Writing Sexual Tension

Tension is not only necessary to move your story along, but it’s also important for making your characters more relatable to your readers. Sexual tension or passion unsatisfied can be a great way to achieve this between characters he pace is slow or fast depending on your story. The main thrust of tension is caused through something keeping your characters together but also keeping them apart. Though in some genre there are certain rules that apply, they all follow the same basic structure.

Beginning: The meet

This is the first introduction to illustrate how they know each other and/or the first realization of physical attraction/reaction to one another. This is where you want to show your characters’ response to one another through the use of senses, body language and dialogue.

The meet sets up the obstacles your characters will have to overcome. There needs to be respect for one another as they spend time together learning about each other, so their perception changes and the relationship can grow. This will lead to trust which is the cornerstone of all relationships. There are two steps to trust: physical/safety which will lead to emotional. The physical will always come first as it is easier for your character to achieve, but the emotional will indicate a change in your character’s feelings and attitude toward the object of their attraction. This can be demonstrated through internal and external dialogue to show an emotional struggle and indicate why your character is behaving the way they are.

Heightened awareness

This is a critical step that requires a lot of detail. The tiny details of sensual body language using all the senses make the attraction obvious and allow the characters to become more vulnerable. Internal dialogue shows what the character is thinking about the one they are attracted to, even if they are not in the same scene. External dialogue can show the emotional impact every encounter has on the characters to increase the importance and significance of their emotions. An example could be them becoming angry because they don’t want to be vulnerable and perhaps a friend notices the difference in their behavior.

The Act

This could be a conversation, touch, kiss, sex, etc. but you need to be clear about what the motivation for your character is? Whatever the act is, it needs to be important to the scene and character. The steps of intimacy can be carried to any level depending on your story and what type of relationship your characters are developing.

Steps of Intimacy:

  1. Eyes go to the body – is your character frightened, intrigued?
  2. Eye contact – do they linger or quickly look away?
  3. Talk to one another – they make a choice about the other person.
  4. Touch – next step to bonding.
  5. Arm around shoulder – what is your characters reaction?
  6. Arm to waist/lower back – the characters are starting to become more comfortable with one    another.
  7. Hand to head/face – the kiss.
  8. Hand to body – the characters could be naked or become naked.
  9. Mouth to breast – or other body parts.
  10. Hand to genitals – this could lead to sex or not.

The End

The characters are together in a physical and/or emotional manner where the tension is largely dissolved. There will be a drop in tension so it’s good to wait until closer to the end of your story before your characters are allowed to resolve this.

Not the End?

If the sexual tension is eased and it’s not the end, something needs to undermine or change what the characters have built. This will allow the tension to build again. There could be a resolution of something only to be replaced by another issue that places a wedge between the lovers. If your story is not over, leave something that needs to be resolved. However, be careful not to put too much strain on the relationship or it will because frustrating for the reader and impossible for them to believe the relationship could come to a satisfying end.


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