The first sex scene I ever wrote, read more like a PG13 movie then what the scene needed to convey. One of my first beta readers said it best, she said, “I want to know what the rug under her feels like.” The scene was where two characters were going at it on the bathroom floor. I knew she was right. I sat in front of my computer the cursor blinking at me, saying you can’t do this. Frustrated I walked away. I needed help. I am by no means prudish. I grew up in a house where sex was never a taboo subject. Why couldn’t I write it? I realized I needed to educate myself. Here are my top ten tips for writing sex scenes.
I thought I had read a lot of sex in various works of fiction and that would be enough. My beta reader who made the comment about feeling the rug suggested reading some of Christine Feehan’s work. I read the first book in eight hours I couldn’t put it down. It was sexy but still told a story. This is how sex should be written. The sex scenes in Christine Feehan’s books and Maya Bank’s books help move the plot along. The scenes convey emotional growth and character development.
I know this is a controversial idea for some, and I respect that. I highly encourage watching sex, not just pornography, but favorite love scenes in movies. It isn’t about watching the act of sex, it is for the purpose of watching body movement. It is so important to get body movement correct when writing a sex scene. Pay extra close attention to where the participant’s hands are, this is so important. Watch the body movement. The best sex scenes are detailed, where the author has taken the time, to describe body placement and movement. Vague sex scenes don’t carry the same weight in my opinion.
I have always read a lot of fiction, but in doing research to write sex scenes, I didn’t have the time to read an entire book to get to a steamy scene. There are great websites that have compiled all sorts of sex scenes. You can search for the type of sex scene you want to write about and read examples of it done really well. Seriously, Google is your friend here. If you are a little shy, open an incognito window and go for it.
I love to read a good steamy love scene but as a reader, nothing is more jarring than when the scene doesn’t seem to fit the characters or the tone of the story. Set the mood for the scene and stick to it, is it passionate, lustful, tender, awkward? My point here is to know the mood literally in the room between the two (or more) characters engaging with each other. It would be jarring to read of a couple who need to make love to each other for character development, going at it against the bathroom wall in a club. I am not saying it can’t be done, but the tone is so important here! Here is an example:
Virginia is timid, quiet, reserved. Carl, her love interest is also meek. This is their first time together, neither with a lot of sexual experience. The scene is in her bedroom. They are young and nervous.
Tone Done Correctly:
Virginia couldn’t believe the moment had finally come. She had waited for so long to be with Carl. Her body shook, she wasn’t sure if it was the anticipation or nerves, either way, she wanted him.
“I love you so much,” Carl said as he leant down and kissed her soft lips.
“Please make love to me Carl, I want to do this,” Virginia said, her voice cracking.
Tone Done Incorrectly:
We are going to use the same characters and the same setting.
Virginia stipped her clothes from her body, she couldn’t get them off fast enough. She needed Carl inside of her, she missed the feeling. (it is her first time! how would she know what he feels like?)
“I am going to wreck you, I won’t stop until you beg me for mercy,” Carl said as he grabbed the back of her head.
She wasn’t leaving that room until she belonged to him and only him. She would take all he had to give and then beg for more.
Does this illustrate the difference? Carl and Virginia are young, and it is their first time. The second example while steamy is out of place for two young, inexperienced partners. See, tone matters.
What are you trying to tell your reader in the scene? I think this is why I love writing romance so much. Romance is a time of great joy usually, that feeling of falling in love is magical. Sex, on the other hand, can hold a lot of different emotions. We are our most vulnerable when we are naked in front of another person. I think when sex is written correctly in a romance novel, there is so much more going on in the scene then just the body mechanics, there is massive character development. My favorite scenes are when characters really fall for each other in the moment of sex, or one partner is tender to another.
This sounds so stupid to say but it is true. As a writer, you must pay attention to body movement. I follow a lot of fellow romance writers and readers, their number one complaint that the author did not pay attention to the scene. Let me give an example.
Carl swept Virginia up in his arms, he was carrying her to his bedroom. Tonight would be the night that they had both waited for, longed for, imagined. Carl looked down at Virginia’s long flowing locks.
“You are so beautiful,” he said.
He reached up and stroked her cheek.
Wait, what? Did he just drop Virginia or does Carl have a third arm? Nothing is more jarring to a reader than something like this. Pay attention to your characters!
Let go, have fun, write out your wildest fantasies. Writing sex is fun. When I first started writing sex, it wasn’t fun. It took me a while to learn the advice I am giving here to you today. I wish I would have come across this article as a resource. My suggestion is don’t get hung up on the technicalities the first time you write the scene. Go back and edit using the technicalities, tone, mechanics and message. Let your character’s really “feel” not just physically but emotionally too.
Read what you wrote:
You are the first reader of the story your characters are telling. Read the sex scene you just wrote. Does it make sense to you? Pay attention to the mechanics, did one of the characters grow another arm like in the example above? Doe the tone of the scene fit with the story you are trying to tell? I have written the steamiest scenes and then went back to re-read the scene and it just doesn’t fit. This is where a good note app does wonder. I have scrapped scenes for this reason, and archived it, for later use.
Vivid imagination helps:
I love to put myself in the scene, not necessarily as a participant but more like a fly on the wall. Before I write the scene and during, I like to imagine the setting, the characters, all of it. I think of it this way, if it were a movie would the audience want to watch it?
Don’t be embarrassed:
I am not a prude. I was raised in a house where the topic of sex was an open and ongoing conversation. I consider myself very blessed to come up in a house with such a liberal attitude towards sex, yet when it came to reading and writing sex for the first few times, I was nervous, even embarrassed. I didn’t realize this at first but after I did, I knew I was going to have to overcome it to really write the scenes my characters.
I really hope this article helps those of you who are looking for tips on how to write sex. I know these tips have helped me hone the craft of writing truly great sex scenes. If you have a tip that you have not seen here, please share it in the comments.