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How to create character chemistry

Posted by inkpop on March 18, 2010

inktip #21: The Body Finder author Kimberly Derting hooks up juicy advice

“I think the TV show Bones does a really good job with character chemistry. I like the anticipation of what could be almost more than the actual hookup.”

For Kimberly Derting, creating this sense of “what could be” is oftentimes the key to enticing readers—it’s about building suspense and intrigue with characters, instead of giving away the meat of a relationship from the get-go.

Derting’s had plenty of practice to prove her point. Of her latest book, The Body Finder, author Melissa Marr says, “The romance and the mystery are so intense that I didn’t know whether to hold my breath or scream.”

The Body Finder is about Jay, a serial killer on the loose, and Violet, a girl with the ability to find the dead. “You want the two main characters to hurry up and get together already!” Derting says. “As for chemistry between Violet and Jay, I hope everyone likes the scene where Jay takes care of Violet, after she trips in the woods.”

So what exactly is fictional chemistry made of, and how do you make it interesting enough to keep the attention of readers? Here, Derting shares her inktips.


You know what they say about successful relationships: Both people need to be able to stand on their own two feet in order to make the most of their chemistry as a couple.

The same goes for chemistry between characters. “Whether it’s romantic or platonic chemistry, I think it all starts with good character development,” Derting says. “It’s very important to show as many sides of your characters as possible, so when they do interact, the reader can truly appreciate each character’s motivations.”


Okay, “obsess” is a strong word, but it is important to focus on the little things.

“An intimate gesture—say, the brush of a hand or a knowing look—can create as much impact as a full-on kiss. More if it’s done well,” Derting says.

Also, don’t be shallow. The attraction should be about much more than just good looks. “Give your characters flaws, private jokes, backstories … anything that creates depth, because depth is where the real feelings develop,” Derting says.


Realizing that, as the author, you have complete control over what happens between characters, taking a natural, chillaxed approach is a good way to go.

“I always try to let two character’s chemistry build throughout the story, without trying to force them together too quickly,” Derting says. With The Body Finder, Jay and Violet have been friends since childhood, so it was fun to show how their romance blossomed from a sweet childhood friendship.   

inkpop Forums Topic: Do your story’s characters have good chemistry? Tell us about them!

The inkpop blog is written by inkpopAmy

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One Response to “How to create character chemistry”

  1. polgara said

    >The Body Finder is about Jay, a serial killer on the loose, and Violet, a girl with the ability to find the dead.

    The book looks really interesting, but, did you give away the ending? I just looked up The Body Finder on Amazon, and there’s nothing in the synopsis or any of the reviews to indicate Jay turns out to be the serial killer.

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