Writing, Editing, & Publishing Contemporary Romance

How to Write a Sex Scene

One of the more intimidating parts of writing a romance can be when it’s time down and dirty with your words. Now, not every romance novel needs to have sex described in the barest details. How vivid you make the scene is up to you, what really makes a sex scene isn’t the sex. It’s the tension that you build between the characters leading up to that scene.

Every good sex scene should include plenty of foreplay before you even hit the bedroom.

By foreplay, I don’t necessarily mean the physical kind, though if your couple can’t keep their hands off each other in everyday situations, you know you’ve at least got the chemistry part down. No, I mean that they way your characters interact on the page needs to create sexual tension leading up to actual act.

How to Create Sexual Tension:

  1. Through dialog – Think about Pride & Prejudice. Lizzy and Darcy have the verbal sparring thing down to a science. Even as they are cutting each other down, the reader can see right through both of them to their attraction. Not every relationship is going to be as fiery as the original enemies to lovers plot, but the characters should be dropping hints here and there through the way they interact that they’d like to see the other person naked.
  2. Have them acknowledge their attraction – even if it’s just in their head, have them describe to themselves what they find attractive about the other person. This doesn’t have to be a diatribe, noticing a combination of abs and generosity is enough, but it should be more than, “he’s a rich, broody billionaire that everybody thinks is important, of course I like him,” *coughfiftyshadesofgreycough* The attraction should be natural part of the character, and not something you have to force.
  3. Chemistry. This is a harder one to define, but it comes together in combination of good execution of one and two and a little something extra. It’s about the way there characters interact on the page in a way that makes you want them to get together. There needs to be something a little sexual, a little flirtatious, but the reader also needs to know where each character is coming from. (Good character development is the key to making this one work.)
  4. Give them an obstacle. Nothing builds tension like dangling something two characters want right in front of their faces and telling them they can’t have. So put your characters in situations when they are constantly tempted, but have to deny themselves. This doesn’t have to be dramatic. It can be as simple as the characters wanting to maintain their friendships or thinking the other character doesn’t think of them that way. Or, you know, you could be evil like me and make one of them married to someone else.

The key is, that by the time the two characters actually give in and tear each other’s clothes off, you want the reader not caring if they get hit on the nose with a button.

Alright, I hear you. You have all of that written and done, your characters are so hot for each other their about to explode with desire and you want to do their gettin’ down justice. You just want to know HOW?

I get it.

5 Tips for Writing a Steamy Sex Scene

  1. Make sure your heat level matches your narrative. All of my books show the characters in intimate situations, but scenes in say Ethan & Juliet where the love story is sweeter use different language than in the second book in the series, because the characters in Sparkle & Shine are a little naughtier and so is the sex. IE, if you’re writing about your heroine’s first time, don’t have her behave like a porn star.
  2. It’s not about the actual act as much as the language you use to describe it. Tell your reader what your characters are feeling not just physically, but also emotionally.
  3. If you’re not hot, your reader probably isn’t either–just sayin’.
  4. Read other sex scenes. And a bunch of em. Go on a little ole erotic reading binge. Read sweet love scenes, read steamy ones, and in between. I recommend romances over erotica because erotica is all about the sex and if you’re writing a romance, sex scenes are about the romance of the sex. Even sex scenes should advance the plot of your story.
  5. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to use dirty words. Don’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability in your characters. Don’t be afraid your scene is going to suck. You can edit it better later, but it’s never going to be good if you don’t write it.

If you still have questions about how to write a sex scene, let me know. I’m happy to go more in depth in another post. Or, if you need help crafting the perfect scene, check out my Work With Me page. I offer both manuscript critique and professional beta reading.

Ethan & Juliet is available now.

Sparkle & Shine is out April 16, 2019.



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