You know, like from school? Combine two elements and wait for a reaction? Baking soda and vinegar fizz and hiss. Hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide form that leaping snake of foam. It’s unexpected and exciting, that one-plus-one-is-a-lot-more-than-two thing. A romance novel needs chemistry–emotional chemistry.
Here’s the tricky part: the reader must fall in love along with the heroine. She must be drawn in, charmed, smitten. Your hero must become her book boyfriend. And you, the writer, are the one to work that magic.
Not by describing his hot body, okay? Look, in real life we have learned not to trust vain, pretty men. Women are captivated by a man’s eyes and smile, by engaging conversation and intelligence, far more than by sculpted pecs and abs. I want a funny, smart, caring man, not a gym rat.
And don’t dwell on the heroine’s slender figure either. We get it, she’s slim, her clothes slide over her svelte hips. Or she’s comfortable with her extra weight, whatever. Leave the body out. There are enough insecurities without bringing in fat phobias. And leave out her luxuriant hair and gorgeous, flashing eyes. Go deeper than that. Go for Chemistry in the conversation.
Here’s today’s example from Chapter 20 of Darcy By Any Other Name. Mr. Darcy, as Collins, is sitting apart with Elizabeth Bennet in the drawing room at Longbourn, her home. What has happened to his ponderous, officious civility? We, the readers, know he’s Darcy (this scene is from his point of view), and we can see Elizabeth warm to him. Ah, but we’re loving it and hating it at the same time. Meaning that we keep turning those pages…
Wickham was still speaking. “One becomes so weary of white. Always the ladies wear white. The color of extreme youth, I say.”
“Oh!” cried Lydia, who was guilty on both counts.
“Present company excluded, of course,” amended Wickham.
More compliments, more flattery. By contrast, William Collins’ naïve list of useful social phrases seemed innocent.
“What fine eyes you have. What fine teeth,” Darcy murmured in Elizabeth’s ear.
“Cousin William,” Elizabeth protested, laughing. “Really.”
“It’s like hearing Riding Hood question the wolf, save that the positions are reversed.”
Elizabeth put aside her embroidery frame. “What a dreadful person you are. Has no one ever told you that it is rude to eavesdrop?”
Darcy turned a page. “I am not eavesdropping,” he said. “As you see, I am reading.”
“Reading human nature,” she said, “instead of the text.”
Darcy had to laugh. “Rather more engrossing, yes.”
Tomorrow’s post? D is for Duplicity. Because everyone has secrets to hide. Thanks so much for stopping by!
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