Chemistry 101–Mini Lesson 3

Physical description is a gold mine for a romance writer to heighten chemistry.

Especially when the hero/heroine is viewed through the eyes of the other.

  1. This is a very legitimate way to build physical awareness.  Because as one character is taking in the other physically and processing that information, they are, by the very nature of that act, becoming increasingly physically aware of that person.
  2. We are full of minor, interesting imperfections that if we observe about ourselves, would make us come across as either anal or appearance obsessed.  By having another character do it, particularly if it is a little detail that might not even get noticed by someone paying less attention, underscores that person’s physic al interest in us.
  3. By what he or she notices, you are revealing things about the POV character.
  4. By what he or she thinks as he or she observes the other character, you are revealing even more about the POV character.

And here is a massterful example from Meredith Duran, excerpted from Bound by Your Touch:

“You think a great deal of your intelligence.”

She pursed her lips.  The movement exposed a hint of dimple.  In conjunction with her starchy manner, it seemed wholly incongruous. A mere anatomical fluke, he told himself; just a trick of her tightened lips.  Nevertheless, he found himself staring at it, wondering what he might do to make it deepen.  Breathy gasps, flashing dimples: the idea came to him that Miss Boyce’s body liked to sabotage her.

“Of course I do.  I’m a woman.  If I don’t think highly of my intellect, who will?”

He wrested his eyes from the dimple.  Such a peculiar mix of affront and bravado. Her sisters were the acknowledged beauties, but Miss Boyce had her own charms—made particularly visible now, in the context of her improvisational honesty.  Her eyes were alert with intelligence.  The other night, he had looked into them and discovered they were heavy-lidded.  This gave her a perpetually sleepy appearance, so she looked always as if she had just risen from bed.  He smiled, suddenly won over.  She had risked her own comfort to come here.  Let her have her victory.  “Touché, darling.”

She did not like the endearment.  Her face, so bright when she defended her learning, went as dark as a shuttered window.  “But let me come to the point.  You must wonder why I’m here.”

“To beg forgiveness for your father’s foul deeds, I suppose.”

Her mouth tightened further.  Christ, but that dimple conspired against her.  It drew attention to her mouth, which was overly wide and completely unfashionable, and suggested prospects that were not appropriate to the moment.  Or, for that matter, precisely legal.

Amusement stirred in him.  Odd, unexpected, and undeniable: he was wholly attracted to her.  At some primal level, his body took note of hers.  The imperative it issued was blunt and unpolished: five thousand years ago, he would have dragged her off to a cave somewhere.  And no doubt Miss Boyce of the Stone Age, bereft of an education to sharpen her tongue, would have sharpened a rock instead, and neatly gutted him.

Now of course this is fair, as Meredith is probably the prose stylist among our generation of romance writers.  But this is a perfect example of how to deepen chemistry through what for another writer might be a throwawa bit of dialogue: the noticing and interpretation of quirks, the increasing physical attraction, the ironic self-awareness on the hero’s part.

Learn from the best, I say.  🙂

6 thoughts on “Chemistry 101–Mini Lesson 3”

  1. The more I read historical romances, I realize that some writing is a cut above the others. When the physical description or overall prose is as beautiful as your example above, I notice that I slow down my reading and even reread them just to savor it. Sometimes, however, there’s nothing special about the writing and the story that I find myself rushing and guiltlessly skipping paragraphs and pages just to get to the next part. Can you blame me?

    • I most certainly do not blame you. It does seem to be the case that lots of romance writers known for their prose style are in historicals, which seems to lend itself to richer writing.

  2. This type of description is so beautifully done; sensual and visceral without the mawkish sentiments that cloy (I won’t name names but you know who they are).

    One of the reason why I chase every book that you write is your ability to utilise the English language so adroitly in describing the characters and scenes that they unfold beautifully before one’s eyes without making one go “Eh?” or shudder or throw up a little in one’s mouth.

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