How personal does a sex scene have to be?


Even though I write romance, sex scenes are one thing I don’t want to write. They’re uncomfortable. Sex is the most intimate act between two people. So intimate that it feels personal to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the advice write what you know. You’ve got to dig deep down and put yourself on those pages. That advice can be hard enough to follow in the best of circumstances. When it comes to love scenes, I really don’t want to go there.

One of the reason love scenes are difficult for me to write is I’m breaking one of the cardinal rules from my youth. You might have sexual experience but you certainly don’t talk about it. That might come off as bragging. And if you brag, the world knows what you are. A loose woman. Yeah, I know times have changed but that ingrained inhibition is hard for me to get around.

Then let’s say I write a sex scene that is a little over the top. Very spicy with some naughty activities. If my friends (okay not all my friends) and family read it, it would not be pretty. You do what? I never thought you were that sort of girl. No matter how much you smile and tell them it’s fiction of course, it’s already out there and they don’t quite believe you. At least that’s what I fear.

Yet many types of romance stories not only require love scenes, they are expected to have a certain number of sex scenes. That means that I must write sex scenes if I want to write romance.  A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend the Romance Writer’s National Conference in New York. I attended a session titled ‘Insert Sex Scene here…” that changed my view on sex scenes. Vivian Arend, Kristen Callihan and Tessa Dare explained what sex scenes were really all about in a romance story.

Turns out they aren’t just scenes to include after a certain number of pages. They are much more than that. The love scenes show the evolution of the character’s relationship. It’s about the character’s experience told from their point of view. Is this their first time? Has the character had sex many times but this time is different?

This approach made so much sense. I will never forget when Dr. Who rebooted. My daughters were still in elementary and middle school. They couldn’t understand what I saw in the show. Then one day they sat down and started watching it with me. My youngest said to me “Mom, I like this show but I don’t watch it for the science fiction. I watch it for the relationships.” Both of them did that. They witnessed the relationship between the Doctor and Rose, then the Doctor and Donna and the Doctor and Amy. How these characters interacted with each other, felt about things and taught each other were the elements that held the show together. This is true for any story.

So if I approach a love scene from the point of view of the character complete with their attitude and what it teaches them, then the scene has nothing to do with my experience. That’s a relief. Those talented writers helped me reach an epiphany that has freed me up on a very difficult aspect of my writing. We’ll see if it works.

There is more to their talk. If you are having difficulty with this area of writing I would highly recommend you listen to it. The full session is available on the Romance Writers of America website.

That’s all I have for now. Thank you for reading my post.



One thought on “How personal does a sex scene have to be?

  1. I’m so please that you had an epiphany about sex scenes. I bet that was an excellent work shop. Whatever it takes to get you to write those naughty scenes… 🙂 Great post!

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