Monday, November 10, 2008

Sexual Tension - it's not the sex

What I'm reading: Play Dirty by Sandra Brown

As promised, I'm sharing my workshop notes from author Eileen Ann Brennan's workshop: Creating Sexual Tension.

Sexual tension -- what is it?

What it's NOT; The act of sex, or making love

What it IS: the anticipation, the wanting, but not being able to have. Brennan defines it as foreplay for the mind.

In a romance, it's a given that the hero and heroine will be together at the end of the book. Give them the happily ever after in chapter 3, and the book is over. In order to create sexual tension, the author must constantly push the characters together and then pull them apart. Since our speaker writes erotic romance, she mentioned the challenge of writing in that genre, because readers expect there will be consummated sex at the very beginning of the book, so there's not much sexual tension. But for the non-erotic romances, the relationship generally builds before the characters have sex.

Throughout the book, the characters should have an escalating awareness of each other, and anticipation of the culmination of the relationship needs to climb along with it. She used the movie, "While You Were Sleeping" as an example of how the tension builds.

She lists four major areas an author should consider when creating sexual tension, or the "Push-Pull"

1. Plot and Conflict. When the internal conflict eases, bring it back with the external conflicts of the plot. Pulling away can be both emotional OR physical.

2. Dialog
In this area, she suggests using innuendo, subtext, sexual/sensual terms in non-sexual conversation, and double entendres. Although these are closely related, innuendo tends to be more subtle and is often non-verbal. A character might rub his hands along his jeans, or move his hands suggestively on the steering wheel as he drives.

3. Senses
Brennan breaks the senses into two categories: active and passive.
The Active senses are those over which the character has some control. He can choose to see, touch, or taste.
The Passive senses are those that are received by the character: smell and sound. These tend to be more sensual.

4. Emotions between hero and heroine
She stressed that the mechanics of whose body parts are where, or Tab A and Slot B are not particularly sensual. It's more important to describe the feelings of the characters, what they're thinking. Internal monologue works well here. (She adds—only up to a point, especially in the male POV, where thinking tends to disappear once the sexual act is underway.)

We then had some interactive practice – With the following setup, half the room was to continue in Francois' POV, the other half in Lady Claudine's, using the basics above to create emotion and sexual tension: "Francois entered his chamber, shrugged off his cloak, then saw Lady Claudine standing by the window. He went to her and touched her arm."

My first reaction was Chamber? Cloak? Lady Claudine? Not exactly a setup for someone who writes action adventure romance. But the fun came as everyone shared their brief paragraphs, because no two people wrote the same basic follow up. This goes back to each of us having a unique voice. Some went with the romantic liaison, some with the woman seducing the man, others with her being captive. Or accepting a dare to appear in his chamber. Even given the same plot, we'd all write different books – but that's a digression.

Tomorrow, I'll go through the way we as writers can use her suggestions along with Desmond Morris' steps to intimacy, laid out in his book, Intimate Behavior. Hope you'll come back.

Today's Gratitude List:
1. Hubby for bringing home a surprise box of Godiva truffles.
2. A guilt-free day of sitting around not doing much of anything
3. My aunt, who is still in good spirits after breaking her wrist less than a month after breaking her shoulder

10 comments:

Katie Reus said...

I was disappointed to miss this so thanks for the post :)

Terry Odell said...

No problem, Katie - good workshop--too bad you had to miss it. Hope my sketchy notes help.

I'll answer (or try) to answer questions--about the workshop, not about creating sexual tension. I still struggle with that one, although since h/h didn't "do it" until page 200 in my WIP, maybe I've got some of the basics down.

Dara Edmondson said...

I enjoyed the workshop and got a lot out of it, too. I like your gratitude lists!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

What a nice surprise from the hubby! Thanks for sharing your notes. Did you leave a comment on my blog? If so, it didn't come through.

Terry Odell said...

Dara -- Susan Wiggs started the Gratitude Project, and I think it's especially nice to think of 3 things a day we're grateful for during November--especially after all the election and economic negativity.

You can see her posts here and join in -- either on her blog, or your own, or even privately.

Terry Odell said...

Nancy -- yes, I left a comment -- named some restaurants. Nothing earth-shattering.

Debra Glass said...

Thanks for posting this Terry! Sexual tension is one of those things that keep readers reading romance. For we women, it's all about the anticipation!

Anita Birt said...

Thank you, Terry, for the sexual tension report. Nicely done.

We had a great workshop at our regular monthly meeting last Saturday. Eileen Cook led us through Psychology 101 with a great handout. Eileen is a practicing therapist and a published author. Tomorrow, on my blog, I will write about EQ which is different from IQ EQ is Emotional Quotient.

Ray said...

Another useful blog.

Ray

Terry Odell said...

Thanks for your comments, Debra, Anita & Ray. Be sure to check back tomorrow for more.