How to Build Sexual Tension in Fiction Writing

This is a totally inappropriate image for this blog topic. But it is how I feel today….

I am totally not editing today. I have the attention span of flea hopped up on caffeine, but the motivation of a snail. Not a good combination when you have to push a book out.  I’ve been cleaning instead. I  found this information on sexual tension and thought I’d toss it up on the blog.I learned something from it years ago. Perhaps those trolling the web may find it useful too.

Sexual tension is actions and reactions of your characters to each others chemistry both physical and emotional. It is your characters flirting with the limits of their relationship and the emotions of their partner. It’s where your hero touches your heroine and she trembles. Where he strokes her skin and she melts. Understanding body reflexes and reactions to all the senses is critical in good romance writing. All the senses must be involved to make a good scene. How does your hero smell, what does his feel like, how does the heroine react to his touch? There are twelve steps to consider in creating convincing sexual tension:

Eye to body– This is the fraction it takes for someone to size up the physical attributes of their partner. Instantly we know what attracts us, so your character should to. What do they see in their partner and how to they process it?

Eye to eye— Our attraction is connected to the eye. Only intimate people make direct eye contact. Prolonged eye contact in non-intimate people could be considered aggressive staring. Let the reader know what the character reads behind those eyes.

Voice to voice– In a scene this connects the reader via small talk and introduces a reader to how the characters relate. A hero who is staring at a heroine might walk up her and say he wants to sleep with her outright. That’s a fairly bold move. You’d either shock the reader with this voice-to-voice contact or perhaps the reader expected him to do that by how you built up the sexual tension in the scene. Think about how a character will sound in the moment. Husky? Throaty? Where the words moaned? Manipulations to the voice in sexual tension can speak volumes.

A far more relevant image because snails do not have hands.

Hand to hand–This intimacy is important. Throughout history social intentions were built around gestures of the hand. Look at the handshake what it means. Physically the hand is extremely sensitive by the amount of nerves involved, so be sure to pull in the sense of touch.

Arm to shoulder— This is a breaching of social circles by coming in closer than what is usually acceptable. Invading personal space to find a more intimate connection is a daring. Letting bodies touch crosses a threshold and brings the reader closer to a sexual intent. The character could be leaning in slightly then quickly backing off, or could brush brushing against someone he or she passes by.

Arm to waist–Who doesn’t know what hand on the small of a back means? It is a direct statement of sexual intimacy. It could state a deep interest or reflect disgust. How many times have you seen a woman arch away from contact as this as if to say “hands off!” This form of intimacy and can convey a variety of sexual tension, both good and bad.

Mouth to Mouth–You can count on physical arousal with this one, especially with your male characters, and it will occur or you have done something wrong in the sexual tension. Don’t under estimate the power of a simple kiss. There are several hot spots on the human neck that will automatically arouse. Don’t forget taste here either. The characters are kissing, each has to taste like something so consider, if it works well for the scene, to add that element. Be certain, however, that it doesn’t pull the reader out of scene.

Hand to head–I love this one. This is an intimate portrayal of trust. It’s difficult to not to see the meaning behind someone’s eyes when their hand and is holding your head, cheek, neck…

Hand to body— If your heroine doesn’t trust your hero this is usually the spot where you should break off the tension.

Mouth to breast— By now you may be approaching a sex scene or at least extreme intimate arousal. Here all senses come into play. For a male he is smelling, tasting and feeling all at the same time

Hand to genital–The characters have reached total bonding at this point. Your hero and heroine should be trusting each other enough to want to progress.

Genital to genital–the face to face, full body contact of making love.

Those are the basic to building up to sexual tension—go out and find a character to use them on.

Happy writing!

History of Silent Night (or how to annoy your brother)

Each Christmas presented an awesome way to annoy my older brother.

That I did so during church on Christmas every year didn’t matter.  In my heart, God has a sense of humor and I figured He was laughing along with me.

First off let me say the church I attend now, (Christ Church) rocks. Figuratively and literally. Besides the fountain of  Living Water that greets everyone as they come in, we’ve an amazing worship team and  Pastor John has a gift of stimulating the mind and the heart.  Currently he is teaching us about the history behind famous carols. Being a history geek myself I thought I’d polish up this old blog post and start not being a hermit to my fans as I have been of late.

My brother’s glare of warning every Christmas Eve when it came time to sing “Silent Night” could light brimstone. That glare was my cue, and he knew what was coming the instant the lights dimmed throughout the church. During high school I spoke German, and, being a teen and the annoying younger sister that I was, I thought it hip to sing “Silent Night” in its original language solely to bother my brother.

But that story is not my point, fun as it is to remember.

Christmas brings many creative stories about how this timeless carol was created. One being that a mouse munching the bellows of an organ forced the need for Joseph Mohr, a young priest assigned to a pilgrimage church in Mariapfarr, Austria, to compose something in haste in order to sing at the Midnight Mass. That story has more versions than can be counted at this point! It’s been sensationalized through the years in film and books, but the reality of this hymn is humble in its origins.

Yes, it’s a mouse riding a lobster but at least it’s from a Victorian Christmas card. Victorians had a thing for natural history and YOU try finding a picture of a mouse eating organ bellows…

“Silent Night” was written by Joseph Mohr in 1816; however it wasn’t until Christmas Eve of 1818, when Mohr visited the home of Franz Gruber, a primary school teacher and church organist, that it came into being as a carol. Mohr showed his friend the poem and simply asked him to write a melody for it for two solo voices, a choir, and guitar accompaniment.  Mohr liked what Gruber wrote and later that night, December 24th, the first stanzas of “Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!” were heard. Gruber’s personal account of how the carol was written doesn’t mention Mohr’s specifics for inspiration, but one supposition is that the church organ was no longer working forcing Mohr’s need for it to be written for guitar (some legends claim it was mice eating the organ, other claim rust on the pipes).

However a broken organ does tie into the tale by some accounts, as master organ builder Karl Mauracher worked at Mohr’s church several times over the years. While there, it’s possible Mauracher obtained a copy of the composition and took it away him. As a result the simple carol began its journey around the world in the hands of an organ builder and ultimately ended up into a church songbook prepared by Blasius Wimmer.

Many carols (as learned in church recently) were composed during troubled times. “Do You Hear What I Hear,” during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” when Christmas was illegal in the United States. “Silent Night” was no different. It was created and first performed after the Napoleonic Wars. The Congress of Vienna had created new borders and a new order for Europe. Salzburg, Austria suffered greatly during this time having to secularize due to losing its status as an independent country. In 1816, at the time Mohr penned “Silent Night,” its lands were divided between Bavaria and Austria. The local economy in Oberndorf by Salzburg suffered, causing a depression and forcing many into unemployment. Mohr was in Oberndorf at this time.  Witnessing these events his wrote “Silent Night” and penned the 4th verse as a plea for peace:

Silent night! Holy night!; Where on this day all power; of fatherly love poured forth; And like a brother lovingly embraced; Jesus the peoples of the world; Jesus the peoples of the world. (translated from the original)

The melody changed over the years. In December of 1822 the Rainer Family Singers performed the song at the Castle of Count Donhoff for Emperor Franz I and Tsar Alexander I of Russia.  Several musical notes were changed at this concert and the carol evolved into the melody we now know. By 1839 “Silent Night” was performed for the first time in America at the Alexander Hamilton Monument outside Trinity Church in New York City.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Without doubt it will be performed this holiday season in churches across the country and most likely sung in English… unless I happen to be home at the same time as my brother.

Old habits die hard.

Ein frohes Weihnachtsfest und alles Gute zum neuen Jahr!


What Nationality is the Phantom of the Opera?

Many are curious as to Erik’s last name, and therefore his nationality. Leroux doesn’t provide us with a last name to his famous monster however many assume Erik is French because Leroux set his novel in Paris. The truth is nationality plays a big role in Leroux’s Phantom.

Leroux writes Erik was born in Rouen, which would make him nationally French, but doesn’t give us a parental bloodline. He makes mention of Erik’s mother and father, but beyond a snippet of information about trades, locations, and attitudes toward their monstrous son, the reader knows nothing. What is obvious is Leroux loved German villains.

Leroux’s most faFlag-Pins-France-Germanymous villains were German. The Phantom of the Opera is not his most beloved work, nor is Erik his most popular character. That honor belongs to his novel Rouletabille  and his character Ballmeyer,  a German. Ballmeyer and Erik display frightening similarities: murder, hidden passages, tricks, and an obsession with genius and disguise.

Much in Leroux’s novel echoed the anti-Germanic sentiment that was still prevalent in Paris at the time he wrote Phantom of the Opera. Leroux chose the Opera Garnier which was, for many years, was anti-Germanic. The Paris Opera House didn’t host a German opera until 1890. Leroux’s commentary of the opera manager, M. Richard, as the “sole person who has any comprehension of Wagner” makes him a comical figure in the eyes of Parisian society at the time of its printing and further hints at the anti-Germanic sentiment at the Opera Garnier.

Leroux goes further into rooting Erik as a German/Germanic and portrays France’s anti- German sentiment in the novel as a whole. Leroux’s Phantom was gleaned in part from Svengali, an Austrian Jew who captures the love of an opera singer by transfixing her and molding her into a work of public musical admiration. (This from George Du Maurier’s novel, Trilby.)

During her captivity Christine asks if the “name of Erik does not point to Scandinavian origin.” Erik doesn’t reply other than saying he is a man with no heritage and no country. He took his name “par hazard,” or at great risk. This indicates that “Erik” might not be his actual name at all, or another form of detaching himself from elements of his persona he doesn’t care to acknowledge.  Even Leroux’s spelling of the name “Erik” points to German roots. As and aside, the choice of wine used throughout the novel is a Tokay which Leroux writes that Erik “himself brought from the cellars of Koensingburg,” further hinting Leroux’s route toward Germanic elements of his novel.

Overall Leroux wanted to create Erik as the foreigner among Frenchmen, in the same way he wanted a parallel between Raoul as the sexless virgin yet the leading male. Leroux wanted to craft Erik as the nation-less character while still creating a recognizably villainous character for the French: a German.

If anyone wants debate, the novel was also written at a time when Oriental thought was popular—echoed in the Persian, certain décor, even Erik as the Moor of Venice and his “yellow skin.”

Who is to say what nationality Erik was? This element of Leroux, however, is why I chose to make my heroine (or anti-heroine if you will) in my series of Germanic origin.

Christine Daae and the Class System in Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera

“Pride when there is a real superiority of mind…. Pride will always be under good regulation.” ~Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Often there are two themes in romance. A heroine lured into the dangerous world of the underground by the “bad boy” of literature,  or she has her eyes set on the life of a titled lady.

Christine Daae, in Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, was a woman in limbo and trapped between two different classes: the aristocracy and the underground. She had to either choose the hero, Raoul,  and his aristocrat life or choose the anti-hero, Erik, and live in the world of deviants and freaks.

In reality, Christine belonged in the bourgeoisie–between the middle class and the nobility–where image was everything.  Leroux knew this and built his plot around it beautifully. Christine  was a social ladder climber–a heroine interested in furthering her career, but also drawn to the idea of a title. I don’t believe for a moment that Christine didn’t’ realize that marrying a nobleman would bring her social admiration.  She desired that popularity, but at the same time, wanted her career. Many readers forget–by marrying into the aristocracy, Christine would have had to leave the opera. Her life on stage would have been over. By resting comfortably in the bourgeoisie world, she could have it all. The career she wanted and the rubbing elbows with the upper classes that made her look desirable.

The bourgeoisie wanted the privilege of the aristocracy but also the freedom from their power and rule. Fashion was as important as outings to salons and the opera. They had to flaunt their status wherever they could. What better place for Christine then as the star of the opera? The bourgeoisie made sure they were noticed by the right people in restaurants, gardens, and boulevards. They mimicked whatever was in style at the time and placed etiquette first in order to mirror the noble image they wanted to obtain.

This is the perfect place for Christine. Here she stayed safe in an upwardly mobile class while desiring Raoul and his title, and at the same time furthered her career with Erik.  Image-was paramount in Leroux’s novel and he built much of Christine’s  internal conflict off this clash of the class system.

OCD is not an adjective.

I recently saw this video and felt it should be shared–and heeded. One of the top things that get under my skin is when people casually throw around the term “OCD.”  If they are obsessed with something they are “so OCD” about it.  If they have a quirk that makes them funny or unique, they are “OCD”  It’s a designer term used so frequently it has lessened the mental illness.

You can’t “be” OCD.  Just because you like your cookies arranged in pretty jars, have to pull and all-nighter for a report, or like your socks to match your shirt  does not mean you have OCD. If you love Christmas you do not have “Obsessive Christmas Disorder,”  you just like Christmas.  If you love coffee you do not have “Obessive Coffee Disorder”, you just like coffee. If you love sweets are you “so diabetes” about it? If you cry at sad movies and then can go out partying with your friends,  is that “so bi-polar of you?”  The mental illness is real.  OCD is used too often as an adjective… and it shouldn’t be.

Please cease telling those of us with OCD to stop being so sensitive to this.  To… get a sense of humor. I have Pure O, a type of OCD that involves intrusive thoughts, not necessarily compulsions. Let me tell you, it’s hell.  Kissing my daughter good-bye today I thought: “This is the last time I will ever see her because I am going to die in 5 minutes.”  Tell me, was that funny to you? It wasn’t to me. So I will never have a sense of humor over OCD being used causally to sell t-shirts or describe quirks. I would rather people educate themselves to what it really means for those of us that have this disease.

Walk 3 minutes in my brain and get back to me on if you are so “OCD.” Or watch this video and educate yourself….