How do you make love believable? We believe Catherine loves Heathcliff, Romeo loves Juliet, Rhett loves Scarlett, and The Doctor loves Rose. I believe it anyway. A character can’t just say it no more than your partner can and that be enough. They’ve got to show it.
Ah, the old show, don’t tell. But show what exactly?
I can show a lot and it doesn’t mean I love you or that you’ll believe me. This brings us to chemistry–that word always thrown about in films. Two movie stars on the silver screen have got chemistry or they don’t. In real life, that person you see some enchanted evening across a crowded room has The Quality (as my friend Jody used to call it) or they don’t.
So, I’ve got two characters and they’re in love (of a sort) and he’s mentally ill and she’s intelligent, and so the reader has to believe that he’d believe her to be something akin to his fairy tale princess, and she has to want him in spite the grief that any intelligent person ought to see coming. The novel suspends from this.
If at any point the reader says, “Why doesn’t she just walk away for crying out loud?” then all is lost. Ah. But isn’t that the case with every book? Why doesn’t the reader just put the damn thing down and walk away? There has to be a thousand things better to do than read a book. Aren’t there?