165. How to write sexual attraction

Writing sex is hard, as I said in a previous post, because the palette of actions is so limited. But writing attraction (the emotions and behaviours that precede sex) is easy because you have a wide range of choices, most of which allow you to fill out the reader’s sense of the character and push the plot forward.

  • Naïve or unreliable responses. Your character may be unaware of what is happening to her, though you can make the reader aware. Other characters may also clearly see the attraction, including jealous partners.
  • Fighting the attraction. Related to the first, your character may fight the sensations and thoughts that come with her attraction. She may deny or be disgusted by the attraction (attraction needn’t be experienced by a character as a positive thing).
  • Dangerous things threaten. Again, related to the point before, there may be strong plot consequences of the attraction that lead your characters to fight against it
  • Fast or slow. The attraction may be something that builds slowly during the course of the story or it may become a tension that threatens to  boil over.

So how do you write it?

Attraction manifests both physically and mentally:

  • Physical sensations may include a heightened awareness of the other person, including eyes lingering on them (especially on mouth and lips, as well as breasts and pecs, buttocks and bulges) and responses to their scent. There will also be a strong reaction to any physical contact. There will be wetness and erections. And, of course, the old standby of romantic fiction, the palpitating heart
  • Mental and emotional responses include day-dreaming about the other person, a sense of being intensely in the present when with the desired one (time stops), and bringing up the other person in conversation without any appropriate reason (obsession). Your characters may feel a sense of having always known each other. They may feel a sense of being perfectly matched. In the fighting the attraction scenario, there may also be anxiety or fear.

Here are some tricks:

  • Make the attraction immediate and powerful when the characters first meet.
  • Tease your reader. Vary the tension
  • Make the chemistry stronger each time the characters are together.
  • Use descriptive details (such as awareness of the texture of things touched) that show the character’s heightened awareness
  • You can have one or both characters deny and fight the attraction, especially where there are dangerous consequences.
  • The old romantic trope of something tearing the characters apart before consummation always works well.
  • Ensure your characters behave differently with each other than they do with other people

Friday Fictioneers – The Corner

PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

There’s something about a corner. Anything might be round it—a second-hand shop with the perfect antique frock; a view all the way to the horizon; a man with strong arms and a dimple in his chin; anything.

Her steps accelerated as she approached. She was brave, and the world could be new again. With raised chin and lips parted, she breasted the bend, alert for fortune.

Just ahead, a familiar laugh—Henry leaning in to share a joke with some bitch. Why was he not hurting, too? She ducked into the coffee shop, not ready for corners after all.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – The Lost Story

PHOTO PROMPT © Carole Erdman-Grant

It must have existed—maybe still did, in some dusty library. The analysis was fool-proof.

“The stats don’t lie,” Robin said. “In this quadrant of the graph, there’s a story where Galahad gets Guinevere and Arthur’s cool with it.”

Will saw words blooming—on the walls, hanging from trees, across the pavement—and scoffed. “Stats! An infinite number of monkeys, right?”

But Robin knew. From textual variance in the legends, he reconstructed scattered paragraphs of the lost story. He’d show Will the branching map of Arthurian myth.

But Will Scarlet had slipped out and was cuddling Marian on the porch.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Tessellation

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

“Should it look like that?” Mark shook as he pointed to the bank exposed by the melting snow.

I couldn’t see a problem, and told him so.

“It’s tessellated.”

Not knowing what the word meant, I nodded sagely, but the tremor in his voice worried me.

“Dirt should be crumbly,” he said. “Nor an array of parallelograms. That’s not natural. Someone, or something, wove it.”

Holding my hand up to placate him, a glance at my tessellated palm stalled me. Somewhere on the floodplains, marked out by those lifelines, tiny steamers plied the rivers. I plummeted into the weave.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – I know

PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

Thank you for that heel of bread—the first I’ve had in days. I have seen too much, and too little. Two kilometres up the road, there’s a checkpoint. What happens beyond that is a mystery. Maybe lovers walk the meadows, and cows graze the fields. Maybe there is only rubble, I don’t know. But I know what happened here. I could tell you stories. But I’d rather forget. I just want to feel something again.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Mutability

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Next to the shoe tree, the bush grew, and the story encoded in its DNA flowered. The newly fruited books hung heavy from the branches.

Daphne plucked one at random, opened it, and read.

“No,” she said, “Juliet is supposed to die.”

“Mutation,” Karl explained. “Random mistakes change the tale.”

For a long time, Daphne was silent. At last she said, “Then nothing is certain.”

Karl nodded. “But, in this universe, I love you.”

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – The Sight

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The stones were old, very old. Things had happened here. I laid my hand flat on a dressed block, and my palm tingled. The past spoke through me. There was smoke, and screams, and the clash of metal. A warrior king strode the battlements, looking out to sea, desperate to glimpse allied sails.

I possessed a gift.

Like anyone blessed with The Sight, I endured mockery.

My wife brandished the site guide. “Don, this was a granary, not a castle.”

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

Friday Fictioneers – Silence

PHOTO PROMPT © unknown

The pores and pits on his cheek make a moonscape, as he leans in close. His breath smells of garlic and rotting flesh.

“Tell me,” he says.

Silence is the only power left to me—the choice to withhold communion, to remain locked tight. Of course, he will get angry. That, too, is a power I retain. There will be threats, even violence. I may scream.

But I won’t talk.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

164. Farnham Fiction Award Prizewinners

Winner, Grace Walker, in conversation with judge, Gary Couzens

The Award ceremony for the Farnham Fiction Award closed the Farnham Literary Festival on 13 March, 2022.

Overall winner

The overall winner was Grace Walker, with an innovative story The Forced Generation. She imagines a chilling future in which children are “combined” to save pressure on resources. Her clever alternation between “I” and “we” explores what such a fused personality might experience.

Literary award

The literary award was won by Jilly Funnel’s The Lady Without the Van. The story paints the plight of many senior citizens today, feeling isolated, lonely, and despairing for a rich, fulfilling life of human engagement.

Thriller award

Stephanie Thornton’s The Watcher in the Woods took the thriller prize. An unconventional thriller with literary elements, it explores the sense of isolation of the two main characters.

Romance award

Also cross-genre was the Romance winner: Ekaterina Crawford’s Not Your Ordinary Love Story, a ghostly romance. Its setting, in our pandemic years, is scary enough but has an overriding other-worldliness that adds to the complexity and intrigue.

Science Fiction/Fantasy award

Jilly Funnel scored a second win with her fantasy story, Stuck Like a Dope with a Thing Called Hope. This tale blends humour and fantasy, locating the mythological Pandora in the 21st Century and having her open her box one last time to see what is left in it—hope.

Friday Fictioneers – Refugee

PHOTO PROMPT © Lisa Fox

Her face was a shuttered barn. No light gleamed through the windows, no cattle lowed within. Was she sad? Angry? Shattered into pieces? He couldn’t tell.

If only she would talk, cry, he might put a hand on her arm and say, “I know, I know. This is terrible”;  bridge the gulf of language, culture, experience.

A sudden anger flared and he took up the red stamp, printing Denied, on her paperwork.

“Next,” he called.

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Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here