Romance Writing Writing advice

Writing sex scenes: How to heat up romance

The writing of sex scenes has been turned on its head by the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy written by E.L. James.  The sex in her books though, as unconventional as it is, is the premise of the entire plot.  While this hasn’t detracted from it becoming a bestseller (quite the contrary!) it has been clearly defined as ‘erotic literature’.  If your novel’s narrative requires sex as a means to further develop the characters and or the storyline, but you would prefer that it isn’t shelved under this genre, then try the ‘less is more’ approach.

Roni Loren, romance writer and expert in the art of creating characters who get it on without getting it wrong, has helpful advice for avoiding the cringe factor when introducing the act into your novel’s storyline.  “If all we have is a description of the physical and not what’s going on in their heads and hearts.  This can turn a great sensual scene into gratuitous (and boring) porn”.

Emotional intimacy is not too difficult if you have allowed your characters to create enough sexual tension to get to this point, which according to Roni is “beyond vital”.  Without it, the scene will have no meaning, and the influence it has on the characters and ultimately the story will be less believable. However, avoid cheesy euphemisms, she says, you don’t have to use the clinical or crude terms, but if you do, use ones that don’t make your readers laugh or roll their eyes”.

Let your characters laugh though.  Kissing or getting naked with someone can be awkward and a little humour can help ease nerves and bring the characters closer together. And if humour doesn’t work, maybe they turn to substances, illegal or legal (weed, alcohol, etc.).

Finally, don’t be shy to do your research. Speak to friends who won’t giggle excessively and who will give a good opinion! EL James has admitted to phoning her Audi dealership and asking them if it was possible to have sex in the back of an Audi R8.  They said no, so she went down there herself, sat in one and thought that it would be!

Most importantly you need to ask yourself; does the description of the act fit the personality of the characters, the story and readers expectations?

How do you feel about writing sex scenes?

By Bridget McNulty

Bridget McNulty is a published author, content strategist, writer, editor and speaker. She is the co-founder of two non-profits: Sweet Life Diabetes Community, South Africa's largest online diabetes community, and the Diabetes Alliance, a coalition of all the organisations working in diabetes in South Africa. She is also the co-founder of Now Novel: an online novel-writing course where she coaches aspiring writers to start - and finish! - their novels. Bridget believes in the power of storytelling to create meaningful change.

One reply on “Writing sex scenes: How to heat up romance”

Thank you for this advice, I am posting my paranormal romance about a ghost girl in love with a living man in my blog ( but am dreading the sexy time which is fast approaching! plus my dad has started reading it now, so the ’50 shades’ route might get me disowned! lol thank you again!

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