Tuesday, November 20, 2012


This is a post I shared on my own blog quite some time ago and it is one of my most frequent visited posts.  From my perspective, these are some of the guidelines I use when writing "those scenes". Feel free to leave a comment sharing your own thoughts.    Ellie 

First things first, this very much depends on the genre you are writing for.
In an Inspirational Romance, there will be NO steamy sex scenes. The list of words not allowed by the CBA is extensive. Any impropriety is frowned upon and the slightest touch of hands can be provocative. The word desire and provocative are prohibited. You can imagine how monumental that first kiss has to be.
I like to read historical fiction and historical romance. Often the societal norms are to be observed in the telling of the romance between characters. The conflict and tension have to be developed in a manner that draws the reader expectantly along to the point of anticipated release. In these novels, a very sweet innocent progression of love usually culminates with the conclusion of a marriage where the sex is kept within the norms. Isn't it fascinating however that within the Victorian Era of "proper society" was a sharp rise of immoral behavior?
What I'm working on now is a paranormal romance. The paranormal genre has been dominated by vampires and werewolves lately, but not exclusive to just them. Time travel, shape shifters, magical elements, and yes vampires, lycans and other mythological beings qualify in paranormal. Whatever subplot is going on, the primary story is always the romance. My story does not include vampires. It revolves around the Celtic mythology of the Tuatha de Danaan or the Faerie realm.
My WIP (work in progress) is not an erotica, nor am I a smut peddler. I hate when people use that term! Why is it wrong to write about the love developing between characters and their natural desires for physical love, yet it's ok to write macabre tales of murder?
Why write the sex scene? If the story doesn't call for it, don't! If it's just inserted for the purpose of sex, it's gratuitous and should be omitted. If it moves the story forward, moves their relationship forward, and moves their own development forward then by all means the characters should be between the sheets. That's a lot for a sex scene to have to accomplish.
Yes, it is! If it doesn't accomplish these things leave it out, or push it till later. Again, I'm not writing porn here! I'm not writing a gratuitous sex scene just to write it. A good sex scene is difficult to write.
There are my own feelings to deal with. If I'm not comfortable with the act, how am I going to convey it effectively to a reader? If you're not comfortable reading about it, or actually doing it, then I suggest you move on to some other topic. I'm sure there are several articles about the current mortgage rates, and the recovering housing market if that is more interesting.
There is the matter of the characters likes and dislikes. Maybe Joe is a sloppy kisser and Jill has hangups from being raped in high school by a man who was a sloppy kisser. This is why a writer has to know everything there is to know about their characters. My characters are not flat Stanleys. They are fully rounded people with backgrounds, families, quirks, and dreams. Just as in real life there are certain turn-ons and turn-offs. It's the spark that ignites between Jill and Joe, not between Jill and Tom, Brad, Bill, Derek, Randy, and every other man. It's the spark, that secret key that unlocks their hearts and makes them willing to take the scary plunge into the sea of love.
There is the matter of building the expectations. By chapter 2 my characters are attracted to each other but in my personal world, it's not proper protocol to jump in the sack on the first date. They have to wait and let the tension build. The relationship has to escalate, desire building to a crescendo of emotional turmoil, the physical desire so strong that they are willing to risk everything to be with each other.
Dramatic? Yes, it's suppose to be.
Cheesy? The premise yes, but this is the stuff every woman fantasizes about and seldom realizes. This is why women read romances in the first place. Real life demands our attention in various directions. A good romance offers an escape from the mountain of dirty laundry and the mess the kids just made in the floor for the umpteenth time.
Usually the sex scene occurs about 2/3 of the way through the book. I have a friend that skims the first few chapters then jumps to this point, reads it then she's done. Her philosophy is that all romances are the same, just different names so why not jump to the good part? Because she misses the entire story. It's all about the story!
My paranormal romance is about a man and a woman who are falling in love. My moral integrity dictates to me what I am comfortable writing and what I'm not really comfortable with. To be honest I'm more comfortable writing a battle scene that is more akin to 300 than to write the sex scenes. Sex is an intimate issue. It's an important part of a relationship, but not the only part. I believe in a one woman one man relationship where there is mutual trust and respect. The couple learn about each other, explore each other, and give pleasure to each other. Isn't that what is supposed to happen in a loving relationship? My characters may get frisky, may experiment with food, or blindfolds and silk scarves but my hero is never going to invite another guy into the picture, or have a bit on the side.
Sex is not just the physical act, if you want that go read Penthouse, or some gratuitous erotica that's out there. Let me say here that not all erotica is gratuitous sex either. There are authors who make the effort to tell a story that happens to include a lot of sex. I write romance; a story that shows the developing relationship in the midst of whatever chaos happens to be going on in the world I created. In a romantic relationship sex eventually happens, when they progress to that intimate level.
The steamy part is tricky. Writing the scene to show the building tension, the desire, the passion without telling. Conveying the emotional impact of every touch, scent, and senses while making it last long enough to peak the reader's interest and satisfy the character's needs is a daunting task.
Ever see the Olympic figure skaters that make it look easy and natural? A good writer can make the sex scene like that. The reader never sees the hours of practice, the blood coming from the fingertips, the strain of putting the words together to show and not tell.
Having been married for many years, I know very well what goes on. Knowing that tab A is inserted into slot B is only part of the puzzle. I have read some things that make me wonder if the writer has actually ever experienced what they had written. Makes me wonder if their anatomy is somehow different.
Being comfortable in writing the most intimate acts down is another matter. Writing the scene that conveys the emotional impact while progressing the story is my goal. When Joe and Jill take that step, they have to be ready for it. Things between them will never be the same after the scene.
It's really the same in real life. Once you share the intimate act of sex with a partner, there's no going back. You've crossed a line that can never be uncrossed. If the line is crossed too soon, the relationship may never develop beyond "the act". If that line is never crossed one or more may lose interest and move on.
I'm a firm believer in friends first lovers second. I married my best friend. It wasn't a light matter for us to cross that line, and I believe it shouldn't be for my characters either.
The bottom line in romance is that we all want somebody to love us unconditionally. Letting someone in to your heart at the level of intimacy that sex requires is a scary and tricky risk. In my romantic world, taking that risk should be rewarding. Ah, but there's always the plot twist of unrequited love. The darkest moment when the whole world is collapsing in on them, and everything has gone wrong. The moment they realize their own vulnerability because they took that risk and have to decide if it was worth it.
How much more impact does the steamy sex scene have when a few chapters later she is left heartbroken by the man she gave everything to? Sex scenes carry power if they are done well.

1 comment:

  1. A very interesting post. I don't like to write sex scenes. They either sound unrealistic or mechanical. In my NaNoWriMo I have the major sex scene in the beginning of the book because it was necessary for the whole story line. The words are probably not proper, but neither is the whole story. Yet it is not porn. It's life. It would not be for the faint of heart. It may not be published either. LOL!