Sexual Tension – You want his WHAT to go WHERE? ©
by Juliet Burns
This title is a little misleading, but I had a reason. I
Sexual tension has nothing to do with the “act” of making love.
Have you ever met someone new and you could just feel the
spark or energy between you? Ok, think hard. Remember waaaayyyy
back? Just kidding. I’m old, fat and married and yet, it still
happens sometimes. Ok, maybe I’m the only one that feels it, but
it still happens.
For example: Recently I forced myself to admit I probably need
reading glasses. (aren’t they making the print smaller these
days?) and so I made an appointment with an Optometrist close
by. Haven’t been to an eye doctor since… well, don’t remember
when. Anyway, the doctor walked into the exam room and I almost
fell out of my chair. This man was the most devastatingly
handsome guy I’d seen in real life in a long time. Right off the
cover of a romance novel. I’m telling ya, dark, wavy, well-cut
hair, strong jaw, tan, light blue eyes with a twinkle, and I
could see the muscles under his white lab coat easy. AND he
smelled good. AND he had a picture of 2 adorable kids in a frame
on the counter that looked just like him. Now, is that a guy to
die for or what? Oh, my. I shook his hand and I could just feel
this…tension in our touch, in the air.
Now, I’m not saying HE was attracted to me. But still, just
being around him, feeling so attracted – (hey, I’m married, not
DEAD!) – there was an energy, a—for lack of a better word—a
pull. You know that old saying? Yin yang? Push/pull? Well, this
guy had it. In spades.
So, how do you write that? How do you get that to come across on
the page? I can hear my critique partner snickering again as I’m
about to write this, but… I believe it has to be done subtly. I
tend to be an in your face person, and sometimes I go overboard.
But hey, that’s what revisions are for.
But, back to that subtle thing. Use the senses to create a
sensual mood. He smelled her unique scent, or his voice was
hoarse with longing. If you think about it, we don’t make eye
contact with the opposite sex very often. Not with strangers,
anyway. So when the heroine’s eyes meet the hero’s for the first
time, what does she see? Passion? Longing? Bitterness? Or maybe
it’s as simple as interest. He “sees” her for who she really is
when no one else does. Sometimes, it can just be a glance, or a
quick touch. Or sometimes it doesn’t involve anything but the
brain. The heroine feels the hero’s eyes watching her. He’s
aware of her whenever she’s in the room.
Linda Howard, in her article, The 12 steps of Intimacy,
speaks about building slowly from first making eye contact to a
brief touch, to holding hands, all the way to complete physical
intimacy. But these steps don’t have to go in any order.
Sometimes, like maybe in a Harlequin Blaze, sex comes first, and
then they spend the rest of the book slowly building emotional
intimacy. But, whatever the order, you can’t have sexual tension
unless you add one more ingredient: Conflict.
Even the word tension implies that not all is right with the
world. If your hero and heroine can settle down and marry
tomorrow, there is no tension. So, a writer must create conflict
that keeps them apart. Most of the time, the sexiest, strongest
reason for not making love is INTERNAL.
INTERNAL conflict can be your greatest ally in creating sexual
tension. He needs her in his bed, but she wants marriage and
kids and his boots were made for walking. She can’t resist his
kisses, but he’s a heartbreak waiting to happen. Sometimes, it
can be EXTERNAL as well. He wants her, but she’s the attorney
for the opposing team. She longs to be in his arms, but he’s the
CEO who just bought her company in a hostile takeover.
Or, you want him, but you’re married and he’s your eye doctor.
Here’s some great articles on sexual tension:
Creating Sensual Tension by Connie Flynn
How to Build Sexual Tension by Susan Pezzack, Editor
The Exquisite Heat of Sexual Tension by Joanna Somersby, aka
Setting the Stage for Seduction: What Makes a Love Scene Sexy?
Linda Howard’s 12 steps of Intimacy