On Writing Chemistry

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Chemistry is something that’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. If there’s a deep and genuine sexual attraction between two people, you can actually feel it, like some invisible cord pulling them together. It’s the chemistry that creates those compelling characters we absolutely cannot wait to see get together.

I can’t think of a television screen couple who (in my opinion) demonstrates more genuine chemistry than Booth and Brennan from Bones. When they look at each other there’s a glint in their eyes, or something in the way they twist their heads in opposition to each other, that just makes you feel the chemistry between the two of them. The two of them are totally in sync. So, when writing, how do we create that sort of chemistry between our main characters?

  • Make Them Respect Each Other

Whether they initially do or not, at some point the characters will come to admire and respect each other. They will come to treat each other as equals. When the Bones series first starts, Booth and Brennan don’t have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. But he witnesses her intelligence and her powers of deduction, and she observes his bravery and strength. They begin to admire and respect each other, to seek each other out for advice and support. There’s nothing sexier than that.

  • Give them Similar World Views

There can (and should) be a lot of conflict between your love interests, but they should have similar world views on the issues that really matter to them. Their goals may be in opposition, but maybe they are both acting with similar interests at heart. In Bones, Booth is a believer in true love while Brennan thinks it’s nothing more than chemical attraction that fades over time. But whether they acknowledge it or not, they both believe in the power of love when it comes to friends and family, to the people who support them.

  • Sexual Attraction

Of course there must be a base physical attraction. They recognize things about each other, on a surface level, that are arousing. She notices how strong and muscled he is, how full and firm his lips are. He notices the curves of her body, the way her hair bounces as she walks.

  • Something About Their Relationship is Special

They are able to communicate with each other in a way they cannot with anyone else. They share inside jokes. There’s something about their relationship that cannot be mirrored in another relationship. Otherwise, why would they choose this person over all others?

Do you have a favorite read where the author expertly creates intense chemistry between the two main characters? If so, please do share. Smile


15 thoughts on “On Writing Chemistry

    leeschmidt said:
    January 26, 2011 at 8:22 am

    The X-Files: Mulder and Scully.

    From the word go they adore each other and excite X-Philes for 201 episodes. Will they or won’t they? Did they or didn’t they?

    It’s fantastic.

    I really liked the explanation of the chemistry. I can apply it to real life too… I’m going to tell my friends.



      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 26, 2011 at 9:04 am

      Yes Lee, Mulder and Scully were good too! And I know I’d probably get some argument on this one, but I thought Buffy and Spike had great chemistry, even if the respect was only one-sided.

        leeschmidt said:
        January 26, 2011 at 9:06 am

        To be honest, I never watched Buffy, so I can’t really argue on this point.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 26, 2011 at 9:19 am

      Ah, well others might argue the point because there are Buffy/Angel fans out there. But if you haven’t seen it, that means nothing to you. 🙂

        leeschmidt said:
        January 26, 2011 at 9:37 am

        I’ll take your word for it…

        I suppose there is the glaringly obvious Starbuck and Apollo in the latest BSG. Or for me, more interesting – Adama and Rosalind.

    Bart Palamaro said:
    January 26, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Great post, Rosalie. Mutual respect, shared values, sexual attraction. One can grow from the other, a continuum of discovery, perhaps reluctant and resisted, or even unconscious, but inevitable.
    Who do they look at when something momentous/serious/funny/ridiculous happens? Who do they look to for support in time of trouble?

    Everything you wrote is reality.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 26, 2011 at 9:05 am

      Thanks Bart. I think it’s that growing reliance on each other that creates great tension and chemistry.

    Julia Rachel Barrett said:
    January 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Excellent post, as usual! It is so very difficult to put your finger on chemistry. My favorite examples are Sharon (the Cylon) and Hilo in Battlestar Galactica – they had amazing chemistry and conflict.
    You can’t quite explain chemistry, but you know it when you see it, or read it.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Yes, that’s it exactly! Chemistry is really impossible to explain, but when it’s there you know it. You feel it.

    Ciara Knight said:
    January 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Wow, there are so many and I can’t think of them right now. I liked Sharon and Hilo, also. Oh, and Chuck. I know not profound, but it works. 🙂

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 26, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      I like Chuck too. They have a cute, puppy love sort of chemistry.

    Christine Fairchild said:
    January 26, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    CASTLE is my new favorite for romantic tension. Respect, attraction, adoration, trust. It’s all there. Very hard to show those complications.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm

      I hadn’t seen that show, but I caught an episode a few weeks ago where an actress who was playing a character based on the woman was shadowing the two of them. Don’t know if you know what episode I’m referring to, but man, talk about conflict and tension!

    E.D. Walker said:
    January 26, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Great blog.

    The couple with great “onscreen” (I guess it’s “on-page” for a book?) chemistry that immediately jumped to my mind was Hardy Cates and Haven from Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas. They zing with each other big time.

    The other great actual onscreen chemistry that is probably one of my favorite romances ever is Han and Leia. Talk about chemistry! Their first kiss?! Perfect.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      January 26, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      Blue-Eyed Devil? There goes another book for my TBR pile. Sigh…

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