Arguably, the most essential part of crafting a novel is creating well-fleshed-out characters. To make characters who are relatable and complex, character chemistry is critical. When it comes to making characters who have good chemistry, two crucial factors should be in place: the interactions a character has with another and why these characters care about each other. There are other factors to take into consideration, but this blog will focus on how to create strong chemistry in platonic, romantic and family relationships. I will discuss what happens when you throw two characters together.
The best kind of platonic relationships occur between characters who argue but never turn malicious. Each character should make up for what the other lacks, meaning that if a character is shy, then the other character can help them become a bit more confident. This dynamic is a key concept for writing good character chemistry. However, one thing worth noting is that dynamics can change slightly depending on what type of character chemistry you are going for.
An example of a good character interaction would be Reid and Derek from Criminal Minds. While they do not seem to get along very well at first due to their opposite personalities, the more you watch them interact, the more you see why they have good chemistry. An example of this is an episode where the pair are forced to disarm a bomb. During this time, you can see the characters combine their strengths: Reid shows his intelligence by identifying the bomb, and Derek displays his skill by disarming it. All the while the two still give playful jabs at each other. Follow this link to see the full clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_DXyVz3JL0.
Family chemistry is similar to platonic chemistry. The only difference is that we add another factor to the mix: family history. Is the family caring and loving, loving yet stern, stern and harsh, or does the family not care about each other much at all? A good way to introduce conflict is by showing how the main conflict has been built up over time.
A good example of family relationships appears in Coco. In this Disney movie, the main conflict is that the main character, Miguel, wants to play music; however, Miguel’s great great grandfather was a musician who abandoned the family. As such, it is a family rule that no one should be involved in music. Miguel finding his love for music challenges this rule. As the movie progresses, Miguel tries everything within his powers to prove that music is not a bad thing. This movie is a good example of family dynamics because it strays from the generic narrative of the child being disobedient because the parent does not understand them. It is also a strong example because Miguel wants to do what he loves, and he has to go against his family in order to do that. Having a conflict build up over time can make for some good conflict, which Coco does well in because it adds its own twist.
Romantic relationships are similar to platonic chemistry. However, you have to consider a question: what does this couple do once they are together? I have noticed many authors build up the anticipation for the couple to unite, but once the couple gets together, they act as if they are friends. While it is true that dating someone is like dating your best friend, I would argue that these characters should have a lot more tender and intimate moments. After all, they are now a couple and should show a lot more affection with each other. Heck, they could even have some drama with their relationship. Adding an outside conflict can keep the relationship interesting.
An example of romantic chemistry is Shrek and Fiona from Shrek 2. They have just gotten together, and now we get to see how they have grown into a couple. The movie starts out by showing their honeymoon and how they have become more comfortable with each other. Throughout the film, we see them become a lot closer, and the trust they have for each other gets put to the test by introducing a conflict. Shrek and Fiona have outside factors to deal with: Fiona’s parents and society.
The first movie showed how a lot of people did not like ogres; the second takes some time to address that issue. Fiona's parents question Fiona's romantic choice every opportunity they have. Even the main villain makes jabs at the pair. However, by the end of the movie, the pair are still together. They have even grown stronger and do not let anyone else dictate what they must do. Such conflicts are a good way to introduce an outside factor that also elaborates on the previous movie’s themes.
Shrek 2 is also a good example because it shows what happens after two characters become a couple, unlike many stories. The best method is to have them act like a real couple: give them situations that cause them to fight, show their relationship grow and become more intimate, or show how, despite being together for so long, they are still there to help each other out.
For more information about character chemistry see these two youtubers:
Overly Sarcastic Productions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMbch47oz2c
Writing with Jenna Moreci