Skip to main content

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

What is chemistry? Well, if you ask my two high schoolers, Chemistry is a really hard class that mom the writer can’t help them with at all. And according to Dictionary.com, chemistry is the branch of science that deals with the identification of the substances of which matter is composed; the investigation of their properties and the ways in which they interact, combine, and change; and the use of these processes to form new substances as well as the complex emotional or psychological interaction between two people.

(Michelle Major: The Meat of the Story)

Despite my kids’ doubts, I have a lot of experience with chemistry—at least as it relates to creating it on the page. Chemistry between the hero and heroine in romance is the heart of the story. It’s both that indefinable spark and the deep emotional connection that keeps readers turning pages instead of turning off the light and heading to bed. Here are three keys to making sure your book is binge-worthy.

Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

1. Make readers care. The romance genre gets a bad rap with cliches like “bodice rippers” or “porn for women.” But the best romance books pull readers into the stories with details that make them care about the hero and heroine. Elements such as strong motivations, actions toward a visible goal, and a journey of transformation help readers identify with and relate to your characters. The reader feels what the characters feel toward each other through witty banter or revealing vulnerabilities. There might be a moment of surprise that shifts the dynamic—a push and pull of responses that give readers insight into the hero and heroine that they might not yet have. When we are watching them fall in love and are falling in love ourselves at the same time, it’s a magic moment.

(5 Tips for Writing Engaging Romance)

2. Tension and stakes. Will they or won’t they? It’s a timeless question that keeps readers at the edge of their seats. Whether in books, movies, or with fan-favorite TV couples, there’s an investment in watching or reading a romance play out on the page or the screen. We feel those emotions right along with them and when an author ups the stakes, the reader goes with them for the ride. Make your characters messy and human. They make mistakes and they keep pushing forward, both with their individual goals and as it relates to the romance. Motivate them because the more there is to lose, the hotter the chemistry becomes, and the better the payoff is for the reader.

THE MERRIEST MAGNOLIA cover

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon

[WD uses affiliate links.]

3. Intimacy at the level of essence. Chemistry is more than a physical connection, although that physical spark can play a big part in bringing two people together. But it can just as easily push them apart. What if your hero is falling for his boss? What if the heroine can’t stop the butterflies that flutter across her stomach at the sight of the guy who once broke her heart? Figure out why your characters are perfect for each other and at the same time the exact wrong choice for what they think they want. Then use that to create intimacy. Not just the mechanics of sex but how they reveal the vulnerabilities behind their guarded hearts. When you allow them to connect at that deep level, the reader has the authenticity of it. That’s how you create characters who live beyond “the end” in our hearts.

Every reader wants to feel something when they dive into the pages of a book. It’s our job to give them that emotional heartbeat. No matter the level of heat you write or whether you add a bit of mystery or paranormal into your romance, the chemistry between your characters is what makes the book unforgettable.

Writing the Romance Novel

Do you yearn to write a romantic story? If so, you need to know what sets romance writing apart from other types of fiction. This workshop will help you to understand those specific factors that make up the specialized world of romantic fiction.

Click to continue.

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

4 Tips for Writing a Modern Retelling

From having reverence for the original to making it your own, author Nikki Payne shares four tips for writing a modern retelling.

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Faint vs. Feint (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use faint vs. feint in your writing with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples. Plus, we answer whether it's "faint of heart" or "feint of heart."

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter | Book Recommendations

6 Books to Cozy Up With This Winter

Here are 6 book recommendation perfect for winter reading.

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

12 Things to Consider When Writing Fight Scenes in Fiction (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch shares 12 things all writers should consider when attempting to write effective fight scenes in fiction.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unreal Character

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character turn out to be less than they seem.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2022 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 15th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

Valeria Ruelas: On Teaching Tarot, Brujeria, and Witchcraft

Valeria Ruelas: On Teaching Tarot, Brujeria, and Witchcraft

Author Valeria Ruelas discusses the process of writing her new book, The Mexican Witch Lifestyle.

What Is the Hook, the Book, and Cook Query Pitching Technique for Writers?

What Is the Hook, the Book, and the Cook Query Pitching Technique for Writers?

Find out what "the hook, the book, and the cook" are in relation to writing query letters and pitching books to literary agents and book editors. This post answers the question of what each one is and how to successfully assemble the pieces.

Romance Retellings of Literary Classics

Romance Retellings of Literary Classics

Author Chloe Liese makes a case for the romance genre being the natural home for retellings, and shares some tips on how to write a successful romance retelling of literary classics.