Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I am addicted to romance. I suppose that’s not as bad as being addicted to Twinkies or Ho Hos because at least it won’t slap extra pounds on my hips. But it does compel me to hunt down romance in every conceivable form like a heat-seeking missile. Books, movies, date night with my husband or just getting a “fix” by writing my own romantic novel—to me, it’s all good.

And God help me, I don’t think there’s anything I love more than writing romantic tension. Every writer has their own style, of course, but being a drama queen, I tend away from subtle and sweet to that heart-pounding, breath-halting emotional tension that, for me, sets the page on fire. I suppose you could label me a romance arsonist because you see, as an edgy Inspirational author, it is my goal in life to set the reader on fire—both for God and for romance.

So recently, when I had several people express an interest in learning how I create romantic tension in my books, I had to sit down and really think about it. And what came to mind for me is drama – “raising the stakes,” as Donald Maas taught me in his excellent novel, Writing the Breakout Novel. Taking normal, loving characters and ratcheting up their emotions to the next level with dramatic situations that push them to the extreme. Upping the ante, if you will, by infusing the page with emotions and words that escalate the heartbeat, cause the breath to still in your throat.

Now, every writer has their own methods of adding romantic tension, but how do I like to do it? Well, one of my favorite ways is with ANGER, because let’s face it—nothing is more tense than anger! Following is a scene from the third book in The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Denied, which releases May 1st. In this scene, we have the mother and father, Marcy and Patrick, who, by the way, have the best marriage on the planet, in a tense fight scene that is almost foreign to their characters (i.e. raising the stakes to the next level). Not only do I utilize gruff action to build the tension, but at the end of the scene, I use short, bullet-fire dialogue to escalate it even more.

She was met with a cool blast of air when he snatched the covers from her body and flipped on the light. “Get up, darlin’, I’d like to hear all about your evening.”

Marcy sat up and put a hand to her eyes, squinting at the blinding light. “Patrick, have you been drinking?”

His laugh was not kind. “Yes, Marcy, I have. A man will often do that when he learns his wife has been unfaithful.”

She pressed back against the headboard, alarmed at the brutal look in his eyes. “That’s a lie! I have never been unfaithful.”

“Not physically, I’m sure.” His look pierced her to the core. “At least, not until tonight.”

Fear paralyzed her. “I fought him off, Patrick, I swear I did. He’s a liar.”

“Funny, he said the same about you.”

He took a step forward, and she cowered back. Her husband had never laid a cruel hand on her. But this man was not her husband. “Patrick, you’re tired, and you’ve been drinking. Come to bed, and we’ll discuss it in the morning.”

“Did you kiss him?”

“No, of course not!”

“Did he kiss you?”

She gasped for breath.

He gripped her arm and shook her. “Answer me!”


His eyes glittered like ice. “Well, Mrs. O’Connor, and how do I compare?”

Another way I like to create romantic tension is through the element of SURPRISE. Have the characters do something unexpected that jolts the reader as much as it does the character it’s happening to. Here is a scene from my current WIP, Refuge From the Storm, which is Katie O’Connor’s story, the fourth daughter in The Daughters of Boston series. I tried to build tension by implementing surprise with a touch of humor.

He nudged her chin up with his thumb, and her lips parted with a sharp intake of breath. And then he saw it. The gentle rise and fall of her chest, the soft rose in her cheeks, the skittish look in her eyes, flitting to his lips and then quickly away. Comprehension suddenly oozed through him like heated honey purling through his veins, quickening his pulse. Could it be? Was it possible that cold, callous Katie O’Connor was beginning to warm up? To him, of all people—Cluny McGee, the leper from her past? The thought sent warm ripples of shock through his body, thinning the air in his lungs.

His gaze gentled, taking in the vulnerability in her eyes, the fear in her face, and all he wanted to do was hold her, reassure her. As if under a spell, his gaze was drawn to her lips, parted and full, and the sound of her shallow breathing filled him with a fierce longing. “Oh, Katie,” he whispered, no power over the pull he was suddenly feeling. In slow motion, he bent toward her, closing his eyes to caress her mouth with his own. A weak gasp escaped her as she stiffened, but he couldn’t relent. The taste of her lips was far more than he bargained for, and he drew her close with a raspy groan. With a fierce hold, he cupped the back of her neck and kissed her deeply, gently, possessive in his touch. His fingers twined in her hair, desperate to explore.

And then beyond his comprehension, her body melded to his with an answering groan, and he was shocked when her mouth rivaled his with equal demand. Desire licked through him, searing his body and then his conscience. With a heated shudder, he gripped her arms and pushed her back, his breathing ragged as he held her at bay. “We can’t do this,” he whispered. He dropped his hold and exhaled, gouging shaky fingers through disheveled hair. His gaze returned, capturing hers and riddled with regret. “Believe me, Katie, as much as I want to, I’ve learned the hard way to take things slow. I should have never started this, and I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Forgive him? She stared at him through glazed eyes, her pulse still pumping in her veins at a ridiculous rate. She never wanted this, couldn’t stand the sight of him, and now here she was, tingling from his touch and desperate for more. Addicted to the “King of misery.” The very thought inflamed both fury and desire at the same time, muddling her mind. Dear Lord, she was torn between welding her lips to his or slapping him silly. With a tight press of her mouth, she opted for the second and smacked him clean across the face.

Of course, One of my favorite ways to escalate romantic tension is through INTERNAL MONOLOGUE, those deep, dark thoughts inside the characters’ minds that tell you they’re heading toward trouble. In my opinion, nothing builds tension better than internal monologue. Here is a scene from book 2 in The Daughters of Boston series, A Passion Redeemed, where the hero wants nothing to do with the heroine, but finds his defenses slipping as he helps her do the dishes. I start off in her POV and then switch to his to give the reader the impact of both of the character’s thoughts.

He moistened his lips, then slowly lifted his eyes to hers. “I need this.” His fingers skimmed across the towel on her shoulder, causing the air to still in her throat.

Dear God, what was happening? It was as if he had no control over his hand as it strayed from the towel to the soft curve of her neck. A tilt of her head, the blush of her cheeks, and suddenly he was two different men. One whose every muscle, thought and desire strained toward wanting her. The other, a distant voice of conscience and memory, quickly fading with every throb of his renegade pulse. Curse the effect of the wine! What else could explain this driving insanity pulsing through him right now? His fingers burned as they lingered, slowly tracing to the hollow of her throat. Against his will, he fixated on her lips, lush and full, staggered at the heat they generated. What was he doing? He didn’t want this.

Yes … he did.

All night he’d felt it mounting, a desire in his belly that grew tight at the sound of her laughter, the lift of her chin, the light in her eyes. A woman with cool confidence around everyone but him. Call it the wine. Or the fact he hadn’t been this close to a woman for well over a year. Or the intoxicating awareness that his very presence seemed to unnerve her. Whatever name it bore, it had him by the throat, taking him places he’d vowed he’d never be.

She blinked up at him, eyes wide and wondering. He was taking her by surprise and knew it. But no more so than him. He stared at her lips, feeling the draw and unwilling to fight it. His fingers moved up her throat to gently cup her chin, his eyes burning with intent. Slowly, carefully, he leaned forward, his mouth finally reaching hers, his breathing ragged as he tasted her lips.

A soft mew left her throat, and the sound ignited him. He pulled her close, his mouth demanding hers. She moaned while he pressed her to the counter, holding her there as he deepened the kiss. With a deep groan, his arms swallowed her up, drawing her small frame tightly against his. He pressed his lips to her hair, allowing her scent to flood his senses … to consume him.

Just like before.

His heart seized. What was he doing? The more he touched, the more he wanted. But she had ruined his life. Dashed his hopes. Destroyed his dreams. Dear God in Heaven, he wanted her … but he didn’t want her.

Now I know this will shock some POV purists out there, but I find that POV shifts within a scene are an effective way to escalate tension. To me, there’s something compelling about being inside the hero’s mind, then immediately switching to the heroine’s reaction. Here is a scene from A Passion Denied that relates what the hero is feeling but doesn’t want the heroine to know he is feeling, then switches to reveal the heroine’s reaction. Brady is teaching Lizzie how to fish with a rod and reel.

He put the rod in her right hand, then circled her from behind. He grasped his hands over hers. All at once, the scent of her hair and the nearness of her body distracted him, sending a jolt of heat searing through him. He fought it off, chewing on his lip as he forced himself to concentrate on the casting. “Okay, you hold the rod here, then release the button, then lift the rod like this …” His arm gently guided hers up and out, landing the lure in a perfect cast that rippled across the water.

“I did it!” she cried.

“Yes, you did. Now press the button release again so you don’t lose your line.”

She notched the button and turned, her face flushed a delicate shade of excitement. With a giggle, she threw herself into his arms, almost gouging his eye with her rod as she hugged.

He closed his eyes and swallowed the lump in his throat.

“Oh, Brady, this is so much fun! Can I do it again?” She pulled away and stared up. Her violet eyes brimmed with excitement.

He smiled, and then his gaze dropped to her full lips, forcing the breath to congeal in his lungs. He cleared his throat and stepped back. “Sure, Beth, you try it this time.”

Lizzie blinked, feeling a flutter in her stomach. What on earth just happened? One minute Brady was teaching her how to cast, and the next … She spun around to hide the heat that crept in her face and quickly swallowed her shock, desperate to focus on the rod in her hands. But his eyes … sweet saints, they’d had the same dreamy quality she’d seen in Michael’s, a kind of half-lidded stare that settled on her mouth, causing her heart to stop. She drew in a ragged breath and steeled her jaw. No! It was nothing more than her imagination, playing cruel tricks on her. “Focus, Lizzie,” she muttered under her breath, squinting at the lake as she swung the rod. The lure plopped into the water with shocking precision. Her lips flattened in grim satisfaction. Good! Maybe I can hook some fish, if nothing else.

And, as with all writing, I find that strong, dramatic verbs are a must to conveying tension of any kind. Whenever I write a tense scene, I literally pour over my literary Bible, The Synonym Finder, by J.A. Rodale, to come up with the most powerful verbs I can. Here is a scene from A Passion Redeemed in which the hero realizes he’s falling for a woman he doesn’t want to fall in love with. Uh, you think he’s ticked?

He wheeled around and bludgeoned his way through the crowd, riling customers on his way out. Outside, the bitter cold assailed him, tinged with the smells of burning peat and the slight whiff of horses. He could hear the faint sound of laughter and singing drifting from the various pubs tucked along the cobblestone road. His anger swelled.

He hurled his car door open and tossed the bottle on the passenger seat. Mumbling under his breath, he rounded the vehicle to rotate the crank, gyrating the lever with such ferocity that it rattled unmercifully. The engine growled to life, its vicious roar rivaling the angst in his gut. He got in the car and slammed the door, slapping the headlights on with a grunt. With a hard swipe of the steering wheel, he jerked the car away from the curve and exhaled a loud breath.

It was happening again. He was finally past the pain of one sister and now it was beginning with the other. He gunned the vehicle down Lower Abbey Street, nearly hitting a pedestrian who probably wouldn’t have felt a thing, given the near-empty bottle in his hand. He gritted his teeth. That’s what women did to you—drove you to the bottom of a bottle where you drowned in your own liquid travail. He yanked his tie off, loosening his shirt to let the frigid air cool the heat of his anger. Thoughts of Charity suddenly surfaced, and a heat of another kind surged through his body. He swore out loud, the coarse sound foreign to his ears. He turned the corner on a squeal. The bottle careened across the seat and slammed into his leg.

He’d been without a woman way too long. Once, his appetite had been voracious. But Faith had changed all that. Her sincerity, her purity, her honesty. She had ruined him for other women. Since she’d left, he’d had no inclination, no interest. No desire.

Until now.

Finally, for me, the key to writing romantic tension is to FEEL the scene before hand. This happens a lot while I’m on the treadmill listening to worship music. All at once, a dramatic line or action will pop into my head, and before I know it, I’m scribbling a scene down with the pen and paper I keep close by. I think on it, imagine it, plot it in my mind. And when I’m finally writing it, I use everything at my disposal to feel the scene—from personal memories to movies to song lyrics—anything that will help me to intensify my feelings and therefore heighten the drama. Heck, I even keep a hand mirror by my computer to study emotions on my own face, as well as jumping up to enact certain scenes. Although, this has become somewhat awkward since my husband has started his own business and now sits behind me in my home office. Sigh.

So, what do you do to build heat in your romantic tension? Go ahead and tell me ... show me with examples ... because I’ve got the fire department on speed dial and a fire extinguisher close by. And frankly, I’d like to learn a few more tricks for stoking the fire, because as far as I am concerned, when it comes to romantic tension, there’s no such thing as too much heat.


sherrinda said...

Okaaaay, I'll make the coffee again. *g*

Wow, I loved this post. Romantic tension is what I love best. I have a question though. I am new at this writing thing and have heard that the romantic love in the Christian arena doesn't want you to dwell on the physical aspects (ie. desire) I find that a bit odd since we all, Christians included, have it...given by God, no less. We just choose to not act on the desire in a way that causes us to sin. I have written some of my own heart stopping/breath stealing scenes, thinking they would have to be deleted at some point, but after reading yours, well, mine are just fine, I think.

I so need to read your books! I am sorry to say, I have missed out on what will undoubtedly be a fantastic romantic treat!

Jessica said...

LOL Julie! Now I've got to go hunt up a scene. I'm targeting Love Inspired though so I've gotta force mine to be calmer. LOL
I absolutely LOVE one particular phrase that you used. The one about honey purling through his veins, or something! It struck me as so fresh and unique. Very nice.
I love to use anger as tension too.
I'm coming back with an example, if I have time. :-)

Tina M. Russo said...


Julie, you so rock.

How about we all become super heroes and you get to be THE FLAME.

I smell a blog post coming on.

GREAT, AWESOME post btw. Thank you.

THANKS for making coffee Sherrinda.

Rose said...

Thank you for all the examples you gave. It helps to see the technique in action.

I personally like the internal tension so we know how the character "thinks" they feel, then have them actually "do" the opposite.


Julie Lessman said...

Good morning, Sherrinda ... thanks for making the coffee ... that's what you get for being an earlybird because, honey, I don't step foot on the floor until at least seven ... :)

And you are correct -- the Christian market (CBA) does not like its authors to dwell on the physical aspects of romance, but I am happy to tell you that that is changing, and I am living proof. Of course, that doesn't mean you get by unscathed, because there are plenty of those within the market who do NOT like my style of romance, and I have the reviews and comments to prove it.

BUT ... I think my publisher Revell realizes (along with its sister company Bethany House, who publishes the "edgy Inspirational" Deanne Gist) that there is a growing market within the CBA for edgy romance that is realistic and helpful to women mired in today's amoral society. And Revell and Bethany House are NOT the only publishers "edging" that way. Sheaf House has published "Edgy Inspirational Author" Michelle Sutton with her edgy YA series that begins with It's Not About Me -- wonderfully realistic and compelling and EDGY!! There are others as well, such as Kregel who publishes Patti Lacy's excellent women's fiction, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw -- both phenomenal and edgy.

I'd love to read one of your edgy scenes, Sherrinda, so feel free to share ...


Debra E Marvin said...

All the O'Connor women on one page. That's scary!

I admit I was quite confused myself when I read the first of the series. **Wait a minute- what's all this drinking and kissing and lusting going on here?**

I've since realized that we have to be very aware of what each publisher is willing to accept.
Julie's writing reminds me of why we enjoy romances in the first place - the romantic tension. . . that I agree is a gift from God.

Otherwise, men can be so annoying, we'd never have anything to do with them unless we needed something fixed.

No matter where we draw the boundaries in our writing (publisher in mind) we need to do it the utmost! Thanks Julie for this warm reminder.

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Jessica -- that "honey purling through his veins" actually makes me hungry and reminds me I forgot the food this morning. So I've brought cheese danish (my favorite!), donuts (another favorite) and LOTS of cinnamon hazelnut coffee. Dig in!

And PLEASE do post a scene -- I not only love to write edgy romance, I LOVE to read it ... grin, especially in a Love Inspired, albeit tempered, I know. Mary Connealy is definitely becoming one of the best at this in her Heartsongs -- both Clueless Cowboy and Buffalo Gal were SO much fun to read because I see Mary pushing the envelope just a tiny bit with every one of her books I read. Gosh, I hope she doesn't steal my job ... :)

Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Tina -- you and Mary are hard acts to follow, especially with your "Using Sensory/Emotional Triggers to Write" blog yesterday and Mary's "Chapter Ending Hooks" on Monday --which, by the way, if anyone missed them, you need to go back and read them -- excellent, both!

And, GRIN, the "flame"? OOOOoooo, I like that title -- at last I could truly say about myself -- "Now THERE is a hot woman!" :)


Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Rose, "internal tension" is soooo one of my favorite techniques too, because getting inside of the character's brain can be a very "edgy" private place that makes it all the more tense knowing his/her thoughts are in dire conflict with his or her actions ... or not.


Julie Lessman said...

"All the O'Connor women on one page. That's scary!"

Oh, honey, you don't know the half of it! :) In book 4, which I just finished, there are stories about EVERY O'Connor going on at the same time -- 13 in all ... talk about "scary" ... and complicated!!

And, yeah, I will be the FIRST to say that my type of writing is NOT for everyone and I'm sure it has shocked more than one CBA reader. But, just as the Christian community is diverse in how they come to the Lord (some raised with it, others "blinded by the light" on the road to Damascus), I believe they are also diverse in how they live for the Lord and read/write for the Lord. I am actually writing for women like I used to be -- women who may believe in God but don't live for him in their lives or their sexuality. Women like this wouldn't pick up an Inspirational novel to save their souls, but if said novel had some of the intense romanticism they are used to in secular novels, well, you might just be able to spoon-feed them some of the Gospel, eh?

And therein is my deepest hope.


Janet Dean said...

Wonderful post, Julie!!! Thanks for the excellent examples for creating romantic tension. Though I can't come close to your fire in my books, studying your techniques is still valuable for any writer of romance.

Kudos for those strong verbs!! I'm drained from just reading your angry hero's actions/reactions.

I'm impressed with the collage of your books with you holding that match. How did you do that?


Lisa Jordan said...


This was such a great--and educational--post!! I'm printing it out for my writer's notebook because I'm a visual, hands-on learner.

I love romantic tension without the sex scenes. Happily married for 20 years, I'm confident about the actual act, but it's the actual tension that makes me swoon. I have the first book in the Daughters of Boston series and LOVE LOVE LOVE Mary and Patrick. Reading Patrick's response in your post made my heart race. His anger vibrated off the page! Oh, by the way, my DH is a Patrick, too!

Great post! Thanks for sharing!


Lisa Jordan said...

Oops, I should've read my post before hitting send. I meant Marcy, not Mary. Sorry!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Julie, you are the QUEEN of romantic tension! I loved those scenes, except I skipped the one with Lizzy and Brady because I want to read the book first! Love your books, girlfriend!

Okay, I really increased the tension in my latest book. In fact, I WAS a little afraid of it being TOO sensual, but after reading your scenes, I think I'm okay. :-)

So what do I do to build heat? I was so into these characters that by the time they had their first kiss, the heat was just there and all I had to do was write it down! I play the romantic scenes over in my mind a few times before I get to them. I picture how they will be together further down the line and it helps to figure out how they will interact with each other in the meantime, if that makes sense.

I liked what you said about using other emotions, like anger, to increase romantic tension. I like to do that too. I especially like using compassion. Okay, I just have to share my example. Here Truett has just been clobbered by the villain and has a black eye/bruised cheekbone.

“It’s a really ugly bruise, isn’t it?” Truett said. Her eyes were filled with anguish. He might as well take advantage of the situation. “I think if you kiss it, it will make it feel better.”

Her lower lip trembled as she stared at his battered eye. Slowly, she took his face in her hands and leaned forward. Her breath grazed his cheek in a way that made him ache to hold her and kiss her. But instead he held his breath to see what she would do next.

She brushed her soft lips against his bruised cheekbone. The spot tingled somewhere between pain and pleasure. Then she pulled his head down an inch lower and brushed her lips over his eyelid.

His heart pounded. Her warm lips caressed the corner of his eye.
He opened his eyes just enough to see the halo of light around her head. He could barely make out her features, but her eyes were closed. He lifted his face and kissed her, feeling as though they were continuing the kiss he had started the night before.

End of quote. And then Truett remembers that he promised himself not to kiss her until AFTER he proposed. He never gets around to proposing because they always kiss, then Claire gets angry about something and messes it all up. :-)

I always make sure the H/H are noticing all kinds of things about each other in every scene, which helps lead up to the romantic scenes later.

I'm afraid I'm not as good as Julie at coming up with great verbs and the "honey purling through his veins" kind of stuff. ;-)

Lorna said...

Wow, Julie. Reading those scenes almost makes up for waking up to a broken water main. I love the way you write romantic tension and God-given passion between characters. Thank you for sharing some of your techniques. I especially like the way you use internal dialogue and POV switches.

Julie Lessman said...

I'm impressed with the collage of your books with you holding that match. How did you do that?

Grin. Well, Janet, let's just say it pays to be married to an artist! :) I told Keith I wanted to come up with something really campy, then mentioned my idea of holding a match with a flame. So he took my pictures -- one to get the look on my face, and another to get the hand holding the match, which he made bigger so it looks like it's in the foreground. Then he faded my book in the background, using PhotoShop, I think. He then sent me a high-res JPG, but for some reason, it still comes across fuzzy, but that's okay ... it IS supposed to be campy, right?


Melanie Dickerson said...

I forgot to mention how cute you look in that picture, Julie! Yes, it's campy and cute, and I'm impressed with how your hubby did that. :-)

Julie Lessman said...

Gosh, Lisa, thank you SO much for your kind words, and I am thrilled you enjoyed A Passion Most Pure!

And, oh, girlfriend, I am SO with you on the romantic tension being the swoon factor!! I have been married over 30 years, and it's that wonderful heated tension that curls my toes every time, not the graphic, base sex scenes I used to read in secular novels.

And you're married to a Patrick? Irish, I am guessing? Dear Lord, I LOVE Irish men in my novels. My husband is German, but somehow I can't see me doing a romance series on a German family ... :)


Julie Lessman said...

MELANIE!!!!!!!!! Don't you DARE sit there and say you're not as good as anybody after dangling a scene like you just did, girl!! YIKES!!! That was a HOT scene, my friend, and incredibly well done!

Lines like "Her breath grazed his cheek in a way that made him ache to hold her and kiss her," and "She brushed her soft lips against his bruised cheekbone. The spot tingled somewhere between pain and pleasure." THOSE lines are exceptional because words like "ache" and "tingled" and "between pain and pleasure" are trigger words that create a flutter response in a reader.

Boy, oh boy, kiddo, I cannot WAIT to read that one! EXCELLENT JOB!!


Julie Lessman said...

Lorna -- I am SO sorry about the broken water main -- bummer! But I'm saying a prayer right now that your day gets better AND the main gets fixed soon and at little or no expense to you.

And thank you, my friend, for your very kind comment. I absolutely LOVE POV switches, although I know that in the romance genre, this has been taboo in the past, ESPECIALLY in contests! But I do find it to be an effective way to create tension.

Have a blessed day!


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Mel, for the comment about the picture. And, GRIN, for once I didn't have Keith "touch it up" because it's not a close-up!! :) I guess if I can't be married to a plastic surgeon, the next best thing is an artist who can PhotoShop out my double chin and crow's feet ... :)


Melanie Dickerson said...

Oh, Julie, AS IF!!! You're gorgeous, woman.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Julie, I've got to read your books!!!! A MUST, A MUST. Heading over to today!

It sounds like your books alone would be enough study to help me in this area.

Great samples! Thanks for sharing.

And although I'm a POV purist, I must admit, these shifts worked for me. I guess I could try that as long as it didn't turn into a bobble-head sort of scene. That constant shifting makes me burn a book faster than a glowing burner can melt a synthetic sleeve to your skin.

PatriciaW said...

First, Eileen, yes you MUST read Julie's books. I read the first one not long ago, and now I'm clamoring for the second before the third is released.

Julie, thanks for a lesson I can apply to my wip right now, and a reminder that I can be true to my story as it comes to me rather than trying to sanitize it for the market. I get that doing so means not every publisher will be interested, but that's okay.

As far as POV, I think it works as long the author doesn't overuse it. If this happens in every scene, it can be frustrating to the reader. Also, I think it works best when the author switches once, and doesn't switch back within that same scene. A reader can easily follow along, because often at that point, the reader is thinking along the same lines.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Okay, I'm back to include a snippet since this one isn't in any contest this year, it's safe to share here. I'd love to know if others feel the tension I do in this partial scene.

FYI: Trin (Katrina) is a widow of three years.

"The distance she’d put between them felt wrong tonight. She recalled how often she had fought for this comforting space between them, but now she wished for it to vanish. As if he was privy to her thoughts, Curtis slid closer and took hold of her hands. Goosebumps popped up all over her.
“Your hands are as cold as ice, Trin.”
She opened her mouth to talk but nothing escaped. How did the mute communicate love and commitment? Couldn’t she just let him read her eyes? But then she remembered she didn’t want him to see the evidence of her earlier tears. She tried to pull her hands away from his massaging warmth, but she felt paralyzed, like some outside force had anchored her there. It wasn’t Curtis. He continued to caress her hands with such gentleness.
“We need to talk, Trin.”
She sat motionless, feeling every labored movement of her heart and lungs fighting for control. His massaging suddenly stopped, replaced by a gentle tracing of her newly exposed wedding and engagement ring groove. He looked up at her with the most beautiful smile. “Did you take them off for me?”
Swallowing, she tried to answer, but again it was like she’d lost all her senses. If she couldn’t bear her soul to him, then what kind of future would they have?
Jumping to her feet, she shook her head, “This was a mistake. I’ve got to go.” She sprinted to the hall tree next to the kitchen door, grabbed her jacket, then pulled the wooden door open. While scrambling to get inside her oversized coat, she grabbed her keychain from the hook above the switch plate.
Curtis stepped in front of her, blocking her from getting through the storm door. “I lost Alyssa to an emotional fight, Trin. Don’t do this to me. Don’t leave like this. We need to work through this.”
The look of fear on his face filled her with compassion. She couldn’t hurt this man. She couldn’t deny her love for him any longer. Stepping into his masculine frame, she felt his arms wrap around her, drawing her in close. Her body melted into his embrace. She longed for him to kiss her, to experience that intimacy with him, overcoming her diffidence that stole so many opportunities.
Encased in his warm, safe arms, she looked up to find him peering into her eyes. Crackling sounds came from the neighboring room, the smell of fresh burned wood wafted over, filling the air with a warmth and brilliance she could feel and sense so vividly, because it matched what was going on inside her now. She wanted to kiss him so badly, but she was already on her tiptoes, and his lips were still so far away.
“Katrina Olsen, will you promise to spend the rest of your days loving me, challenging me, making me the most blessed man on the face of this earth?”
A chuckle of pure joy bubbled out. “Most definitely.”
Her toes left the floor. Curtis stepped further into the room and spun around, squeezing her close. When the room stopped spinning, his lips caressed hers. A wonderful lifetime later he lowered her so her feat felt the floor once more, but as he did gentle kisses continued to brush along her nose, eyes, forehead, culminating on the top of her head. They both took a deep breath as she nestled her face into his chest. She felt his Adam’s apple rise and fall against the top of her head. He smelled of fire embers and spice all rolled up in one, the most wonderful scent—so very masculine, so very Curtis."

Cara Slaughter said...

I find romantic tension is sometimes difficult to write. Thanks for your examples, Julie. You've certainly got it mastered!

Janet Dean said...

Julie, a husband with artistic talent trumps romance any day. LOL. Sorry, I couldn't resist. I can just hear you sputtering!


Mary Connealy said...

These scenes are crazy good.

I love every word of them.
I cannot WAIT for A Passion Redeemed.
Tension indeed, woman.
And I LOVE that picture at the beginning. I almost couldnt' tear my eyes off of it, then I started reading and I almost forgot to comment on that fantastic picture.
I see your husband's talent at work there, but the fire, darlin' that's allllllll you. Love it. :)

Julie Lessman said...

EILEEN ... Whoa, baby, between you and Mel, I've had my fingers quivering on the 911 button on my phone while the smoke alarm is going off in my house!!!!

Great scene, my friend!! And, YES, YES, YES, I felt the tension, big time!! I especially love the lines, "She opened her mouth to talk but nothing escaped. How did the mute communicate love and commitment?" and "Crackling sounds came from the neighboring room, the smell of fresh burned wood wafted over, filling the air with a warmth and brilliance she could feel and sense so vividly, because it matched what was going on inside her now," and "Her toes left the floor." WOW, you and Mel are authors I'd definitely want to read because that's what I'm lookin' for girls!


Mary Connealy said...

Here's a romantic tension scene I wrote yesterday.
Not red hot like Julie's of course. But I enjoyed writing it.
My western artist and tom-boyish Texas Cowgirl novel.
Working title: Wrangler in Petticoats

“You want another kiss right now.”
“That’s the last thing on my mind, you big dumb—”
His hand slid from her chin and sank into her hair at the nape of her neck and he kissed her. Deeply, gently. Sally thought of that picture he’d painted as she lost herself in the kiss. A woman whose mind had been emptied.
Of course her mind wasn’t empty really. It was full, just full of only one thing. One huge thing that left no room for anything else.
After all he’d said about never marrying—if he asked—she’d agree to stay here with him forever and follow him wherever he went to see whatever he wanted to paint next.
Because in the way of a wise Texas woman, Sally knew deep in her heart, that he was the only man she’d ever love and even if Luther came for her today and she rode away from Logan and never saw him again, she’d love him and only him for the rest of her life.

Jeannie Campbell said...

OOoo!! My favorite all-time post, seriously! I just ate up every scene of Julie's and others who commented! So I wanted to put one of mine out there....I went with the surprise element this time. :)

To set it up...Joshua and Kathy just finished dancing in this fundraiser "Dancing with the Stars" type competition. We're in Kathy's POV.

I registered that the spotlight faded and the crowd was clapping. It even penetrated that this was the time when we were to hold hands and get ready for the bow when the spotlight would find us again.
But neither of us moved in the cocoon of temporary darkness.
My daydream became reality, only this time it was Joshua slowly bending over me, his strong legs taking the brunt of both our weight. I knew his intent, but I didn’t want to stop him.
His lips gently touched mine in question. Sensing no objection, he deepened the kiss, his lips far softer and warmer than I had imagined them to be.
I heard his sharp intake of breath as I melted into him, sliding my left arm, which had been laying on his bicep, up to circle his neck. He held me even closer, and I felt the tremor that swept through his body like it had swept through my own.
Then, like a high-powered searchlight piercing the woods in search for prey, we fell victim to the spotlight. There we were – in all our glorious passion – for the whole of Humboldt County to see.
Joshua went rigid for a beat or two, his mouth unmoving on mine. I thought he was as caught up as I was until he righted me and spun me to face the crowd, which had now risen to their feet, stomping and whistling their approval. But when I saw the Ronald McDonald grin on his face, I was sure he had planned the whole thing.
He had kissed me to up his approval rating, and it worked. The crowd stood in ovation.

Anxious for your thoughts, Julie!

Gina Welborn said...

Whew, it's hot in here.

And hubby is two states away. You, Julie, are an evil woman.

Gr8 post!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Thanks, Julie, for your encouraging comments. It means a lot to me!

The editing never ends, though, does it? After rereading my snippet I spotted two infractions on writing in close POV. Will I ever learn?

Jessica said...

My hubby is far away too. Sigh. But we don't really need any more kids, so maybe this is a good thing. LOL

I read your entire comment and I didn't notice anything wrong with the POV. No worries girl! :-) However, bear should be bare. :-)LOL We're never perfect, right?

Gina Welborn said...

Jessica, as I look over at the messes my four kids have made over the last three days since their dad and older brother have been gone, I realize I certainly don't need any more children.

Or a constipated dog.

Gina Welborn said...

Umm, lemme clarify on the dog comment. He went to the babysitter's house on Sat because the rest of the kids and I were supposed to go on the mission trip.

Well, I got sick.

By the time I picked up the dog, it was MOnday night. Apparently he hadn't done his business since he arrived. Must have been waiting to poop in a familiar landscape.

Okay, enough about my dog.

Jessica said...

Okay Julie. Here's part of my scene. If anyone wants to crit it, I'm all ears. :-)
The setup is this: The heroine Rachel gets caught sneaking into the Mayor's house by local cop Grant Harkness. She's in love with him, but he doesn't know it. In fact, they've disliked each other in the past for various reasons.
:-) Hopefully this scene works. If it doesn't, I'd love for someone to tell me! It's in Grant's POV.

"Grant grabbed the hand snaking towards him, most likely for another good poke. Which he didn’t need. She had claws for fingernails. Scarlet ones. He tried to ignore how small her hand felt captured in his.
He didn’t have to try hard. No sooner had he grabbed her hand than she yanked it away. “I love Katrina. Try to get it, Mr. Smooth. She’s my best friend.” Rachel stepped back, pausing to push her hair out of her face. “I would never do anything to hurt her.”
Doubt wormed around in his gut. He’d met a lot of liars in his line of work. Had learned to recognize one. Rachel was telling the truth. Her voice rang with sincerity. Her eyes shone with it. And something else layered her tone, some other emotion he couldn’t put his finger on. A quivering of her lips that didn’t quite match her indignation.
Her scent, expensive and elegant, trembled on the breeze before drawing him into its embrace. He pushed off the car, attraction sizzling through him. Why not pursue this? What did liking have to do with lust? Her hair flowed around her face like molten lava and her eyes widened when he put his hands on her shoulders.
Lips parted, she watched him. Rachel, whom he’d never seen submissive, looked soft as velvet. Something spiked through him, sharp as a nail in his chest.
He backed up, let go. Thinking of Rachel as cold and selfish in high school had eased the fervor of his crush. Years had slid away and he’d gotten over her. But the way she looked right now, green eyes shimmering, reminded him of those adolescent feelings.

Jessica said...

Ewww, Gina!!!
I'm so glad I don't have a job. Sorry you all didn't feel good though.

Jessica said...

Wow, how does DOG get mixed up with JOB?
Hmmmm. I meant I'm glad I don't have a DOG.
Maybe I need a nap...

Gina Welborn said...

I actually like our dog.

It's the cat who won't run away despite the times I keep leaving the door open...

I should just take her on an excursion to PetsMart and accidentally stick her in one of the adoption cages.

This is such NOT a passionate response.

Tina Pinson said...

I liked your idea of not staying so close to the pov in matters of the heart... I couldn't agree more. There are times I want you to see both sides and could just scream when I have to stay in one person's head.

What do publishers think about that?

Julie Lessman said...

Patricia -- Thank you SO much for strong-arming Eileen to get my books -- I should put you on the payroll!

And one thing I've learned about writing edgy Inspirational romance that I really didn't know was, "YES, Virginia," you can get published in the CBA!! When I started out, I actually had two versions of A Passion Most Pure -- an ABA version and a sanitized CBA version, and guess which version my agent inadvertently sent to Revell???? You guessed it -- the ABA version, and lo and behold, they bought it with nary a change in the sensuality. I was SHOCKED, to say the least, because like you, I obviously thought I had to "sanitize" the product for the CBA. Not true.

So, Patricia, stay true to your writing and trust me -- if you go over the edge too much, your editor will "sanitize" you plenty!:)


Julie Lessman said...

Cara, you find romantic tension hard to write? Must be because you are such a sweet, non-confrontational type of person who leaves the extreme romantic tension to hyper-emotional types like moi. Thank GOD for people like you in the world -- I'd check out now if I had to deal with a world of people like me ...

And you CAN do it, I know, because you don't win contests like you do and not be good at romantic tension, girlfriend.


Julie Lessman said...

"A husband with artistic talent trumps romance any day." So, Janet, you're from the school of Debra in "Everybody Loves Raymond" when Debra says to Ray as he demonstrates the new vacuum on the curtains -- "I've never been more turned on," eh?

I see your husband's talent at work there, but the fire, darlin' that's allllllll you." Thanks, Mare, but unfortunately, the "fire" thing is pretty true, as Keith knows all too well! It's nice at times, I suppose ... if you don't get burned. Poor guy. I prayed like crazy all of my life for a husband like him, but obviously the poor schmo never uttered a prayer for himself, thank God!

And WHOOEEE, Mary, you little minx, you! I just read your scene below and it's SMOKIN!! I especially love "His hand slid from her chin and sank into her hair at the nape of her neck and he kissed her. Deeply, gently." I'm telling you, girl, you are definitely turning up the heat in your books ... maybe because we made so much fun of you with Petticoat Ranch when NOBODY had a clue how she got pregnant??? :)


sherrinda said...

Julie, it's encouraging to hear about the more edgy books. I had started my wip as a non-christian book, but my faith keeps creeping in, so as it stands right now, it probably wouldn't hit any market! But I am having fun in the process.

Okay, I am working on some fear issues, so I will share one of my "almost kisses". Sometimes, I like the "almost" better than the actual thing. :) Preface: Medival England, late 1100's. Jocelyn and Malcolm are forced into marriage, and are trying to come to terms with their attraction and trust issues. They have just returned from a ride inspecting the land around their castle.

“Will you be at supper, my lord?” Jocelyn tried to appear nonchalant, for he had not taken supper in the hall the past few days, but she wanted him to know that she had noticed the slight.

Lifting her down from the horse, Malcolm paused, not releasing his grip on her. “Do you want me there?

She glanced away from his questioning eyes, distracted by the warmth of his hands still encasing her waist. “You need not come if you find it tedious.”

Malcolm turned her face toward his and her breath caught as he leaned down, his mouth hovering over hers. Heart hammering in her chest, she struggled for breath, waiting for his kiss. His roughened cheek brushed hers as those lips, which should have claimed her own, whispered in her ear instead. “You, my lady, are anything but tedious.”

Jocelyn swallowed hard with disappointment when he dropped his hands, stepped back, and gave her a small bow.

“I thank you for a most enjoyable ride,” he said, leaving her once again, in the hands of a very capable guardsman.

I just wrote that yesterday and somehow now it seems rather tame compared to honey veins. lol

I checked our library for your books today and there are several holds on your two newest ones! (Though I am sure you would rather them go out and buy, I thought you would like to know how popular you are at my library!)

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Jeannie, I was THERE, girl, glued to the kiss with the audience!! Bravo! I especially loved the following, "I heard his sharp intake of breath as I melted into him, sliding my left arm, which had been laying on his bicep, up to circle his neck. He held me even closer, and I felt the tremor that swept through his body like it had swept through my own."

One character feeling/seeing the reaction in the other is a great way to build tension. When you have the characters feeling/seeing/sensing each other's tremor, trust me, the reader does too! Eileen did this too in her excerpt whenelt Katrina felt Curtis's "Adam’s apple rise and fall against the top of her head."

Another line I loved was "Joshua went rigid for a beat or two, his mouth unmoving on mine." YES!!! The drama of a breath stilled in the throat or a the trigger of the pulse are ALL wonderful ways to build the tension. Gosh, I cannot tell you how many times the air fuses in my characters' throats or their body freezes with shock. Of course, you cannot overdo it because it will minimize the effect, but a few here and there can sure up the tension.

Good stuff, ladies!! If you're published, let me know the name of the book, if not, let me know WHEN you are published, okay?


Julie Lessman said...

GRIN!! Yes, Gina, it is hot in here today! :)

And I am NOT an evil woman, although I'm sure there are reviewers and those in the Christian community who would be inclined to agree. :)

Five kids and constipated dog notwithstanding, your dry-wit personality alone would be enough for a very interesting novel, girlfriend. Ever consider writing a biography?? :)


Gina Welborn said...

You're right, Julie, you are not EVIL. Beautiful, passionate, godly, and with this odd goofy streak.

I blame the latter on certain gals whose names I shall not list.

Julie Lessman said...

EILEEN, I agree with Jessica -- I didn't see any POV infractions when I read it the first time, which means if there are any there, I sure didn't catch them because the scene captured me from the start. But I went back to read it again and did NOT see any POV infractions.

And, JESSICA, you've got the fire thing down, girl, ESPECIALLY with this passage:

"He’d met a lot of liars in his line of work. Had learned to recognize one. Rachel was telling the truth. Her voice rang with sincerity. Her eyes shone with it. And something else layered her tone, some other emotion he couldn’t put his finger on. A quivering of her lips that didn’t quite match her indignation.
Her scent, expensive and elegant, trembled on the breeze before drawing him into its embrace. He pushed off the car, attraction sizzling through him. Why not pursue this? What did liking have to do with lust?

WHOA, baby, I got my fire extinguisher out for a number of reasons.

1.)You establish him as a hard, experienced guy with the first line about him meeting a lot of liars in his work, nicely juxtapositioning his almost surprise that she was telling the truth, heightening his attraction to her despite their past.

2.) Him sensing something else in her tone, an "emotion he couldn’t put his finger on. A quivering of her lips that didn’t quite match her indignation," NICELY hinting that she was attracted to him and her body was responding whether she wanted it to or not.

3.) Having him "push off the car" is such a male action, in my opinion, and then attraction sizzles through him -- YES!! Anytime you use words like "sizzle," "lust," or words that are sometimes used in a sensual context, you automatically infuse your scene with the hint of that, in my opinion. THIS can be one of the BEST ways to turn up the heat in a scene -- MERE words that have a shady past, so to speak. Just the suggestion of them can do this, and this is a technique I use quite often. And then, once again, another "male" thought when he thinks, "Why not pursue this? What did liking have to do with lust?" Holy cow, get the fan out, girl, 'cause your scene has touched on several fire-starters!


Mary Connealy said...

BTW, I never EVER tire of heroes teaching heroines to fish. A classic.
Right up there with saving her from hypothermia as a reason to get too close.
Yeah, baby!

Julie Lessman said...

There are times I want you to see both sides and could just scream when I have to stay in one person's head.What do publishers think about that?

Oh, Tina, I am SO with you on this, which is why I write multiple POVs in every one of my books. And I do think the trend is changing -- it used to be taboo (from a fear of head-hopping, I think), but more and more authors are attempting it, which I like AS LONG AS they know the rules of appropriate POE shift. I did a blog on this a while back called Confessions of A POV Queen (here's the link:

In regard to what publishers think about this, Jeff Gerke, then editor at NavPress, actually rejected A Passion Most Pure, and one of the reasons why was the multiple POVs, but obviously Revell did not have a problem with it. But I will say that most judges in contests do NOT like the multiple POVs because so many of them are POV purists or from the old school that you should only have one POV per scene.

Uh ... and it's a good thing I'm already published because I pretty much blow this out of the water in book 3, A Passion Denied, when I attempt a moving mural-type scene with five different POVs to show what everyone is thinking during a really critical time. I think it is one of the best scenes in the book, but that's just my opinion. We'll see what readers think. :)


Julie Lessman said...

SHERRINDA!!! You have hit on something today that none of us have mentioned in the romantic tension vein -- the ALMOST factor!!!

Grin. You did it -- upped the tension and twisted my heart with your scene, especially:
"Heart hammering in her chest, she struggled for breath, waiting for his kiss. His roughened cheek brushed hers as those lips, which should have claimed her own, whispered in her ear instead. “You, my lady, are anything but tedious.”

WHOA, BABY, that's hot, trust me, and it IS honey purling through the veins! What makes it so hot? The breathless anticipation, the want, the desire ... his roughened cheek grazing hers and then that marvelous line "You, my lady, are anything but tedious.” Honey, you got it down, trust me!

And, honestly, at this point in my career, I don't give a rip if people buy my book or get it through the library -- I just want people to read it and exercise word of mouth on my behalf. That's where true sales come from. Frankly, I'm just thrilled a lot of libraries do carry my books. Gosh, if I could get one in every library in the U.S., I'd be a wealthy woman! :)


Julie Lessman said...

You're right, Julie, you are not EVIL. Beautiful, passionate, godly, and with this odd goofy streak. I blame the latter on certain gals whose names I shall not list.

"Odd goofy streak?" Honey, that's a pre-requisite to be A Seeker, I'm afraid, and you could SO be one if our # wasn't limited to 15. :)

BTW, I never EVER tire of heroes teaching heroines to fish. A classic.
Right up there with saving her from hypothermia as a reason to get too close. Yeah, baby!

GRIN, I laughed out loud on that one, Mare. Mmm ... maybe I need to include a hypothermia scene in my next book before you do. Actually, Jamie Carie does have one of a sort in her book, Snow Angel -- excellent book! Have you read it?


Eileen Astels Watson said...

These are all such great excerpts! My heart is pounding! Hubby better come home soon!

To clarify my infraction. It was the CLOSE part of the POV that I was referring to. "She recalled", "she remembered". They distance the POV, at least in my opinion, they do.

sherrinda said...

Whew, Eileen, you are making me blush! Hope you have a fire extinguisher close by!

Vince said...

I would make a distinction between “erotic’ tension and ‘romantic’ tension.

With romantic tension, I would have the romantic scene take place right after an event which raises the emotional stake the hero has in the heroine. For example, for the first time he sees her as a potential mate, for the first time he experiences a sense of jealousy, for the first time he becomes protective and walks her to her car in broad daylight. This budding self-awareness can heighten the impact. Perhaps a step further would be having the hero discover that the heroine worked her way through college as a stripper or, to a lesser degree, was suspended for a week for mooning the dean of women. These last examples might better fit into the erotic category.

With erotic tension, I will refer to the first book I read about writing romances. I don’t remember the author’s name but there was a chapter in the book entitled: “Get Their Clothes Off”. The chapter went into various ingenious ways to get the clothes off the parties innocently.

The male is very visual so I would have the hero see the heroine, innocently, without her clothes. (As when he stumbles upon her taking a bath in a stream. Also when a canvas shower falls down when on the archeology site of a dig, or when she is swimming naked in a pool at night and the lights suddenly go on).

Hero could also see heroine practicing her belly dancing without her noticing him Heroine might be playing a fallen woman in a community play ( a play against alcoholism like the Drunkard.) and hero could see her in her costume when he unexpectedly drops by the apartment. He sees her for the first time as other than the ‘church lady’.

Scent is also powerful for a male. Have the heroine’s best friend spray her with some very erotic perfume which she has not yet removed and is no longer aware she is wearing and then have the hero drop by. The perfume could cause all sorts of chemical reactions in his brain involving the heroine which would be fun to write. (Is she wearing that perfume for me or someone else? Why haven't I noticed it before?)

Then there is a careful but expert use of double entendres or a sensuous but innocent description of eating food; perhaps having hero and heroine feeding each other.

I think the ‘first time’ element is very important for raising tension. If you can leverage these, as when two or three of these examples happen at one time, that would be very strong.


Ruthy said...

Oh my stars, what a day to be tied up with kids and Easter egg hunts.

But it's a good thing I didn't peek at this because I'd be turning on the fans in Western New York and it's only 38 degrees as is.

But it's warm in here, LOL!

Julie's been my ace-in-the-hole example about POV switching since she got contracted. I love quick switches. Love 'em, love 'em, love 'em.

They up the pace considerably, but it's really important to edit carefully so that you don't have them seeing and doing things in the other person's pov. Other than that, I think they skyrocket tension for the author.

Dan Brown uses the mixed POV in his books. It's a great ploy for action/adventure/thriller stuff.

Julie, great post! I've got choir in a few minutes so I've got to finish reading comments when I get home. Got about half-way through but I didn't want to leave without telling you how proud I am of you.

And the pic????

Too fun.


Julie Lessman said...


Oooo, another good technique -- the "first time element"! Thanks, Vince, that's excellent, and a technique that I and many of us here have probably used without really knowing it. Because you're right -- that first time the hero becomes aware of the attraction he feels for the heroine is, for me, highly sensual and romantically tense. Like Rhett Butler searing Scarlett with a look on the winding staircase of Twelve Oaks -- a look so penetrating that Scarlett remarks to her friend that "he looks as if he knows what I look like without my shimmy."

The visual aspect you mention is key as well, as is the scent aspect, but in the Christian market, I doubt any of us can have the hero seeing the heroine unclothed, no matter how accidental, which is fine by me as I prefer the old-style of romance where it fades to black. But, Deeanne Gist does use the clothing aspect to her advantage in A Bride Most Begrudging when the heroine loosens her blouse, as do I in A Passion Redeemed when the hero sees the heroine in her chemise by accident, which in turn haunts him with burning images of her throughout the long, long night.

And no one can argue that scent was certainly a powerful instigator of romantic tension in the NY Times Best-selling book and movie, Twilight, when Edward the Vampire is enraged because the heroine's scent drives him crazy.

All in all, LOTS of good tips here, Vince, for turning up the heat with romantic tension.

Julie Lessman said...

Ruthy, now you stop that!! I can take wonderful compliments from anybody without crying but you, girl! Thank you SO much for your sweet post and kind words. You already know what I think of you and your work, which is why your praise means all the more.


Patti Lacy said...

What a great post! Though I write women's fiction, I certainly learned a thing or two from a master of lighting the flame.

I especially enjoy your use of contrast--in thoughts, in body language, in action! When my poor Alan deals with me, he has to face a exuberant little girl, an insecure teenager, a wisened middle-aged woman--contrast, contrast, contrast!

Thanks, Julie!

Julie Lessman said...

PATTI!!! One of my favorite authors -- thank you for stopping by! And, grin, "contrast" is what makes we woman so darn exciting, right? Especially in your books, my friend. I will NEVER forget Sally from What the Bayou Saw ... masterful! I highly recommend Patti's books!


Katie said...

I've really enjoyed your examples, Julie! Good stuff! This is from my current WIP. I haven't gotten to the really steamy scenes yet. This is me working up to them. :)

My body went rigid. “My relationship with my mother is none of your business. You shouldn’t have said anything.”

His dark eyes penetrated.

I wrapped my arms around my chest and looked away. He didn’t need to see the warmth in my cheeks. “She was upset this morning and because of you, I had to deal with her.”

I wasn’t looking at him, so I didn’t know what he was doing.I only knew he was there. It was enough to send the pain in my shoulder to my neck and jaw.

“Sorry to inconvenience you.”

There is was again. Veiled sarcasm. Or was I imagining it? Just like yesterday, I couldn’t tell if his tone was sincere or mocking.

The couch cushions squeaked. I turned my head at the noise and noticed three things in quick succession. He was standing. He was tall. And the symmetry of his face was nearly flawless. He took a step closer. I took a step back. As if to hide the beating of my pulse, my hand fluttered to my neck.

Julie Lessman said...

Hi Katie,

WOW, if this is you "working up to" the steamy scenes, then I want to see those scenes when you are done with them!! Excellent romantic tension, especially with a sentence like, "His dark eyes penetrated." Again, use of a sensual word that fixes his gaze on her with laser effectiveness.

And this paragraph? AWESOME!!

The couch cushions squeaked. I turned my head at the noise and noticed three things in quick succession. He was standing. He was tall. And the symmetry of his face was nearly flawless. He took a step closer. I took a step back. As if to hide the beating of my pulse, my hand fluttered to my neck.

Absolutely wonderful!! I love the quick succession line-up -- it's crisp, clean and very effective. and the hand fluttering to her neck -- EXCELLENT!!

And now that we are at the end of the day on this blog, I have to admit how thrilled I am at all the amazing romantically tense scenes that have been given here today. I'll be honest, I was worried there would be some that, well, would force me to come up with a positive response, but as God is my witness, the snippets that were left here today are all WONDERFUL!!Definitely future pubbed authors, all!


Tina M. Russo said...

I almost forgot to mention that this is day 3 of our Clueless Week. See the Weekend Edition for info on what you could win by commenting EVERY DAY.


Michelle Sutton said...

Okay, this post scorched me. :) I love to write romantic tension by teasing the characters and making them want something until they can't stand it anymore. I don't give them what they want right away. They must suffer first. :)

Julie Lessman said...

Grin. Oh, what a surprise ... Michelle Sutton can be a tease ... :)
As if I don't know that ALL TOO WELL from reading all three of your fabulous books, you little minx!! And, yeah, teasing is DEFINITELY a great tension builder in romance, and nobody does it better than you, my friend. :)


Linda Cacaci said...

Thanks for such a great and informative post. I will never think of romantic tension in the same manner. After reading your wonderful examples, I will now be more aware of what works and what doesn't in my own writing.
Thanks again

Katie said...

Thanks for all the encouraging words, Julie! They truly are wonderful to hear - especially for us unpubbed authors. :) You've been a blessing today, that's for sure.

Julie Lessman said...

Linda, thank you SO much for stopping by, and I am thrilled we could shed some light (and heat) on the subject of romantic tension for you! :)


Julie Lessman said...

Katie -- it's been my ABSOLUTE pleasure and really very easy when there are writers of your caliber (and the others that contributed today with their scenes) to read. It's easy to encourage when it's the God's truth, eh?


Audra Harders said...

Julie, there's nothing I like better than sipping a glass of wine and holding a the latest burning romantic novel by J. Lessman in my hand.

Whoa, girlfriend! Each and every one of your techniques works for me!!

Pour me another glass...

Julie Lessman said...

AUDRA!!!!!!!!!! (BIG SMILE HERE) Sounds like a winning combination to me -- cabernet and a J. Lessman novel!! :)

Thanks for your sweet comment, darlin'!


Debra Ullrick said...

Can we just say...SMMOKKKINN'

I love Julie's books. Sweet romance with lots of romantical tension. I love it, love it, love it. If any of you haven't read Julie's books, and you love romance that's driven to the edge of sweet bliss, then you've got to buy her books. All three of them.

Fabulous post, Julie. One of the best I've read.

Keep up the awesome work!

Debra Ullrick
Author of, The Bride Wore Coveralls
Deja Vu Bride and
Dixie Hearts

Julie Lessman said...

Awww, gosh, Deb, you're embarrassing me! Thank you SO much, and, of course, the feeling is very mutual -- I love your books too, girlfriend!

And thank you for not only stopping by, but for being one of the first really encouraging reviews I ever got on my books, along with Michelle Sutton. You guys rock!


Walt Mussell said...

Great post. I also have problems with romantic tension. Myswife says I'm too left brain to write it.

Julie Lessman said...

WALT ... don't you dare believe her! The woman may be telling you subliminally that she needs a few more long-stemmed roses or boxes of candy in her life, but I'm of the mind that any writer worth their salt and who REALLY wants to can write strong romance, left brain or no. So if you want to ... give it a shot using some of the tips we all gleaned here today, and you just may surprise the little woman ... :)

Thanks for stopping by!


Leanna said...

Wow! This post was timely! Like Sherrinda, I read Christian guidelines and thought, oh, I gotta change this, and that. But I agree. Shouldn't romance be realistic? We're Christians, not dead...and we do feel these emotions, but what's important is how we handle them. I think that's where inspirational fiction can help women. Not by acting as though we never feel those things. Then we'd just feel wrong for feeling them. :) Thank you. I'm in the process of editing my book, and was taking out the dancing, drinking, and tension, but this is good news. This gives us license to write realistically and show how God helps us overcome these temptations. :)

Leanna said...

Wow! This post was timely! Like Sherrinda, I read Christian guidelines and thought, oh, I gotta change this, and that. But I agree. Shouldn't romance be realistic? We're Christians, not dead...and we do feel these emotions, but what's important is how we handle them. I think that's where inspirational fiction can help women. Not by acting as though we never feel those things. Then we'd just feel wrong for feeling them. :) Thank you. I'm in the process of editing my book, and was taking out the dancing, drinking, and tension, but this is good news. This gives us license to write realistically and show how God helps us overcome these temptations. :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Leanna said:
Shouldn't romance be realistic? We're Christians, not dead...and we do feel these emotions, but what's important is how we handle them. I think that's where inspirational fiction can help women. Not by acting as though we never feel those things. Then we'd just feel wrong for feeling them. :)

That is such a great point, Leanna, and you said it so well! I so agree!!!!!!!!!

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, what a great post!! I started it yesterday but had to leave and finish it today.

I love that photo of you!!!!!!!

Thanks for sharing all your wonderful excerpts. I really appreciate you breaking it down to show how you do it. Now, back to my own writing... :)

Julie Lessman said...

I'm in the process of editing my book, and was taking out the dancing, drinking, and tension, but this is good news.

You bet, Leanna -- good news that I found out by accident eight years ago when my agent inadvertently sent my "ABA version" of A Passion Most Pure to Revell instead of the sanitized "CBA version"!! In the CBA version, like you, I had deleted card playing, drinking, most of the romantic tension and Catholicism, which in my opinion, took out the realism of temptation and sin that young women face everyday of their lives in this amoral society. So I am THRILLED that this post helped you with that mindset. You go, girl!

Hey, MEL, you best get back to writing, girlfriend, and stop loitering around the Seeker blog ... :)

And, MISSY, thanks for dropping by -- it's always fun to chat with my Seeker sisters! The pic was a hoot to make, except I had to put make-up on, which is something I barely do anymore now that I am a writing hermit at home ... :)


Ashli said...

LOL Julie, I would LOVE to be a writing hermit at home!!! (You know how crazy it is at my house!)

Such great stuff on this post!!! I love the way you use anger to create the tension. It is such a powerful human emotion. Handled in the wrong way has a potential to be absolutely disastrous, but you should bottle and sell that gift of yours! You go girl!

My personal favorite way to create tension is out of a sense of desperation in my characters. And from their "not knowing what will actually happen" when they act on a certain decision they may have ran through their minds a million times but are still unsure of the response from others. (Maybe, I am just complicated and have a need for suspense just as much as tension. haha)

I wasn't going to read the section from "Denied" because I wanted to read the book...but, of course, my curiosity (or O'Connor addiction *grin*) got the better of me and now I am even more anxious to get my hands on that book in a couple of weeks!!!

You mentioned the book Twilight, which is written completely in the first person from the heroine's POV...I know different styles of writing POVs have been brought up in some of the comments on here. So I am just curious, do you have any comments on that particular style of writing?

Julie Lessman said...

ASHLI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How fun to see you here, my friend!!

A "sense of desperation" for the characters is an EXCELLENT way to heighten the tension, for sure, not just in suspense but in romance too. I didn't realize it, but I certainly utilized "desperation" with Charity in A Passion Redeemed and hopefully it helped build the romantic tension between her and Mitch.

As far as 1st-person POV, I am not particularly partial to that myself, although I got used to it in Twilight, but SURE wanted to be inside Edward's head, let me tell you! Obviously, you can create romantic tension in any POV, as evidenced by Twilight's phenomenal success, so I would say whatever voice you are most comfortable with, go for it, and the romantic tension will follow with any and all of the tricks discussed here today.

Can't wait to see you next week!


Julie Carobini said...

Love this post, Julie. Love, love, love it! I've written three books all with one Pov, and I've been happy with that. However, I'm currently working on book 4 (for B&H) and writing in 2 povs and--whew!--the possibilities, Lol...;) ;)

Seriously, this post is a keeper. Thanks for making me blush ;*)

Julie Lessman said...

Gosh, Julie, talk about blowing me away!! Thank you SO much for stopping by and leaving your sweet comment. I'm used to Seeker authors leaving comments, after all, but not other big authors, so I truly appreciate your kind words.

And, gosh, sorry to make you blush, but it's good for the complexion, sweetie. Not that you need it ... :)


Dee LeRoye said...

How intriguing....but I have a problem. My greatest readers are my kids and grandkids. #3 son teases "Mom, how can I read your x-rated stories to my kids?"

This is as hot as it gets...He lifted her in his arms, turned and set her on the dresser,"Sheesh, woman, what you do to me," his voice was a low growl. "I can't even think when you are near."

"Quit swearing," she giggled as he took a small step back from her, "Shawn," her voice was breathless, "Please."

"Please, what?"

"Kiss me," she whispered.

He studied her face in indecision, focusing on her trembling lips. Then he leaned forward and planted a chaste smack on her cheek.

She gasped and her hand shot out, hooked in the front of his western shirt and jerked, ripping open pearl snaps all the way to where the shirt was tucked into his jeas. Then both hands slipped inside his shirt and played with the tangle of red blonde curls on his chest.

Later he would wonder what she would have done next if Charla hadn't walked into the office at that moment.

From...Crossfire...self published 2003

Julie Lessman said...

"As hot as it gets"?

Uh, Dee, that's PRETTY HOT stuff there, girl!! No. 3 Son ain't lyin', let me tell ya. I'm thinking Revell would red-line me all over the place if I ripped a guy's shirt off and tangled my fingers in his chest hair. But what the heck! Maybe I'll try it next time ... :)

Whooooeeee ... where's that fire extinguisher when you need it!! :)