I’m always fascinated by what attracts people to one another. As a writer, learning about this can only help my manuscripts. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D. describes some of the biology behind attraction.
In the chapter, “Love and Trust,” the author describes what happens when two people who just met are attracted to one another by discussing a couple she calls Melissa and Rob. “The dance of romance had begun, and its choreographer was not her friend or a matchmaker. It was the biology of Melissa’s brain. We know that the symmetry of physiques and faces that entrance us, the moves that seduce us, and the heart-pounding passion of attraction are all hardwired into our brains’ love drive by evolution.” When Melissa’s brain determines that Rob is a potential mate, dopamine (which causes euphoria and excitement) and testosterone (which controls sexual desire) are released. “Our brains size up a potential partner, and if he fits our ancestral wish list, we get a jolt of chemicals that dizzy us with a rush of laser-focused attraction.”
Once the couple falls in love, they are inseparable. “Falling in love is one of the most irrational behaviors...for both men and women.” Scientists have documented that new love “shares brain circuits with states of obsession, mania, intoxication, thirst, and hunger.” The early stages of love have the same symptoms as “the initial effects of drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine, and opiates like heroin, morphine, and OxyContin.”
As a writer, this tells me that when two characters are falling in love, it should be a life-altering experience. They should be thinking of each other all of the time, longing for each other when they are apart, and sparks should fly when they are together. After they consummate the relationship, they should be unable to keep their hands off each other, and should feel any separation physically. They should crave their partner.
Outward signs of a female character in love could be that the woman fiddles with her hair, moistens her lips, or sits with her feet pointing toward the loved one. Internal emotions of a female in love could be a nervous feeling in her stomach, tingling where he touches her and acceleration of the heart.
A body that has just released a good dose of dopamine and testosterone should be revving. And if your character isn’t showing signs of this, then the reader will have a hard time believing your character is in love, especially if the reader has experienced falling in love. Knowing the biology behind these feelings can help the writer to portray them in a believable way, which in turn pulls the reader into the story. And isn’t that the goal of every writer—to create a book that the reader can’t put down?
Tell me about some of the love scenes you’ve written. What worked and what didn’t? Do you have a favorite book that showed an engaging exchange between two characters in love or a love scene that worked?