We all know the basics of romance. Character A and Character B are pushed together through circumstance and end up falling in love. But how do you make your romance really unique? Do you make your plot more intricate, or heighten the stakes? While those are always great ideas, one thing that you should constantly be checking for is chemistry. It’s quite possibly the most important aspect in any romance, and can make or break your story.
What is chemistry?
Chemistry is all about how two characters work with each other. It causes dialogue to flow well, and makes characters drawn to one another through their actions or words.
There are ways to manufacture chemistry in writing, but most of them don’t actually hold water. Many writers will simply put two characters in a room together, force them to have a clichéd conversation, and before you know it they’re making out and hopelessly in love.
So what’s the problem? For one, it’s too rushed. Sure, you could have characters have an instant connection, but there’s a reason Disney abandoned the “we just met, let’s get married” plotline. Additionally, we get no sense of why these characters are drawn together. Is it because they share a similar past and bonded over it, or because they enjoy each other’s wit? Whatever the reason: it needs to be unique; it needs to be backed up by dialogue, and it needs to be entertaining and believable to the reader.
Misconceptions about chemistry
As I said, plenty of writers think that throwing together two characters and having them make out equals romantic chemistry. However, romance is a bit more complicated than that. Here’s some things that don’t make chemistry on their own.
Sure, this can be a reason people get together physically, but is not usually a reason for people to fall in love. If they do, it’s likely not a good relationship — which could be a source of conflict in your story. Still, it shouldn’t be your highlighted, perfect romance — because those are unbelievable and unenjoyable to read.
I could — and probably will — write a whole post about how much I despise an over-reliance on sass in terms of dialogue. Your characters need more than just a witty repartee to have chemistry. Constant sass can read as passive-aggressive, or cliché.
This is very common in the “good girl meets bad boy” romance storyline. A sweet girl falls for a bad boy because his past is just so sad, and she suddenly sees the depth in his personality. Not only is this a recipe for an unhealthy relationship if it doesn’t progress right, but it’s incredibly cliché and shallow. Feeling bad for someone does not equal being in love with them.
Of course, the above tropes are everywhere in romance — which is all the more reason to break past them and write something truly unique. Challenge yourself to write something without following the stereotypical romance plot points!
That’s not to say that these things don’t have any value. While they may not equal chemistry by themselves, they could very well do so when set alongside other factors. People like each other for more than just one or two reasons — so sit down with your characters and figure out a list of reasons why they work as a couple, and why they’d fall in love!
Easy ways to create chemistry
There are a few tried-and-true ways to create chemistry, and you’ll probably recognize them as I name them. But just because they’re easy doesn’t mean they’re not great! These have been used over and over for good reason.
Take a high-maintenance career woman and stick her with a tattooed motorcyclist. Take an innocent high school boy and match him with a girl who just got out of juvie. We’re seeing love blossom, but we’re also seeing the character growth that arises when someone is confronted with a part of the world they have no experience in. It affects your characters as individuals as well as their relationship together.
Yes, the classic Romeo and Juliet. Whether it’s truly forbidden, like a princess loving a farm boy, or just perceived, like a nerd loving the most popular girl in school: adding an element of forbidden fruit is a surefire way to create tension, desire and conflict.
Hate becomes loss
This is another popular one; less grounded in reality than the others, but still a very enjoyable read. It’s been said that hate and love are very close emotions to one another, and this plotline watches two characters come to hate one another and, slowly, fall in love. We are given one or more characters to hate, but over the course of the story, we learn things that make it impossible for us to hate them. If done well, the reader will fall for the hatable character alongside the protagonist, and possibly see the protagonist in a new light as well.
So we’ve got some of the basics down. Let’s break out the periodic table and get into the deeper stuff. Here are a few ways to make your character’s chemistry deeper.
They don’t necessarily need to have common interests, but common passions are vital to a believable romance. Your couple could both have a passion for helping animals , or maybe they both feel like outcasts and bond over that.
Give one or both of your characters an intense fear or phobia, and let the other character help them overcome it. Maybe the tough bad boy is actually afraid of the dark. Maybe the girl who always wanted to be more adventurous is terrified of heights. Take a fear, and let them conquer it together.
Moments of weakness and strength
This is Advanced Chemistry in a nutshell. Have one or both of them experience a moment of weakness, and then a moment of strength with each other. Saving and supporting is the name of the game — your character needs to be saved in some way by the other, and then later on supported by them when they exhibit strength.
This post was originally published on Authorish.