First posted on Wet Noodle Posse Blog 4/28/08

I’m a strong believer in conflict, since it’s through watching characters overcome challenges a reader gets drawn into the story. And I love all of the posts on conflict this month, which have explored how important this is to not only move a story, but to allow our characters to grow stronger as they achieve their goals.

But… here’s the thing. I write for Blaze, which means my characters have to have all that great conflict – both external and internal – and still have lots and lots of sex… or at the very least, lots and lots of sexual tension. So how can I get fulfill the sexy hook while maintaining a strong enough conflict to engage the reader from page one to happy ever after? I think it’s important to choose an external conflict that allows for believable sexual tension.

Whether you write hot or not, that rising tension adds a layer of intensity to the conflict. Every time your characters come together, their awareness of each other intensifies and the tension rises. In many stories, that and a few kisses are enough to maintain that sexual awareness and convince the reader that, yes; these two are hot for each other. In a hotter story, such as a Blaze, the question at hand isn’t how far will they go to relieve that sexual tension during their quest to solve their conflict? The question is how you keep the sexual tension strong after they’ve already done the deed… because they usually do it pretty early in the story. The answer? Conflict! How does having sex intensify their conflict?

How does it ratchet up the tension, intensify the risk and push all their internal conflict buttons? I mean, we all know sex complicates things. And in fiction, the more complicated the better! Know your characters issues with sex. Use their fears and sexual hang-ups against them. Better yet, let the other character push them to overcome those fears and hang-ups.

If there is ever a choice between writing a sex scene or holding back to raise the tension and intensify the story conflict… hold back! Sometimes it’s what isn’t written that tells the most about our characters.

Can sex and conflict be done wrong? Of course. Gratuitous sex is always bad. Who hasn’t read a story where the characters are at each other’s throats only to stop the hating to do the wild thing in an elevator, then go right back to spewing venom with no change or growth to show for the encounter. Or when the characters are on the run for their lives, the bad guys an hour behind and they stop to get nasty in the backseat of the car instead of setting a trap.

Yes, the adrenaline rush might intensify the scene, but the reader is usually rolling her eyes and muttering why it’d be justified if the bad guys did catch them with their pants down (heehee).