When I was a kid, just starting to enter the world of boys and dating, my mother gave me one bit of advice that stuck with me. She told me to always remember that once I kissed a boy, we could never go back to just holding hands.
The point was simple; relationships move forward.
This is important when writing character interactions. However much you choose to show on the page, the physical relationship can’t go backwards. They can’t go from kissing to holding hands, or from lovers to kissing. If they have a sexual relationship throughout, the scenes need to be increasingly hot as they go on, saving the sexiest and most emotional for the end.
Because if you take a step back, you’re giving the reader less, not more. If I give you an increasingly smaller reward every time you turn the page, you’ll eventually hit a threshold where you lose interest and stop turning.
Likewise , you don’t want the increasing tension to dwindle as you approach the story climax. If the escalation decreases over time, the story will taper off and die. You’ll hear, “It started strong but lost momentum.” The jumps should become sharper, spike the readers’ interest, so that instead losing momentum, it gains, taking the reader along for the ride.
When writing character interactions, every physical scene should have more than the scene before, physically and emotionally. Always bring it up a notch, until the final scene of the book has the characters totally invested in each other. They need to gradually transfer their focus on the outside plot to a focus on each other, in some cases, to the point of self-sacrifice.
So how do you handle rising tension and where can you see room for improvement in your work?