Forced Proximity: bringing out your best (and worst)

by Charmaine Ross

I like writing characters in close forced proximity. What do I mean by that? Well, for example the male and female characters might be cops and they are sent on a stakeout together. Something goes wrong and the stakeout isn’t just for two hours, it’s for two weeks.

OR a boss asks his PA to accompany him on a conference, but the conference is extended into emergency meetings with suppliers and he needs her to stay with him. Two eyes and ears are better than one.

OR she is moving towns. He’s the head of a furniture removal company and has to take on this job as one as his employees broken his leg in a skiing accident, another has to take his wife to hospital because she’s giving birth, one woke up with a hangover the size of New South Wales (plus he’s still over the limit) and he can’t possibly drive and our hero is now understaffed. They have to travel the length of the country in the same truck as she sent her car on ahead via rail.

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OR…well, the list is pretty endless. Of course, some ideas are also better than others.

Why do I like close proximity? I think it brings out the best and worst behaviours in people. When people can separate, they can create a wall and remain on their best behaviour, sometimes for years. They have an excuse not to tell the other person how they feel because they can calm down, think, re-evaluate. When you remove that wall, the characters have nowhere to hide. There is no down time. They have to talk. Communicate with each other. There will be conflict. Sparks will fly and secrets will come out and people will have no choice but to react. And that makes for an interesting story.

Having your characters close adds spice. Imagine yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to talk and interact. Not just for a couple of hours but for an extended amount of time. If you really don’t like someone, that’s going to be pretty obvious. If you have a secret crush, or are totally in love, that’s also going to be pretty obvious. You can’t hide those types of strong emotions and it will complicate life. Things might be said. Gestures might be given and interpreted, feelings developed one way or another. It can’t be helped.

Having your characters close gives them no choice but to interact. People just don’t sit in a room and ignore each other. Well, I guess they could but then you wouldn’t have a story. When people are thrown together, whether it’s a stressful situation, a work situation or a manufactured situation, they have to interact. It gives you room to explore characters’ emotions and personal growth. You can’t fall in love with someone, not in the mind-blowing, earth-shattering, life-changing sense of the word and be the same. We are emotional beings.

The final and most important point in keeping your characters close is that it gives you the ability to grow the romance. Love has to grow when people react to each other. They find things out about each other, they like them more, and like turns into love, and then into a life-changing force that they can’t exist without because if they did, they wouldn’t be the same person. Love can’t stay the same, and that’s where your story is. I love exploring the whys and wherefores of people’s actions and reactions, warts and all.

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If you fall in love with a person, you accept the person for who they really are and people are far from perfect and that’s what I love to write about. Close proximity just adds to the enjoyment of the story!

In my new book Take Me As I Am, due for release on February 25, my characters are thrown together and have to live in a pretty close, intense situation. In this book, I wanted to turn the tables on the rich man/ordinary gal plot and so made my heroine a billionaire’s daughter, having been groomed for luxury and educated in the best schools money could buy, and my hero a sexy, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth man. She’s on a strict time line and he has to stay onsite to get the job done. My favourite scene is when my hero strips off his shirt in the hot summer sun, and my heroine can’t ignore the sizzle in her blood or the voice in her head that tells her that what her body wants is a bad idea. A very bad idea. See? Close proximity brings out things that make my characters uncomfortable. But that’s all part of the fun!


takemeA small town romance sent against the romance of the beautiful Dandenong mountains about loss, lies, and the courage to live true.

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