How To Write Sexual Tension
Knowing how to write sexual tension can really help make the intimate scenes of your screenplay more natural. Nobody wants to watch a movie where the relationship between two characters seems forced or inorganic.
These tips can help make that relationship seem more genuine to the audience that’s watching the movie, so if you want to know how to write sexual tension, you’re in the right place.
Now, let’s talk about sex…ual tension!
What Is Sexual Tension?
Sexual tension is repressed feelings for someone else. It can be hard writing sexual tension. You want to avoid writing tropes and bad descriptions while also not ignoring the raw chemistry between the two characters.
Sexual tension can enhance a script and drive readers crazy with anticipation to find out what happens next.
Sexual tension is an essential plot element in every single genre, but it’s prominent in rom-coms and dramas.
Sexual Tension vs Romantic Tension
These two are used interchangeably but there are small, yet significant differences between them.
Romantic tension is when there is an emotional connection that is stronger than their biological urges. It’s more about the relationship than sex.
Sexual tension is when there is a desire to have sex with someone. It’s a powerful physical attraction.
Sex In Sexual Tension
Many people don’t understand how sex works in regard to sexual tension. Since sexual tension is unfulfilled desire, sex serves as the culmination.
When two characters (or more, depending on how freaky you like to get) have sex, the sexual tension stops.
One way to write sexual tension is to try and put distance between having sex and sexual tension. This usually results in the characters not sleeping with each other until later in the script or at the end.
The longer you put off them having sex, the more tension is built not just in the characters, but also the reader. This keeps the reader engaged and compelled to keep reading.
Types Of Tension
Two types of sexual tension are negative and positive. They’re related to one another and are played out with both characters.
Negative and positive tension is like the yin and yang of a connection between two characters. Pay attention to how these two types of tension affect the two characters and the story as you read this article.
Negative Sexual Tension
With negative sexual tension, characters feel worried, upset or irritated when they think about someone.
This is what’s called micro and macro rejection; This occurs when somebody waits a text or a move while being unsure about how the other person feels about them and the lack of being able to satisfy sexual urges and relieve tension.
Negative tension is also antagonistic. It can even be referred to as antagonistic tension or argumentative tension.
What you’ll see often are two characters arguing with each other just before making out vigorously. That’s happened millions of times.
The point in having negative sexual tension is to make the audience second guess that the relationship will succeed.
Positive Sexual Tension
Good feelings are associated with positive sexual tension. Feelings like happiness and excitement.
Sexual attraction is immediate. You’re either attracted to them or not. However, you can build attraction and sexual tension gradually. Sexual tension signs are habitual. Use these signs to make your writing and characters more appealing.
Healthline provides a list of these signs:
- Eye contact
- Eyes staring at the mouth and lips
- Checking them out
- Physical touch
- Focus on the present
- Heightened senses
- Leaning toward one another.
- Feet pointed to them
- Open positions where the torso and crotch points at them
- Changing of the voice
- A character is brought up in random conversations
- Daydreams with the other character
- Thoughts of kissing them
- Powerful positive or negative reactions to them
- Apprehension due to negative sexual tension
- Fantasies of having sex with the character
- People say how good they’d be together in a relationship
- Palms sweat
- Heart beats faster around them
- Pupils get larger
- Smiling more in their presence
- The partner that’s in a relationship with one of the characters may get jealous
- Feeling amorous
Writing Sexual Tension Between Two Characters
Finally, let’s discuss how to write sexual tension between two characters. I’ll touch on a plethora of techniques that the pros use to implement sexual tension into the relationship.
We’ll examine tips and tricks for writing sexual tension later, but right now, let’s put our attention on the essential elements of chemistry.
Starts From The Beginning
Immediacy is the main element of sexual tension. The second characters lay eyes on each other, they’re immediately attracted to each other.
A delay doesn’t exist in this situation. There’s only a “I must have them” lust.
Keep in mind, they don’t choose attraction. It’s simply biology. Be sure to have the sexual attraction starts from the beginning when your characters first meet.
Fulfills What The Character Wants
The immediate sexual attraction is due to the other character fulfilling what the character wants in a sexual partner.
There’s always a chance that the sexual tension may grow past just physical intimacy to a more mental, emotional, and spiritual relationship.
Have you heard of a soul mate? Soul mates are the ultimate relationship goals. They’re seen as two bodies with one soul. Intense immediate attraction to each other is what drives the relationship.
When you write sexual tension, this is one of the ways to think about the relationship between them.
Here are a few other ways the concept of Twin Flames can inform your sexual writing:
- Déjà vu is a feeling they have because they feel like they’ve always known each other
- When they are with each other time seems to fly by
- They are in synch with each other
- They reflect the other person’s biggest fears and greatest dreams
- They like great sex that has multiple and simultaneous orgasms
- They’re equals in every way imaginable
Fighting Their Feelings
Despite the powerful sexual attraction from the getgo, the two characters will struggle with feeling attracted to the other person.
The characters undergo an internal fight with themselves.
When the characters meet, have them resist their feelings and sexual desire. Not only is this a realistic portrayal of sexual tension, it’s also engaging storytelling.
Typical forms of this internal tension includes:
- They reject their true feelings
- They try to resist their attraction
- Their own attraction disgusts them
- They vow not to fall for the other person
After the first encounter, the strong reactions don’t cease.
The characters have instinctual reactions to each other throughout the script. The reactions intensify with each encounter.
Keep in mind that reactions can be either positive or negative responses. This harkens back to the bipolar nature of sexual tension.
It’s normal for two characters to hate each other before ending up in bed together.
The Tug of War In Sexual Tension
An essential strategy to write sexual tension is the constant tug of war.
Think of it like when two characters show mutual interest in each other and get closer to second base.
The idea of the tug of war is that the characters are at odds and moving further from physical intimacy or being amicable toward each other.
With this idea, much like a real tug of war, it goes back and forth between positive and negative sexual tension. Scenes can also feature this tug of war.
You can toy with this idea to make it more realistic and a better read.
Remember this advice, there’s an escalation of a tug of war toward the end, ensuing with a conclusion where both meet in the middle with the resolution.
In other words, it’s always darkest before the dawn.
The near kiss is an overused writing device in some genres.
With that said, interrupted sexual tension is still very effective in your script. You need to use your ingenuity in finding ways to interrupt the characters’ physical or sexual activity.
The best interruptions are centered around the character or story. For example, if one of the characters live on a boat, maybe have the kiss broken up by a strong wave. Another example could be a chef being interrupted by a customer or food order.
Many different kinds of interruptions are commonplace to halt characters from engaging in sex.
Keep these things in mind when writing your interruptions:
- Traits of the character
- Occupation of the character
- Strengths of the character
- Weaknesses of the character
- Personality of the character
- Ethical reasons
- Plot-related reasons
- Only use an interruption once
- Writer many interruptions for your script
- Interruptions related to health or well-being are okay to use
- The interruptions should have a different effect on the characters each time as the tension builds
Writing Sexual Tension
Realistic sexual tension in writing is what makes it good. This often means to show not tell. The sexual tension also has to be immersed in the characters’ POV so that the reader of the script gets all the thoughts and inner feelings of the characters themselves.
It must also be relatable to the reader by being varied and based on the science of attraction.
Badly written sexual tension has too much focus on sex which only works if you’re writing erotica.
How To Write Sexual Tension
Sexual tension transforms and evolves. When your characters meet, your goal is to build sexual tension for the rest of the script.
Do you know how to build sexual tension?
Try the striptease method. The striptease method is when things are revealed slowly, bit by bit. It’s a gradual reveal that prolongs and builds anticipation.
We’ll get to prolonging anticipation in a moment.
Through slow escalation, attraction and tension is built up over a period of time.
Consider sexual tension as another plot in your script with its own 3 act structure. It’s no different than the 3 act structure of the story or even the character arc. Over time the tension grows and builds.
The key to writing sexual tension in scripts is to increase desire simultaneously with the inability of the two characters to pacify it.
They are very amorous but can’t act on it.
The 12 phases of physical intimacy is another way to look at it:
- Eyes on the body
- Eye contact
- They start talking to each other
- Hand in hand
- Arm on shoulder
- Arm on waist
- Mouth on mouth
- Hand on head
- Hand on body
- Mouth on breast
- Hand on genitals
- Genitals on genitals
Clearly, not every story doesn’t has to follow these stages to a T, but you can use this escalation of events as a guide to help you amp up the tension in your script.
Sexual Tension Checklist
Refer back to this checklist in order to help you when writing sexual tension in your script.
Words/Phrases That Create Sexual Tension (bow chica bow wow)
Hopefully, this advice will help you with writing sexual tension in your script.