As a Multiple Sclerosis patient, it has become necessary for me to reinvent myself. I have ... and continue to ... refuse to lie down and die, or in this case, follow the normally prescribed drugs and treatments that do nothing to defeat my disease. I am not only surviving by pursuing alternatives, I am thriving. I do the things specialists told me I would never be able to do. I walk and hope to one day even run regularly. I retain my cognitive and creative abilities for the pleasure of my readers. Although you may never see me on my daily walk, you are welcome to read my novel(s) and in doing so, come to ask yourself, "How can the 'out of the box' protocol she has followed, help my loved one with an autoimmune disease like Multiple Sclerosis?"

Adding Tension Between Characters

Today's mini-lesson is shared by Jordan Bollinger.

The lesson is on building tension between characters. It is the gradual, yet continual, building of tension that makes for a great plot. Tension 'turns up the volume' on the story's conflict. It is this tension that your characters' are immersed in that makes them more real for the reader; and therefore, captures and pulls them into your story. And taking the reader captive is why you 'show', instead of 'tell'. However, for this lesson, I'm going to be 'telling' you about how they feel. Do Not Do This At Home!
There are two types of we have available: regular tension and sexual tension. Of course, we want a certain amount of sexual tension between our hero and heroine; and we want it to grow gradually. You want to make your reader 'beg for it' - for that sizzling first kiss, or initial more intimate encounter.

After thinking about this, I came up with several ways of creating, what we'll call 'regular tension'. If you sit and think about it for a while, I bet you can come up with some of your own. Mine are:

• Preconceptions

• Assumptions

• Conflicting ethics

• Miscommunications

Some ways of adding 'sexual tension' between characters are:

• Day dreaming

• Close physical proximity

• Having one party interact with others, or perform some physical task while the other party watches

• The use of double entendre and/or suggestive (or accidentally suggestive) conversation

Let's meet our 'soon-to be-blossoming' couple: Sarah and Mark. They are about to meet for drinks, after being setup by two friends - Danny and Grace. Mark and Danny have been friends most of their lives; and Sarah and Grace went through Catholic school together. Danny and Grace aren't a couple, just friends and co-workers.

After talking over lunch, they've decided that Mark and Sarah a perfect for each other. Grace has repeated Danny's description of Mark to Sarah verbatim, 'As a great guy!', which tells Sarah absolutely nothing about him. Which is why Sarah is looking at the steadily growing pile of discarded outfits on her bed and giving serious thought about just not going.

Of course, Grace's description of Sarah as 'having a bubbly personality' was no better. It has Danny convinced she's 'less than perfect'. And, of course he's passed this assumption on to Mark, who is considering standing Sarah up.

Isn't miscommunication wonderful? They haven't even met yet and both are nervous and having serious doubts.

Okay, now Sarah's found something she actually thinks she looks nice in, and has, perhaps after a serious lecture to herself, arrived five minutes early - because punctuality is extremely important to her. Mark arrives about ten minutes late, not concerned about at all about his tardiness. Now Sarah's waiting for an explanation, and when she eventually says something he's starting to believe he's made an awful mistake.

Clash of ideology - it's a great way to not bound.

Once they get seated and order drinks, Mark asks Sarah about herself, which is good, right? Things are smoothing themselves out . . . until Sarah tells Mark about how she and Grace met in Catholic school; and goes on to tell how she still writes to several of the sisters. Now Billy Joel's 'Only the Good Die Young' is running through his head; and he's already feeling frustrated. (Hey, guys are guys - right?)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, Sarah sees his fallen face and reads is as he doesn't find her attractive.

Ooh! We got both assumption and pre-conceptions with that one.

The beauty is that they all work equally as well after they've gotten to know each other and started to fall in love. You just need to think about it, and you'll come up with ways of throwing a monkey wrench into their budding romance.

And, we haven't even touched on things others might say - to them or about them; meaning for them to hear it or not. That opens up even more possibilities.

So, let's move on to 'sexual tension' and get back to our hero and heroine. Mark broke up with his last girlfriend several months ago, and has been avoiding women in general. But, he has allowed himself a little bit of fantasying, which in turn has caused a 'rise in his libido'. He finds Sarah attractive, smart (he's never liked dumb girls) and has a great laugh. Maybe this could go somewhere - if not tonight, in the future.

And, since we're all modern women, we know women can fantasize too.

There's a little dance floor and, after some encouragement, Sarah agrees to take a little turn with Mark. Both find the other's perfume/cologne very nice. They also like the way feel in each other's arms. In addition, because of the dim light, Sarah hadn't noticed how very green his eyes were, and Mark hadn't appreciated how rosy her complexion was. Their nauseousness has changed to that wonderful 'new romance' excitement.

Close physical proximity - it's a great way to 'raise' expectations!

Which, in case you haven't guessed, leads us to 'double entendres', flirty talk and careless, and sometime embarrassing, badly worded comments. Our hero and heroine have imaginations, as we discovered above. Even the most innocent of comments start the brain working. Now, you have to work on double entendres - you want them suggestive, but in a tasteful way - even if you've decided to cross over the line into erotica. After all, we're not writing porn!

Remember all those Bond movies with Sean Connery? He and Cubby Broccoli used to play a game of who could think of some little 'naughty' thing and dare the other to include it in the movie. That's where all those double entendres came from.

Here, I should also mention that you have the option of using questionable comments by others as a way of not only building tension between one or more main and secondary characters, but it adds tension between the main characters themselves. If Mark punches a drunk out because of some rude comment, it causes conflict and tension between the some-to-be lovers, as well. Embarrassment and fear are great motivators.

This leads us to the last means on my list about building tension between our hero and heroine - having one character watch the other participating in some physical activity. I think that punching a guy out counts, but you don't have to use violence. Performing some brave deed, like saving a child from an approaching car, or executing a perfect dive off the high board will work just as well.

I trust you to understand that's this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but I hope it will give you something to think about.
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