Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sexual/Romantic Tension

Sexual or romantic or sensual tension are all the same thing. No matter how you tag it, you're turning up the heat between your hero and heroine, so you and your reader can enjoy the flying sparks. Even a sweet romance can have romantic tension, leaving the reader wondering if your hero and heroine will get to their happily-ever-after. Steamier romances ramp up the tension to its highest possible level.

So how do you create this tension? With attention to detail. Every time they get together, your hero and heroine find themselves noticing tiny things about one another: the way her hair catches the light, the way his fingers drum on his knee when he's agitated. Heightened awareness of small details about each other is one way to amp up the tension. You can (and should) also use the other senses. Not only do the senses draw us into a scene, like we discussed previously, but they are an important way to bring details to your hero or heroine's attention. Maybe she smells like roses because of her perfume. Maybe his hands are warm and rough.

You can also use dialogue to create tension, couching your hero and heroine's language in double entendre or snappy comebacks, if they're that sort of couple. Show us that your hero and heroine want to be together, even when they don't realize it.

Perhaps the most important indicator of tension is body language. As we discussed before when talking about subtext, body language is crucial. It says what we mean, even when our words don't. Maybe he stands closer to her than absolutely necessary, and finds himself making excuses to touch her. Maybe she shies away, only to turn back when he steps away from her.

The better you build your tension, the more likely your reader is to fly through the book, wondering all the while when your hero and heroine will finally snap under pressure and give in to each other. We're willing to forget that a happy ending is guaranteed, just so we can enjoy the roller coaster ride with you.

Your hero and heroine will ride high on that tension, up and down through the course of your book, and then bang! Their worst nightmares come to pass, and everything falls apart. This is the black moment. We'll cover this all-important point next time.

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