Erections and other Displays of Physical Attraction: Building Sexual Tension
Some of my erotic romances are low on plot, high on sexual encounters. Sometimes the plot is the dominance and submission piece, so if you took out the sex and spanking, the story would be too flimsy to hold.
With other books, I get more caught up in the plot and the sex or spanking scenes are the icing on the cake. With those, I worry I will disappoint my readers, who are expecting to get off on a hot read.
When author Aubrey Cara beta read The Alpha’s Hunger for me, she very nicely voiced my own concern about the plot-driven story. It was definitely one where I could take out the spanking element and the story could’ve easily been a mainstream romance. Her suggestion: more boners. (And then she told me she was looking forward to seeing where they “popped up”). 🙂
What Aubrey was telling me was to up the sexual tension, which will keep the erotic energy going, no matter where in the plot I may be. Now my habit is to go through a manuscript during editing and amp up the sexual tension.
Boners are always a plus.
So yes, boners are always a plus. But sexual tension can be less overt, too. There are two easy ways to insert sexual tension into your story:
1. Describe the hero or heroine from the other’s view point–this could include their appearance or even scent, sound of their voice, etc.– and show their reaction to it.
Of course you always describe your characters, but make sure you also give the other character’s reaction to what they see. Instead of “she had HUGE…tracts of land,” (or some other such description of her beautiful boobs, you might say “the sight of her gynormous breasts made all his blood run south of his brain, straight to his cock.” Okay, silly example, but you see what I mean. Don’t skip that step of showing their reaction. It doesn’t have to be a physical reaction–it could be a thought of what they’d like to do with that particular body part. Here’s an example from my current work-in-progress, The Don’s Daughter.
He pushed her back against the car, pinning her too-thin body between the BMW and his larger frame. When she released his shirt, he grasped her wrists, pulling them together, tucked against his chest.
She’d stopped breathing. Her nipples protruded through her blouse and her lush mouth opened.
God, how he wanted to take it, possess her lips. Own her. He forced some self-control. “No, cara mia. I can’t.”
In this case I’m doubling up, showing both her physical reaction to his touch (which is step two of building sexual tension–see below) and his observation of her physical appearance/reaction and what it does to him (he’s observing her mouth, which he finds lush, and he wants to possess it).
2. Describe physical contact between the two characters and again, show a reaction to it.
Don’t reserve these descriptions just for the sex scenes. There are lots of opportunities for thrilling physical contact before the couple ever kisses or consummates. There are ample opportunities after they’ve had sex or a spanking scene, too, so just because they’ve gone “all the way” doesn’t mean you can’t go back to the excitement of a simple brush of a hand, or the electric charge when she reaches across him to grab something.
Here’s one from my The Hand of Vengeance, my latest release:
He held her pinned against the wall, his chest heaving with the exertion. Her little form trembled. It wasn’t the moment to notice how soft and curvy she felt against the hard edges of his body. It certainly wasn’t the moment to inhale her scent—the distinctly female musk that caused an instant reaction in his body. He eased back so she wouldn’t feel the bulge of his cock hardening in his combat pants.
So in this case, there’s physical contact, that’s not supposed to be of a sexual nature, (the hero is protecting her from an explosion) but he is having a sexual response to touching her.
If you’re missing some of these moments, they’re easy to add in on an editing pass to keep the energy of sex present throughout your book.
Of course, there are times it’s entirely inappropriate too. I’ve been jarred out of books by a sexual reaction from a character during an emotional downer of a scene. I think the only way that would work would be to make sure the character knows how inappropriate those thoughts are at the time, too.
I challenge you to beef up one scene this week by adding a little more sexual tension and post it here in the comments. Thanks for reading!