My Sex Scene Hang-ups


Conner slowly thrust into her. His lips brushed hers in a feather light caress before he whispered, “I want you again, Sandra. I’ll never get enough of you.”

Desire once more coiled through her. His words tugged at her heart. She wound her fingers in his thick hair, kissing him with all her love.

I smiled and pressed save on my computer. My first sex scene, complete. I clicked on the printer and printed out eight pages of what I thought was a hot, sensuous love scene between my hero and heroine. I gathered up the pages, grabbed my red pen and sat in my—well, okay my husband’s—lazy-boy recliner to edit.

As I read the pages over, my cheeks burned with embarrassment. Not because what I had written was unbelievably hot and erotic. Horrible was more like it. Instead of erotic and sexy, it was dull and flat.

So back to my computer to delete and rewrite. This time I would get it right, I reassured myself. Wrong! Again, bland.

This pattern continued for two weeks. I’d write, edit, revise, then eventually delete. By this time, panic had taken over. Every time I sat in front of my computer I would sweat and shake. Why was I having so much trouble? Writing a love scene shouldn’t be this difficult. I’ve written battle scenes complete with swords, guns and blood. And with a few revisions, they turned out quit well. Plus, I’ve never been in a battle, most of my fight scenes came straight from my imagination and what I’ve seen on TV. As for sex, well, I’ve been married for eighteen years and have two sons, so I’m no stranger to the act of physical love.

After a few more tries, with no usable results, I slumped back in my computer chair, wanting to give up.

Confused, tired and more then a little frustrated, I finally called an emergency meeting with my hero and heroine. While they sat across from me—in my mind–I stared at them, hoping they would enlighten me, but they remained silent. I spread my arms wide and asked, “Well?”

They looked at each other and shrugged. Then my hero cleared his throat. “We’ve been showing you over and over. It’s not our fault you can’t seem to get it correct.”

“And frankly, we’re exhausted, “ my heroine said.

Feeling even more depressed, I told them to take five. They smiled, linked hands and strolled off.

If they were taking five, I may as well take five—heck, ten.

I poured myself a coffee and sat at my kitchen table, gazing out at my yard. I allowed my mind to drift, wandering where it will. I’ve used this trick over the years to help me solve tough problems, be it writing related or life. My first thought was how nice the day was. The sun shone through the window, warming my face. I won’t bore you with the details, since most of my thoughts centered on gardening. But eventually my mind skipped to taking a week off writing. I decided to buy a romance novel and read—something I haven’t had time for lately. Then my mind skipped to how I determine what novel to purchase.

When buying a novel, the first thing I look at is the cover. If the cover catches my attention, I read the blurb on the back. If I’m still intrigued I open the book. Not to read the first sentence—the opening hook–or the first paragraph. In fact, the opening never factors in to whether or not I will buy that particular novel. I open to the first love scene. Now, keep in mind, I know nothing about the characters, just their names from the blurb. I don’t know their conflicts, what drives them, I haven’t been with them as the sexual tension mounts. I’m in the dark.

If the love scene held my attention both emotionally and physically I would make a purchase. If the scene felt flat and dull, or I couldn’t feel the passion, the heat between the hero and heroine, the book went back on the shelf.

Suddenly, it hit me. The fog lifted from my mind. Sure I was writing the action in my love scene, but I missed many key ingredients. Emotions, and the use of the five senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. My characters were just going through the motions. No thoughts on how they felt, what they saw, what the other tasted like, what they whispered in the heat of passion, how the other smelled and how it affected them.

Elated, I ran back to my computer, but didn’t start typing right away. Before I got carried away, I needed to check to make sure I had used the senses to build sufficient sexual tension. I quickly looked over my manuscript and sighed. Yes, I had used emotions and the senses.

In fact, I had built the tension so high, I was afraid—and obviously with good reason–I wouldn’t be able to deliver when it came down to the sex act itself. I had spent so much energy getting them to the juicy stuff and now that they had arrived, I dropped the ball.

I realized if readers made it this far, went through the build up with my characters, they would expect a hot, emotionally driven, satisfying love scene. This knowledge only further added to my stress.

With my notebook in hand, I sat down in my lazy-boy recliner and closed my eyes. I opened my mind to my characters, watched what they had to show me, felt what they felt, tasted what they tasted. It started with a kiss. I allowed their emotions to wash over me, listened to the sounds they made and heard. Slowly, I started writing. As nature took its course, I wrote everything down, no matter how small or insignificant it seemed. When all was said and done, I read over my notes. I was pleasantly surprised.

Back at my computer I sat down and wrote. I made sure I used the writing rules; stayed in my POV character’s head, showing my other character’s emotions through actions and whispered words. Used simple direct words for the action. Avoided passive voice. But more importantly, I was attuned to my character’s emotions, and made use of all the senses. My end result was a hot, spicy love scene.

Another small useful trick I learned in writing any action scene is as the action escalates, use short, punchy sentences. They should become shorter, and shorter, shorter, shorter, until, until, until . . . it’s over. Then you slowly ease the reader down from the pinnacle so they can catch their breath right along side your characters.

I hope you’ll join me next Saturday. I’ll be talking about the little voice in my mind. It’s the one that loves nothing more then to tell me I can’t write. Mocks me at every turn.

Until then, happy writing

Brenda Dyer


7 responses to “My Sex Scene Hang-ups

  1. Great blog! I think the sex scenes are the hardest to write. Sometimes they just come to me and it’s a breeze to write. Other times I just want to beat my head into my computer. I really have to be in the mood to write to get a good sex scene written. If I’m not in the mood they come out flat and boring. I think theses scenes are the hardest part of writing in romance. Sometimes they can come off as mechanical. The readers want it to come across as natural. I agree with you that you really have to try to experience the scene like you are there. Use all your sences. Great job I really enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks, Tabitha. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Of all the many scenes in my novel, the sex scenes were hands down the hardest to write. I remember my frustration. It drove me crazy.

  3. Fantasitc Blog, you had me giggling and thinking yep been there done that. . You are correct about the emotion thats keeps us reading. Can’t wait to see your blog next week 🙂

  4. I really enjoyed your post. I understand how it sounds so wonderful in your head and somewhere in the head-hand connection something gets lost in translation but you queued right in on the issue, all the senses. Thanks for the reminder.

    Oh, and there was another little nugget you included show and tell. I even wrote it down for my ‘Don’t Forget’ list.

    There is just so much to learn. Will I ever get it all!

    Thanks for an enjoyable post – Ruth

  5. You are so right. In my head it seemed wonderful. I’d start typing, and then I’d read it back, so disappointed. LOL, it took me awhile to figure out where I was going wrong. At first my love scenes were coming out so clinical. I guess when I was watching my characters get it on, I was wearing my science lab coat, lol.
    Showing is fundamantal in a love scene–any action scene. I was forgetting the basics.

  6. Thanks so much for this. I think this post may be the advice that I need to solve a very similar problem that I’m having right now.

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