Sex sells, but sometimes anticipation makes it even better. No matter the level of heat in your story, the reader becomes more invested in the outcome when obstacles stand in the way and challenge the characters' journey to the bedroom (in addition to their happily ever after).
What is sexual tension?
Sexual tension can begin with an immediate attraction or an instant dislike between characters. It can build over time for friends who are trying to decide if they want to take their relationship to a new level. Maybe your couple has already had sex, but some conflict prevents them from allowing the connection to deepen. Characters with a failing marriage could be trying to move on alone, only to discover they're still in love. Teasing creates anticipation for a long-awaited kiss or lovemaking session and hope that the characters will find their way to each other. However, sexual tension doesn't always have to lead to sex. A word of warning, though--dragging out the "foreplay" too long can result in an annoyed reader.
What are some ways to create sexual tension?
A casual touch, whether on purpose or accidental, will trigger a response. Is it physical--increased pulse, sudden feverishness, other more sexual responses? Is it emotional--longing, panic, frustration? Or is it both? Use the senses to convey those reactions by showing rather than telling.
Use dialogue to ramp up the tension. Is the hero angry at the heroine for some reason related to the conflict? Maybe he lets something slip about his feelings. Does he catch himself in time to cover his admission? Or does he reveal just enough to get the heroine wondering what he meant to say? People tend to lose control of their mouths when they lose their tempers. Dialogue can also be used in place of physical actions. An outspoken heroine might whisper her naughty plans for the hero in his ear. If they're in a setting where neither can act on her words, their anticipation grows.
Danger and emergency situations can bring out hidden emotions and a "lapse of good judgment" that can change those sparks to a flame. That urgency makes for less gray-area thought since adrenaline forces quick decisions.
Interruptions are a useful tool in creating sexual tension. Think about how sympathetic you'd feel if the hero and heroine are finally going to admit their love to each other and her ex-husband walks into the room. Doubts set in, raising the conflict and stakes.
Remember to use GMC to help guide your pacing and develop a relationship worth cheering for!
Next week's WTW post will cover Writing a Series. See you then!
Romance...With A Kick!