It may seem strange to talk about body language in a story, but sometimes a simple mention of one character leaning towards the other, or biting their lip, can convey unspoken attraction and tension. Body language gives a lot away about us and often reveals our feelings towards another person regardless of what we’re saying. In a way body language is a subtext in itself. But of course our readers can’t see our characters, so a hint here and there adds to the overall picture you’re trying to build. For example, we can add this to our exchange above, making the subtext clearer.
‘I’ve always liked to dance,’ he said, the corner of his mouth moving upwards with the hint of a smile. Jane took a step closer, looking up at him from under her eyelashes.
‘I remember,’ she said.
Of course, you don’t need to give the reader a running commentary of every shift of position or raised eyebrow, and if you’re going for witty banter then keep the dialogue fast and pacy without much prose in between, but used lightly a visual picture of the character’s body language can illustrate the attraction between them.
Awareness of each other’s physical attributes
It’s fine every now and then to blatantly mention one character’s notice of the other. It helps the reader see through the characters eyes and get a sense of their desire. As with the body language use sparingly, as you don’t want your story people to be constantly leering over each other, but there’s no reason why a heroine can’t catch herself appraising the broad shoulders of the hero as he walks away from her. Or his eyes can’t briefly follow the sway of her hips.
Sex and desire are communicated through the body and the senses. In Chapter Five we’ll look at using the five senses to add description to your sex scenes, but while your characters are still building up to getting tangled in the sheets you can evoke your readers senses by briefly mentioning smells and tastes, how deep his voice is, or the little dimple in her cheek when she smiles. Raised goose bumps after the briefest of touches on the arm…
Exercise; Adding Sexual Tension
Take the simple dialogue below and add to it using the techniques above to give a sense of sexual tension and desire. Play around with it trying one technique, then another, or a combination, until you feel the exchange crackles with chemistry.
Jane. ‘John. It’s been quite a while.’
John. ‘Indeed. Four…five years?’
Jane. ‘More like eight, actually. It was at Gina’s birthday party.’
John. ‘Oh yeah. Gina. I remember you wearing a red dress.’