Monday, October 8, 2012

Crazy In Love

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?



  1. Spectacular blog Lisa!

    As I read the description of falling in-love and is commonalities with drug use, I thought back to meeting my hubbie almost 20 years ago. He really knocked my socks (and other garments) off! Falling in-love with him was one of the most emotionally intense experiences of my life and I'm no emotional shrinking violet.

    But I had forgotten love's intensity and just recently completed "Blind Fury" by British crime/thriller writer Lynda La Plante. In this fabulous book, the protagonist, Anna, falls very quickly in love. So quickly--and the boyfriends seemed so PERFECT--that I suspected he was the sought-after serial killer for about 100 pages and Anna was being conned.

    But now that I read your blog, I see she was just crazy in love.

    Thank you for reminding me of love's emotional high.


  2. Thank you for your comment, Shellie. It is an intense time. You really do go a little crazy. According to the book, it's part of the bonding process. When you move from the gotta-be-with-each-other stage into the more calm, committed stage, you are actually using different circuitry in your brain from the falling in love circuitry. Scientists think this is to enable the couple to have children and have the capability to make room for the child. If you are intensely involved with each other, you may not take care of the child as well.

  3. Hi Lisa. We writers should've paid more attention to chemistry and biology in school, huh? I'm not the greatest at remembering to add what characters are feeling physically. When I include those reactions in my writing, my critique group *ahem* reports they speed read through a scene. But the moment all the biology is only in my head, and not on the page, it stops my readers flat. I think that's because those reactions are a rich part of the human experience. And the human experience is what a good story is all about. Now, special note: I think I'm getting better at remembering to include the chemistry. :-)

  4. In one version of Honor Bound, my hero is affected by amnesia and doesn't remember meeting the heroine. But he knows instinctively (and being a werewolf, he knows from instincts) that something is WRONG and someone important is MISSING. In the rewrite, I took out the amnesia (hello trope!), but I think I understand just how focused on the love interest the hero/heroine is in a well done falling in love story. Very cool post, Lisa!

  5. Hi - Thanks for the twitter follow. I LOVE this post. I just took a class on writing sexual tension, and you nailed it. The reader wants to know whats going on in the characters head...My favorite line in my WIP so far (historical romance):
    "When she didn’t pull away, he licked his lips and bowed. Hovering above her hand, the soft sent of lavender mixed with her—the unmistakable scent of woman—ignited his insides as if she stood naked before him."

    Write on!

  6. Hi Nichole - Thanks for your comment. Your point is well-taken. Too much of a good thing is no good. It's always a fine line, putting in just enough but not so much that the reader loses interest. I think that unless it's a love scene, it should be sprinkled throughout the story.

  7. Thank you, Keely. The hero and heroine need to be focused on each other, even if they disagree. They can be angry with each other, but if they are too hateful toward each other then the love story is not believable. There have to be some tender moments between the conflict. Thank you for commenting.

  8. Welcome, Amy! Thank you for your comment and for sharing an excerpt from your WIP. It sounds great. Can't wait to read it. :)

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  10. Lisa ~ Love your post. I love thinking about people falling in love--their reactions both emotionally and physically. Capturing that on the page is such a big part of harnessing sexual tension in any good work of fiction, but especially romance and erotica.

    Very interesting that falling in love is like being on drugs. Ha! Big dose of uppers. Who knew? Thanks to you, we all do now. Brilliant. ;0)

  11. Thank you, Candy. Some people can't move past that in love stage because they get addicted to that feeling. So they break up over and over again or are serial cheaters. It's fascinating what our brain chemistry can do to us. Thank you for your comment.