I was reading reviews last week for a book on Amazon. One of the main complaints by readers was there was no chemistry between the main characters who met and fell in love in the novel.
That got me thinking about my characters. Is there chemistry between them, particularly those in love? I didn’t take chemistry in high school, so it’s a subject I know little about. However, I did take years of physics, biology and astronomy, so I understand the law of attraction, friction, biological similarities, procreation and out of this world relationships.
When it comes to chemistry, I feel lost, unable to say if my characters have it because I am so close to them and I can’t define it. I can see chemistry between actors. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston have great chemistry in the Thor movies. But what does that mean exactly? They have a come back for every line the other says? They work well together? They play off their shared past experiences?
A little research on the web led me to an article written by K. M. Weiland at “Helping Writers Become Authors” called 5 Steps to Writing Great Character Chemistry. Weiland writes, Chemistry is the “it” factor in all great fiction.
She adds, When we have great chemistry with someone, we discover an almost instinctive synchronization that allows us to rest into our peak energy while easily batting back and forth the ball of interaction.
Yup, that’s mouthful. Check out the post. She does an excellent job of describing something that feels impossible to describe in words. After reading it, I’m left with a slightly better understanding and things to look for in my own stories to find chemistry. It all starts with great characters.
But am I too close to my characters to see if they have chemistry? Does Bronwyn and Alaura have it? Does Isla and Liam? What about Isla and her friend Kiefer? This relationship was unexpected, and it developed on its own as the chapters appeared in Healing Stones. In the Mystical series, a character named Ryder jumps off the page at me. I love his quick wit and one liners. I think he naturally creates chemistry with several he meets because of this.
Personally, I think much of the chemistry in a story is done through dialogue. Often through a quick exchange of words. Here’s a bit between Bronwyn and Alaura from Shadows in the Stone where they argue about their relationship.
“I did say that, and I said you were special.” Alaura pulled a water flask from the rucksack. “And you are.”
“Special!” The word rolled off his tongue as if he had licked boot wax by mistake. “That’s it?” His voice cracked. “I’m special…like your pony but not your lover?”
“You’re my best friend, Bronwyn. Isn’t that good enough?”
“Friend?” He slapped his forehead and stepped away. “I’m a friend to you? A stupid, foolish, see-you-later friend?”
“No.” She rose and stared at him. “You’re not just a friend. I said you are my best friend.”
“Whoohoo!” His finger drew circles above his head. “A best friend. Doesn’t that make me feel special? I’m junked together with all your other best friends. I’m as important as Beathas, Catriona, my sisters. This makes me feel great!” The sarcasm rolled off his tongue. It protected his senses from the increasing ache in his heart.
“No, you’re not!”
She struggled to find the right words to make him feel special amongst the hundreds of people she knew. “You could make me a badge. I can stick it right here.” He patted his chest. “Alaura’s Special Friend. It’ll make me stand out. Maybe we can make a flag. Hang it on the damn turret!” He tried to sidestep the flying water flask but failed, and it struck him in the shoulder. “Well, like aged manure, I feel special now! I bet you don’t throw flasks at anyone but me!”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re so unreasonable. Why do I argue with you? You simply make me angry!”
“It’s my special talent.”
I don’t want my characters to be flat; I want them to show up and put on a fantastic show, so I’m going to work on their chemistry. I think Kellyn from Scattered Stones creates a lot chemistry with a few other characters, including her brother Tam. Here’s a snip from a scene where she and Tam enter Bronwyn and Alaura’s place where they meet to discuss leaving the village.
Without knocking, Tam and Kellyn entered the dwelling through the back door and sat at the table.
“Tam told me,” said Kellyn. “Can’t say I’m disappointed. We’ve overstayed our welcome.”
“She means she’s been with every available male and needs fresh meat.” Tam reached for a biscuit.
Kellyn smacked his shoulder. “More like he can’t find a woman in Cottleshire who’s willing to bushwhack her way through the brambles on his face, and that leaves the rest of him neglected.”
What about you? Do you think the characters in your stories have chemistry?