While working on the manuscript I started to think about different levels of attraction in terms of what was emotionally required. I created this chart, which, although far from accurate in the academic/psychological sense, illustrates the seven major stopping points.
Profound love – Soulmates, the deepest love one can experience. Takes years, if not a lifetime to acquire and understand. There are instances of it happening in moments – between mother and new baby for instance. Most people never reach this level of relationship. It requires vast amounts of emotional energy but it never feels like a strain and each partner benefits.
Relationship – Friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, and most marriages exist within this level. It is typified by its ability to break when rough waters or better options roll along. The emotional energy required can change from day-to-day and is often not mutually shared.
Interest – Must happen before a relationship, and is established within seconds of first sight. Appearance can spark interest, but so can intellect, voice quality, or rumors. Interest requires little to no emotional energy.
Stranger – A person that we don’t know exists.
Dislike – Similar to interest, a dislike is established in seconds. It is usually based on the superficial but can also result from on a gut feeling.
Revulsion – Occurs when someone is forced to spend time with a person they dislike and are unable to find any redeeming qualities. Also can happen if exposed to malicious sentiments about a person or group of people.
Passionate Hate – Rarely will revulsion turn to passionate hate on a personal level unless the person has done some unspeakable act. More often this is seen in fanaticism or mob mania. Most interesting is that this can occur if someone in a relationship betrays the other. Passionate hate robs a person or mob of reason, they become emotionally obsessed with seeking revenge. Hate crimes result.
Now here is the interesting part – if we fold the chart in half from top to bottom, the levels become paired.
Interest/dislike – Both happen at the first meeting and are based on superficial qualities. They can switch just as easily, although the saying “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” rings true. Once either has been established it tends to stick.
Relationship/revulsion – Both require a greater emotional investment than interest or dislike. Developing either takes time and effort on at least one side. They come and go over time resulting in heartbreak or relief to the same extent that they brought joy or annoyance.
Profound love/passionate hate – Both require immense amounts of time and energy. Both create a kind of obsession; every thought either consciously or unconsciously centers on the other person. Both can result in violence. If profound love is betrayed it will turn into passionate hate.
In writing, it is important that you use the full spectrum of emotional attachment. Not everyone can be profoundly in love or experience passionate hate towards each other; that would be too polarized. Nor can everyone be emotionally frozen, unable to reach even the level of interest or dislike (unless in your world there is a reason to account for it).
Do you know what levels of attraction exist between your characters? If not, you have some work to do!