Let’s talk about sex! Most romance novels have some level of heat. They can be ’sweet’ reads that end in one or two kisses that fade to black, or they can be ’steamy’ with open bedroom explicit scenes. They have one thing in common though: the heroine always gets off. Always. It’s about her pleasure. Her wants. Her needs. Her desires. Something that cis het women can’t always agree happens in their real lives.
As the author, Lareign Ward, states: "But I think the real issue Society in General has with romance novels is that they’re books centered on a woman’s desires, including her sexual ones, and they’re usually written by women. When done right, that sort of thing can feel revolutionary."
But how do you go about writing sex? There’s plenty written about bad sex scenes - including awards for the worst. The Guardian’s 2018 list included James Frey and Haruki Marukami. I expected better, right?
What makes a great sex scene? Your 5-step quick go-to guide (ahem!):
1) Know your heat level. A low level heat novel isn’t looking for graphic scenes that span pages and pages. And a scorcher novel isn’t looking for chaste kisses and closed bedroom doors. A book doesn’t classify as erotica unless the sexual relationship is the focus. In novels with high heat, the sex adds to the relationship -there’s a difference. Level 1-2 tends to focus on kissing with either no sex or fade to black. Levels 3-4 starts to move into the more detailed sex scenes, with erotica as its own category. As a romance writer, you’ll have to identify your heat level for prospective publishers.
2) Shiver with antici.........................pation. If they’re doing it from page one with no build-up (emotional conflict), the reader will be bored. You want the reader to be longing with you. Check out the Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz. What’s sexy is the stop-start, the will-they won’t they, the almost but not quite. But, if they are doing it left, right and centre, make sure there’s a strong emotional plot driving the series (Sleeping Beauty’s evolution, Anne Rice writing as A.N. Roquelare).
3) No purple-prosed euphemisms. Some of the worst I can think of: pulsating manhood, hunk of burning love, love sausage, meat injection. Pretty sure you’ve encountered worse. Again, check your heat level. Hard works great for most levels, cock, for those on the 3-4 scale.
4) Connection. If there’s no emotional connection, you’ve written a porn scene.
5) Using your senses. Sex is a sensual experience - literally all of your senses are on high-alert. This is the time to roll out your sensual writing. Taste, touch, smell, sight and sound...all important.
Writing sex is no different from writing any other scene. All the same principles apply - does it further the conflict of the novel? Does it reveal character? Does it make things more complicated for the characters? Yes? Then job done.
Maybe get a big glass of wine first though!
A little something to get you started on your writing journey:
Do you want to write a romance novel?
Everyone wants a HAPPILY EVER AFTER (HEA).