Advice From The Archives: What About S-E-X?

It feels like a long time since our last Advice From The Archives but fear not! We’re back this week with a topic we know you’ve all been waiting for! This fabulous post is from the 2011 New Voices competition and sure to help you create some powerful scenes between your hero and heroine… enjoy! 

There’s an area of romance that we don’t tend to discuss as often as the necessity of having a gorgeous hero – and that’s the nitty gritty of the sex scenes.  I think most people would agree that sex is an important part of any relationship, no matter whether we see it on the page or not, or before or after marriage. We at Romance HQ think there’s nothing better than a really great, utterly compelling sex scene between two fantastic characters we care about, but sometimes sex in romance books can come across as less ‘caught in the throes of passion’ and more ‘fumble between the sheets’!

When done poorly sex scenes in a book can be embarrassing, hysterically funny (everyone likes giggly sex, but laughing-out-loud for the wrong reasons does tend to kill the mood…) or, at worst, simply boring. But when sex scenes work they can be some of the most powerful and memorable parts of a romance. So how can you make sure your sex scenes stay steamy, not smutty?

It’s all about the chemistry A sex scene is hottest when it stems naturally from the building tension between your characters. Understanding why this sex scene is so special for these characters, whether it’s an unbelievably good one- night stand or the result of having held back and finally giving into their temptation – this is what will give the scene its impact. If your chemistry’s hot enough, your readers will be longing for the moment when the hero and heroine touch, so the sex scene will immediately be more powerful.

Know when enough is enough – It’s great to see that there’s heat between your characters, but if their time in bed is all they have then your readers might get jaded by repetition. Make sure that the sex continues to develop the relationship and has emotional implications for both the hero and heroine. After all, sex is complicated, and often leads to confusing, intricate emotions – exploring these will keep the sex scenes fresh and unique every time.

Don’t be coy – It’s easy to pull your readers out of the story with over-flowery vocab. As we all know, sex is very rarely a case of one touch and instant fireworks – if one touch is enough then the tension between your characters beforehand needs to be unbelievably intense to keep it realistic! Don’t feel that you have to dress up the scene in euphemisms – sometimes keeping it simple will allow the emotion and passion to shine through.

Most importantly… sometimes less is more! We get loads of questions about how many sex scenes we want in a story, what level of detail there should be, but the truth is – it doesn’t matter! Every relationship is different because every character is, or should be, unique. The quality of their chemistry is what will determine how hot your romance is, not the level or amount of graphic description. Some of the sexiest stories around leave the bedroom door closed!

Don’t be afraid to explore the chemistry between your characters – it’s the only way you’ll be able to create truly sensational (and sensual) sex scenes between them! Keyboards and pens at the ready… give this advice a whirl when you’re next writing and let us know how you get on!

And don’t forget – if you have a question about your manuscript that you’re wrestling with, or have been given feedback that you’d like more clarity on, drop us a line at SOLD-Blog@harlequin.ca and we’ll answer your query on the next ‘Dear Editor’ feature!

Happy writing! 🙂

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