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Sexual Tension – You want his WHAT to go WHERE? ©
by Juliet Burns

This title is a little misleading, but I had a reason. I promise.

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 Marg Riseley
Nicole Jordan, Setting the Stage for Seduction: What Makes a Love Scene Sexy?

Linda Howard’s 12 steps of Intimacy

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