Turning Up the Heat: The Key to Red-Hot Romance

By: Katie Gowrie & the Harlequin Dare Team

Is opening the bedroom door on your hero and heroine the biggest challenge of writing a romance novel? Quite possibly. The romance writing community will have answers to this that run the gamut of opinions.

Some might say writing sex scenes is tons of fun and totally rewarding…when you get it right! Others can’t say enough how uncomfortable this feels. Spying on your beloved characters? No thanks!

But depending on what series you write for—whether it’s one of our passionate lines or not—authors frequently find themselves in this position. Knocking on that closed door, needing to open it up (how far?) and let the reader in.

If you’ve been following our SYTYCW150 challenge  you know that in October we talked about sensuality.  And if you’re not a member of RWA or couldn’t attend this year’s conference, now’s your chance to get the scoop on a workshop you may have missed: How to Write Good Sex Scenes…if You Dare! Our tell-all session on writing stronger sensuality in your books, presented by the team of our newest (and steamiest) series, Harlequin Dare.

So without further ado, here we go. Our top tips on how to write the sexy stuff:

  1. Pop quiz: When is the best time to establish sexual tension between your characters? At the beginning of the story! Or, as soon as possible. Don’t want to force the sexual tension out of nowhere in Chapter One; it should arise somewhat organically. But don’t wait too long—it doesn’t do to introduce that chemistry right before the couple falls into bed. The sexual tension and buildup is not only fun, but a big part of what makes a good sex scene work.
  2. Write using all five senses! This is especially important in the sensual scenes: what do your characters see, feel, taste, smell? Help bring your readers into the moment.
  3. Keep the forward momentum of the scene. This is true in all writing, but particularly in these scenes. Interrupting the action with too much dialogue, exposition or deep inner monologue can weigh things down and get a bit awkward. If the chemistry’s been established, it’s okay to cut to the chase. 🙂
  4. Every action requires a reaction. How does your character respond to what’s happening? (Pssstt—show, don’t tell!)
  5. How long is too long? Sensual scenes, like any other scene in the book, should drive the plot forward. As you write, consider whether you’re adding steam for the sake of it, or if your scene takes your characters in a direction they need to go. When the sexy stuff drags on and the rationale dries up, it’s time to write your ending.

Writing sensual scenes can be challenging, but the key to red-hot romance isn’t a shocker. Sensual scenes can come together naturally when all the building blocks are in place: strong characters, solid plot and of course, good writing. Most importantly, though, we can’t have the physical without the emotional! Strong sex scenes aren’t just a scorching play-by-play but rather the manifestation of what your characters feel for each other at the time. What do they feel? Portraying the depth of their emotions can take a scene from clinical to pivotal!

As always, remember to have fun and stay true to yourself. If you don’t, you’ll know, and likely we will too. Write what you’re comfortable with, what you can relate to, and what you find sexy.

Tell us what you love and hate about writing sensual scenes in the comments!