Book groups almost always ask: “How do you write such great love scenes?” They especially love the way both the male and female characters are equal players, and the woman’s pleasure comes first. “Shouldn’t it always be this way?” I always reply.
The following are 10 tips to writing great sex scenes:
- First, establish the chemistry between the characters. This needs to be built in to the story long before they slip between the sheets. Sure, physical attraction is important, but great romance has depth. A person might admire their lover for something they stand for, or for something they have endured, such as a hardship. Empathy mixed with desire is powerful.
- I like to play with the power dynamics between male and female. There’s nothing sexier than a woman who knows what she wants! Or a shy guy eager to please but doesn’t know how.
- Use your past experiences as a way to remember what the beginning was like. As a teen, did you pine for another person? Were you spurned? Did you have awkward encounters in the dark? Dive back into those thoughts and emotions and recreate them to suit your characters’ needs.
- Go easy on the language. Nothing kills a good love buzz than the P-word. Readers have excellent imaginations, and subtle word play allows them to fill in the blanks. Also go easy on the Harlequin terms like “his manhood” and “her velvety folds”. Yuck.
- All of the great lovers in my life have prioritized my enjoyment before their own. While some believe this is fantasy, it doesn’t have to be.
- The best love scenes I’ve ever written happen when I’m truly feeling free, which means my kids are out of the house and I’m not worried that my husband is going to come in and ask me about what we’re making for dinner. So, don’t try to write a passionate love scene when you can be interrupted. Find a hidden corner of a library, with headphones playing your favorite mood music, or a friend’s empty house that you’ve offered to watch for the weekend. Light candles for ambiance, sip a glass of wine.
- Some writers get inspired by pornography. I supposed this can get the juices flowing if this is your thing. Pinterest is actually a great place to build scenes. I have made story boards of couples kissing or being affectionate mixed with settings I like. You can check out my story board for Going Over the Falls here.
- Think beyond the bed. While the bed is obvious place to set a love scene, it’s perfectly acceptable to imagine other interesting places as long as it fits the story. Are the characters in a rush? Feeling playful in a new setting? Or does one kiss lead to another and suddenly the bedroom just seems too damn far away?
- Sex without tenderness tends to have more of an “erotica” feel to it, which is fine if that’s where you’re going. Readers enjoy the physical thrill of a building climax, but it’s the connection that makes love scenes meaningful. Real intimacy makes us emotionally vulnerable; receiving a simple caress (on the arm or neck) is incredibly grounding.
- If you’re really stuck, check out this post by author coach Jennie Nash on Huff Post, or this book by Elizabeth Benedict: The Joy of Writing Sex Scenes.
Whatever your characters get into, may it be passionate, grounding, and interesting. If you have a favorite sex scene, please send it my way!