Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chemistry is Everything

If you’ve ever been job-hunting (and you're more than a couple of decades old) you know the digital age has created a huge change in the process. You have to fill out an application online, or you have to submit your resume to hundreds of online job boards where employment software will sift through the candidates before a real person ever sees them. You are just one of thousands. You have to know how to design your resume correctly and put the right words to get attention, but not too many power words. There’s a science behind it.

A candidate could have the perfect resume and all the right credentials but when he or she goes for the interview the chemistry is missing, and so the search continues.

(I’ll clarify here that when I use the word “chemistry” I’m referring to how people connect in general, how personalities click. I’m not limiting the word to the chemistry of physical attraction one would hope is present in a romantic relationship.)

When my daughter was looking for her first job as a teenager, my husband used a few old-school techniques and drove her around town to apply in person. Most places told her she’d have to apply online, sure, but there was one place where she actually met the manager and that person liked her.

They connected.

The manager, like all the rest, requested that my daughter apply online to fulfill their company requirements, go through their process. The manger remembered  my daughter and searched for her online application. New to the job market, no experience to speak of, my daughter landed her job all because of chemistry.

Chemistry is everything in life. It is everything in story. You can have a great plot and all the correct twists. You can have complex characters, but if those characters don’t have chemistry between them, the story won’t work. I’ll even take things a step further and say you can be missing a strong plot but if you have the right chemistry between your characters, they can carry the story and make it great.

It affects everything about the story—the dialogue, the conflict and even the ending won’t have that satisfying feeling if the chemistry isn’t working. 

Again, I’m not talking only romantic tension. All the characters--not just those involved in romance--have to  have positive or negative tension or energy that doesn’t clang or grate, but fits together well enough to make the story sing.

That’s a tough one because as writers, how do we make sure all our characters have the right chemistry?

Often it’s like in real life. It is or it isn’t. It’s either there or it’s not.

I started thinking along these lines last night when I watched the movie What Happens in Vegas with Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher. This isn’t a movie I would normally choose to watch because the title put me off a little, but it was on and I ended up being pulled into the story because the actors had great chemistry. Then a behind the scenes special came on where they discussed this topic. The creators talked about choosing the characters—not just the romantic interests but their sidekicks who hated each other—based on the chemistry they had. They claimed the chemistry between the characters carried the movie.

They're right. I considered, too, how many books I haven’t liked or movies I’ve hated because that important element was off.

Stars Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones comes immediately to mind. Remember that one? Anakin is now ten years older and he meets Padme again and they fall in love. The chemistry between those two was horrid. In this case we are talking about romantic chemistry. (We won’t talk about the acting) I could hardly stand to watch because the characters lacked chemistry between them.

I’m having that trouble in a story I’m working on. I have everything in place but there is something off between my hero and heroine. Nothing I can put my finger on specifically, but the chemistry just isn’t there.

My answer to this is to keep working with them, molding and shaping them, changing them out if necessary until I find the right “actors” for my story. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How important do you think chemistry is? Can you think of movies or books where you felt the characters had the best chemistry? The worst?

Post a comment with your thoughts on the topic and I'll enter you in the drawing for my upcoming July release--Riptide! Don't forget that I need your email address in order to contact you. Once I've drawn a name and made contact, you have one week to reply back or I'll need to pick another winner. I'll send you a copy when I receive my author copies.


Two surprises await high-stakes repo man Jake Jacobson on his latest job. First, old flame Kelsey Chambers. Second, gunfire! Seizing the luxury yacht should have been easy, but he hadn't planned on Kelsey's appearance. or that smugglers would hijack the vessel to find an antique map hidden on board.

The map is Jake and Kelsey's only leverage...but it carries a price. Without it, they're as good as dead. With it, they're the target of a relentless hunt. Their failed relationship has Kelsey afraid to rely on Jake again. Can she count on him with their lives on the line?



  1. i love mysteries so praying i win, please pick me,

  2. My first thought on this was NCIS! I love that show - it's my favorite! The characters on that show have terrific chemistry. It just works. If one of them ever leaves, it just wont be the same. I know it happens in TV shows all the time and I find myself at the end of every season saying "please don't let one of the characters get killed!!!" I've also read books that are that way where the characters have great chemistry from beginning to end! You can't always predict it but you know when it's there and when it's not! Movies are like that too.
    Valri Western

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. oops! forgot my email address. Redid my comment =)

  4. Chemistry seems to be an important aspect in most mysteries . . . chemistry helps solve the mystery but, yet, chemistry in love is even better! =) I love a great mystery that includes a good romance. Looking forward to reading your next mystery.

  5. One more way to analyze my characters...great idea! Thanks!

    rich n voni @ yahoo . com

  6. The best chemistry I've seen was in Lois and Clark, The Adventures of Superman. Dean Cain and Terri Hatcher had it for sure. Some of the stories were terrible but we didn't' t care because their chemistry covered a lot of the hokey writing. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have it too in You've Got Mail. When I read a book I get more of the chemistry by their thoughts and restraint than by their words and actions.

  7. Chemistry between characters makes the story very interesting. I really get "into" a book when I feel by the words and actions that there is chemistry.

  8. Chemistry is so important. It is what brings everything together at the end. The movie Love Comes Softly comes to mind. I love how the two main characters grew towards each other throughout the entire movie and never even kissed until the very end. The chemistry was there, kept the movie flowing up until the very end. Anticipation is the key. :)

  9. I had never really thought about "chemistry" before, but I know I have read some books where the characters just don't seem to "click". No Chemistry!


  10. The book that comes to my mind is Gone with the Wind. There was alot of chemistry between characters--and not just the romantic kind.
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

  11. Chemistry is definitely something you can't put your finger on. It's something that's there without trying...something that draws people together for some unknown reason that can't even be understood. I have a movie in mind, but I can't for the life of me think of the title.


  12. I have thought through everything I watch regularly and/or read regularly and come to the conclusion that you're right! I watch things like NCIS, NCIS:LA, Castle, The Mentalist, Psych, etc. All these characters have some amazing chemistry. They just fit together. As I write, I hope my characters can all fit together the way these characters obviously do.


  13. I think Once Upon a Time has great chemistry (and drama). When you watch the behind the scenes on D.V.D.s sometimes they talk about casting characters and having them read the script together to see if they have chemistry.


  14. Thanks for all the great comments, ya'll. Still trying to get the chemistry right in the book I'm working on!