Good morning, everyone!
For this Writer Wednesday, USA Today Bestselling author Tamsen Parker is joining us with a fun, informative post!
Entitled “Putting the Bang in Your Banging,” Parker talks about how to write sex scenes in romance that are both generally sexy and specific to the characters you’re writing. She makes some very excellent points, and I definitely think this is a must read for romance and erotica writers of all pairings!
Putting the Bang in Your Banging
As a writer of erotic romance and hot contemporary, I think a lot about writing sex. And regardless of what heat level you write, learning about writing sex can be useful for honing your craft. As readers, it can help you develop a vocabulary and ways to frame the kinds of sex scenes you enjoy reading or tend to shy away from to help you ask for recs.
Coming from someone who tends to have quite a few sex scenes in her books, this may sound odd, but what makes sex special isn’t the sex. It’s not putting Tab A into Slot B or rubbing Piece C against Component D. It’s not about the physical acts, although those can sure be fun to read about. What really matters are the people having the sex, and the feelings that the sex creates.
Think about what the characters define as sex; the answer isn’t going to be the same for everyone. People don’t have to be having intercourse to have sex. Think about what the characters find sexy, what it is about their partners that turn them on. Is it their intellect? Is it their body? Is it the way they peel a potato? Is it their kindness and considerateness? How do these things inform their sex lives? How can these different aspects of attraction be included in the kind of sex they’re having?
I get asked on a regular basis how to keep sex scenes fresh and interesting, not the same thing over and over, and I really think it starts from understanding characters on a deeper level and tailoring their sex to their personalities, specific turn-ons, and situations.
One way to make sex scenes more specific to characters is honing the vocabulary they use or that you as a writer use while in that character’s POV. Not everyone talks/thinks about their bodies the same way. Are your characters dirty talkers or keep their words chaste? How does that square with (or not) the words they use in their heads? It can be fun to play with characters who appear one way out in the world and then reveal a different part of themselves in the bedroom—one of my favorite kinds of hero is the beta in the streets, alpha in the sheets.
Using dirty words doesn’t make a scene hot, but how you wield them does. Word choice matters, and everyone has words that they prefer and words that carry a serious squick factor for them. Choose carefully and make them consistent with your characters!
When thinking about your vocabulary around the sex, and the frequency of the sex, writers need to consider their subgenre. Sex serves different functions in different subgenres, and there’s a spectrum between romance to erotic romance to erotica. No matter the subgenre though, your sex scene should always serve a purpose in the story. In erotic romance, that means that if you take out the sex scenes the book makes no sense. You have more leeway in contemporaries, but it shouldn’t just be banging for banging’s sake. You don’t have to necessarily know what the point is going in, but by the time you’re sending the book to your editor, you should know why it’s there.
There can be so many reasons for characters to be having sex! And as an author, you can play around with all of these reasons. Sex can create intimacy, vulnerability, connection, show the characters they have something in common, and it sometimes offers a chance to express a different side of your character. I regularly write BDSM, and I find the opportunity is particularly acute with kink.
When writing a sex scene characters, you need to consider how the sex relates to the romance. At what point in the book and in the relationship does the sex show up? There’s that old saying, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage,” but romance loves to mess with that prescribed order. Think secret baby, marriage of convenience, and heck, in most erotic romance people are getting it on before love is even acknowledged as a possibility.
One last thing that I hope will hammer home my first point of what makes sex special isn’t the sex: The cheese does not stand alone. What does that mean when it comes to writing sex scenes? Sex scenes should be framed. What happened before the sex? After the sex? How have things changed? Did circumstances change first and that’s what enabled the sex or did things change during sex to allow the characters to move forward emotionally?
I hope I’ve given you some useful ways to think about writing sex and how to give it more emotional impact and make it a visceral and moving experience for your readers! Who are some authors who you think write really compelling and powerful sex scenes? What are your most or least favorite things to see in a sex scene?
Tamsen Parker is a USA Today bestselling romance writer. Her CRAVING FLIGHT made several Best of 2015 lists, and Heroes & Heartbreakers called her Compass series “bewitching, humorous, erotically intense and emotional.” She lives with her family outside of Boston, where she tweets too much, sleeps too little and is always in the middle of a book.
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