Torque up the tension is the law in writing romance to keep momentum. Erotic and otherwise.Writing romance where two lovers can’t get it right creates tension. The heroine or hero’s happiness swings, his or her life may even teeter, the darn outcome of the story depends upon resolution.
Low stakes = floppy tension.
High stakes have readers sitting on pins-n-needles.
Where do the stakes come from in hot romance? It’s all about conflict. That stuff that happens inside, twisting and turning and churning. A good storyline has the heroine not just pondering her beliefs and values, but something’s got to give. And fast.
In Collared for a Night, we’re talking about Diana, a leopard shifter who has spent some time running around Denver in full leopard regalia and can’t recall what she’s done. Basically, any shifter who runs freely, when they’re done, they are stark naked. So, yeah, she’s been doing a bit of streaking lately. Not too promising for a shy, graphic artist widow trying to find her footing. Wait a blooming second. This is so oxymoronish…Diana was cast as shy and a leopard. How is that possible?
Now you see, it’s about building tension. Polar opposites. Two simultaneous and incompatible issues. Or two incompatible desires. Oh, we’ve got that too in Collared.
Diana’s thrust into a lifestyle existing as a human and leopard. Dual natures. On one hand Diana is savage, explosive, and untamed. On the other, she’s hiding, confused, in mourning.
Savage, Explosive, Untamed<♨ > Hiding, Confused, In Mourning
Diana exists in one body that morphs and this is the heart of the story. How to actualize her true nature? So we start with the initial stakes: she needs to find a way to deal with her leopard heat cycle (as in sexual readiness to mate) that occurs around each full moon. She has no mate, her husband died. She’s attracted to her boss, but believes he’s off-limits. She keeps to herself and hasn’t had a date in forever.
Lucky for her, in Denver a stud club exists where a shifter can find a safe way to exercise away her sexual urges.
Let’s revisit the stakes again. We need to up them. Let’s have her boss, who actually owns the club be the one to “service” her. Incompatible desires. Upping the ante. The stakes go up again.
Diana—“This is a little bit more than deciding on scrambled or poached. I didn’t expect to see you here as my…my date.” She bit her lip. In the next second, she’d have no control. She was a step away from hurling herself at him. This was harder than joining with a stranger. She signed up for wham-bam-thank you. Not see-you-on-Monday with her boss.
So how does the tension in Collared for A Night stay tight. Short and simple, it’s about change. And throw in a few surprises for good measure. Start out with some secrets and little by little share them with the reader. Never, ever let a character get comfortable. As Nora Roberts says, when things start to sag, she looks for a character to kill.
In Collared there’s a sex, primal sex, carnal sex, a bloody fight, throw in some BDSM, a bitch ex-girlfriend, more sex, a trip to Vegas, bling, dancing, more sex, a crashing black moment, and a surprise at the end. So from the inciting event where we go from what we thought we knew, into a whole other direction, we nail our character’s hide to the wall and turn the screws. Again and again, until someone says, “Uncle.”
YTasty Teaser From Collared for a NightYWithout warning, she slipped from his grasp.
She inched back away from him off the bed, cocking her brow, hands planted at her hips. “Should I demand you catch me first? Or better yet … make me.” She turned from facing him, her body rippling in shredded, lithe beauty.
Her eyes flashed, mocking him to the core. To get hold of her required that he still his body. Even his thoughts would give him away. He centered himself, pushing forward even though he was seated. Calf muscles tightened, and he slightly rose up onto the balls of his feet. Behind half-closed eyes he noted the direction of her gaze and, more importantly, how she oriented her body, slightly toward the doorway. The fuzzy world receded, leaving her to become his locked-on target. One thought — and he had her. Reaching out to put her off balance while his body moved in the opposite direction, he careened into her direct path.
He wove his fingers into her hair and yanked. Automatically, this close to a run, she bared her teeth and hissed without thought. Both of them were a hairsbreadth from shifting. Teeth and eyes were already catlike. Their rosette markings were dark black against a rose-golden background.
“No fair,” she squealed. “Let me go.”
“That was your second mistake,” he said, lifting her arms above her head. Naked and open to him, she’d have no choice but to give in to hunger. He leisurely licked along the side of her neck where he’d already marked her heavily. As he lowered his head, he brought her arms down and secured them behind her. Diana’s form rippled in his arms—graceful, fluid, serpentine movements to curve her torso across his upper body. He pulled her wrists firmly behind her, pressing her firm, high breasts up against his chest.
“Your first mistake was believing I’d be fair. When it comes to having you … baby, I’m not playing some game. If there are rules, I’ll break every one of them to get to you. That’s my promise. I get you in the end. I’ll destroy anything — anyone — that stands in my way.”
No more words. Syllables spoken were useless. He kissed her in a way that left them both breathless. He kissed her to remember. He kissed her to make sure she’d find her way back. He kissed hello, not goodbye.