Scott.”
He started after her while muttering, “Stupid shrew.”
Once outside he caught up and grabbed her arm nearly causing her to drop her phone. “What some cop shows up and you bail on me? You owe me more than paying for drinks.”
“Owe you?” She shoved his hand from her arm goosebumps rose on it from his eerie comment. “I owe you nothing Scott.”
He put his hands on her shoulders. “If it’s the cop we can go somewhere else.” His hands slid down her arms. “Look let’s go back to my place, have a few drinks and watch a movie or something.” He lowered his face to hers and kissed her. Her mind went wild with all the little sly looks of malice he’d been tossing her way. The looks of frustration and anger that flashed in his eyes.
She pushed him away. “This is wrong. I’m going home.” She headed toward a waiting taxi.
“I’ve put too much effort into you to just give up.” He chased after her.
She stopped with one foot in the cab. “Effort? What’s my favourite color? Don’t know? Yours is Green, peacock green to be precise. What’s my favorite meal? Drink? Do I have pets? Favorite movie?”
Scott took a step back his mouth opening and closing slightly.
“You haven’t really heard a word I’ve said in three years. You love spaghetti, long island ice tea, your dog McClane died eight and a half months ago and you are a huge Die Hard fan.” She sat in the cab slamming the door.  

Forcing someone to be awkward can give them a momentary break, enough to see reality. I used it to give Sasha a moment to pause and regroup. Awkward can be as simple as waving at a someone you thought was waving at you, but wasn’t or walking into a meeting late. It can be complicated as the moment a character realizes a mistake or has a revelation about what they really want. It can be a devastatingly awkward, like standing for an award or recognition meant for someone else. Or running into your stodgy boss at the sex store while picking up phallic lollipops for a bachelorette party.

My advice about awkward.
If your character needs a laugh break make it funny awkward and have them drop a Freudian during a presentation. If they are stuck, make it eye opening awkward. If they need to see something in front of their nose, you can make it devastating or revealing. As always have fun with it.

-Sheryl

Other posts

What’s her name?

Carry

 Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Eerie