I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone.
~ Green Day
It’s a killer song, but even the “American Idiot” isn’t walking alone in it. He has his shadow, his shallow heart and the Boulevard of Broken Dreams to interact with.
Nobody is ever alone. Each moment of a scene stems from interaction. In stories driven by character, the chemistry of those interactions determines whether it blows up or just simmers with bubbles rolling along the top. When I’m revising a scene, I ask three questions:
• What is the general chemistry between these characters (or the character and the moment or place)?
• How is that chemical reaction affected by the heat or pressure of this situation?
• Can the chemistry give me a rhythm or timing to this scene?
So if you think of one character as water and another as potassium, what might happen is something like this:
That sizzle is the base reaction between those characters. But what if we keep them from touching or lower the temperature? What if the water is frozen? In the same way, the conditions will affect my scene, but the base reaction between them has to be a factor.
The chemical interaction has to be true to character.