Laura Howard: Creating Sexual Tension with Patricia Paris


Creating Sexual Tension with Patricia Paris

Patricia Paris was a name that I heard early in April when I decided to really take this publishing thing seriously. It seemed everyone online was friends with Patricia, but not only that, Patricia was always promoting and helping authors in all the different writing circles I was following.

That's why she stood out to me, before I'd even seen her books. Patricia was paying it forward, and I knew that she was the author to emulate. I'm honored to present her post on creating sexual tension. This is so important for me as  reader, and even more so as a writer.

"Dance with me."

Dance with him? He hadn't spoken to her all evening, hadn't spared her a glance. Now he wanted to dance? Okay, they'd dance, but that was all she'd give him this time. She wouldn't make the same mistake she had the last time he'd asked her to dance.

For me, as a romance novelist, when we talk about sexual tension, we're always talking about the dance. And the dance involves a lot a steps, some easy, some complicated. So what are some of them, and how are they performed?

Use your story elements, or steps, to intensify the tension. In this case, sexual tension, but the same holds true whether you are writing romance, mystery, or anything else. Dialogue, setting, pace, character emotion, and gestures, should all be used to make sexual tension feel real and exciting, versus forced and crude. You want to use these to tug on the readers' emotions, the same way you are tugging on your heroine's emotions. 

In general, for women, who make up the vast majority of romance readers, attraction is tied directly to emotion. For men, it's more physical at first. As a man's feelings for a woman deepen, so, too, does his attraction and she becomes more beautiful to him.
As your hero and heroine become closer, you want your reader to be asking:

  • Is tonight the night he's going to kiss her?
  • Is she going to let him?
  • Will he touch her?
  • Will she push him away or give in to her desire?
  • Are they going to make love?
  • Now that they have, will they ever make love again or will their differences/opposing forces be too big for them to surmount?

Creating these questions in the reader's mind, the anticipation of what the reader by now wants, creates and keeps the sexual tension going. I have a very simplistic formula: 

Desire + Anticipation = Sexual Tension.

Now back to the dance. You want to have opposing forces operating between the hero and heroine. He moves toward her, she moves back. They come together, and then move apart. Their desire pushes them forward, and their conflict makes them retreat. The hero can't stop thinking about the heroine. He wants her badly, so bad he can taste it. When she touches him, sweat starts to bead on the back of his neck. He reaches out, bends his head to taste the lips he can't stop thinking about, but then he's reminded of who she is, or what she did, and he steps back, cursing his weakness. 

Let's consider Chocolate, an easy example a lot of us can relate to. For whatever reason, you start thinking about chocolate. Maybe you saw a picture of some in a magazine, or a friend told you about the decadent hot, molten, chocolate lava cake they had for dessert. The trigger isn't important. You've got chocolate on the brain. You can't stop thinking about it. You want it. You imagine tasting it. You have to have it. If you don't get some chocolate soon you think you might go crazy. You may even eat all sorts of substitutes but they don't satisfy your craving for—Chocolate. Eventually you're going to give in and eat it, and if you wait too long, you're probably going to gorge on it like a glutton.

When using dialogue, setting, pace, think of matching them to the dance to intensify the tension. For example, a wave rushing to shore, a curtain lifting up and down on the breeze, low, rumbling thunder that builds and builds, all can mimic lovers and the emotion of lovemaking. The scene, sounds, pace, should mirror what is happening with the hero and heroine's emotions, increasing their desire and intensifying the sexual tension.

Less, is often more when trying to build sexual tension. A casual, unexpected brush, a brief touch, or a look that holds a moment longer than what is comfortable, all entice and lure. Having your character say one thing but having their physical reaction or thoughts say another = tension. Your reader will, yes, read between the lines, and begin to ask the questions that will keep them turning the pages. And isn't that what we, as writers, hope will happen?

Patricia's novel This Time Forever is Free on Amazon today, so be sure to snatch it!


So many incredible books come to mind when I think of masterful Sexual Tension. Which ones pop into your head?


  1. Love, love, love Patricia's books! Read all three in a single week. Great post, ladies. Friday hugs to both of you! :) :)

  2. Thanks for inviting me, Laura, you are a gracious hostess and I'm honored to be here.

  3. Thanks so much, Sophie. Friday hugs right back :)

  4. Amazing post. I love slow burn romances and making sure the tension is written well is something I find really difficult!
    A fictional couple who have sexual tension that smoulders off the page and screen; Damon and Elena from 'The Vampire Diaries' :D


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