Building Tension with Nicole Locke & Giveaway!

Author Nicole Locke shares how to add tension to your writing. Nicole first discovered romance novels hidden in her grandmother's closet. Convinced hidden books must be better, Nicole greedily read them. It was only natural she should start writing them (but now not so secretly). If she isn't working on the next book in the Lovers and Legends historical series, she can be reached at:

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And she also brought news of signed copy giveaways of her book, The Knight's Scarred Maiden on Goodreads. 

In school, we’re taught that with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In Romance, characters and their responses are what the reader wants, and the action becomes secondary.
Most times, there’s a natural weaving of actions and reactions. A heroine, after arguing with her sisters, unwinds with a glass of wine.

However, in Romance, a character’s inner turning point requires more than the natural weaving of actions. These are critical moments, such as when attraction turns to desire, and they require tension. To do so, the writer should fully engage the character’s emotions and environment.

Naturally weaving the environment into the character’s inner conflict won’t create the necessary depth for the scene because the writer will often overlook something the character could have heard or touched. They are the building props to tension.

One way of not neglecting the environment is to simply write all the actions before addressing the inner conflict. However, if done, that forces the reader to wait for the desired responses.
Yet, how does a writer not overlook the environment, and not make the reader wait? My tip: Deliberately, weave the two together. First write only the actions. Then separately, write only the inner conflict.

When writing the actions, use all the senses. Describe the heroine’s walk to the dark kitchen, the coldness of the opened fridge, the weight of the wine bottle, the fumbling to find the corkscrew, the stabbing of the cork, etc.

In another document, address the inner conflict. Describe the frustration, anger and hurt because her sisters will never treat her as an adult.

Then deliberately weave both documents. Take a sentence or paragraph from your inner dialogue and paste it after an action.

Does it fit?

I have found, without fail, I never delete a sentence. For some reason, my subconscious knows what inner conflict will fit into the action sequence.

For example, in my second novel, I use the enemy hero walking up the hill towards the heroine to create tension for the character’s turning point. I knew the moment they were toe to toe, attraction would lead to desire. So that simple walking up the hill required tension. This is how the scene unfolded:

The sun was dimming when Caird approached the hill. His movements were rhythmic, and full of a warrior’s grace.
She blinked once, and again. He was naked from the waist up and wasn’t wearing his braies, leggings, tunic or bandages which were all wrapped loosely around one arm. He wore...breeches. Wet, sheer breeches.
They barely covered the mass of muscle which moved fluidly as he took the slight incline towards her. The hill flexed his thigh muscles, the movement rippling up his torso. Every masculine indentation of him was outlined, and the lack of spare flesh flaunted his strength and power.
Strength and power which he had used to hold her. Mairead released a shaky breath and pushed a lock of hair out of her face. So easily her body warmed to his. It reminded her she needed to be free, to stop questioning things she couldn’t control.
She would be home soon. Relief tried to rest inside her, but she was in too much turmoil to let it settle. The closer she got to home, the less she could avoid her brother’s death. Her brother would never return home. Grief’s claws that had been gripping inside her began to pierce.
Caird continued towards her.
Her eyes absorbed the rivulets of water running down his chest and arms. The glistening of droplets which highlighted the thin trail of hair that ran straight down his stomach. …

To write this scene, I wrote every motion of Caird’s walk. Then I wrote Mairead’s inner conflict with him. He’s from a warring clan, he practically kidnapped her, her brother is dead and she’s grieving.
Once I was done with each component, I simply weaved one sentence to another. By the time the characters stand toe to toe, the reader feels the tension of this turning point. Will Mairead punch or kiss Caird?

It’s best not to use this technique for every scene. Your novel would be too long and if every scene was laden with this much tension it would exhaust the reader. It also doesn’t work with dialogue, which alone should carry the weight.

But on those critical inner conflict moments, separating the actions from the reactions works for me. I hope it does for you, too.

The Knight's Scarred Maiden (Lovers and Legends)
A maiden for the mercenary 
Mercenary knight Rhain is living on borrowed time. With a vengeful warlord pursuing him, he has accepted his fate—though first he must get his men to safety. 
When he rescues mysterious and deeply scarred Helissent from her attackers, Rhain soon wishes he wasn't marked for death. He can never be the man she deserves—his scandalous lineage alone dictates that—but Rhain can't resist the temptation to show this innocent maiden how beautiful she truly is… 
Lovers and Legends A clash of Celtic passions

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Enter to win signed copies on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Knight's Scarred Maiden by Nicole Locke

The Knight's Scarred Maiden

by Nicole Locke

Giveaway ends August 30, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway


  1. Hi Nicole,

    Great tips and advice. Thank you. Congrats on the release of your book.

    All the best.

    1. Thank you, Ann! If you have any questions regarding the tip, just contact me! I'm always on FB, Twitter, etc.

  2. Hi Nas and Nicole - fascinating to read how you got started and how you've learnt to put tension into your stories ... cheers Hilary

  3. That's a tense...and hot...scene. Interesting how just walking toward someone could hold so much beneath the surface.

    1. Hello Chrys! That scene goes on for pages because it leads up to a breaking point towards their HEA. So separating the actions and her inner conflict was essential for the...err...romance to happen!

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  6. Great tips, Nicole. And that scene certainly had tension... phoar! I tend to layer my scenes, draft after draft, and it's really interesting that you write side by side then weave it together. I might give that a go, especially on scenes where I'm stuck.

    1. Thanks Annalisa. It's not the most efficient of methods, but it has never failed me. And that scene was pages long, so it helps with word count, too! :-)

  7. Hello, Nicole. Thank you for your thoughts and good luck with your latest release.

  8. Wonderful how she got introduced to books. Nice of you to share, very heart warming. Greetings!

  9. I love that Nicole found romance books in her grandma's closet and read them and then went on to become a romance author. Awesome! :)

    Sounds like a great book. I enjoyed the tips for building tension. Wishing Nicole the best of luck.

    1. Thanks DMS! I love those HEA's so much, don't know if I had a choice but to write more of them! :-)

  10. Okay, this Caird dude is pretty hot! Nice writing sample :)

    1. Thanks! It goes on for pages in Her Enemy Highlander (and only gets hotter!). :-) My editor was: If you're going to start with him naked, the book better continue on that way! So I did.


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