As Valentine’s Day creeps closer, it seems only fitting to talk about romantic chemistry. When you read or write romance, how do you know that two characters are truly attracted to one another? The signs are usually obvious to most of us, but could you list them all?
During a recent virtual romance conference sponsored by ProWriting Aid, writer and book coach Mary Adkins discussed ways to create chemistry between characters. She was on point when she offered her list of how to show signs of attraction. Her tips were too juicy to keep to myself.
Whether you’re writing a romance or want to create a romantic subplot for another genre, these simple, tried-and-true scenarios can help you create chemistry between characters.
- Acting clumsy. When you first meet someone you’re attracted to, the last thing you want to do is look silly or awkward. Yet you can’t help yourself. The girl or guy is just so darn amazing! The same is true for fiction. One of the first signs a character might show that they’re attracted to someone is clumsy behavior. Maybe they spill their glass of wine on them, forget their own name when they’re introduced to the other person, accidentally walk into a glass wall or trip over their own feet. Nothing like clumsy behavior to give a memorable first impression.
- Not noticing what happening around them. With their head in the clouds and stars in their eyes, the character may not notice events around them, even though they may be obvious to everyone else. They’re simply too preoccupied to notice that the sink is overflowing or the baby is crying in the next room. They may not realize their sleeve caught on fire from the open flame on the stove, or that someone is saying hello to them. It can make for a humorous moment in your story.
- Saying something stupid. Note that this is not the same as witty banter between two people. This is one person speaking out of turn in one way or another. For example, they might ramble nonsensically or gush over the other person who happens to be a celebrity. Or they might be tongue tied or forget their own name, or worse, say someone else’s name as an introduction. For example: Character one says, “Hi, my name is Jack. I’m new in town.” Character 2, mesmerized by the new person, responds, “Nice to meet you. I’m Jack” even though their name isn’t Jack. You get the idea. Another example is asking an awkward question. (“Is that a birthmark on your neck?”
- Having other characters notice the attraction. I see this often in Hallmark movies. One character always has to point out that the protagonist likes the new guy in town. Maybe the protagonist is smiling way too much lately or has a bounce in their step. Maybe someone points out that the protagonist has put on a sweater backwards or is wearing two different shoes of the same color. Best of all, two people may be dining out and the waitress mistakes them for a real couple, even before the couple has noticed their own attraction.
- Being attracted to a small detail about the other person. This could be something few other people notice, such as a scar, a tattoo, dimples or a cleft chin. Maybe there is another detail that the protagonist can’t stop thinking about, like their long eyelashes, slim fingers, or soft lips. Then again, it may be the person’s laugh that they notice or the scent of their perfume or cologne.
- Being surprisingly earnest and sincere. As the couple gets to know one another better, there might come a point when one of them speaks from the heart. Giving a compliment, for example. Such as “You look stunning tonight.” “You make me happy being with you.” Or “I’m really glad I met you.” Such honest moments bring the relationship to a new level of intimacy.
- Sharing something meaningful about themselves. You recognize that moment in the story when one character say, “Come with me. I want to show you something.” That’s usually a sign that there some degree of trust that they’re willing to expose more of themselves. They might share a hidden talent, such as playing the piano or writing poetry. Maybe they reveal a childhood experience, show off their family photo album or take them to their favorite private place that few people know about.
- Doing something impulsive together. These scenes are always fun to read or watch. Just when you think the couple is having one of their intimate conversations, one person breaks the tension. It might be having an impromptu snowball fight, hurling seeds at one another while eating watermelon or splashing each other with water while washing a car. The unexpected fun brings them closer together with laughter.
- Giving someone a backhanded compliment. On the surface, their comment might seem meaningless, but underneath there is a sincere compliment. For example, a character might say, “This might sound crazy, but I don’t get tired of being around you all the time.”
- Mentioning some tiny physical detail. This is similar to number 5 above except this time the character mentions it in conversation. They may say something about that scar or birthmark. Or it might be the same hat or coat they were wearing when the two individuals met three months ago. For example, “How did you get that scar?” or “What kind of cologne are you wearing? It smells nice.”
- Still loving that sometimes annoying but endearing habit. In longer-term relationships or married couples, there might be one specific trait or habit that could be annoying to others but instead, they find endearing. It could be the way they laugh, their crooked smile or the way they whistle while they work. It could be their occasional habit of mispronouncing a word, their tendency to wearing socks that don’t match or the bad jokes they tell at parties.
- Showing someone that they’ve been paying close attention to what is happening in their life. Noticing that the other person is going through significant challenges or experiences shows they are invested in the other person’s life. For example, the character might buy an item that the other person had their eye on, like a scarf or pair of earrings. They might serve coffee to them the way they like it without being asked or serving it to them in their favorite mug. They might ask about what plans they’ve made for their birthday the following week or how their training is going for their next skiing competition.