Loving the Love Scene
By Ashlyn Chase
I used to write erotic romance. Now even though I'm mainstreaming it, I find my heat level is staying pretty consistant. Erotica fans consider me "mild." I like vanilla sex in my books--and other author's books too. I think it's a natural progression in a romantic relationaship. So sue me.
Erotic romance authors are often asked how they write hot love scenes. It isn’t easy! In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to write well. I happen to write erotic comedy but when it comes to sizzling sex, I’m deadly serious. I don’t write porn. I’ve been in those sleazy bookshops with the blacked out windows and bought a couple of their books to “see what I was missing.” Not much! Just some terribly written plotless stories with absolutely no romance by authors in need of an anatomy class.
Here are a few tips to writing a convincing love scene. First of all, try to be sure your characters aren’t as shallow as this: “I like your body, let’s have sex.” It’s great to have sexual attraction between the hero and heroine from the get-go, but to make a love or sex scene convincing, we need do a little better than that.
I like to have one of them do something special for the other to show they care. That usually happens in real life. Dinner and a movie is classic but classic can be cliché. As imaginative writers we can and should be inventive. Maybe he knows she likes puzzles so he pulls out a 1,000-piece puzzle and invites her over to put it together. That says a couple of things. One: I want to spend time with you—lots of time. And, two: I’m paying attention to your likes and dislikes—I’ll meet your needs.
Of course in an erotic romance, the couple won’t get beyond putting together the outer border before they wind up tangled in the sheets. In order for that to happen, especially in a short story, the writer often makes them familiar with each other beforehand from their workplace, mutual friends, or being stuck in a space capsule together for months. And it never hurts that they’ve been burning for each other too long as it is.
One of the hardest things for the erotic romance writer to do is make each encounter feel like it’s the best, most powerful, over-the-top sexual experience your characters have ever had. In order satisfy the avid erotic romance reader’s expectations, you have to get right into that character’s body and describe sensations that often defy description. You’ll find yourself typing words like: aching, moaning, clenching, whimpering, “Oh God, oh God!” pummeling, pounding, stiffening, exploding, convulsing, gasping, rasping “I can’t take anymore,” shuddering, fluttering, shivering, quivering, bucking, and… Well, you get the idea. The reader must be swept away, just like the character.
For the writer to put together a scene like that, and to make it different every time, may take a lot of thought and frequent ice water breaks. For a reader to consider it a successful scene, she must not be able to put the book down. Thus, it might take you all afternoon to write something the reader will devour in a couple of minutes.
Do you need to have a current love life to write erotic romance? No. I think it helps, but I know some single erotica writers who can make you want to wear oven mitts to turn the pages! I even know a virgin who won a contest with her love scene and subsequently published her story. But if writers have a regular bed partner, they can and should take advantage of it.
How? We must tune out the noise in our heads and concentrate on the moment. Yes, I’m including myself in this reminder. Hey, if you’ve been sleeping with the same individual for fifteen years (or twenty-one in my case) you can easily put yourself on automatic pilot. Sex is better experienced fully! Close your eyes so you don’t see the dust on the headboard and really feel the sensations going through your body. If you find yourself thinking about the Mac and Cheese in the fridge, or the sweater you need to hand wash for the next day, know that it will be there later, leave your head and get back inside your body. Feel every stroke and touch.
Let your partner(s) know you’re enjoying yourself. If the roommate or kids might hear you scream, stuff a pillow in your mouth and wheeze. I can’t tell you how many erotic romance authors refer to their significant other as their “research assistant.” Chances are your boyfriend or husband is happy to help and proud to do the honors—especially when you’re both having a blast. If, God forbid, sex becomes a chore you can spice it up with toys or videos. Open your mind. Even if something goes terribly wrong and you fall on the floor, have fun ruling it out.
In any case, I think the best way to write any romance is to read romance. To write hot romance, read hot romance. Make a list of words or phrases that turned you on and make them your own. The next time someone implies that writing romance is easy, dare them to write a two page love scene—preferably one that makes you drool, sweat and attack your boy toy.