Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Month of Love

It’s February. Love is in the air. (And on store shelves selling for twenty bucks disguised as fabulous Godiva chocolate. Yum :) I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about sexual and romantic tension in a romance.

Sexual tension is at the core of the attraction between your hero and heroine. It’s the chemistry that sizzles and bites your readers, making them long to stay up late reading more. It can be subtle—a touch or a glance—or it can be explicit. Either way, it’s one of the most important parts of your story. It shows the reader the developing desire between the hero and heroine.

But how to make your manuscript sizzle (and yes, even “sweet” romances have romantic tension—or they should—as that heat is present whenever there is a deep attraction) while still showing not telling?

Here are some tips:

--Use all your senses. You don’t want to overwhelm the reader, but visualize the scene. Bring the senses into play. What does the character see? Does the hero’s shirt hug his broad chest? Is the heroine’s skirt playing peek-a-boo with the creamy skin on the inside of her thigh? What about scents? Consider all the scents that might be present, beyond simply “musk” or “male”. Is there a lingering taste of deep, pungent dry wine on the hero’s tongue? Look up fragrances and see what terms the fragrance company uses to describe the scent. Draw the reader in.

--Sexual tension is primal. When we see someone we are attracted to, instinct kicks in. Our body responds in ways we sometimes have very little control over. The feelings are raw, animalistic. Keep the response in tune with that instinct--even in a sweet romance when you're simply describing a tingle racing up the heroine’s arm at the hero’s light, lingering touch.

--Show, don’t tell. This is pounded into our writing brains for a reason. Telling the audience that the hero excites her…well, isn’t very exciting. Show through action (does the heroine tug her hand away from the hero as if burned when he touches her because the sensation startles her?). Show through dialogue (those witty exchanges or spunky comebacks are often holding attraction at bay!). Show through well-timed internal dialogue (don’t weigh the flow of the story down, but adding in snippets will bring more romantic tension in).

--Finally, get in the mood. It’s hard to write good sexual tension, or a good love scene, if you’re thinking about the dirty dishes in the sink. So make the time to really get into your scene. Use music or candles if they help. Just be sure to be in your character’s place.

Bringing in more sexual and romantic tension to your romance will captivate the reader, move the story forward, and help develop the romance. So, pour a glass of wine (or sparkling cider) and get in the mood—to write.

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line


Amanda Barnett Freelance Editor said...

Outstanding insight! I loved it! You were right on the mark with what I want to read when I read a book for pleasure and with the books I edit for contract.

I want to be a part of the emotions, the sensuality and eventually, the culmination of the hero and heroine's love.

Amanda Barnett

Kaylea Cross said...

Great post! Showing instead of telling to create sexual tension is one of the most vital parts of writing a romance. As a writer, you want to put your reader close enough for them to feel the spark and sizzle between your hero and heroine. Love scenes are my favorite way to show the emotions building between my two main characters!

Kaylea Cross,
author Out of Her League,
Cover of Darkness (coming soon)

Loretta C. Rogers said...

Excellent suggestions--especially the music and candles to set the mood. A NYTimes best-selling author once told me that if you aren't squirming in your seat while writing scenes that create sexual tension then the scene isn't working.

Author of Isabelle and the Outlaw

Mary Ricksen said...

thanks for the great suggestions. Insight is the best of motivators.

Debra St. John said...

Thanks for this post. I always seem to leave out some of those senses the first time through!

Julie Robinson said...

You could have been speaking directly to me! Here I was needing some inspiration as I sat here thinking about the dirty dishes I didn't do (and that nobody else seems to do), so I decided to check out this site. Wow! Thank you.

Diane Craver said...

Thanks for the great suggestions - I needed to be reminded!

Eliza Knight said...

Fabulous Renee! I'm going to go light the candles and get to work now!