Love by Numbers by Sara Donovan


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Sara will be awarding an eCopy of Love by Numbers to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Character Creation

My first step in creating characters is to have a clear premise for my story – i.e. a hypothesis that I want to test. This is the really hard part of story writing for me because the options are pretty well endless when you’re starting.
What I use as a starting point, is anything I find “edgy” in my life – that is, whatever makes me feel deeply embarrassed, or fully alive or is fascinating to me.

Reflecting on these feelings, playing them out to extremes in my imagination, then thinking of how I could further deepen and explore and resolve the feeling via a story can lead to a premise. The big test is whether or not I find the premise interesting enough to keep me stimulated, and motivated to sit and write several drafts for a year or more.

The premise for Love By Numbers, ‘Can you use a knowledge of the neuroscience of falling in love, to get in more control of who you fall in love with?’ was fascinating to me because I had read several studies on the ‘brain in love’ and knew that many neuroscientists thought you could take steps to influence or manipulate who you fell in love with. I loved the idea and was super keen to explore it in story form.

The next step is to find the personalities that allow me to explore the premise in its extreme.

In the case of my book, that meant a borderline obsessive girl as the protagonist and a typical unavailable guy she wanted to fall out of love with, and a typical “friend-zoned” guy she wanted to fall in love with for her two love interests.

The next step in my character development process is to interview my characters to get to know them – a process I like to do by speaking out loud and using voice recognition software to capture my first thoughts. I have an over developed inner critic that wants to edit my ideas before they even have a chance to live, so talking rather than typing my character interviews often works for me.

Once I’ve interviewed my characters, I plot the story and even every scene in the story in longhand – and then I sit at my computer, apply bum glue and just write – waiting for that magic moment when the characters start talking to me and taking over the plot.

That doesn’t happen for me right away. It happens little by little until I get to about 30,000 words of my first draft. By then, my characters are usually well and truly running the show. It’s so great when they do.

As they say in the movie Field of Dreams – ‘Build it and they will come’. And just like in the movie, it takes faith to get in and start building a story before your characters move in, but when it happens, you discover why people get so hooked on writing.

How to Fall in Love with Someone YOU Choose. (Why not, if you have a broken man-picker?)

Choose an available compatible guy-friend who doesn’t turn you off and rewire your brains for a hot and heavy romance.

1. Get emotional while watching a sad movie.
2. Share a major adrenaline rush.
3. Be competent at something cool, but don’t make a big deal out of it.
4. Have him provide food from the hunt (a good restaurant will do).
5. Eyegaze until it doesn’t feel weird.
6. Fulfil each other’s primary fantasies within reason and without judgment.
7. Sleep together like stacked spoons.

Repeat the above until love and lust click in. Then send your love brain chemicals into overdrive by not seeing each other. That’s when things really get cooking.


Read an excerpt:

‘Nip it in the bud and run like hell,’ he read from my notepad after I’d had a rant about my suspected limerence problem. ‘Hard to nip something in the bud when it’s already a forty-metre gum tree.’

‘It’s not a forty-metre gum tree. It’s slightly less than that. And anyway, what about you and Holly? You’re almost as bad as me.’

Holly was my high school classmate, flatmate of two years and soccer team-mate. She was our team’s starting striker and I was sweeper, which pretty well sums up our relationship, despite it being the off season. I was sure Nathan was somewhere on the limerence spectrum when it came to Holly — which was probably the real reason why he’d suggested going back to my place when we were on the phone.

‘Well despite the Ryan-labelled box of condoms in your ensuite cupboard which is a bit obsessive,’ (not fair of him to bring this up. I was half drunk watching The Secret and visualising my goals at the time), ‘I think you’re taking this OCD thing too seriously. If we’re obsessive, then half the people in this bar are as well.’

‘Really?’ I had a quick look around. ‘They don’t look obsessive to me.’

‘No one does from this distance.’

I sighed and looked out the window.

‘So, how would you get over Brian?’ Nathan asked gently.

‘Well, according to the experts,’ I said, putting down my New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and taking the textbook I’d borrowed from the uni library out of my bag, ‘all I have to do is have an intimate relationship with him so I can find his flaws and kick him off the pedestal.’

‘That could be problematic,’ Nathan said. ‘What are your other options?’

‘No contact or total rejection, which isn’t so easy to get unless you try to get it, so the book says.’ I threw the book back in my handbag.

‘I’d go for no contact,’ Nathan said.

‘I can’t. We work for the same company.’

‘That only leaves rejection.’ Nathan’s eyebrows knit together. ‘You’re not going to try to get Brian to reject you, are you?’

‘Of course not! I just have to find a way to stop thinking about him.’

Only I was thinking about him again already.

‘So your only real option is to make a list of his fatal flaws and kick him off the pedestal without being his girlfriend. You have put him on a pedestal, you know.’

I gave Nathan a resigned smile, then tried to list Ryan’s shortcomings in my head. Within seconds, I was back at the wine bar with him, having our third imaginary drink.

‘Tell me your deepest, darkest faults,’ I said as I leant towards him.

‘Only if you tell me yours first’, Ryan replied, making me laugh.

What was I doing? How could I be having another Ryan fantasy already?

‘So you have to do an assignment, right?’ Nathan said, picking up the handout that was in my notepad.


‘So you do it on curing love addiction and write twenty pages on Brian’s flaws.’

‘Very funny.’

‘Or maybe you’ll get a lucky break and he’ll be retrenched tomorrow.’

The thought of never seeing Ryan again suddenly sent a chill down my spine, despite it being the one sure way I could get over him.

‘Odyssey won’t retrench him. He makes them too much money,’ I said. ‘But if I survive the restructure, I’ll use my obsessiveness to get over him, not into him. I have to. Otherwise it won’t just be Gran’s ring I’ll be accidently throwing away — it’ll be another year of my life!

About the Author:Sara Donovan is a corporate facilitator and instructional designer who delivers training programs in neuroscience and communication skills. She draws inspiration for her writing from psychology, science and her accidental romcom life.

Buy the book at Amazon.

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  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. Mary Rose Benipayo says:

    Thank you for this wonderful chance to have that book! ^^,

  3. Do you write every day? Do you have a word goal for each day you write?

  4. What are your hobbies?

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