Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sexual Tension for Any Genre (Rated PG):

 Hi folks! Amy Jarecki here.

Ahem. Today’s post is on adding sexual tension in fiction. Any manuscript which shows an attraction by one character to another must have sexual tension. Even Harry Potter has it. So what is sexual tension…

An attraction between two people, a heightened awareness of that attraction, and the resulting conflict caused by opposing goals and opposing emotional paths.

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is attracted to Choe, but she’s dating Cedric Diggory and Harry is consumed with the conflict of fighting Voldermort. Sounds like they’ll never get together…

So…The big question? How to create sexual tension/conflict?

1.      Start with character and internal conflict. First, readers want an emotional read. In a romance, the characters must have opposing goals and opposing emotional life paths.

a.       In my contemporary romance, Chihuahua Momma, Matt is trying to get away from a broken relationship and Rebecca wants to hide in her dog world and forget about men. Sounds like they couldn’t possibly have anything in common, or possibly be attracted. Definitely a great place to start a romantic story!

b.      I use the psychology book, Are You My Type, Am I yours, Relationships made easy Through the Enneagram by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele, to define my character’s personalities. It lists the nine enneagram personality types and how they interact with each other, showing what each type likes and dislikes about the other. It is an excellent tool for establishing conflict as well as delving into your character’s psyche before you write the first word.

2.      Character Actions and Reactions. What keeps characters from instantly proclaiming their adoration for each other? FEAR! Fear is a powerful emotion, and should be used! But then the characters start feeling things and doing things that they might not even recognize as attraction at first.

a.       Let’s start with Linda Howard’s 12 Steps to intimacy:
                                                              i.      Eye to body contact. Begin the journey by looking each other over.
                                                             ii.      Eye to eye contact. We catch each other’s attention.
                                                            iii.      Voice to voice contact. We talk, flirt, joke, become friends or enemies.
                                                          iv.      Hand to hand contact. Often the first twinge of fear come at this step and this is a major turning point in a relationship.
                                                            v.      Arm to shoulder contact. When a man puts his arm around a woman’s shoulder they have to be close. She can no longer run if she feels threatened.
                                                          vi.      Arm to waist contact.
                                                        vii.      Mouth to Mouth contact. This can be very passionate, or fleeting.
                                                       viii.      Hand to Head. This is the last big move before heading into real intimacy. Head touching can cause great tension between two people. If a woman allows a man to touch her head, it’s a sign she could be open to more intimacy. And this is where many stories stop showing…
                                                          ix.      Hand to body.
                                                           x.      Mouth to breast
                                                          xi.      Hand to genital
                                                         xii.      Genital to genital (These last four are the most intimate and the genre will determine if they are shown or not shown).

b.      We can make things tenser between the hero and heroine by skipping steps.

c.       Sexual tension is about thinking about sex but not doing it. The longer you put it off, the more you add to the tension.

d.      Use internal dialogue and Deep Point of View to show your character’s conflict.

3.      Use Senses and Dialogue. Applying sensuality can elevate every scene from good to memorable:

a.       The Five senses—use these instead of dialogue tags. Intersperse your dialogue with the character’s internal emotions about what he/she is saying:
                                                              i.      Sight
                                                             ii.      Hearing/Sound
                                                            iii.      Smell
                                                            iv.      Touch
                                                             v.      Taste

b.      Example: My current WIP, I show the hero’s thoughts and actions are in conflict with his dialogue:

“Is everything to your liking, Colin? From the scowl on your face I’d wager something didn’t sit well with you,” Robert said.

Och, something didn’t sit well with him. That fat-kidneyed codpiece spinning Margaret on the dance floor like he was a strutting pheasant. “Nay. I just need another tot of ale is all.” Colin tipped back his flagon and skulled it.

4.      Body Language:
a.       Men’s body language:
                                                              i.      Preening behavior: Chest out, shoulders back, strut.
                                                             ii.      Drives fingers through hair.
                                                           iii.      Hooks thumbs in belt.
                                                           iv.      Points foot and woman.
                                                            v.      Intimate gaze—held longer than normal
                                                           vi.      Dilated pupils
                                                         vii.      Stands with hands on hips.
                                                        viii.     Sits with legs spread or crossed.

b.      Women during courtship:
                                                              i.      Pupils dilate, cheeks blush.
                                                             ii.      Shake their heads, flipping hair.
                                                           iii.      Expose inner side of wrists with palms out.
                                                           iv.      Hips roll when walking
                                                             v.      Hold gaze just long enough for him to notice.
                                                           vi.      Lips part and appear moist.
                                                         vii.      Fondle object, like the stem of a wine glass.
                                                       viii.      One leg tucked under, knee pointing at male.
                                                          ix.      Cross and uncross legs
                                                           x.      Voice lowers
                                                          xi.      Rub palms on thighs

c.       Both sexes use eye contact:
                                                              i.      Intamate-between eyes and chest
                                                             ii.     A sideways glance with raised eyebrows

5.      Putting it together…When drafting a story, I layer my conflict. At first I might write my dialogue, and then I go back and add the setting, and then the conflict and the emotions. Remember fear is powerful and keeps us from getting what we want. Here’s the “meet” scene from my new novel, VIRTUE ©:

Stacking the plastic pool glasses, he sensed movement across the deck. He glanced up and stopped short. Long blond hair fluttered with the breeze, legs that wouldn’t stop, and a body so well proportioned, he’d only seen the likes in swimsuit editions of Sports Illustrated.

She looked his way and his breath caught. He quickly glanced down, busying himself with the glasses. Gabriel’s heart thundered in his ears as she approached.

“Hi,” she said, her American accent friendly, not bitchy like other incredibly beautiful tourists he’d encountered. “You think I could get a Diet Coke?”

Gabriel looked up. She smiled, white teeth, eyes that reflected the sea, flawless skin. “Ah. Sure.” He reached for a glass, one of the fancy plastic tumblers. He scooped in some ice and grabbed a toothpick umbrella, garnishing it with a lime and a red maraschino cherry. Holding up her special drink, he grinned. “Why diet?”

She lowered her extraordinarily long lashes. “I’m a dancer—always watching my figure, you know.”

Gabriel hoped she didn’t notice the heat that inflamed under his skin. “You’re a dancer on the ship?”

She took a sip. “Uh huh. Arrived last night.” When she leaned in, he caught a delicious fragrance like rain falling on orange blossoms. “I’m pretending I’m lost and taking a little self-guided tour on my way to the theater. I thought I’d have a look around before spending who knows how many hours tied to the stage.”

“Off to rehearse, huh?”

“Yep. Had to learn two shows in a week.” She pointed to her white flip-flops. “I’m wearing these to air out the blisters on my toes.”

He glanced down, but only made it as far as her well-muscled, slender thighs. Perfection. “Sounds painful.”

“It’ll be all right.” She leaned closer with the most adorable smile he’d ever seen in his life. “Know what?”

Gabriel hoped drool wasn’t draining out the corner of his mouth. “What?”

“The lead dancer is leaving the show after this tour, and I’ve been picked for the fan dance.”

God in heaven, why did that not surprise him? He’d choose her for any spotlight dance. He’d pick her just to stand center stage for hours on end. You want to drape those pegs across my bar so I can stare at them all day? Holy mother, she could do anything she wanted.

She flashed a questioning grin. “Did I say something wrong?”

“N-no. Not at all. I was just thinking how great it was that you got picked for a lead. That’s totally awesome.”

“Thanks.” She pulled back and giggled—cute.

He let his gaze slide to the top of her head and stood straight. She was only about three or four inches shorter than him. “I’m Gabriel AhKin from Belize.”

Her eyes slipped down to his badge. “I’m Zoe Marshall from the United States. Do you know Utah?”

“I’ve heard of it.”

“Well, I’m from a small town in the mountains. Thanks for the Coke, Gabriel AhKin. You’re a life saver.”

He stood motionless as she walked away, the backside every bit as beautiful as the front. When she disappeared through the automatic glass doors, he ran his fingers through his hair. Focus. You’re here to work. Girls like her are way out of your league.
Well, my time’s up. You can find me around the internet:

Twitter: @amyjarecki

My romantic suspense, Virtue, available everywhere in eBook, December 6, 2013, and Virtue—The Cut Scenes for FREE:

Sheltered, raised in rural Utah, Zoe Marshall has never heard of the Mayan Prophecy of the Golden Goddess—but she’s about to.

At the moment she’s thrilled to have landed her dream job dancing on a cruise ship where she meets Belizean Gabriel AhKin. The sizzling bartender stirs her passion.

When the ship docks in Belize, Zoe disappears—spirited into the bowels of a Mayan cult led by a reclusive fanatic. After the madman sees her, he divines Zoe is the Golden Goddess. She is “the one” to fulfill the prophecy. Now Gabriel’s driving obsession is to rescue the woman who’s captured his heart.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

You certainly covered or uncovered everything.

Big Mike said...

Welcome aboard, Amy. Hmmm. A formula for lust, why didn't I think of that. But is intimacy and lust the same thing? Hmmm, and do men and women approach the same. Hmmmm. I've collaborated on three books with women and suggest that they do not, but that's a good thing.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Linda Rettstatt said...

Thanks for stopping by, Amy, and for a post that is thought-provoking and insightful.

Amy Jarecki said...

Hi Big Mike - All good questions, and all things a fiction author must consider when writing.

Thanks for having Me!

LOL Julie!