Don’t worry – this isn’t a science post. Not my forte, shall we say. But I am going to harken back to something I was great at – musical theatre. I was in Guys and Dolls three times; once as a Hot Box Dancer who actually stripped on stage (to a very tasteful corset), and twice as the lead missionary. Yeah, that one was a stretch for me to play. The point being, Sarah (the missionary) and Sky (the inveterate professional gambler) have absolutely no reason to do anything but disparage each other. Which they do…at the start. But he’s hot, she’s pretty, and there’s some sassy banter that leads to a terrific song, I’ll Know. Sarah sings about how she’ll know when her true love comes along because of the six boring ways he’ll be perfect for her. Sky is having none of it. Here’s what happens in the middle of the song (with thanks to Lerner and Lowe for their songwriting brilliance):
SKY: No, no, no! You are talking about love! You can’t dope it like that. What
are you picking, a guy or a horse?
SARAH: I wouldn’t expect a gambler to understand.
SKY: Would you like to hear how a gambler feels about the big heart throb?
SKY: Well, I’ll tell you.
Mine will come as a surprise to me.
Mine I lead to chance and chemistry.
SARAH (spoken) Chemistry?
SKY (spoken) Yeah, chemistry.
And he continues to sing about how he’ll just know in his heart. Without figuring out if it is wise or logical. The right chemistry with the right woman will be undeniable. Oh, how right he is!
Chemistry is, sure, lust. But it isn’t just lust. Because I’ll bet you have amazing chemistry with your BFF, sans lust. Especially in category novels, I see lots of authors relying on the insta-lust from across the room and yes, even in contemporaries, those two people knowing they MUST be together because they’ve got the hots for each other. Nope. Nuh-uh. Not buying it. Chemistry has to be more. There has to be an audible click, a visual spark between the hero and heroine. Not just longing, long deep glances.
So what else does it take? Dialogue. Maybe they are teasing. Sarcastic. Flirty. Amazingly sweet. However you choose to spin it, these two people must have good, multiple chunks of dialogue where they connect. Does it have to be sassy banter? Nope. They could have a heartfelt discussion about saving stray cats, and the passion that comes out in the hero’s words leads to true passion with the heroine. (please, nobody rush out and write a stray cat scene. Not on my behalf, anyway).
Sure, keep the rapidly beating pulse thrumming in the neck. Keep the flushed cheeks and the inner monologue need to touch his bulging biceps. But be darn well sure that you’ve got words flowing around all of that to show us how the chemistry develops. Because you can feel the heat across a subway car with the hot guy in running shorts. But you aren’t going to get a date with him….until you talk to him, right? It all comes down to the words. That’s where the true chemistry happens.