Left Behind and Loving It Workshop – The Anatomy of Sex Scenes Part Five



NOTE: Paperback Writer(PBW) has organized an awesome group of bloggers doing Left Behind and Loving It workshops all this week and weekend while everyone’s away attending the RWA National Conference. Click here to find the links to all the workshops, including PBW’s!


How to Write The Sex Scene

So now that we’ve covered the whys, it’s time to cover the how. How to write sex.

The how is really up to you. Every book is different. Every set of characters are different. Thus, every sex scene is different. Or it should be. If it isn’t, you’ve got a problem, because a lot of readers’ pet peeves about sex scenes in romance is that they all read the same. Make sure your sex scenes are always different. Hopefully I can show you how to do that.

What you don’t want to do is write a sex scene that’s dull, flat and filled with clichés and purple prose and euphemisms. My best advice – read. Read, read, read, read and read some more. Read what publishers are buying. Figure out what your target market is, and read those books. If you want to write a single title paranormal with sex in it, then buy what’s releasing right now. Check out the publishers you want to target, or the clients of the agent you want to represent you. Find out how hot (or not) the sex scenes are in those books. Don’t plagiarize of course, but you need to know the right heat level for the genre and publisher(s) you’re targeting. That’s a good starting point. And frankly, if it’s published, and there are sex scenes in that book, then the scenes there worked (at least for that publisher).

If your target is category romance, buy the current lines and check out the sex. Then you’ll know what level is being published. Trust me, the sex differs wildly among category lines. You need to know what you’re doing if you’re going for category. Yes, they run a year to a year and a half behind but you can check guidelines. They will generally describe the level of heat they’re looking for.

The single title market varies as far as heat level. This is probably where you have the most wiggle room. Choose your favorite authors, the ones you love to read. Find out what resonates with you as far as the love scenes your favorites write. What you love as a reader often translates to what you’ll love to write.

So use what you read and then tailor your sex scene to fit those guidelines.

If it’s hot, then write hot. If it’s mild, write mild. But always write within your own personal comfort zone. Step too far outside that zone and it’ll show. I think all writers should try to flex their creative muscles, but not with sex. It’s too personal. And if you’re not comfortable writing sex, it’ll show in your book. Does that mean if you’re uncomfortable writing sex you should slam the bedroom door shut, call it good and leave the scene out? Oh hell no.

I think you should push yourself to write the best sex scene you can, but you don’t want awkward sex scenes, either. You want sex scenes with rhythm, flow, and passion. Even mild sex scenes can have emotion and passion if written well.

See, this is where writers sometimes miss the boat. You don’t need to write erotic, flaming, swinging from the chandeliers, hot monkey lovin’ to have a good sex scene. You just need to tap into your characters’ emotions and have the sex scene fit the story. Always be true to yourself and your own capabilities, including your own limitations.

That being said, I also believe that too often writers confuse sex scenes with graphic erotic scenes. It doesn’t have to be that way at all. You can write a smoking hot sex scene without ever using THOSE words or getting so graphic your own eyeballs will go up in flames.

This is a scene from DARE TO LOVE, my recently released book from SAMHAIN PUBLISHING (shameless plug of this week’s book release…so sue me :giggle: ). This is not an erotic romance, but in this scene I wanted to convey the passion between these two characters who at first resisted, then couldn’t deny how much they wanted each other. But I did it with the right choice of words so it came out hot, not erotic.

His expression turned dark as he loomed over her, not waiting more than a whispered breath to pull her against him and lower his mouth to hers.

Warm lips covered hers, coaxing a response that sounded more like a gasp than a pleasured sigh.

And yet it was both. Jake held such barely leashed passion within that when he let it out it was near overwhelming, but not unwelcome. She eagerly pressed against him, sliding her arms around his shoulders and pulling him toward her. She wanted his body to cover hers, the same way his mouth had taken her lips.

“I waited all damn day for this,” he said through clenched teeth. His hand slid up underneath the sweatshirt, under her tank top, fluttering along her rib cage on a relentless search. She knew he wouldn’t be satisfied until he grasped what he sought.

His thumb found her nipple and flicked it gently. She arched into his hand as his palm covered her breast, gently squeezing and kneading the instantly aroused flesh.

Clouds had blown in and covered the moonlit sky, rendering them in the darkness. Wind had blown out the candles he’d set, forcing them to rely on touch and sound rather than sight.

Lucy longed to see his face, and yet his voice, his breathing, his every touch told her all she needed to know. He was like a man on a mission, and his mission was her.

No part of her remained untouched. His hands wandered everywhere, from her breasts to her ribcage and over her hips. With a swift tug he pulled her shorts down and off, the now cool breeze biting against her bare legs before he threw the blankets over them again.

“Dammit, it’s dark and I want to see you,” he rasped in her ear. Heat burned through, his very words like a scorching fire that she knew she shouldn’t touch but couldn’t stay away from.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she considered suggesting they move into the house, where she could see him. She’d thought about him, about his body, from the first moment she’d laid eyes on him, her imagination conjuring up vivid images of a bronzed, god-like statue. Her most fervent wish was to see that statue unclothed before her, so she could admire and touch every angle and curve of his hardened body.

But her mind wouldn’t cooperate. She didn’t want to break the spell he’d woven over her, didn’t want to take a chance that he would stop like he’d done before. This time she was stone cold sober and didn’t want to stop. This time she wanted it all.

His lips against the pulse point on her throat set her on fire. He licked and nibbled her neck until she cried out a gasp that he covered with his mouth.

She could barely take the overwhelming sensations he evoked, and yet he was relentless. He simply would not stop. Not that she’d ask him to. But she refrained from begging for more.

His work-roughened hand slid over her hipbone and down her thigh, alternately clenching and unclenching as it squeezed her tender flesh.

She felt his erection pulsing hard against her hip as he leaned into her, and longed to wrap her fingers around that part of him. But he seemed to be eluding her questing hands.

“Jake, please. I want to touch you.”

“Plenty of time for that later,” he said in a rough voice, then gently parted her thighs with his hand and slid his palm against her aching sex.


Time place. Where are they? Describe it. Show it to the readers. Slowly build the scene in their minds.

Add in the senses. Let them look at each other – it’s the first thing they’re attracted to – the way the other person looks. Show the reader what the characters see, and then make the character react. When the hero
enters the room with only a pair of jeans on, and the heroine’s pulse kicks up a notch as she sees him bare chested, with that top button undone on his jeans, we can feel what she feels. That undeniable attraction, the way her palms sweat when she looks at him, the way his jeans hang right there on his lean hips showing off those sculpted abs. And when he turns around and she can see his tanned, muscular back, his perfect butt….

What does he see? The way her shirt or blouse molds to her breasts? The way her eyes sparkle when she smiles? The way she licks her lips when she’s nervous or excited? Does her breath hitch when he presses his lips against her throat? Can he feel her pulse kick up a notch when he kisses her? Can he inhale her scent? Does it drive him crazy?

Men are visual creatures—they love to look and are always turned on by what they see. They also use all their senses in lovemaking. They like to touch, to smell, to taste. Use all of these in your love scene. Trust me, your heroine will enjoy it tremendously. So will your readers. They want to get turned on along with your heroine.

So whether your characters are passionately inclined and undressing in a hurry, or taking their sweet time with the unveiling, make sure to include in your scene what your characters see – Show it. don’t just tell it.

Then bring in scent, not only of the world or room around them, but also each other – it’s a powerful aphrodisiac. Did he just get out of the shower? When she inhales, can she smell the sexy, crisp scent of his soap? Does he like the smell of her vanilla shampoo? Does she wear perfume or does he prefer her natural scent?

Touch. Take your time and let your characters explore each other through the power of touch. The tactile sense is an amazing turn on. Let them use their hands on each other, their lips and their bodies to learn about each other through touch. Let him tangle his fingers in her hair, or let her smooth her hands over his work hardened muscles, feeling them tighten under her palms.

Then taste, where you can really go crazy. You can write an entire page just on kissing. The taste of their lips. The lingering taste of coffee, or mint, or wine. Their breath mingling, their tongues intertwining and what happens below the waist if you’re so inclined to write in depth or at a minimum about oral sex. Flavor can be intoxicating, an aphrodisiac like no other.

What do they hear? Laughter, moaning, gasping, whispering. All of these are powerful tools in sensual play. Dialogue during a love scene can be very sexy. I like the characters to talk to each other during a love scene. It breaks up the scene and keeps it from becoming boring, and also brings the reader closer to the characters. Let them talk to each other. This is when they bare their souls as well as their bodies.

Remember – as in real life – sex can be fun, it can be awkward as hell. It can be wild and crazy, it can be emotional and poignant. Your heroine may cry, both your characters might laugh. Let your characters and their personalities dictate the scene. Always be true to them.

There is no hard and fast ‘rule’ about love scenes. There are no magic formulas. This is your book, your characters and the love scenes should be yours to write in any way that feels ‘true’ to you and your voice.

Remember that sex isn’t just physical, nor should your sex scene be. It’s about the emotion, about bringing all the senses into the scene. Sex scenes are an integral part of romance and when you plot your book they should be planned accordingly. They’re important. Drag out the emotion as well as the physical and bring your reader along for the ride. Nothing is more gratifying than a love scene that really pays off, emotionally as well as physically.

When you write a sex scene you have to learn to free your mind of inhibitions. Let yourself go. Imagine the scene for your characters. What’s right for them? You want to give them, and your readers, the payoff they deserve. Never cheat the reader or your characters just because you find writing sex scenes uncomfortable. Yes, they’re hard to write. Get over it, put on your dark sunglasses, pour yourself a cold glass of ice water and get down to it. Your characters—and your readers—are waiting for this big moment.

Reference Materials:

THE FINE ART OF EROTIC TALK by Bonnie Gabriel (ISBN 0-553-37396-X).

THE JOY OF WRITING SEX by Elizabeth Benedict 0-8050-6993-3



Stay tuned….Q&A coming up! And prizes!!