The intimacy factor


The intimacy factor

by Nicole Murphy

One of the difficult things to do when writing romance is to build the emotional intimacy between the couple. In real life, it can take weeks, months for this to happen but in the fast pace of a romance novel (where you can go from stranger to happily ever after in just days), making that realistic is tough.

That’s why ‘forced proximity’ is such a valuable trope— it gives the author a valid excuse to plunge the hero and heroine into each other’s company in close quarters and build that intimacy quickly.

I used forced proximity in my sci-fi romance Winning the King. Diana and Gareth’s relationship has already had a bump, due to the fact that he believes the stories he’s heard of her and decides she flat out isn’t good enough for him. He needs to learn the truth about Diana, and learn it quickly, for the relationship to move forward without using up too much of the plot. So he and Diana are forced into each other’s company while the world around them appears to be falling apart. Stressed, scared, they have no one but each other to turn to for comfort.

Forced proximity works brilliantly to develop emotional intimacy—whether it’s the way the hero and heroine get together, or something forced on them partway through the story—but I don’t like it when all it’s used for is physical intimacy.

I read a story once where the story opened with the hero and heroine meeting by being trapped in a basement during an earthquake. Now, it could have been a brilliant thing—they become attached as they get themselves through this difficult period (particularly as they had been arguing when the quake hit) but then when saved, the real world is keeping them apart. Instead, the hero and heroine somehow decided that this was the perfect time to have sex. It turns out the forced proximity was just being used in order to manoeuvre the hero and heroine into a one-night stand (one-quake stand?) so that the story could be a secret baby story. They got rescued, said goodbye to each other and that was it until the baby arrived, and somehow they met again…a real waste of a brilliant trope.


My favourite romance involves the forced proximity trope. In Johanna Lindsey’s Warrior’s Woman, Tedra de Arr is forced to spend time with Challen Ly-San-Ter after losing a challenge to him. It is through being constantly with each other that Challen and Tedra learn not only that they want to jump each other’s bones, but to like, respect and admire each other. There’s no way that could have happened without Tedra being forced to spend so much time with Challen.

So yep— chalk me up as a big fan of forced proximity. What’s your favourite forced proximity story?


From Nicole Murphy comes a sexy SF romance: everything has always come easily to her…except him.

Must reads