Vive la difference?

Everyone knows that opposites attract. Right? That’s like, the oldest rule of coupling up, or creating fictional couples that belong together. Every romance writer knows, the heroine invariably detests the hero right off the bat — usually for his aggravating confidence and disarming seduction skills — but as the story wears on, she discovers he’s actually a total catch, does a 180, and bam! Opposites come together in a burst of fireworks. (Personally, I blame Jane Austen for all this.)

Of course, in real life things don’t usually happen that way. If you can’t stand a guy when you meet him, chances are you’ll never like him that much. Probably you’re right, and he really IS a jerk. Moreover, when you are attracted to someone in the first place, it’s usually for an entirely different reason: because you have things in common.

I still remember a college Biology class teaching us that some animals actually are attracted to difference. The more different the better! Orange bird gets the hots for blue bird of same species, for example. Then the professor asked us, “And what about humans? Are we attracted to differences, or to similarities?” Of course, we all parroted ‘opposites attract!’ And then she showed us a bunch of engagement photos. Like these:

(All courtesy of Google image search; click to go to source site)
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First of all, I’d like to say that I wish all of these lovely couples the very best! Long life, happy marriage, and all the good things that go with both. Anyway, as you can see — and as I saw all those years ago in Biology class — most couples are together because, well, they look alike. Because they ARE alike. They have a lot in common. That’s why they’re getting married!

And before you say anything like ‘But what about multiracial couples?’ I will counter by saying that, at least to me, ‘looking alike’ has less to do with the shape of your face, your height, size or shape, or color of your skin, than it does with your expression, the way you carry yourself, and how your personality shows. Kind of like how people grow to look like their dogs, right? And vice versa? Same thing for couples. (My mother-in-law took a look at our wedding photos and proclaimed that my husband and I both had the same smile; they could cut and paste them on our mouths and you wouldn’t know the difference! Doesn’t say much for my shade of lipstick… too discreet, maybe.) So whatever combination you happen to have made, I would bet you and your honey, set side by side, would ‘look like a couple.’ Am I right? Right. Let’s move on.

The reason I’m blogging about this today is because I’m thinking about what it all means for romance writers. Opposites attract, yes, but similarities are what bring staying power to a relationship. Therefore, when developing your characters, keep in mind that they must have more in common than not, if they are to be believable. ¬†Maybe they are the same height,¬†either much taller or shorter than ‘average.’ Perhaps they have a similar interest that ties them together, and affects the way they dress or behave. In lots of couples, both partners wear glasses. Something as simple as that, and yet it can make all the difference.

So let those hot opposites sparkle, crash, and burn, and vive les similaires!


The Story Behind The Story: Not So Square…

Inspiration for my stories comes from a lot of places. Some of them have roots in my own personal sexual fantasies, of course – and all of them become my sexual fantasy for a time, while I’m writing them (best way I know to get it out of your system! Always give in to cravings, before they consume you… works for chocolate, too.) – but there are many other sources of inspiration. Song lyrics; places I’ve visited; an interesting bus commute; a person glimpsed across the street; a historical tidbit; an event; a city. For writers, even a brief, flickering thought can be the seed that sprouts into a complete story.

This one began with an odd couple. I don’t know where they came from (although Laura is definitely inspired by my delightfully eccentric college roommate), but they appeared in my mind and wouldn’t leave me alone until their story was out on paper. As I wrote it, these characters surprised me. That’s the best kind – the ones who have life and personality of their own, beyond what I had originally imagined.NotSoSquareSMASH

Anyway, here’s the gist: Laura, a pink-haired rocker-style chick, all counterculture on the outside but actually rather tame in the bedroom. And her nerdy admirer, Boris. (I had to think of the least appealing Slavic name possible, and this is it! Sorry if your name really is Boris. Or Bertha, for that matter. You can always go by a nickname! Or embrace it; either way, do your thing, real-life Borises of the world!). Boris, naturally, is an accountant. (Once again, the least sexy, least counterculture, stuffiest job title I could think of…) He’s pretty much a square. Except, it turns out, when he isn’t. It all starts with one too many drinks at the company party, and – well, I’ll let Boris take it from there!

Let’s just say this accountant has more than one surprise up his sleeve (and in his boxers, too!)

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