Building Sexual Tension

Just as in real life, sexual tension in a romance novel doesn't usually come on fast. It's slow, seductive, and builds as the hero and heroine get closer. The tension should feel natural. It should grow naturally from the plot and characters and not feel forced.

Be aware of the differences between a man's reactions to a sexually charged situation compared to a woman's. A man's approach will be more sexually blatant, where a woman may react to it with a more emotional viewpoint.

While a writer's goal is to make sure your men sound like men and your women sound like women, don't forget who your audience really is. Because women make up the majority of the romance readership, the sexual tension should be written to appeal more to the feminine viewpoint.

Dialogue Builds Sexual Tension

Dialogue is one of the best tools a writer has to build and show sexual tension. What can your hero or heroine say that ups the sexual tension? From pillow talk, to words they wish they could take back, dialogue can be sexy. See the following example:

“What do you want from me?” Sarah asked as he headed out the door.

Nick swung around, stormed back across the room, and didn't stop until he stood inches from her. “I want you. All of you. Naked and willing. Is that too damn much to ask?”

Romantic/Sexy Gestures Can Melt a Reader's Heart

What does a man do to impress his date, to seduce her into his arms and his bed? From the opening of a car door to a gift of roses, romantic gestures and gifts will tug on a woman's, and a reader's, heartstrings. See the following example:

Jenny spotted the gift box and one red rose lying on top of her desk. Her chest tightened. It couldn't be from him. He didn't know where she worked — didn't even know her real name. She glanced around to see if any of her colleagues were watching. They weren't. Then she slipped the red ribbon off one corner of the lid and opened the box. Her breath caught when she read the note. “Once wasn't enough.” Below the note, lay a sheer negligee.

He knew.

Oh, Goodness. Don't Look at Me Like That!

Have you ever watched two people across a room who are attracted to each other? The heat in the looks they give each other is palpable. The old cliché, “They couldn't keep their eyes off each other,” says it all. For example:

His hungry gaze swept around the parlor, taking in all the females, searching, as if he knew exactly what he wanted. Then his soft blue gaze met hers. She could swear his irises darkened with something primitive, something she didn't quite understand. She told herself to look away, to silently send him the message that she wasn't willing to play his game. Sweet heavens, she didn't even know the game, but her gaze seemed locked, frozen with something akin to hope.

The Power of a Simple Touch

The power of touch is amazing. Goosebumps rise, nerves tingle, and the heart races. But sometimes what's sexier than a blatant touch to one of the more erogenous zones is a simple touch meant to seduce. See example below:

It was a just a dance, something men and women did in social situations every day. So why did the light pressure of his hand against her hip feel way too intimate? Why did his whiskey-scented breath against her temple send shivers down her body? He moved closer, her breasts brushed over his chest and the sweetness of it started tremors deep in her abdomen.

A Penny for Your Thoughts

If only you could hear what he's thinking. Those internal thoughts can be very sexy, slightly naughty, and extremely seductive. Your characters may be able to control what they say, what they do, but seldom can they control what they think. Use internal thoughts to add sexual tension to your novels. See the following example:

He watched her move, the way her body swayed with her steps, and how the red silk dress slipped and slid across all her more interesting body parts. What he wouldn't give to be able to remove that dress, along with his brother's engagement ring from her finger, and claim her as his own.

What Makes It Work

Sexual tension isn't always as easy to write as you might assume. You can't just toss in a kiss, or have the hero notice the heroine's body and imagine her naked. Of course, that isn't to say kisses and naughty thoughts couldn't create sexual tension. They can. But, generally, sexual tension is accomplished in the following ways:

  • The mood in the scene

  • The right words

  • The way the words were said

  • The characters' disposition

The art of delivering sexual tension that works is about as problematic as delivering a perfect come-on line. For a come-on line to be successful, it has to be delivered at the right time, in the right tone, and by the right person.

While boldness sometimes works when introducing sexual tension, crudeness seldom does. Unfortunately, for many new authors, it can be a fine line between being bold and being crude. If your sexual tension is coming off as being too raw, turn it down a notch and look at countering the bold statements with something softer, something that shows emotion.

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