Wednesday, October 23, 2013


by Jamie Brenner

What is sexual tension? It can play out in many ways, but essentially it is conflicted desire between people. My heroines are attracted to men they shouldn‘t want, or want men they can‘t have. The push and pull of this inconvenient desire unfolds in two types of scenes: Tension without sex, and tension with sex. Let‘s discuss.

Tension without sex: In my 1920s historical novel, THE GIN LOVERS, straight-laced socialite Charlotte Delacorte has an unexpected attraction to lawless bootlegger Jake Larkin. They meet at a funeral, and the proverbial sparks fly. Everything about him galls her: the fact that he shows up to the family event uninvited, the way he is dressed, the way he speaks to her. And yet she is drawn to him. Her discomfort leads to a staple of the tension/no sex scenes, snappy dialogue.

Dialogue is key in these scenes because it reveals character as it shows both parties dealing with the surprise of their attraction, or how they deal with unwanted attraction by pushing the other person away or challenging them. (These types of scenes are also a great opportunity for humor/comic relief.) Whatever way these scenes play out, it‘s important to infuse them with a sense of this is to be continued.

All this tension eventually leads to sex (at least, in the books I read and write): The stress of whatever is keeping characters apart exists until the very last second before they give into their desire. Then, as soon as the line is crossed and things get physical, the external obstacle must be matched by a heightened internal crisis: what did I just do? What happens now? In THE GIN LOVERS, crossing the line with Jake makes Charlotte realize she cannot stay in her loveless marriage. In my erotic romance MISS CHATTERLEY, the heroine cheats on her boyfriend, and spends the rest of the novel tormented with desire and guilt. The sexual tension should increase as the book progresses, with higher stakes, as the internal and external obstacles play off of each other leading to the ultimate resolution.

The best sexual tension, the kind that leaps off the page, usually happens when we as writers have fun with it. Make your characters agonize a bit. Make them work for it. And remember, although your characters might not get immediate satisfaction, when sexual tension is done right, your readers always will.♥

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jamie Brenner is the author of THE GIN LOVERS (St. Martin’s Press). Writing as Logan Belle, she is the author of MISS CHATTERLEY, THE LIBRARIAN (Pocket Star), and the Blue Angel trilogy (Kensington). Her upcoming novel SWEET DESCENT will publish with St. Martin’s Press in 2014. For more please visit or Facebook at

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