Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Word Up Wednesday: Oxytocin

What is this Word Up, you ask, and isn't the painkiller Rush Limbaugh went all addicty on? I shall tell you: no, it isn't a painkiller (that was OxyContin). Oxytocin is a "mammalian hormone" and it does all kinds of things, but what it really does is make men and women happy. It's a love hormone of sorts, and it's been shown to decrease heart disease and all kinds of other nasty afflictions. It isn't appropriate for me to go into how we release it, but you can Wiki it and read it yourself.

So how do you get some of that oxytocin? Through luuuuuuurrrrrve. That's right. It's the hormone that sets your teeth on edge and makes you want someone to all distraction.

What you need to know is the effect oxytocin has. This article in The Economist talks about oxytocin's role in the attraction between people. Basically, it makes you crazy for someone. It overrides your head that tells you he's no good, it's not going to work. Oxytocin is like "Whatevs! Let me at him!" (Or her as the case may be.) It's what makes people do impossible things in order to be with that one special person.

Pride and Prejudice and Oxytocin
A good love story will give some kind of reason for the attraction between characters -- it should, anyway -- but sometimes it really is down to oxytocin. What initially attracted Elizabeth Bennett to Mr. Darcy? Well, his money and looks, presumably. But we all know they had some serious oxytocin reactions going on. And then, because Elizabeth was a smart cookie, she overrode her oxytocin levels because Darcy acted like such an uppity bastard. But then! She couldn't deny in the end that their oxytocin levels were running the show after all. Yes! Oxytocin overcomes pride and prejudices! It's that powerful.

How to Use
Using oxytocin specifically in a story probably isn't the best idea. You don't want, "He was unsuitable for her in every way, but that damned oxytocin made them gnash their teeth at each other!" But knowing that this base driver is what's behind some of the attraction helps one understand that sometimes it really is just a chemical reaction. Whether that reaction turns into something longer-lasting...well, that's for you to decide over the course of your story, with other factors coming into play such as whether he can hold down a job, whether she screams like a shrew, and whether his back is covered in fur (a detail she couldn't see when she met him and which probably overrides a good deal of oxytocin. Apologies to my male readers who have furry backs, although I'm not talking a little back hair, I'm talking gorillas in the mist.)

At the root!
I bet if you look, you'll find oxytocin at the root of the romances in your stories. In my novel set in Santorini, my character is attracted to a tricky fox who is totally unsuitable and no good. My writing group had a problem with why she would be attracted to him. Oxytocin, of course. Duh! In my current work in progress, I have two characters who have an instant oxytocin explosion upon meeting, but they are very sensible people who deny that such a thing could happen and they require all the formal courtship to take place. They don't yet know that it's pointless because their oxytocin is firmly in the driver's seat. Silly characters!

How about you? Is oxytocin at the root of your character romances?


Tina Lynn said...

Of course! My MC has no business having romantic feelings for her supercrush, but that oxytocin just can't be denied!

Tina Lynn said...

Oh, and despite the fact that you felt it was inappropriate to tell us how oxytocin was released, I think we all get the picture from the *clears throat* picture:D

Travener said...

Oxytocin is at the root of my problems.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Oh Tina it was only inappropriate to say how it's released because of Google this case it was better to show and not tell :) ....and Travener, I couldn't agree more (in general, not for your case).

Jm Diaz said...

Oxytocin has sent me fleeing a many of times. Especially when I'm lacking it.. But you make a great point that it shouldn't be used in the writing, but the knowledge of it should exist in the writer's mind.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I think it appears in my writing -- it's one of my main character's flaws, a mistake she makes.

Personally, I think I need a dose of it. Pronto. Can one conjur it up? Does it come in pill form, too?!

Sierra Godfrey said...

Funny you should ask Amber, yes they have it in distilled form.
But if you check the Wiki link you can see that there are some very simple ways to quickly get some, so to speak.

JM, why do you flee?!?

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