Dread Writing Sexy Scenes? 5 Tips for Success

by Jami Gold on March 12, 2013

in Writing Stuff

Man with a bag on his head with text: 5 Tips for Writing Sexy Scenes...without Dread

Whatever genre we write, we often have to write scenes that make us uncomfortable. High on that discomfort scale for many authors are romantic scenes between characters.

Whether we write romance or another genre with love interests, or whether the characters merely kiss or have sex with the door open to the reader, many of us must find a way to overcome our embarrassment or squeamishness to write the necessary words. And let’s not even think about others reading those words.

The stereotypes some people have about romance authors can lead to the assumption that writing sex scenes must be easy for us. However, the truth is often very different. I’ll share a secret with you: I never expected I’d become a romance writer.

I didn’t have a “sex positive” history, so when I first started down this writing path, I didn’t think I’d ever write one of those scenes. I didn’t think I could. I probably even stated oh-so-knowingly that if my characters made love, I’d “close the door” and not share details.

My muse laughed.

To me, love is the most powerful force in the world, so every story I’ve written includes a romance of some kind. (Even the Harry Potter fan fiction I wrote years ago had strong romantic elements.) But the first couple of stories I wrote were of the “romantic elements” variety, so a few kisses were enough. Imagine me thinking: *whew* I can do this.

My muse laughed harder.

Then I started getting ideas for paranormal romance stories. Okay, I could still “close the door,” right? Wrong.

I’m a firm believer in listening to my characters as I write. And the honest fact is that the first time we’re intimate with someone, we often feel lots of emotions—some good, some bad, and some a mix of we-don’t-even-know.

Emotions are the essence of our storytelling. Emotional turning points drive the characters from one plot event to the next. The bigger the turning point, the deeper the scene triggering that turning point needs to be.

So “closing the door”—pretending that no realizations about love or lust or trust happen during the characters’ first intimate encounter—felt like a cheat to my characters, my story, and my readers. That meant I had to learn how to write those scenes or end up with a blank page. *smile*

5 Tips for Overcoming the Dread of Writing Sexy Scenes

  • Treat the Scene like Any Other Scene

Just as with any other type of scene, know why this scene exists. What changes? What are the turning points? What’s being revealed about the plot or characters? The scene must contain goals, motivations, and conflicts.

If we throw in a sexy scene that doesn’t need to be there—it has no purpose for the overall story or character arc—it will feel gratuitous. Our subconscious can pick up on that and dread writing the scene even more than usual.

That’s why my stories have different “heat” levels. Some stories have only kissing and some go further than I would be comfortable with if I were in my character’s place. I go where the story needs me to go, but no further. Trying to force an unnecessary sex scene isn’t any less of a cheat than trying to ignore the turning points that should happen between the characters.

Ensuring the scene needs to be there can also help reduce the embarrassment we feel when others read our words. We can be less defensive or feel less need to justify the scene if its purpose is self-evident.

  • Read Romance Stories at a Heat Level Equal to What We Need to Write

For me, reading romance pushed me past the shyness inherent in my embarrassment. The romance genre focuses on showing positive relationships, so romance stories help us see that there’s nothing wrong with those desires and emotions, that they are, in fact, healthy.

Reading stories at the heat level of what we need to write (to do justice to the story and the characters) demonstrates how it can be done. We learn what words to use—and which ones not to use. We also learn the appropriate balance of physical, emotional, and mental description.

What are heat levels? All About Romance (AAR) has great descriptions of the different heat levels of romance (including example authors and publisher imprints at each level):

    • Kisses only
    • Subtle (closed door or allusions)
    • Warm (open doors, sensual, some physical descriptions)
    • Hot (very sensual, explicit descriptions of desire, graphic physical descriptions)
    • Burning (explicit everything, strong focus on sexual feelings and desires, may include kink)

The first two categories are often called “Sweet” romances. Mainstream romance ranges from AAR’s Subtle to Hot (and includes some Burning, depending on the focus of sex versus romance and the type of kink). Erotic romance is AAR’s Burning. (Note: Erotica is a separate genre, as it doesn’t focus on the romance or the happy ending.)

  • Read Romance Stories One Heat Level beyond What We Need to Write

Desensitization is a real psychological phenomena, and here we can use it for our benefit. If we read one heat level beyond what we need to write, suddenly the details and descriptions we need to use won’t seem as bad. *grin*

  • Use the Opposite Gender’s Point of View to Distance Ourselves

Sometimes what’s holding us back from being able to comfortably explore our characters’ lives is that we’re inserting ourselves and our own experiences into the story too much. We’re uncomfortable and therefore we think they should be uncomfortable. That disconnect can make it near-impossible to write the scene.

I wrote my first sex scene from the hero’s perspective. That opposite gender point-of-view (POV) created distance between my experiences and the story. I was able to listen to my hero’s thoughts and feelings without interjecting what I thought they should be.

If we take this opposite POV approach the first time we need to write beyond our comfort level, we might be able to break through those barriers more easily. We don’t have to leave the scene in that POV or even keep it at all, but if nothing else, the scene can be a valuable writing exercise.

  • Avoid External Distractions

Getting into the right frame of mind can be hard for the most straightforward of scenes, much less for sexy scenes. Kids arguing behind us, family reading over our shoulder, bills sitting on our desk, and us, sitting there in our less-than-sexy writing clothes, can all add up to making it difficult to get “in the mood.”

Some authors set a better mood by lighting candles or listening to sexy music. Some wait until the family has gone to bed. Some take the laptop out to the car for privacy.

With practice, we can gain familiarity and confidence in our ability to write what our characters and the story demands. I now don’t mind writing sexy scenes at all, whether they’re at the kisses-only level or the hot-to-burning level. If the scene is needed, I can write it.

However we work past our dread, we essentially have to do the same thing we do for every scene: get into our characters’ heads. If we can do that in a mental environment that feels “safe,” we’ll have better luck getting those sexy-times emotions down on the page. And if we’re feeling our character’s emotions, so will our readers, and that’s the real goal of any scene. *smile*

(Special thanks to a commenter (who’ll go unnamed due to the subject matter) for triggering the idea for this post.)

Do you struggle with writing sexy scenes? Has your comfort level changed over time? Have you tried any of these tips before? What methods work for you? Do you have other tips to share?

Pin It
54 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Rhenna Morgan March 12, 2013 at 6:45 am

OMG. Love this post! The first time I wrote a steamy scene I kept looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. Every now and then I start you use a particular word and my fingers FREEZE over the keyboard. “Do you really want to use THAT word?” The more I write, the more I just breath through it and type on…

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

Hi Rhenna,

LOL! Yes, I get very protective of my computer screen when I’m writing certain scenes. 🙂 And my muse and my characters love pushing me to write things I’m uncomfortable with but that fit the story.

Every story has a scene that I cringe while writing, but my muse repeats in a mantra: trust me, trust me, trust me. Then at the end of the scene, I have to admit that it belongs. *sigh* Thanks for the comment! 🙂

Reply

Juli Page Morgan March 12, 2013 at 6:51 am

I’m almost hesitant to admit that writing the sexy scenes usually comes easier to me than any other type of scene. (Okay, did that totally make me sound depraved? LOL) While my scenes aren’t at the Burning level, they are Hot, and most of my characters are quite willing to cooperate when one is called for in the story. But I do have to shut out the external distractions to write them. If anyone else is even close to being in the same room with me I feel there’s a giant bat-signal (sex-signal?) glowing over my head, and that kills the mood – for me AND my characters. The only tip I can add to the excellent ones you outlined here is to write them like no one’s going to read them. If you start worrying about what your mom or your friends are going to think it’ll throw a monkey wrench into the process and you’ll end up with less than the emotional punch you intended. 🙂

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

Hi Juli,

Honestly, most of them are easy for me to write too. It depends on whether I–the write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer that I am–knows while going into the scene why it’s there. If I know why it’s there, it’s easy. If it’s one of those “I have to trust my muse” scenes I mentioned to Rhenna above, those are harder. 🙂

“…write them like no one’s going to read them.”

Yes! Great tip! My parents (yes, my dad too) keep asking to read my work. I haven’t let them yet. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Buffy Armstrong March 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

Writing a sex scene is hard. I cringe every time I see a tweet that reads something like this: “Wrote an awesome smexy scene today. So much fun.” Really? Fun? Really?

I’m not a prude; I have a foul mouth and an even fouler mind. I’ve read romance since I was 13 and I’m not talking about the YA versions either. Made for interesting reading with my girlfriends at slumber parties. It’s hard to shock me.

Anyway, it’s not the mechanics of the act that is difficult to write, though that not easy either; it’s the tension, the emotion, the sensations. The whole relationship up until they have sex is foreplay and I’m not even counting the actual foreplay. I do have to be geared up to write a sex scene. I have to block off a lot of time. Thank goodness I have my own office at home. I haven’t tried using sexy music. I’ll have to give that a try.

I saw in one of the comments about not letting your dad read what you write. I’m having the same problem with my 75 year old mother-in-law. She’s always hounding me to read something. I’m terrified of sending her anything.

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Hi Buffy,

Ooo, yes, you’re talking about creating sexual tension. That’s a tricky emotion that can be hard to get right sometimes, but you’re right that it’s important to the overall story. As you said, sexual tension is story-long foreplay, and without that tension, an intimate scene can come off as a blah bump-and-grind. 🙂 As for sexy music, I’ve used a belly-dancing channel on Pandora before.

For me, I don’t worry so much about my parents reading those scenes (they’re adults–they can handle it 🙂 ), but I worry they’ll think that because I wrote it, I must have done it. I can easily point to their murder mystery and thriller books and say, “Do you assume those authors have murdered or built a nuclear bomb?” However, it’s easier to avoid the whole conversation, especially about some of my edgier scenes. 😉

Now my extended family on the other hand? Yeah, they’re shocked that I write fiction, much less romance, much less paranormal romance. I am such a black sheep. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Amanda March 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm

My 95 year old grandmother’s been doing the same thing, asking to read something I’ve written. Between the foul language and the sex scenes, I think I’d be disowned. So I just keep putting her off 🙂

Reply

Melinda VanLone March 12, 2013 at 11:49 am

Oh, how I dreaded writing those scenes in my first book! I was convinced I would do the “fade to black” just because I couldn’t fathom writing it. I didn’t know how. mostly I was just embarrassed. Then I took a class Roni Loren taught and the part that stuck with me was to sit down before you write the scene and think “I am an adult. I am allowed to have sex. I am allowed to talk about sex. I am an adult.” LOL. I would recite that, and push out of my mind the thought that my mom was going to read this…and then yes played sexy music, had a little wine and wrote it late at night when I was really tired. It all helped!

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Hi Melinda,

LOL! Yes, that’s great advice. 🙂 And that’s what I was getting at with my tip about reading romance. Reading romance can help us reach a “sex positive” attitude that’s more mature and healthy. Thanks for sharing and for the comment!

Reply

Amanda March 12, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Seriously, Jami, you must be a mind reader. I actually did a post myself a few weeks ago on my comfort level with sex scenes.

I always knew I’d have “open door” scenes when I started my first urban fantasy novel. But I got so embarrassed just writing the scene that I ended up taking the more graphic language that I was used to reading (from authors like Nalini Singh and Richelle Mead) out. It stayed that way through several different projects, including one where it wouldn’t have been out of place to include it, due to the nature of the relationship between the hero and heroine.

I credit erotic romance to breaking down the last of my barriers.

The manuscript I completed most recently has a very high heat level. The other thing that helped? Writing the first love scene from the hero’s point of view. I figured he’d be more comfortable using those words for various parts of the human body than the heroine would, and when it came time to switch it around and write the next one from her point of view, I had no trouble.

Not writing the scenes while I was at work might have had something to do with it, too 🙂

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Hi Amanda,

LOL! Man, why can’t I get that superpower to work all the time. 🙂

Yay! Glad to hear that some of these ideas have worked for you too. (It’s always good to know we’re not alone in our craziness. 😉 ) Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Melissa Maygrove March 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Great post (as usual – you never let us down. 😉

I’m good as long as I don’t picture my mom reading the scene. LOL

I like including a little heat when it’s called for. In romance, I see the way the leads treat each other and speak to each other during intimate scenes as part of their character. The story seems incomplete with out it.

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Hi Melissa,

“I see the way the leads treat each other and speak to each other during intimate scenes as part of their character. The story seems incomplete with out it.”

Absolutely–but that said, I understand why every author must find their own comfort level. I tried writing this post to apply to all heat levels, not just the super spicy stuff. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Widdershins March 12, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I don’t have a problem with writing sex-scenes, its writing sex-scenes that I sometimes get bogged down with … like, who is doing what to whom, (F/F – no differentiating pronouns) avoiding repeating myself, (will someone write sex thesaurus, please?)

… and deciding if it fits in with Vernor’s Law about scenes (Vernor Vinge, SF writer) … ‘all scenes should accomplish 2 of 3 things. 1 – Provide background information. 2 – Develop the characters. 3 – Advance the plot.

… as for letting certain folks who are bugging us read our stuff? Tell them about the content, and if they still want to, hand it over … then retreat to the ‘I told you so’ moral highground!

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Hi Widdershins,

Very true! Even though I don’t write F/F, I think we all struggle with reusing words in sex scenes too many times. Some body parts don’t have enough names. LOL! And I like your attitude about how to handle those who pester us to read–if they insist, remind them of that fact. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Melinda S. Collins March 12, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Oh goodness, sex scenes! Yay!! I’m with everyone else who’s already commented. It’s the mechanics, the intimacy, the emotions, the much-needed privacy while writing them … all of that combined makes my eyes twitch, my palms sweat, and my inner-self cringe. All while making my muse laugh like a madman in the back corner.

But! And I’ll probably wish I hadn’t said this, but I usually find that after two glasses of wine, these scenes aren’t so difficult to write. Much like real life after a bit of wine, the inhibitions are released, the walls are broken down, I don’t care about possible future judgments, and I can just write, write, write. With that being said though, these are the only scenes that I’ve ever been able to say I * occasionally* need a drink to write. Any other time, I don’t bother with fun drinks until the day’s writing is done.

The only other tip I could add is what Juli mentioned above. I have a post-it note that I break out when I’m about to write sexy scenes that says, “Your retired Southern Baptist Missionary grandparents are NEVER going to read this. So do it already!” Seriously. LOL! 😀

Thanks for the tips, Jami! 🙂

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Hi Melinda,

LOL! Yes, a little alcohol can quiet those inhibitions–even better when it’s chocolate wine. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

KC March 12, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Awesome post, thanks. What you say about desensitization is really true. The more I read, the more “normal” the words and the feelings they evoke become in my head. What initially was completely mortifying now flows much more easily on to the page. Reading has also helped to me write much more natural actions. A friend of mine was once asked early in her writing career, “have you ever actually /had/ sex?” My goal is to avoid that.

I do like to be alone in the quiet when I write those scenes, they need concentration but I would freeze to death if I had to go sit in the car though. Going to have to try the wine.

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Hi KC,

Yes, it’s the good kind of desensitization, like for a phobia. 🙂 Reading romance helped me reach a sex-positive attitude in general too.

No freezing to death allowed though–LOL! Definitely go for the wine instead. Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Serena Yung March 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm

LOL I love this post! XD (That sounds so wrong…^_^”)

I have to admit, I’m one of those weird people who are not at all scared of writing affection/ sex scenes. Seriously, I think I’ve been desensitized already since high school or even junior high (!!! blame those English teachers’ choice of books…), that very little seems to shock me anymore. The scenes in Nora Roberts’ romances didn’t appall me, nor did any other romance novel I read so far. But the book that didshock and discomfort me was Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland, written in the 18th century. Seriously, it had an intense sex scene every few pages!! :O It was amazing how he could write about the same thing over and over again without being repetitive. His use of metaphors was very impressive too—such a variety of them and all used so aptly!

As for writing such scenes, I have absolutely no fear of kissing scenes, as I can imagine how pleasant it would be. (Yeah, I’m so sick/ sappy, right? XD) As for actual sex scenes though…in the work that I show to people, I never did anything more that imply that they’re going to bed together now, and then they got up in the morning one on top of the other. So kind of closed door scenes. However, I have tried writing explicit (“warm”?) scenes in private before (wrote 4 in total, I think); I’m way too embarrassed to let anyone see these, but I secretly thought writing these was fun! ^_^ Ew, I sound so sick-minded =_= But it just goes to show that I’m not at all frightened of writing these kind of things.

The reason why I thought it was fun, however, was not for any perverted reason, lol. It was because I realized that there was a degree of skill involved in writing a good sex scene. The metaphor and word choices have to be perfect, or else it won’t be arousing enough—or you’ll either over-arouse or under-arouse. Or, at least, that’s how I see it.

One more point: actually I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing in the POV of a guy; because, as a straight girl, I wouldn’t be able to understand how it feels like to sleep with a girl. Er, if you see what I mean. ^_^”

Uh, sorry if any of this post sounded…ick. ^_^” This is an awkward topic after all, lol.

Reply

Jami Gold March 12, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Hi Serena,

Great observation! Yes, writing sexy scenes can show us just how difficult it is to create one that’s not repetitive, not too flowery or “purple prose”-y, not skeevy, not boring, etc. 🙂

As far as the POV issue, I don’t have to understand what it feels like because my character tells me what to write. I also have a male beta reader to make sure I’m not totally off the mark. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Serena March 13, 2013 at 6:52 am

Oh about the opposite gendered POV, I guess it’s not that much about understanding it, it’s more about…well, I would be repulsed and very uncomfortable if I were to imagine myself sleeping with a girl, just because I’m heterosexual. If I were bisexual, this would be fine. (No offense intended to homosexuals and bisexuals! They are cool too :)) However, it’s probably easier to write in the 3rd person for such opposite gendered POVs than the 1st person. At least the 3rd is less intimate and thus less bewildering for me. ^_^”

Reply

Jami Gold March 13, 2013 at 7:56 am

Hi Serena,

Ah, great point! Yes, I usually write 3rd person, so taking on that opposite gender POV isn’t as odd. That makes sense–great observation!. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Rinelle Grey March 12, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Great post. I found it really hard in the beginning, but it has become easier with time. Writing a few higher heat level books (that I don’t ever plan on publishing!) helped too. And I definatly find that I can write these scenes better from the hero’s POV than the heroine.

Reply

Jami Gold March 13, 2013 at 7:53 am

Hi Rinelle,

Ooo, thanks for sharing how these approaches worked for you. 🙂 For me, as I write more, the struggle is less with embarrassment and more with keeping them from feeling repetitive. Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Angela Quarles March 13, 2013 at 5:39 am

I find it easier than I did at first but I still find that my output (words per hour) is slower. I used to have to listen to a specific track with absolutely no words and the right tempo or I’d be even more distracted, but now I’m not finding it as necessary. I don’t cringe when they come up (I actually look forward to it now) as I’ve finally made my brain realize that my first go at this is not going to have all the emotion and sensualness that I’d want the end product to have (much like how I shut off my inner editor for other scenes on a first draft) though my inner editor protests still and I have to swat it down (I think that’s why my output is lower). I just try to write it, like any other scene, and come back in revisions and edit for Deep POV, senses and emotion…

Reply

Jami Gold March 13, 2013 at 7:55 am

Hi Angela,

Yes, we really do have to treat them like any other scene from the goals, motivations, and conflicts, to the Deep POV, senses, and emotion. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Laurie Evans March 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm

How timely, I’ve been rewriting my book’s first sex scene this week. It helps to read books at the same heat level I’m writing, plus one level above. I didn’t have a very sex-positive experience growing up, either. In fact, I didn’t even get into reading romance until a few years ago. I have lots of catching up to do! Never knew how much fun it would be to read (and write) romance!

Reply

Jami Gold March 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Hi Laurie,

Exactly! I wasn’t a big romance reader until recently either. I think I would have been better off if I’d started reading them earlier. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Lexa Cain March 15, 2013 at 6:31 am

I never thought I’d include any romance in my novels. But I tried once, and it worked! I never thought I’d be able to portray sexiness. But I did that, too. Now, everything I write has a romance in it (though I don’t write romance). In a new NA WIP, I may leave the door open. Or not. Like you suggest, I’ll listen to my characters and my muse.
Thanks for the tips – they’re great! 🙂

Reply

Jami Gold March 15, 2013 at 7:24 am

Hi Lexa,

Bwhahahaha! And another one is seduced to the dark side. 😉 Have fun with your stories and good luck with the new direction. Thanks for the comment!

Reply

E.B.Pike March 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Oh, I so needed to read this. I am always uncomfortable writing romantic scenes past the kissing stage. I will totally use these tips! 🙂

Reply

Jami Gold March 17, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Hi E.B.,

Yay! Hope it helps. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Sarah Madison April 4, 2013 at 7:20 am

Darn it, I really wanted to pin this, but it tells me there is no image to pin. Great post!

Reply

Jami Gold April 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Hi Sarah,

*grr* Thanks for letting me know. It looks like my Pin It plugin stopped working. *adds to list of stuff of work on* Sorry! But thanks for the thought and the comment!

Reply

Jami Gold April 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Yay! My tech guy fixed my pins–it’s all working now. Thanks again for letting me know, Sarah! 🙂

Reply

Diana April 4, 2013 at 9:17 am

LOVE this post! None of my scenes have progressed to full on sex yet, but lots of close encounters. My struggle is creating the right amount of sexual tension without making the story focus on that.

Reply

Jami Gold April 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Hi Diana,

Happy to help! Ooo, sexual tension is a great topic. If I can figure out how to explain those intangibles, I’ll do another post about it. 🙂

Basically, I use a lot of subtext and body language to increase sexual tension: gazes that make them slightly uncomfortable, hands reaching toward the other and then pulled back, etc. I hope that helps! 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

Reply

Joanna Aislinn April 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Nothing like showing up to the party three weeks late, lol. I SO needed to read a post like this. So glad I happened on it today, when I’m all tangled up in myself trying to write exactly that and figuring the heat level I want (for a couple that are going to have issues over practicing organized religion, among other things–go figure).

As always, Jami, thanks!

Reply

Jami Gold April 4, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Hi Joanna,

I’m happy to help! Good luck in your story and thanks for the comment! 🙂

Reply

Erin M. November 2, 2013 at 11:36 pm

This was super helpful. I’m not a prude when it comes to my own sex life, but sometimes my characters turn me into one. I have such issue with the language in the scenes. I hate the flowery euphemisms. And currently I’m writing a YA semi-epistolary novel about a teen who gets pregnant her senior year. Clearly, there’s lots of sex. I’m not having too much trouble with her journal entries (I can convincingly write like a lovestruck 17 yr old) but the omniscient narrated scenes are pesky. I have no intention of describing full on sex scenes that way, but even him taking of her shirt makes me feel like Sr. Ann Julie Peters is tsk-tsking at my writing!

Reply

Jami Gold November 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

Hi Erin,

Yes, writing these scenes definitely involves a balancing act (or a couple of balancing acts 🙂 )–our feelings and/or genre expectations vs. the needs of the story and the characters, and too-flowery language vs. too-graphic language. Honestly, I try not to think about many of those issues while I’m writing and I just try to be true to the story.

That said, I really needed to distract myself from too much worry when my dad read one of my stories. LOL! Good luck and thanks for the comment!

Reply

Eveam May 21, 2015 at 12:17 am

The scenes I write are generally hot or burning, usually because of kink or dubious consent. I do not normally write the scene before I “see” it fully played in my head. I have a lot of “music video” moments in my mind and I just write it as I see it first, then add more tension and emotion later along with extra detail. Music is a huge help for me. A song is usually what sparks that “music video.”
I write what I “see.” Then, read it. I add a cup more foreplay, a dash more dialogue, sprinkle in some private thoughts, and a pinch of tension. Read it again. Adjust accordingly. THEN…go back through and detail it until I make myself blush!
I like to have sexually provoking words that I use to describe non-sexual things leading up to the act. It creates tension just by teasing the reader. The sound a glass makes as it “grinds” across a table, a clock ticking in “urgency,” water from the shower “vibrating” the skin, or having a character show languid movements or breathing. Draw out those particular things into an almost slow-motion act; put focus on it.

I also agree that you should write as if only you will read it. Once you begin to hold back due to fear of what a reader will think, you’re done. Writers push people to question, to think about things they wouldn’t normally think about, to bring out emotion, and make them wonder. If it feels right to you, then that’s what matters. If a reader is offended by what you write, then they aren’t the audience for you.

Reply

Jami Gold May 21, 2015 at 12:40 am

Hi Eveam,

Thanks for sharing those tips! Adding sexual tension has been one area that I’ve had to learn to improve, and those ideas for using provoking words as part of the build-up sounds like a fun approach. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

Reply

Deborah Ann Davis January 16, 2016 at 9:16 pm

When my 20 year old daughter read my first book, her criticism was that there was no sex in it. After teaching sophomores for so long, I couldn’t bear the idea of one of them reading sex I had written, so I opted for the sweet route. But I didn’t explain that to my daughter. I just said I didn’t feel comfortable writing sex scenes. Her response? “I’ll write it for you, Mom.”
Umm, no thanks. I don’t want to see sex through my daughter’s eyes, not yet, at least.

Reply

Jami Gold January 16, 2016 at 10:13 pm

Hi Deborah,

LOL! I don’t blame you. I hope you figure out the right level of spicy-ness for your voice and story. 🙂 Good luck and thanks for the comment!

Reply

Leticia Toraci July 22, 2016 at 7:37 am

I couldn’t find the heat level page, the like shows “Page not found”

Reply

Bella ardila July 25, 2016 at 7:41 am

I am going to try to write sex scenes in my new book. Probably it will not end well because I have never had sex or making out with a boy

Reply

Scarlett West August 18, 2016 at 6:29 pm

Thanks for another fabulous post. I just found this blog post. Writing these scenes is not my strong suit either. I do find it helpful to read romance to get ideas or what goes in different categories. The thing I find tricky is coming up with variations of appropriate vocabulary for the way the character’s feel or their physical reactions.

The part I loved most about this post is the point that we need to get inside our Character’s mind no matter what type of scene it is. I think that’s doable for sure and takes the pressure off!

Reply

Clare September 16, 2016 at 1:35 am

I am not sure I know where to start to write a sex scene… don’t you have to have life experience for that? I’m a 34 year old celibate, abused (by my father and YES in that way) barely educated, special needs, emotionally stunted (because of my useless father) “writer” I’m not employed or employable… I WANT to write intimacy but I’m either too stunted or too stupid to do it (the criminal version of a sex scene seems to come far easier to me for some reason) how do I fix this mess?

Reply

Jami Gold September 16, 2016 at 9:33 am

Hi Clare,

First of all, I want to say that I’m so sorry that happened to you. I applaud you for your determination to not let those experiences define your whole life.

Now, to answer your first question: Not necessarily. 🙂 That is, if you have the ability to research and apply knowledge. Let me explain…

I know authors who don’t know how to flirt that learn how to write it for their characters (and believe it or not, a few virgins have been romance authors–because the story is not about the sex unless it’s erotica/erotic romance). Sex scenes are obviously a step beyond flirting scenes, but similar principles apply, especially as there are so many “flavors” of sex scenes (explicit words vs. allusions to events, etc.).

So, for how to fix your situation… I don’t have your experiences, so I’m by no means an expert in what will work for you. You might need to put yourself so deep into your character’s shoes that you lose your sense of self (along with all the negative history) and let them lead. Or you might need to use scenes like this as therapy, and think about what you’d like if you could direct your life. There’s no right or wrong approach. If you end up with a scene that meets your goals (after revisions and edits), you’ve succeeded. 🙂

That said, I can try to give a few guidelines, but depending on your situation, these may or may not help:

You mention a desire to write intimacy, and that implies that you want to write about healthy encounters. So maybe start by thinking what you want the “after” scene to be like–happy? closer? wanting more? hoping this can continue? We’re sometimes better able to keep our scenes on track if we have a goal we’re working toward.

Then think about what emotions and/or situation would lead to that: Positive? Fulfilling? Sweet and understanding? Mindblowing? Lots of communication? Standing up for their wants?

Once we know that, we can think about what details (and how much) we’d need to include in our scene to show those emotions/situation. It might be easier for you to start on the milder side of open-door scenes. Maybe read a few of those (All Romance Ebooks has an advanced search function to search by “flame level,” or look for Amazon reviews that mention “tasteful sex scenes,” etc. 🙂 ) and see if that approach would meet your goals for the intimacy you want and the emotions you want in the scene. If not, go up a flame level and try again.

Feel-good sex scenes usually aren’t about the reality so much as about meeting the emotional notes we (and the reader) want. The scenes often don’t mention disposal of condoms, cleaning up afterward, the wet spot on the bed, odd bodily noises, miscues, slipping out of place, accidental kicking/kneeing/elbowing, etc. 😉

That’s why authors who haven’t had sex in real life can still write about it. They don’t need to know the details of reality. They can read other books for research in what readers expect (just as much as we could write a murder scene without committing a felony ourselves) and take it from there.

In your research-reading, highlight phrases, emotional description, or actions that appeal to you or that will help you remember what you’re aiming for. Then test with a beta reader or critique partner to see how far off you are from your goals, and revise and try again. I hope this helps! Good luck! 🙂

Reply

What do you think?

54 Comments below - Time to Add your own.

Previous post:

Next post: