Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sexual Tension - It's Not the Sex, part 3

To recap from yesterday:

We're looking at the 12 Steps to Intimacy – from Intimate Behavior by Desmond Morris

This ties back into the hard-wiring established to enhance survival in early man. Studies have shown that relationships that don't follow these steps tend to be shorter-lived than those that progress naturally through them. In a broad generalization, women prefer to move through the steps, whether it be consciously or not. Just like a building requires a strong foundation, so does a relationship.

The steps below are given from a male to female standpoint, so we're looking at the male as instigator, although these steps will work both ways. As authors, we're "pushing" the characters together and "pulling them apart" to create sexual tension.

To continue with the list:

7. Mouth to mouth-
Kissing. The first kiss is a milestone in any romance novel. Both parties are vulnerable. Look at the romance books you've read and see how many of these 'first kiss' encounters are cut short. The author is creating tension by pulling the characters apart. How is the kiss described? Is the author pushing the characters together with their reactions to the sensations?

In an erotic romance, this might be the first step. It's also going to happen very early in the book. However, for a believable HEA ending, the couple needs to backtrack and lay the foundations for the relationship beyond the scope of sex.

8. Hand to head-
This is done by both men and women. Whereas the initial kiss may have been only a touching of lips, as the relationship develops, the woman may run her fingers through the man's hair. The man may cradle the woman's face. Allowing someone to touch one's head shows a deepening trust. Does the woman allow the touch, or does she pull away?

9. Hand to body
This step moves the couple into the beginnings of foreplay. This is another area where the author is likely to use the external plot to pull the characters apart. The phone rings. Someone knocks on the door. However, it's still quite possible for the emotional pull-apart. Is the character having second thoughts? Is there too much guilt?

10. Mouth to breast
This step shows a great deal of trust. It's still possible for the woman to pull back, although this is another step along the foreplay route.

11. Hand to genitals
Most of the time, this is the point at which there's no turning back. The commitment has been made. If the woman does change her mind, it will be very frustrating for the male (a MAJOR conflict). It's also likely to label the woman as a "tease".

12. Genitals to genitals
This is the sex act. It may happen on or off the page. However by now, the reader should be at least as anxious for the relationship to be consummated as the characters are. Perhaps more.

After this point, the author is challenged with maintaining tension. Just as the ratings plunged when the stars of "Moonlighting" finally slept together, once the hero and heroine have had sex, the author is likely to be spending more page time on the plot conflicts. In non-erotic romance, further sex scenes tend to be less detailed.

These steps follow a natural, logical progression. However, it's not a rule that one must show them all, or even show them in this order. Leapfrogging or hopscotching through the steps does happen. However, the strongest relationships are those where all 12 steps are followed. An research indicates that couples who repeat these steps regularly have longer, more satisfactory relationships.

This wraps up my workshop notes. I hope you've found something useful, either for yourself or your writing.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Colorado for a long weekend.

Today's Gratitude List:

1. Hubby, for working on the paddle fan lights before leaving for work AND being the bed fairy.

2. My agent, who believes in my work despite the rejections

3. Joey, the world's cutest grandson. See you soon!

4 comments:

Jean Hart Stewart said...

Thanks, Terry. Great outline. I seen it before but hadn't really taken in how good it is. Jean

Ray said...

A really good three day blog. You are right that this is useful in writing AND in personal life.

Ray

Terry Odell said...

Jean -- I didn't "invent" those steps -- they've been around a long time, but looking at them from a writer's viewpoint gives us a way to convey the reality of human relationships.

Ray -- thanks again for being a faithful blog follower!

Katie Reus said...

Thanks again Terry!