great topic, huh?

So, I’m giving a workshop today at my local RWA about Writing Sex Scenes.

Okay, I can do this. I write sex scenes. Lots of them. Been doing it for years now. Won an award or two. But doing it (writing, that is…not :hump:) and then telling other people HOW to do it is completely different.

I’ve been working on this presentation for a few weeks. It’s….difficult. I know how I write sex. I’m just not sure I can adequately tell other people how to write it.

Sex is so…personal. So is writing sex. Everyone does it differently. There’s no sex writing ‘formula’. Oh sure, there are books out there about writing sex–great books as a matter of fact. (I just got Alison Kent’s Complete Idiot Guide to Writing Erotic Romance as a matter of fact and it’s fabulous!). But what I want to convey in this workshop is that a sex scene really isn’t about sex.

*waits for shocked gasps*

Sex scenes aren’t about sex?

Uh…no. They aren’t. They’re about the characters. Their journey, their angsts, their relationship and where it’s been and where it’s going after the sex. It’s about emotion and commitment (or lack thereof), about conflict and how the other person makes them feel about themselves. It’s about how they change as a result of this act. Sex is what’s going on in their heads in addition to what they’re doing with their bodies.

Sex is a really big deal in romance. And so is a sex scene, something that should never be taken lightly.

So while I’ve been putting together this workshop I’ve spent some time thinking about sex. About sexual tension. And one of the things I worked into my presentation is showing the sexual tension in books and movies.

One of my favorite scenes of sexual tension is the scene from The Big Easy, when Dennis Quaid has Ellen Barkin on the bed with his hand under her skirt. You never get to see what he’s doing, but you have a pretty good idea from her facial expressions. Oh, man. That scene is so freakin’ hot. Now that is sexual tension. She rolls her eyes, nibbles her lip, pants and damn near has an orgasm. And you never see below her neck in that scene. To me, that’s one of the hottest scenes ever.

And they don’t even have their clothes off. Nor are they having sex in that scene.

Elizabeth Lowell has written some of the hottest sexual tension I’ve ever read. Yet she’s not at all graphic. But she can drag the tension out for hundreds of pages until you’re ripping the book apart with your teeth waiting for the characters to consumate their passion. How does she do this? With the push and pull of putting them together and dragging them apart. With a look, a touch. With dialogue. With yearning. She’s a master at this.

With a look or a word, or a scene like inThe Big Easy, you can convey so much tension the room fills with it.

What’s your favorite book or movie that conveys sexual tension like that? Not the ACT of sex, but the kind of tension that balls your stomach up in knots?