According to romance novelist Sheri McGregor, a writer can create different types of tension to suit the type of novel being written. "It can range from sweet tension that results from a lifting of spirits in inspirational romance, or a take-notice attitude in a career romance, to something hot that sizzles up the spine and makes the hands sweat in a racier line," McGregor says.
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Use physical, emotional or psychological conflicts to generate tension.
Draw upon your own experience. Analyze conflicts you have had with members of the opposite sex, especially those with people for whom you've felt some attraction.
Rent several classic romantic comedy movies. Watch how the tension ebbs and flows between Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn or Rock Hudson and Doris Day.
Use the setting of your novel to establish tension. A castle on the moors of England, a ranch on the wild frontier, or a schooner sailing the South Seas all generate elements of tension.
Write your characters - the hero and heroine - as passionate, strong-willed, intelligent people. Two such people coming together never fail to generate tension, in real life or fiction.
Draw out plot elements to increase the conflict.
Resolve your plot and storyline - and culminate the tension of the romance - with a logical and believable conclusion.
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- "Study novels in the area in which you plan to write," McGregor suggests. "Does she see him and think of smooth cotton sheets and afternoons with the sun peeking through the blinds while she's lost in his arms? This may be the case, but add a conflict."
- "Set the reader up. Here's this big attraction, yet it's the worst possible person for the hero or heroine to fall in love with. Romance readers love this conflicting tension. They know in the end it'll all work out, but it's a rocky road along the way - that's tension," McGregor says.
- "A knee-jerk physical reaction is one thing, but have the hero or heroine minimize it in his or her mind. Make them think they've got a handle on it," says Sheri McGregor, author of "Under One Roof."
- "You wouldn't want the couple so physically attracted they can't contain themselves the moment they set eyes on one another. An exception is if they have a past together. They might remember times together, which could make for a stronger physical reaction right away," McGregor notes.