The Art of Chemistry

My friend author Stacy Deanne is taking over my blog today to provide us with a tutorial on how to create the sizzle between characters. Enjoy!

During my journey as an author I’ve been asked many questions by aspiring writers. Many have been about creating chemistry for characters.

Actually, I don’t believe that writers create chemistry between characters. It’s either there or it’s not, just like in real life. It cannot be forced. It’s easy to tell when this happens. Have you ever read a romance where the author is pushing the two main characters (MCs) together yet they don’t seem to fit? Have you ever watched a movie where the two MCs are supposedly in love yet you feel nothing emotionally for the characters when they kiss? That’s a lack of chemistry.

Some authors don’t seem to know what chemistry is. Chemistry is the tension, excitement or passion, that undeniable magnetism between people. When characters have chemistry the reader is eager to see those characters in another scene. They frantically turn the pages to see what Fred’s gonna do when he next sees Jane and how Jane will react to him. The reader becomes invested in the characters and in their relationship because of chemistry. The reader’s heart beats faster because they can almost taste the emotions the characters feel for one another. There is nothing like it.

I used to be a fan of soaps when I was a kid. I remember my favorite soap couples. I loved seeing them fall in love, argue, anything.  Nothing excited me more than anticipating the first time they would make love. Ooh, it was such a tense feeling. Something great would happen between them on Friday, and I’d sit through the entire weekend just waiting to see my couple again. That power boils down to one thing – chemistry.

While I don’t believe you can manufacture chemistry – it’s either there or it’s not – there are things a writer can do to help understand why some characters flow so well together.

Choose Character Types that Have Worked Well Together in the Past

If you revisit some of the most famous romantic movies and books, many have the same type of characters. These types of characters automatically have chemistry and tension. Tension is very important in romance. Without it, the reader won’t be excited or care about the relationship. You want and need them to care.

The following famous character types work well in almost every romance.

Good Girl and Bad Boy: Why do good girls and bad boys have such chemistry? First, opposites attract.  The good girl plays by the rules and is somewhat uptight. The bad boy swoops into her life and steals her heart. She knows he’s not right for her, but that’s why she’s so attracted to him. He’s dangerous, he’s unpredictable. He might live his life on the edge, a way she’s always wanted to live but is afraid to. He opens her to a new world. The heroine may struggle with who she really loves (the bad boy) and who she should love (another more acceptable or traditional suitor).

This tension equals spectacular chemistry, and it’s attractive to romance readers because what woman hasn’t wondered about being with a bad boy at one time or another? The reader can automatically transport herself into that female character, and that’s a big score for you, the author.

The Criminal and the Cop: I write crime fiction with romantic elements, and the female cop falling for the criminal is probably the most popular type of romantic pairing in the genre. The two partake in a cat and mouse game. He’s the guy she’s been after. While keeping tabs on him, she falls in love. She doesn’t wanna admit it because she knows it’s wrong, but she’s attracted to the danger; she enjoys it. For him, it’s about her chasing him. Her determination to nail him turns him on. He admires her because she’s smart and tough. She’s the forbidden fruit because she is the one trying to put him away. He can’t let his guard down, but it gets harder to fight his curiosity. Even if she arrests him, he has to get close to her just that one time. Tell me that didn’t get your heart pumping. It’s all because of chemistry.

Rich Girl/Rich Boy and Poor Girl/Poor Boy: The rich man who falls in love with the peasant girl is probably the most touching romantic pairing out there. He might be a prince, she might be a servant, and the genders work in either role (Dirty Dancing). The poor and rich romance is one that almost anyone can identify with. The rich man is in love with someone he cannot be with due to his social standing, family, reputation, etc. She is torn because she’s fallen in love with a man she does not believe she can have. I am a big fan of Historical romance, and this is a common theme in the genre.

It’s amazing to see different people from different worlds fall in love. You get so wrapped up in emotion. And as a writer, when you’ve created a couple that tugs at readers’ heartstrings, makes them cry and makes them root for the character’s love match to work, you’ve mastered the art of chemistry.

I hope this little exercise helps writers who are struggling with a lack of chemistry between characters. Read romances you fell in love with. Get a sense of how the characters interact. Also, don’t forget to make your characters your own. They should be unique, three-dimensional and not carbon cutouts. You can incorporate the couples I identified here in any romance, but you have to shake things up!

All the best!

Stacy Deanne’s latest interracial romantic suspense release Giving up the Ghost is the first in a new series and has been nominated for a 2011 African-American Literary Award for best mystery. Book 2, The Season of Sin, is scheduled for release in December 2011.

Giving up the Ghost @ Amazon:




4 thoughts on “The Art of Chemistry

  1. I also think the characters pretending be in love when they aren’t to get something or someone (like The Proposal so Sandra Bullock to stay in the US or Just Go With It where Adam Sandler could get the girl of his dreams) works. I love that moment when the hero and heroine realize they’ve fallen in love with the person they’re pretending to be in love with. 🙂

    This is a great post. I haven’t seen the cop and criminal set up. Any good movies where that happened?

    • I know right?!? LOL When Sandra Bullock tries to valiantly to pretend she isn’t starring at Ryan Reynolds like a steak it would break your heart if you weren’t already dying laughing. I love those stories. Thanks for writing in Ruth Ann! I’m glad you enjoy’d the post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s