Author Lesley Young shares her handy tips for writing super-realistic, super-hot sex scenes.
I don’t claim to be an expert at writing sex scenes. In fact, I’m downright embarrassed and weirded out when I read my own. “Did I write that?” *gasp* Or, “Please, don’t let me mother ever read this.” *cringe* But I must be doing something right since one recent reviewer at Wicked Reads—a great book blog—did recently make the following hugely complimentary proclamation about my latest romance novel, The Australian: “I have to say absolutely the best virginity losing scene I’ve read in a book so far.” So, feeling buoyed, I thought I’d share a few totally unproven tips that I deploy.
I never script a sex scene. By “script a scene,” I mean I don’t plot out when and how romantic relations (see I am feeling self-conscious here), ahem, sex, occurs. I certainly do outline primary storytelling components, which in the end gives me the bones to my chapters. And that means I will generally know when hero-heroine encounters take place to move the plot forward. However, I let the love story components happen 100% naturally, whenever it feels right, just like it might happen in real life. I am so deeply into my characters’ hearts and minds that their first kiss, their first interlude, and the big moment, almost happen to me as it happens to them. I like to think that’s what makes it so thrilling for readers, too. As for how the scenes unfold, again, I’m so caught up in the experience, I literally don’t think about where his hand goes next, or who sighs. I just experience-write it in the moment.
Benefit: Spontaneously written sex scenes are original. You can’t screw up your flow, tone or description because you’re not over thinking anything. I would go so far to argue that if you have to script your sex scenes, in other words, preplan every detail, edit, and edit, something’s wrong. Either you’re not into your characters, or you’re forcing something. Step back. Assess.
I focus on sensual empowerment. I write first-person novels, so I never have to write from the mind of a man, and the truth is, I couldn’t. I only know what I know, which is how a woman feels when she’s having sex, and . . . here’s the really important part—what she wants or imagines the man to be feeling. I stay focused on her experience, oh sure, I describe the physical pleasure, but never without or separate from her mind and her sensual pleasure and how it relates to the hero she is with. Not only is this far more realistic, you can’t help but empower your heroine in the sack when you do this. I find so many romance novels forget that sex is an exchange of pleasure—not just being had by a man.
Benefits: There are two benefits to writing this way. The sex is not only more realistic, it is heartfelt. And when the heart’s on the line in the bedroom, the sex is high-stakes. Second, you will find that your hero’s actions in bed are that much more impactful and original. Why? Because he’s not necessarily thinking or feeling what the heroine thinks he’s feeling, if that makes sense. There’s room for the unexpected, and the surprise when it happens is stronger because the reader was caught up in the heroine’s expectations.
I try not to idealize sex (within reason—I am writing romance here). I’ve written two virgin-losing scenes now, in The Frenchman and The Australian—believe it or not, I do not only write about virgins!—and in both cases I was advised by people to alter or modify those scenes slighly. I was torn because the advise in the first book was to tone down the pain Fleur experiences when Louis takes her. The advise in the latter was to tone down Jace Knight’s reckless blind desire to take his heroine. I ended up taking the advice, but only after I gauged whether I was falsifying the experience or somehow idealizing it. No sex scene in real life is perfect or scripted—unless it’s porn. And I don’t write porn. I write romance.
Benefit: We do enough idealization in romance novels by making our hero super fit (show me a romance novel where the dude’s got a paunch). And so, I prefer my heroes to be imperfect in the bedroom. It makes the sex more realistic, but also it makes him more endearing. He might express the wrong desire in the wrong moment, or the two of them might not orgasm in every scene, but you appreciate him the more for it. The point is to play with the bedroom tropes, and where appropriate protect the concept of mutual respect.
Finally, don’t forget to describe all the senses. I hope these tips help with your next sex scene!
Charlie Sykes takes everything and everyone at face value—and believes life would be a lot easier if everyone else did, too. Aussie Jace Knight, international hotelier and purported playboy, has never met anyone like the absurdly literal and obliviously beautiful American who applies for his personal assistant position. The trouble is, how do you pursue a woman whose definition of flirting comes straight out of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary? That, and he’s not the only one after Charlie. Seems Mr. Knight might not be a reformed criminal after all.
Soon, Charlie’s immersed in a whirlwind of international espionage that takes her from the hip streets of Sydney to the majestic Great Barrier Reef and the wild, desolate outback. A dangerous trap’s being set, but how will Charlie protect herself and prevent a tragic betrayal, when she can’t even sort out what her heart’s telling her?