As you know, I’m embarrassed to write sex scenes. But as a writer, I have to keep up with the insatiable demands of my readers, who want me to turn up the heat a bit. Also, my critique group thinks I’m a candy-ass, as I wrote here. So last weekend, at a writers conference in Palm Springs, I attended a workshop called, “Let’s Talk About Sex.”
The two presenters, Catherine Bybee and Danyelle Ferguson are both prolific and award-winning romance writers. Catherine is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, and a former ER nurse. She’s extroverted and funny, and there was a lot of ribald laughter in our workshop. But after we all stopped blushing, we learned a lot about how and where to put it. (The sex scene.) Here are some tips.
- Context matters. Don’t throw in a gratuitous sex scene because you think you have to.
- If you built your characters into interesting people, and they, in turn, have built toward the sex scene, it will flow. Be true to your characters. If she doesn’t swear like a late-night comic, don’t have her do it in the bedroom. Don’t have your hunkalicious cowboy turn into a sweet and sensitive poet.
- Every scene should move the story and the character arc forward. Does your main character grow and change as a result of the love scene?
- Sex can make the character arc sweeter and richer.
- Go online and read about how to write erotic scenes.
- Read some books to see how they do it. Note your own reaction. Are you drawn to it or repulsed by their depiction of lovemaking, and why? Do certain words or phrases have that effect?
Catherine suggests doing a writing exercise to get comfortable with sexy. Give yourself a word limit, make it mandatory that the character grow or change as a result of the love scene, and write several different versions of the same scene, from sweet to sweaty.
She says we authors tend to stop doing writing exercises after we’re published, but that’s a mistake. We need to keep practicing.
Danyelle writes “sweet romances” which don’t go beyond kissing, but to hear her tell it, a kiss can be way more than a kiss if you do it right. That would include character development, emotions, passion, heat, and anything else that doesn’t involve the tearing off of clothing.
On a serious note, we are sad to note the passing of Jackie Collins, celebrity writer, who died on Saturday at the age of seventy-seven, of breast cancer. Per the NY Times,
“Long before the emergence of the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ franchise, Ms. Collins dominated the publishing industry’s more lascivious corners. She wrote more than thirty books, many of them filled with explicit, unrestrained sexuality…”
For her amazing productivity, and for doing things her own way, laughing all the way to the bank, I salute Ms. Jackie Collins. Rest in peace.
Let’s end on a happy note. Here is erotic romance writer Desiree Holt, discussing her writing with CBS Sunday Morning host Bill Geist: