Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I’ll Show You Mine…

Writing love scenes and sex scenes terrify me. Think about it. Not everyone knows what makes a romance, but everyone associates sex scenes with them. Even non-readers! That doesn’t mean all romances need them. Some clearly don’t. Others have way too many of them. It’s kind of like watching a movie that has violence included just for violence’s sake. Or foul language for no good reason. But if a story is going to include them, they need to be good. Really good, or the reader will skip over them. Can you imagine having a book where a sex scene is important and the reader skips it? I mean, that’s like following a recipe and leaving out a main ingredient!

A sex scene shouldn’t just be about body parts merging; it shouldn’t resemble IKEA assembly instructions (insert Flap A into Slot B). It needs to continue to advance the story, better develop the characters and add dimensionality to your story. Otherwise, it’s pointless. It’s like writing for ratings. And unless you’re writing a scene with a prostitute, it needs to have emotion.

So, with all of these expectations, can you understand my fear? I’ve found a method that works for me, though, or maybe it’s a trick. I’m not sure. Regardless of what you call it, in order to write sex scenes, I need to completely understand my characters. I mean, I have to almost BE them. Now, before you start thinking that reading a sex scene I write is like peeping into my bedroom, stop. It isn’t. I create my characters, but I’m not them. If I can step into my characters, both male and female, really understand who they are, what they want and why they’re doing what they’re doing, then I can write the sex scene. For a moment, while I’m “them,” I can feel what they feel, desire what they desire. And then it’s just a matter of putting that on the page. To me, it resembles more of a diary entry than an author writing a scene for her characters.

That’s not to say I won’t ask my husband occasionally for advice—“what would you think about this?” or “give me the guy perspective on that.” I will even admit to getting inspiration occasionally from real life experience (oh, THAT’s how she can do this J). But if I wrote my own experiences into my books, it wouldn’t be true to my characters. It would be as jolting as blatant editorial mistakes, or as if I suddenly substituted an entirely new character for the one you’ve just begun to know and love.

If I do it right, the sex scenes in my books meld seamlessly into the story. They’re noticeable, and hopefully memorable, but for exactly the right reasons. So tell me, how do you write yours?


  1. I agree. I write all my scenes (and not just the sex scenes) by putting myself into the mind of my characters. I feel everything they feel (and that's why I always fall in love with my heroes!).
    Also I prefer to write 'love scenes' rather than 'sex scenes' because it's the loving and emotional aspect that's the most important. So they're making love, not just having sex.

  2. I think that also (maybe) shows the difference between romance and erotica (although I can't be certain as I don't read erotica).

  3. Jennifer,

    First of all, I had to laugh at your IKEA desciption! Some love scene do read that way, and it's not very romantic at all.

    When I write alove scene, I just go for it. I like reading books with love scenes, so I write books with them as well. The more I do, the better I get. Practice makes perfect!

    We also have 'hot night' critiquing sessions at my RWA chapter meeting a couple times each year. That's the night we bring in kissing and/or loves scenes for critique.

  4. Oh that's a great idea! I wonder if my local RWA chapter does that. I'll have to check.

  5. Jen, maybe because I haven't written that many love scenes, I still have material I can use from personal experience.