How To Create Chemistry Between Your Characters
In most cases, your characters aren’t going to meet and then just fall into bed together. If they do, then you’re probably writing hard-core erotica or porn and that’s not what I’m discussing today.
Even if your characters don’t have sex, maybe there’s some heavy petting or flirtation that occurs and you’ll want to build up to that as well.
So how do you build chemistry and anticipation between your characters?
A sex scene is the culmination of everything your two characters have done, said, and been through together from the moment they meet.
Chemistry is that feeling of connection between two people. I like to call it the charged energy between two people. It’s a draw to someone else that makes you want more of them.
Have you ever read a sex scene in a novel and cringed?
You can find bad writing anywhere, in any genre. But, as author Diana Gabaldon says, “While bad writing about murderers, spies, elves, or young people with self-esteem issues is merely boring—bad writing about sex is hilarious. So, how do you ensure that readers are riveted to the page rather than rolling on the floor or running off to find a spouse or friend to read the most memorably horrible phrases aloud to?”
I don’t know about you, but when I read a bad sex scene, I’m either rolling on the floor laughing and/or feel embarrassed for the author. In fact, there’s a certain bestselling male author that I really enjoy reading, and then one day I read a sex scene he wrote. It was so awful and cringeworthy that I couldn’t read anything by him for a long while. You don’t want your readers to have a similar experience.
When some of my writer friends found out I was preparing a webinar on how to write sex scenes, most of them asked me the same question—what do you call “it?” Meaning, of course, what do you call the male sexual organ without making it sound too graphic or corny or pornographic? I love this question.
In her poem, “Sacred Emily,” Gertrude Stein wrote, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.” This line is often interpreted as meaning things are what they are. In Stein’s view, the sentence expresses the fact that simply using the name of a thing already invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it.
In literature, objects can simply be what they are or they can symbolize something more than what they are.
A symbol is anything that hints at something else, usually something abstract, such as an idea or belief. A literary symbol is an object, a person, a situation, or an action that has a literal meaning in a story but suggests or represents other meanings.
If you want to learn more about crafting symbols in your story and how to use poetic techniques to deepen your prose, please join me this Thursday, April 21 for my writing webinar Sound and Symbol: How to Use Poetry to Deepen Your Prose, which is part of the Free Expressions Literary Series.
I’ll dive deep into how poetry can add sensory engagement to your prose.
We can have general symbols—like the aforementioned rose—and we can have specific symbols.
A general symbol is universal in its meaning. Even if the symbol was removed from a work of literature, it would still suggest a larger meaning, i.e. the rose symbolizes romantic love throughout time.
No matter what you write—emails, short stories, novels, or nonfiction—your prose can be more persuasive and impact your reader more effectively by using poetic devices.
Below are three blog posts to help you discover the power of using rhetorical techniques to create more poetic prose.
This Thursday, May 13, I’d love to have you on my webinar Adding Poetry to Your Prose.
You can buy the entire webinar series featuring well-known writers, including Donald Maass, Emma Dryden, and James Scott Bell, or scroll down to May 13 and grab my webinar. If you can’t make it live, you’ll receive the recording and all my handouts afterwards.
I’d love to see you there!
Until then, please enjoy these posts:
Use rhetorical devices to evoke readers’ emotions
Rhetorical devices: Your secret writing weapon
Add alliteration to make your pages pop!
Writer’s block. Real or imaginary?
I’ve heard different definitions of writer’s block over the years, but I think my favorite is from writer and teacher Victoria Nelson in her book On Writer’s Block. Writer’s block is often our subconscious mind’s way of letting us know something isn’t right, Nelson says.
I’ve definitely experienced this kind of writer’s block. Years ago, I was working on my memoir and I got to a point where I just couldn’t write anymore. I was totally blocked. So I stopped and thought about Nelson’s words and discussed my problem with a fellow writer. I finally realized that my memoir was focused on the wrong person! It took me two attempts to fix it but when I finally got it right, the story just flowed from me. Poof! My writer’s block was gone.
But not all writer’s blocks are created equal. A writer can experience what I call minor writer’s block. Nothing major is wrong, but when you sit down to write you feel resistance to putting words on paper. This mostly happens to me when I’m working on a project that feels scary or outside my wheelhouse—when I am stretching my comfort zone.
How do you conquer this kind of writer’s block? I’ve tried different things over the years, including: Read more
Experts say we are most like our five closest friends. I think that’s true. Our friends usually have similar interests and values as we do. Looking at someone’s friend circle can tell you a lot about them.
I’ve started using a friendship circle to track my friendships as a way to see where people belong in my life—this helps me keep clear boundaries which is something I always need to work on.
Recently, I wondered what would happen if my main character Caitlin filled this out. Who are her friends, and how do they reflect who she is to my reader? I had her fill out my friendship circle and the results really helped me get a clearer sense of who she is deep down inside.
I’ll share my experiment with you, but first a bit about how to use the friendship circle. Read more
In my 20s I was busy working and raising a family. I had no time for anything else, much less any creative endeavors. But one day I realized that part of me was missing—my creative self. I knew I needed to do something to fulfill that emptiness within but I didn’t know how to start.
Literally, the next day I was browsing in a book store and a book fell off the shelf and landed on my foot! Make Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK became my inspiration for designing my creative life. I don’t think I even finished the book, but I read enough to make a list of creative projects I wanted to pursue. I chose one—writing—and thus began my creative journey.
What I’ve learned over the years is that creativity begets creativity. Practicing creativity in any form exercises and strengths our creative muscles. Think of your imagination as a muscle for a moment.
When I had ankle surgery and couldn’t walk on my right leg for three months, I was amazed at how quickly I lost muscle tone. When I measured my calf muscles in both legs, my right leg was one inch smaller! Your imagination is like this—if you don’t use it, you lose it. And when you do exercise it, you gain momentum over time. Read more