That elusive chemistry…

I love my critique partners. If it weren’t for their help, most of what I write would probably be gibberish. They point of continuity problems, find the ever-present typos that plague a writer, and often can simply tell me when something is…off. One of the biggest things I expect them to keep an eye out for is whether my hero and heroine click—whether they have chemistry.attract3

How many times have you read a book where you wonder what in the hell the heroine is doing with a loser like the hero? Or how have you ever thought about why a great guy like the hero would want anything to do with a zero like the heroine? If either of those is the case, then the author struck out on creating the right attraction between them. The difficult thing is finding and portraying that elusive chemistry.

What creates that attraction between two characters? The answer can be as diverse as humanity itself. The bad side of that diversity is that an author struggles to find traits, actions, or physical attributes that create an allure between two people. For example, one hero may be drawn to brash women, ladies who speak their minds and boldly go after what they want. Another might like elusive, shy women who become puzzles to solve, never knowing exactly what those women are thinking or eattract1ven feeling. But how does a writer know which type is right for her hero?

Trial and error? That could work—if you want to write two books and then throw one out. Educated guess? More likely to be successful, but you could find yourself thousands of words into a story and realized you guessed entirely wrong. So what is the solution to knowing whether your hero and heroine will have chemistry?

Know. Your. Characters.

One of the benefits of my being a psychology teacher is that I can develop an insight into my characters’ personalities. I actualattract2ly do an author’s version of a psychological profile for each character I create. I think about their childhoods, their life changing experiences, even their past relationships or marriages. Their parents are important, as are siblings. What kind of adolescence did they endure? Were they nerds, jocks, or outcasts? Most of these, if not all, will never appear in a story, but the groundwork gives me (I hope!) a great handle on what will or will not appeal to those characters.

Does profiling your characters always work? Nope. I’ve written myself into blind alleys before. What author hasn’t? I do believe the more a writer knows, understands, and explores her characters, the more realistic their portrayals will be, including that all important chemistry.
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