How many times did I want to say that when my first book was published? I know, I know, it’s crazy, but the one thing I wanted my stories to be known for was not how great the love scenes were, but how great of a story was being told. Comments from reviewers have said it was hot, but not so much so that it would make you uncomfortable. Others have considered it tame, while others said they were blushing.
One thing I’ve learned since A Heart Not Easily Broken was published is this: sensuality and the degree of sex in a book is based on the reader.
Unless it’s in the genre of Erotica. The name says it all.
When I started writing, my goal was to avoid putting sex in my book, period. I mean hey, call me prude, but even though I enjoyed reading the elegant prose of a Nora Roberts love scene, I could in no way imagine myself writing it! I mean really, what if my husband picked it up and looked at me with a raised eyebrow, or what if my mom got a hold of it???? What would they think?
Then I thought about it some more and realized, hey, I’ve got four kids and they didn’t get here by way of Immaculate Conception nor were they adopted. 🙂 Sex is a part of life and hey, I’m grown! So, I put on a pair of big girl panties, (or thong) and went where the characters want to go!!! To bed!
Now, if your shy or nervous about writing sex scenes, how do you achieve it without being cheesy, unrealistic, or stiff? (I swear no pun was intended in that line!)
Research can be done in various ways. (Okay, seriously, stop laughing!) Find books from your favorite authors. If there is sex in their stories, study the way it’s written. Is it technical? Do they get creative with words, allowing your imagination to run wild without calling out each position? Or do they write in a way that gets straight to the point? (Insert tab A into slot C = HURRAY!) What about the scene leaves you warm under the collar? Is it a scene you can’t help but read again, or does it bore you to the point of sleep? Make notes of what you would like to see in your books.
**Remember, it’s okay to take a peek into the bedroom without sitting down on the edge of the bed. Leading up to what’s going to happen and stopping, then picking up later is fine, too. Go with what you feel comfortable with! Never push yourself into writing more than you feel comfortable reading for the sake of trying to sell a book. A reader can tell a badly written scene, and like your lovers, the last thing you want a reader to do is laugh (unless of course there is something that happens that is meant to make the reader laugh). Once a lover of romance novels has invested time and grown emotionally connected to your characters and you introduce that ‘moment’ but don’t deliver in some satisfactory way, they may wonder why the characters are together in the first place and quickly lose interest in your novel. (I once had a reader say she liked Brian so much she couldn’t wait to ‘jump in bed’ with him, and once she had, she wasn’t disappointed!)**
Step outside your comfort zone.
If you’ve never read an erotic romance novel, pick one up and peruse the story. I’d never read an Erotic romance story until I read J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Two things I learned from that series:
1) The men were hot, vulnerable no matter how tough they are, and when they made love, they experienced some deep emotions. Despite what you may think, sex wasn’t just sex.
2) While the scenes were very well written, there were some terms I would never be comfortable using in describing certain acts or anatomy.
**From the creative prose of Nora Roberts to the front and center of J.R. Ward, two totally different styles, each dealing with the same subject matter. Where would I fit in? What did I want to write? And just how daring did I want to be???? Ask yourself these questions!**
(Okay, so I gave up on avoiding puns when I started talking about research. 🙂 )
Once you’ve decided the lingo you want to use in your scene, you have to write it! Trust me, writing sex is not as easy as you’d like to think it is! It gets very technical. Just like writing description in a scene or what your character is experiencing on a day to day bases, it’s even more intense when dealing with the ‘moment’ that can either push your character forward in a new relationship, or throw a new obstacle in their path, depending on where the story is going. I once read a blog that said writing sex is like writing an action scene. In order for the reader to know what’s going on – who punched who, and what the punch felt like or where it landed – you have to map out the action, movement-by-movement. Okay, the couple isn’t fighting in the bedroom, but they are moving together in a sort of dance. It has to be described so the reader not only ‘sees’ it in their mind, they ‘feel’ it, as well. To achieve this, the five senses must be visited.
*Touch– the feel of their lover’s hands on their body, or the way their lover feels to them. Rough hands, soft hands, a slow caress, a grip of passion.
*Taste– the taste of wine recently consumed during a kiss.
*Sight– excitement from the exposure of naked flesh.
*Sound- music in the background, a gasp, satisfied sigh.
*Smell– candles, perfume, sweat; you see where I’m going, right?
**When in doubt of how a good scene should progress, watch a few movies. Notice how the kisses can start out slow as the camera pans down to what the actors bodies are doing? Where are the hands? How do their bodies touch? What is the response of the other party? Visualize your characters as if they are in a movie and write what you see. Sometimes its slow, sometimes it’s fueled by passion and rough. It’s all in where your characters head is at.**
* Don’t be afraid to write what you feel. That’s what editing is for! If your scene comes across as pornographic the first time around, don’t worry! Get it on paper, then tame it down. Take out what you feel is too much for your genre or what you feel comfortable with writing. Get a friend to read it and have them tell you what they think. Listen to the feedback, then make the changes. Trust me, editing love scenes can be the hardest part of editing! It can take me a week to edit a love scene versus the time it takes to edit any other chapter!
* Avoid the technical terms found in your old high school biology book. Talk about a mood killer! Pick up that Thesaurus, get creative, and find something you think works best.
* Make sure it makes sense!!! In real life, you don’t start standing up, then end up on the bed without transitioning to that location. Remember to add movement! In a regular scene, your character isn’t chilling on the sofa, then the next minute he’s answering the door without there being a reason why he got up from the sofa to go to the door. The same applies to love scenes!
* Dialogue during the act itself can be good, but let’s be realistic; nobody wants to read a full conversation during the act. A command, a request, a moaned response, sure, but who wants to hear about the other characters day? Leave that for pillow talk!
* Character thoughts…Okay, I am not ashamed to admit, this is where my scenes start carrying the ‘erotica’ tag. My stories are written in 1st person which means you’re already deep inside their world. You know what makes them tick, why they act the way they do, and how they truly feel without being told about it in the traditional 3rd person point of view. So, when they are with the one they love or want, you’re going to know exactly how that kiss feels, how they react physically to their lovers touch, and so on and so forth. The only difference, I don’t start shouting out anatomy in a vulgar or textbook fashion.
* Never feel you have to have an unlimited amount of sex in your book! Make each scene count! I normally have three scenes in my stories, not counting encounters that are alluded to. For me, each encounter is an opportunity for the characters relationship to grow and add more to the story and not be a page filler.
So, how has my family responded since I published my books?
My husband says I write very well, and my mom…well, she read a Sunday Sample where the character mentions his…um…physical reaction to seeing the heroine for the first time. She called me and said, ‘What do you mean he was happy he was standing behind the counter?’ Since then, she has gotten copies of both of my books and I have told her once she reads them not to call. LOL!!! And I’m pretty sure she’s going to read this post and leave a comment. I love you, Mom!
Good luck with your writing, and remember, if you can’t feel comfortable writing it, don’t. Go with what you feel works best for you! And don’t worry, sometimes it is good to shut the door on the reader, just as long as you make it known the character is happy on the other side!
And of course, I can’t talk about writing a sex scene without sharing one of my own. Here’s a little sample of what goes on behind closed doors in A Heart Not Easily Broken:
I slipped my fingers between us and quickly unfastened the buttons of his shirt. Of all days to decide to wear one of these. Why couldn’t he have on a pullover like always? A quick tug would have had his chest available to me in seconds. Now I had to work for it.
Buttons free, I forced the material over his shoulders and down to his wrists. He released me to help remove the shirt. In our haste, his wrists got tangled up. I bit my lip as I looked down at him. His eyes were the most intense shade of blue I’d ever seen. His mouth parted expectantly. His lips were swollen and pink from the way I’d sucked them. I wanted to own him. Every…last…inch.
A deep chuckle came from his throat. “What are you doing?” He tried to free his wrist.
“Don’t worry, I promise you’ll like it.” I smiled wickedly as I fisted the makeshift handcuffs, trapping his hands on the bed.
I nibbled, lapped, and sucked my way to his throat while Brian groaned.
He smelled so good, so male. Barbeque and beer mixed with his musky cologne that held a hint of sweetness. His scent had driven me crazy all night. I took my time to savor every detail of his bronzed flesh, tasting every inch I could reach. But it wasn’t enough. I lifted my head from his chest and teased him with my tongue, evading his mouth as he tried to capture mine.
He panted beneath me, his chest heaved in and out, but his eyes, those crystal blue orbs stayed on me. I was driving him crazy, and my time to be in control was running out. I was sure the moment his wrist were free, he would take me down and return the favor.
Perfect, because that was exactly what I wanted.
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