Saturday, April 10, 2010
Chemistry & the Psychology of Love Scenes in Your Novel
First of all, during the action of your love scene - from the first gaze into each other’s eyes to the final consummation - what matters most is the WHY. Why are these two people (characters) attracted to each other? What motivates them to take the risk and be vulnerable enough to open up to intimacy and ultimately fall in love?
During the dating period people will be drawn to each other by the pleasure principal. What gives your character pleasure? Do the enjoy quietly reading a book or the thrill of bunjee jumping? What do they enjoy doing in their spare time? What do they pursue as passions? Even in the midst of the tortures you put your characters through, they may miss their normal life. They’d love to return to the easy days when they had time to paint a picture, garden or go to a car race.
Couples may get together because of their common interests, but more often the deep connection comes when a potential partner has something to teach them. They may not be aware of this, according to psychologists, who explain much of our attraction, that intangible called “chemistry,” is subconscious.
So love scenes are a good place to go into your characters' heads – even in the midst of the action, don’t worry, it won’t slow your scene down - as they try to figure out WHY. At first they’ll base it on surface things: common interests, a smile, physical appearance, a sense of humor. But as time goes on, they discover how their “perfect” partner is someone who unsettles their life, as opposed to making it easier. Psychologists, like Carl Jung, believe our choice in partners is often not to make life easy and happy – but as a catalyst for the necessary change. The relationship can enable both people need to develop into the fully authentic people they’re meant to be.
Not an easy road but one which makes for good reading.
Chemistry is unexplainable simply because the majority of the reasons people fall in love is buried deep beneath the surface of their psyches. So as you write your love scenes pay attention to the small details – the particulars, not just physical descriptions, but those subconscious clues which lead to chemistry.
One psychological study found that women unknowingly fall for men on a subconscious level on the timber of their voice. They may have thought it was the man's distinctive eyes, shoulders, hair, hands, or even bank account - when all along it was their voice. When you think of it, women are listeners and communicators, so the voice is a natural for them to pay attention to. The timber of their lover’s voice reminds them of someone they loved in the past: father, grandfather, uncle, teacher, family friend.
While men are drawn more to the visual and physical appearance in addition to smell. Remember the whole musk research?
Jung believed peak chemistry occurs when the partner ignites a buried side of our personality. The sides we neglected because they didn’t work with the way we learned live in society. - the side we pushed away when we put on our social mask. These partners inspire or taunt us to remove the mask and become the fully authentic individual we are meant to be.
So what do you think are the subconscious triggers which motivate your characters to fall in love? Do they figure out such triggers in the course of your novel or are they left in the dark about why they are "smitten" with either the right or the seemingly wrong person? How do these triggers create tension in your love scenes?
Next blog post: I’ll discuss creating tension and the power of your character's sense orientation in love scenes.