Amping Up Sexual Tension


Today's topic...sexual tension and love scenes. I get the sense that most of you are writing YA and so you may think this isn't going to apply to you. However, some of my favorite YA books are chock full of sexual tension even though actual sex does not occur.
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare is a good example. The tension between Jace and Clary is palpable. Sexual tension is also a huge part of the appeal of Twilight. Each are so aware of each other, but a mere touch or kiss could cause Edward to lose control. And of course, in tv shows, this is the workhorse. Dawson's Creek (pic above) held me for all seven (?) seasons with their use of sexual tension. Oh how I love Joey and Pacey, but I digress.
So how do we create this tension? Then once the tension is built, how do we work in a love scene that makes all that tension worth it?
To build tension:
Make the attraction that each feels for the other obvious to the reader.
--The characters are hyper aware of all the little details of the person when he/she is around. Use all the senses not just sight.
No conflict=no tension
--Make sure there are good reasons why these two can't be together--internal and external. Bella and Edward can't get together because, well, he may kill her.
Use internal dialogue
--The hero may be clenching his hands at his sides, but tell us why. The urge to reach out and touch the heroine's hair is overwhelming him.
Always on each other's mind
--If your hero and heroine aren't together in a scene, then have their thoughts go to the other so that we know he/she can't get the other off his/her mind.
Patience, grasshopper
--Don't relieve the tension too quickly. Frustration must build and build. There's a reason why the first love scene doesn't usually happen until 2/3 the way through a book.
Here we go, wait, not so fast
--Give you characters a taste of what they could have, then make them stop. This is the famous device on sitcoms where they start to kiss, but then someone burst in to interrupt. It doesn't have to be that obvious. One of the characters could be the one to stop (usually for some internal reason related to the conflict between them.)
It's addictive
--Once you do let the two get together the first time (be that a kiss or full out lovin'), leave them wanting more. Instead of satisfying their need/curiosity/etc., they want each other even more. Now they know what they could have if not for all that pesky conflict. Damn those mean authors who put so much in their way.
When all looks like it's going to work out, pull them apart again.
--Romantic comedy movies do this all the time. The characters seem to resolve some conflict and get together. Oh but wait, there's more! Some conflict wedges between them again.
--Don't resolve the relationship until very near the end. Otherwise, the reader will lose interest.
Okay, since this is going a little long, I'll save my info on writing love scenes for another post.
So how about you? Does your novel have a romance or undercurrent of one? What author do you read that is a master at creating sexual tension? (I love Charlaine Harris for this. I wait with bated breath for my Eric and Sookie scenes.)

**Today's Theme Song**
"Want You Bad" - The Offspring
(player in sidebar, go ahead and take a listen)