So this week we’ve talked about physical appearance and personality traits, and today we’re going to talk about another attraction factor: skills. It’s a pretty basic fact of human attraction that we admire folks who are able to do awesome stuff. When developing longing and attraction between your characters, one of the questions you should be asking yourself is, what are these characters particularly good at? What is going to catch their love interest’s attention? Generally, skills fall into three primary categories.
Physical skills could be general, like strength, flexibility, dexterity, great coordination, or even just having good aim. Or perhaps they have a particularly sharp sense of smell, taste, or hearing. They might have perfect pitch. Or they could have refined abilities in a specific activity, like sword fighting, acrobatics, basketball, sharpshooting, or ping-pong. They might be beautiful dancers.
If your character is paranormal or supernatural in nature, there are even more possibilities. Perhaps they heal quickly, or can fly, or have super speed… lots of possibilities here.
Mental skills include things like knowledge, reasoning, and intuitive abilities. Perhaps the character speaks several languages or is able to learn new information quickly. Perhaps they are clever strategists or excel at math or science, or they’re inventors always coming up with a new gadget. Maybe they are good at reading people, and manipulating them. Charisma would be a mental skill, as would business savvy.
If the character is paranormal or supernatural, perhaps they have the ability to read minds, or influence others’ emotions, or process information faster than a normal human being.
Now technically, artistic abilites are usually a combination of physical and mental skill… but it’s such a broad category that it really does deserve separate discussion. There’s a reason why so many people are drawn to artistic personalities. Artistic skills could include music, like singing, composing or playing instruments; or it could be more along the lines of storytelling, like writing novels, directing films, or acting. They could also have to do with visual arts: painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, computer graphics. Or they could be in the creation of useful or pretty day-to-day items, like sewing, metalworking, leatherworking, papermaking, carpentry, gardening, and so on.
For example, my girlfriend is ambidextrous, knows American Sign Language, is an accomplished fencer (yes, that’s with a sword!), is good with computers, and enjoys painting, metalsmithing, and leatherworking. I find all of these things attractive. ^~
Now very few people are virtuosos at everything, so it’s best to pick just one or two things for each character. Too many awesome abilities, and you run the risk of creating “Mary Sues” – those dreaded fantasy-perfect characters that end up being too annoying to be cool. But if your character has a pretty singing voice, or is great with a bow and arrow, it stands to reason that these are things their love interest is going to notice and admire. Admiration leads to longing, and longing is what you want to establish in order to create a good, satisfying romance.
It’s also probably important to note that a favorite romance trope is that of the “un-special” girl – the girl who is average in every way, with no remarkable skills and average looks, who manages to somehow catch the eye of the dashing, sexy, way-out-of-her-league hero. Think Bella Swan from Twilight. Personally, I try to avoid this trope whenever I can, because I think it’s dangerous. While on the one hand it does inspire the hope that all of us, no matter how uninteresting we feel, have a chance at a storybook romance – on the other, it also risks sending the message that a person’s worth is defined by who falls in love with them. And that’s not a message I would want my kids growing up with. :P
Anyway, next up, attraction factor #4: Background