Chemistry lessons

Chemistry–a subject in school that requires labs where students mix substances to observe what happens. However, the students spend much more time scribbling down equations on paper to calculate the result of reactions they never observe. Chemicals are often predictable. So, when I took chemistry, if the solutions we made in the lab did not yield weights within the correct range, I knew how to figure out an answer closer to what should have occurred. 

Chemistry between characters in a romance is an entirely different beast. Writers might observe people in love and attempt to capture the essence of interpersonal chemistry. But, we realize this valued trait is unpredictable. Describing the vixen-like female, and the strength of the hunky male does not necessarily result in chemistry. That is the result of the interaction between two different people, just as a lab experiment is about the interaction between two different elements.

So, there seems to be no way to scribble down a formula for chemistry between two characters. Or is there? For example, if two fictional characters are fated to love each other and there is never a conflict between them, there is also no chemistry. Stories and love affairs have some common elements. Both become interesting because we sense trouble. The suspense resulting from guessing what will happen next keeps us intrigued. 

The unexpected and entertaining way in which couples deal with conflicts leads to the desired quality of chemistry between the pair. This may spring from taking a chance at romance that may be rejected. One of the fated pair may struggle to reveal feelings or fear that becoming fully involved requires giving up too much. However, those of us observing the sometimes awkward dance between potential lovers do not regard this as a tragedy. We anticipate a victory over the obstacles in the road to romance that will lead to something much greater. When either person is willing to change, or to be frankly open with the other, we see sparks fly. This reaction between the two is chemistry. We root for the couple to find some creative way to get together.

Often chemistry-filled romances are between people of distinctly different backgrounds, classes, or ethnicities. The liaison is not convenient. It may cause rejection by family and friends who perceive it as inappropriate or even as a threat. This creates a barrier between the two characters. But, they keep trying to climb over these walls. The range of responses should vary from hilarious to occasionally heart-wrenching. The conflicts should keep us interested, wondering what will happen and not wear us out.

A warning–do not try too hard to introduce artificial problems to increase the chemistry between a pair of lovers. We may laugh at the couple as they test each other’s affection. However, too much of this testing is the exhibition of a full-blown borderline personality disorder. Reading about that kind of manipulation is unnerving, and we want to be free of it. In the chemistry lab an occasional overheating of a sulfur compound would result in a yellow spot on the ceiling. The teacher was not happy, even if the students were amused. However, if this happened more than once the teacher caught on that it was not accidental, and would slap a detention on the offender. When there is chemistry between a couple, we will find the tension intriguing rather than stressful.

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