Attraction and Aversion in Fiction

Humans use the five senses to determine if something attracts or repels them. The sight of a beautiful sunset is inviting while the site of a rushing flood elicits horror. The smell of a rose delights our senses while the smell of a skunk disgusts us. The sound of a church bell ringing invites our attention while the raucous blaring car horns causes us to shudder. The taste of chocolate is alluring to most people while the taste of fried liver is repugnant to many. Touching a puppy’s or kitten’s soft coat is appealing to most people while touching the rough skin of an alligator would be repulsive to most.

This sensory aspect of attraction and aversion contributes to our use of the terms in both physical and emotional associations. Interpersonal attraction refers to relationships between friends, colleagues, and romantic relationships. Friends might be drawn together because they share a fondness for certain activities, items, or geographical areas. Colleagues are drawn together because they have a predilection for a particular career, subject matter, or way of working together. Sexual attraction seems to have a magnetic pull on both individuals involved. Friends, enemies, and things that attract or repel us make good topics for fiction.

What Is Attraction?

Attraction is a concept with both scientific and emotional aspects. On the scientific side, the word is used in physics to refer to magnetism which occurs in iron, nickel, steel, and cobalt. Because the Earth’s core is made of magnetic iron, magnetism is an essential aspect of life on Earth. A magnet has an invisible magnetic field defined as a north and south pole. North and south are poles attracted to each other and draw together until they meet. Thus, the common statement “opposites attract.” The north poles of different magnets repel each other as do two south poles.

Writing on this topic has made me wonder if we humans carry a magnetic charge. I am curious as to whether some people experience an actual magnetic pull toward each other or, on the other hand, experience being magnetically repelled one from the other. Personally, I have experienced both unexplainable situations. I looked online and discovered that some scientists have identified electromagnetic forces in our bodies and that others carry out research on the possibility that humans are able to perceive magnetic fields as birds and insects do.

What Is Aversion?

Aversion is a synonym for repulsion, disgust, revulsion, nausea, loathing, repugnance, dislike, or abhorrence. In relationships, it tends to reflect either dislike or disapproval. I suppose there is a continuum of aversion moving from mild to extreme. For example, the dislike continuum might extend from simple disinclination or displeasure to distaste and disgust, to outright animosity, antipathy, hatred, or loathing.

Aversion refers to being repelled by something either mechanically, physically, or emotionally. Aversion is not conducive to relationships between friends, colleagues, and romantic partners. A hint of disgust is certain to cause cracks in a relationship.

How do Attraction and Aversion Play Out in Fiction?

In fiction, the aspect of attraction can be used positively as a motivator or negatively as a lure. If protagonists are attracted to success, it can become the driving force that motivates them throughout the story. If they are attracted to each other, romance becomes the engine of the story. On the other hand, if the antagonist wants to cause trouble, the story may involve ensnaring the unsuspecting protagonist into a trap or various intrigues.

Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s translator, says that one aspect of aversion is that it creates a negative cycle. This negativity could be reproduced in the plot, in relationships between characters, and even in the setting of a scene.  In fiction, this can be used to create negative feedback cycles with characters who don’t like each other or perhaps with characters involved in a relationship that is beginning to break apart.

Attraction and Aversion in Current Fiction

Martin Amis’ novel Inside Story depicts a scene of sexual attraction between a young man and woman who do not know each other. The man is simply passing by on the street when he spies a woman talking in a phone booth. He starts to walk past but is so attracted to her that he returns. He stands on the sidewalk waiting to engage with her when she exits the booth. His attraction is described through internal dialog.

Rachel Howell Hall’s novel, These Toxic Things, uses attraction and aversion regarding sartorial style, choices of technology, individuals of different races, and relationships between characters.    

In Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart uses aversion in settings, the most gripping being a scene in an abandoned mine surrounded by black greasy muck. Shuggie’s older brother pulls him out and saves his life.                                                                                      

In The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett, attraction and aversion are themes that flow throughout the novel. Bennett illustrates who is attracted to whom and why. One identical twin is attracted to a white man which enables her to escape from her aversive poverty. The other is attracted to a dark black man who fathers a dark daughter. Her husband’s violence forces his wife to leave him, take their daughter, and return to her family home. One sister’s daughter is attracted to a white transexual; the other sister’s daughter has a love affair with a black man from Africa. Bennet forces readers to make decisions about their own understanding of race and socio-economic conditions.

Attraction and Aversion in My Fiction

In my first novel, a young man is attracted to a young woman who is completely oblivious to his approach. In another, parents force a daughter to marry someone she finds objectionable. In a third novel, a woman uses her own sexuality to attract and cause mayhem. As I have worked on this concept of creating attraction and aversion in fiction, I have realized that it also applies to attracting or distancing readers, as well as forcing them to think about what is happening in the novel as Bennett so successfully did.

My Writing Goals for 2021

Revise and complete a final edit of my first novel, sending it out for review by December 7, 2021: 

This month I worked on the use of attraction and aversion in a scene.

Complete a revised draft of my second novel by December 7, 2021:

This month I edited a section to clarify elements of attraction and aversion.

Add 25,000 words to my third novel by December 7, 2021:

This month, I rewrote an important scene adding emotional aversion to the issue at hand. It worked. The rewritten scene gave me a stomach ache.

Publish the Moon Chimes Workbook: Arts & Sciences:

This month, I did not work on the Workbook. Instead, I worked on marketing my Moon Chimes poetry book in local book stores. It is already available on Amazon.

Continue to develop a network of kindred spirits in the world of writing and publishing:

Boulder Writers Alliance: I attended a Steering Committee meeting, took over some membership tasks, and met with our webmaster.

Denver Women’s Press Club: I am in discussion with some members regarding a potential critique group.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers: Even though I didn’t attend the conference, I followed what was happening on FaceBook and Twitter.

Women Writing the West: The conference was held online. The sessions with authors, editors, and agents were excellent. As a first-time attendee, I felt included and participated in the discussions. The authors’ research-based knowledge of the Western USA was impressive.

Document my writing progress through my blog to be posted on the seventh day of each month, writing 12 blogs in 2021:

Today is November 7, 2021, I am posting my eleventh blog of 2021. This month, I have felt that I am barely hanging on as the roller coaster of life flies along. My writing helps to center me. It helps to shift my focus to practical questions of how to recreate reality in my fiction.

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