Oh my God, they let me write my favorite blog EVER!!! Putting the lovins on the page is my jam, yet, like most of us, I was a little squeamish about writing sex scenes in the beginning—I was concerned about what it conveyed about me as the writer. However, the more I wrote, I realized I had to put my concerns for myself aside, because the scenes were about my characters.
With that in mind, here are a few basics to help you write effective sex scenes.
5 Basics for Writing Sex Scenes
We’re going to take a look at the following: how will the scene move the story forward, consent, engaging the brain, layering your scene, and staying authentic to your characters.
Engage the brain.
Layer your scenes.
Ready? Let’s go!
1. Forward Progression
Each love scene should serve a purpose. If the scene doesn’t further your character and story arcs, then it’s just sex for the sake of it. There’s nothing wrong with that, but erotica is a whole separate genre. I find it advantageous to ask myself why the sex scene is necessary—what does the sex represent to your characters? Is it an expression of trust, or to reinforce what they think is poor decision making? Make sure your scene accomplishes more than just the big O. It has to move the story forward.
Explicit consent is crucial. We’re mainly women writing for women, and the sheer breadth of #MeToo is evidence of a society-wide power imbalance between men and women.
As writers, we have the unique opportunity to shift that power back to women by portraying healthy sexual relationships.
By creating scenarios where women must express consent and men must ask for it, we’re sending the message to women everywhere that a lack of consent in a sexual relationship shouldn’t be acceptable or commonplace. As writers, we have a unique opportunity to change the collective mindset that “boys will be boys,” and instead empower women to not tolerate disrespect. Here’s a great interview about how to make consent sexy.
3. Engage the Brain
It’s not all Tab A and slot B, my friend. Sex happens in the brain. Have you ever read a sex scene like this?
I laid down on the bed, and he took off my pants and shoes. He pulled his shirt off and crawled onto the bed next to me. He placed his hand on my breast as I stared at his chest. He kissed me and moved his hand to my waist. I unbuttoned his pants and he climbed between my legs…
Where are the sighs and the brushing of lips? The racing heart and warm breath? Where’s the anticipation and engagement of the senses? Does the above example leave you cold and ready to skip the rest? That’s because there’s no emotion or nuance involved.
We are cerebral creatures, and if we don’t engage the characters’ brains we won’t engage the readers’ brains.
Thought, emotion, and perception are essential parts of writing any good scene.
That goes double for anything between the sheets. After all, you want to leave your reader thinking about a change of panties, not their dentist appointment tomorrow. Sex is supposed to be enjoyable. If you enjoy writing it, your readers will enjoy reading it.
4. Layer Your Scenes
Something that can help avoid the mechanical sex scene is to take several passes at the scene, each to add in another layer. Get the mechanics down—what body part goes where—then go back to the beginning and engage the character’s senses. A third pass for character’s thoughts, or any combination of the above.
5. Stay Authentic
To bring the heat, or not to bring the heat? As a new romance writer, this is probably the most worrisome part of writing sex scenes. When I started writing my first love scene, I waffled on the heat level. It’s crucial, whether you write super-hot or a sweet romance, that you stay true to your characterization.
Nothing will rile a reader more than flipping the switch on a romance scene.
If you’ve written a wholesome couple that’s shy about their first kiss, but then follow them into the bedroom for some hot-and-heavy POV, it will jerk the reader right out of the story. Same goes if your hero and heroine have been all over each other, but when the big payout comes, you decide to fade to black.
Consider your own level of comfort, as well. We worry what our heat level says about us as the writer. What will family and friends think? Will it make anyone I know uncomfortable, including me?
A good indicator of heat level is what you’re comfortable reading. If you only read fade to black, you’re probably not going to be comfortable writing erotic romance. However, my favorite tip to offer is, well…sometimes, you just gotta say f*** it.
With that in mind, I have an exercise to wrap up with.
An Exercise for Writing Sex Scenes
Go write a love scene. Layer it, engage your senses, use consent, and just this once, it doesn’t have to move a story forward—it can be written for this exercise alone. But you have to put it ALL out there. Push your boundaries and get out of your comfort zone. Don’t worry. Nobody ever has to see this but you. Finished? Good. Did you write a makeout session that fades to black? Perfect. An all-out orgy with beans and franks everywhere? Also perfect. Now, edit it—back down the heat level until you’re comfortable having strangers reading it (yes, strangers, because with friends and family, you’ll censor yourself more than necessary).
I hope that helped you find your heat-level sweet-spot. 😉 Tell me, have my photos made you uncomfortable, yet??? Heh.