Monday, February 13, 2012

Writing Romantic Tension

Any fellow romance writers out there? Well, tomorrow is our day. Valentine's Day has me thinking about what works and what doesn't work in romantic scenes. We all know achieving romantic tension in fiction has little to do with the actual act of meshing lips together. But how do we get the magic to come across on the page? Here's a list of things I've found helpful:

  • Emotions - Have you ever laid your eyes on someone and WHAM! Even if it isn't love at first sight (and that can be a bit cliche anyway), emotions are needed to give a romantic scene its force. Describing a character's emotions goes a long way, especially if there are conflicting emotions at work (great book on tension and conflicting emotions here).

  • Appeal to the Senses - Does the music and chatter fade into the background? Do problems and worries dissipate when your love-struck characters are together? Find a smell, a sight, a sound. Adding concrete detail helps any scene come to life. (Kathy Carmichael has some great romance writing tips here).

  • Setting - The Times Square kiss (picture at top) is famous for a lot of reasons. Having a powerful setting can't hurt. What about the setting in your romance scene is special to your characters? Sharing a first kiss at a monumental location pulls at our heartstrings, agree? Another tip I learned from Donald Maass: have your character visit that location again later in your book.

  • Conflict - Of course. What writing tip is complete without this magic word? We can't draw readers in without it. Whether internal or external, tension is needed to give a scene its force. It makes reading addiction. You know when you just can't put a book down?! When I become immersed in the conflicting emotions between a hero and heroine I'm reading about, I know the author has accomplished romantic tension!

What makes a great kissing/romance scene for you? Anticipation? Ambience? Sensory detail?

The average person will spend approximately 2 weeks of his or her life puckering up, so here are some fun little lip-locking facts before you go:

· A study shows that men live up to five years longer if they kiss their wives before going to work, and they earn more!
· Making out is a workout (26 calories per minute. Enjoy those Valentine’s chocolates and make up for them later).
· About 2/3 or people tip their heads to the right when kissing.
· The world record for the longest kiss lasted 32 hours and 7 minutes. No word on whether they had food or bathroom breaks.
· Scientific tests show that kissing reduces dermatitis, skin rashes and blemishes, and makes your skin glow and your eyes shine.
· The symbolic kiss at the wedding altar started during Roman times, as a symbol of the spiritual union between bride and groom, who exchanged “the breath of life.”


Sources: “The Kissing Cure;” “The Kissing Book;”;, &

Photo Credit


  1. Ha, I love this post! Especially the part about making out burns calories. I like to put some romance in my writing. Great tips!

  2. Fun post for Valentines. I guess I should go back and work on the romance aspect of my WIP. :)

  3. Great post, anticipation has go tot be the key to a great romantic novel for me. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Anticipation!! The buildup to the kiss is sometimes better than the kiss :-)
    Great post!