Writers in the Storm

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January 21, 2013

Building Heat in Love Scenes -- An Erotic Romance Writer Tells You How

profpixcopyWriters In The Storm is pleased to welcome Tara Lain back (you can see her previous post Attack of the Blog here). Pour yourself a cold drink (you'll need it) and get ready to learn a thing or two about spicing up those love scenes.

Hi everyone--

I’m delighted to be back at Writers in the Storm. The ladies asked me if I would write about building heat in a love scene. Why would they choose this topic for me?  Aha! Because I’m a writer of erotic romance! Good erotic romances are certainly famous for their love scenes. Want to know why? That’s my topic.

The main way that an erotic romance differs from a traditional romance is -- the erotic romance is NOT so much about sex.

Not what you expected? Think about it. In most traditional romances, one of the main plot points is “will they or won’t they?” Many scenes are driven by this question, sometimes up to the end of the book. In erotic romances, that question is off the table -- sometimes in chapter one and for sure by the middle of the book. The answer is they do and they did and so what’s next? After that question is gone, the erotic romance has to be about something else. Will they or won’t they be able to overcome the obstacles that keep them apart?

  • So, the first rule of creating heat in a sex scene? A sex scene is almost NEVER about sex.It’s about revealing something important about the character or forwarding the plot in some particular way. If the reader skips the scene they miss a lot. So they don’t skip it.I wrote a romantic suspense in which an investigative reporter believes that a billionaire art collector is a thief. (I write gay romance. They’re both men.) Through many machinations, they end up as lovers but the reporter doesn’t come clean. Imagine the guilt and suspicion that plays through the passion. My reporter goers through every phase of self-loathing challenged by his desire for the big story.If you craft your love scenes around plot development and character revelation, you’ll create a lot of great love scenes.
  • If you have multiple love scenes in your book as I do, you need to “orchestrate” them. Each scene has a different purpose and each one escalates so that you’re peaking your romantic intensity at the right time in the book. You have the passion of a first kiss, the wonder and discovery of first sex, the hunger of love denied.Consider each scene and ask “what will the scene do?” How do I hook the reader in and leave them wanting more?
  • Advancing character and forwarding plot is great but when you have a number of love scenes in your book, you need to be creative. So within the context of what we discussed above, think about what kind of fun and freshness you can bring to a scene.I’m currently writing a book in which one of my heroes is an exotic dancer. So I set a love scene in the forest where he can swing on branches and do all kinds of sexy contortions. You can use setting, costume -- the act of disrobing can be very sexy and fun if made an end in itself -- or the sex itself. Certain sexual acts suggest an escalation of passion or commitment. Think about your character. Would he be reticent to do certain things? Would finally doing them represent a huge change of viewpoint? That makes a sex scene memorable and it advances your story.
  • And deep point of view is essential for a great love scene. The reader wants to know how everything feels, tastes, smells.Don’t tell me they were ecstatic. Show me! What is a climax like? Find the words and use them. Obviously, you won’t use the same kinds of words I do unless you’re an erotic romance writer, but don’t over-euphemize me. Readers will get bored.Lock into your characters POV. How would he feel about each thing that’s happening? Sometimes I layer a scene. I go in and describe the action. Where are the hands, the lips, the body parts exactly? Then I layer in feeling and emotion. And finally, I add another layer of more detailed feeling.

Writing a great love scene is like writing any great scene. It has a reason to be and you need to use all your power to fulfill that promise to the reader.

Think about the scene. Plan it. And don’t write it when you’re tired. Great love scenes take great energy. And get involved. If at the end of your scene you’re gasping for breath, your reader will be too.


profpixcopyTara Lain’s first erotic romance novel was published in January of 2011. She’s now on book 17. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series of 2011, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm, and she carries her promotional instincts into her writing career as well. She lives with her soul-mate husband in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books.  Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

NEWS: Tara has a new release, Hearts and Flour, coming out on Monday February 4 that promises to be a deliciously quirky gay romance filled with heartbreak, cupcakes, love, and a little blackmail.

How to find Tara:
Website:            http://www.taralain.com
Author blog:     http://taralain.blogspot.com
Book blog:         http://beautifulboysbooks.blogspot.com
FB Page:            http://www.facebook.com/taralain
Twitter:              http://twitter.com/taralain
Amazon:            http://www.amazon.com/Tara-Lain/e/B004U1W5QC/

0 comments on “Building Heat in Love Scenes -- An Erotic Romance Writer Tells You How”

  1. Wonderful post, Tara! It's not often a blog surprises me, but yours did! Erotic romance not about sex? Hmmm... It makes sense in a weird way! Thanks for teaching me something!

    1. I know. It is surprising isn't it. But when you think of it, it makes sense. The sex is just part of the action, not a purpose for the book. : )

  2. Tantilizing post, Tara 🙂 I think the psychology of sex is basic to human nature and revealing our characters deep-seeded emotions. It might be like peeling the onion and leaving some of the layers open for the reader to conjur in their minds. Thanks !!

    1. Yes, good analogy. I think revealing character is very onion-like and sex is a powerfully intense time for people so much gets revealed.

  3. Tara. Thank you! I often read mysteries that have a romance component to them and those romance/sex scenes are SO predictable. You give great suggestions to authors to get out of that rut. 🙂

  4. Tara, I agree you with that each love scene, even in erotica has to have a purpose. Gratuitous sex is boring. Thanks for the interesting blog and explaining the subject so well.

  5. This is a great post so near Valentine's day. Writing love scenes takes talent. It's not easy. You're deepening the relationship or should be.
    Thank you for the post. I'm sharing this one!

  6. Great post. Writing good sex scenes is difficult--particularly when you write multiple scenes in a single book. If they feel forced, I skip the scene. Sometimes, I skip the book entirely. If they don't accomplish anything other than sex, leave 'em out.

  7. Thanks for the great post, Tara! I've read too many stories with recycled love scenes that focus more on choreography than the emotional drama that happens between the couple.

  8. Interesting post, Tara. I've read some of your scene examples and find that you do write very intense sex scenes that are memorable. In other words, you write well! I wonder if you might elaborate on your layering process a little more? Action, emotions...but what do you mean by further details? I'm trying to improve my own romantic scenes and additional input would be very helpful. Thanks!

    1. Hi Wendy--
      I go in and do all the action. Who does what to whom. They add the broad emotions -- how he feels as a result of what is occurring. The physical and emotional responses. Then i add what you might call "how he feels ABOUT" what is occurring. How it impacts him as a person, as a lover, all those other factors. You can't get too wordy about this last as it will pull the reader out of the "visceral" experience of the scene. But the scene isn't about sex so we need to know the implications from the character's POV. I just finished writing a love scene in my WIP which both characters believe will be their last time together. It's got to make the reader cry because it makes the character cry. : )

  9. It's true, the intimate scenes are about so much more than sex. In each scene it's important that I convey something about the characters and the state of their relationship. Each scene is also essential to moving the plot forward and usually impacts the way the characters view each other. Thank you for some great reminders to help us create love scenes that help advance the story.

  10. This is a great read! It's so true that each scene must bring something different. I hate finding myself skimming over a scene because it's just more of the same, and I'm not learning anything new about the characters within it. I have high standards for the erotic romance I read (and write!) and just wrote a blog post in its defense.

    Thanks for the post. I shared it on Twitter.

    1. Thank you so much, Elia. I agree that you'll find in erotic romance some of the best writing around because we don't have benefit of many of the "tropes" and formulas that some traditional romance writers rely on. Good erotic romance writers have to reach for new themes and ideas. : )

  11. Great post! I think erotica is hard because it requires creativity that goes beyond writing about sex. It's hard to do well, but you talk about points that make it possible.

    1. Thank you! But i will draw a significant distinction between erotica and erotic romance. The former is a type of fiction which focuses on sex--it's about sex. It may be highly literary or not but it has no requirement to follow the rules of romance. Erotic romance is first and always ROMANCE. It's about the growing love relationship between people and in the relationship they have sex--very much like life. But the sex is not the subject of the story. The story must also have an HEA while erotica has no such requirement. The writing techniques i described are for erotic romance. Sex scenes in erotica may very well be for and about sex. In erotic romance they are not. : )

  12. Very insightful post, Tara. I just finished writing a major love scene in my WIP. It was hard getting into it, partly because I haven't written such a scene in a long while. Finally, I managed to get over my jitters and it started to flow naturally. As you say, love scenes need to be about emotion and character growth, not just the mechanics of sex. I hope I achieved this goal with my characters.

    Thanks for sharing your layering method. That's something we can apply to all scenes.

  13. Sex scenes are always difficult to write, at least for me. Thanks for the tips, Tara.

  14. Ladies, (as I've noticed no men have commented) as a gay male and also a writer of gay erotic romance, I can almost always tell when a woman has written a gay M/M sex scene. Yes, I agree that sex scenes must move the story along. Yes, it must give the reader some insight into the characters. However, with that being said, there also has to be heat and intensity between the two men, if you are writing about two men, which is often missing.

    As I told a fellow writer, who happens to be female, and writing a M/M sex scene, "Your female is showing." In other words, there is WAY too much feelings being put in there that a man isn't going to be feeling or thinking of during sex. Men are more tactile than that, I'm afraid. The feelings and emotion can and need to be there, but it is much more subtle than most write, and to be even truer, needs to happen AFTER the sex. Think caveman if you wish, but it is honest and true. Besides, most European decedent men have three to four percent neanderthal DNA anyway. Sometimes less is more?

    Just my two cents worth is all I'm sayin'.

    1. Hi Max-- Thank you so much for your comment. I agree that we MM romance writers need to be sure we're in our guy's POV and i agree that the sex scenes must have a lot of heat and attraction. BUT the interesting thing i have found is that male writers of MM romance write some of the most emotional love scenes anywhere -- full-on sentimental sometimes. So i think the emotional layering still applies. Of course, it varies from writer to writer--just as it varies from man to man. : )

  15. Hey Tara,

    I think it might also apply as to what audience you are playing to as well. I also have seen some male writers of M/M who write very emotional love scenes. One in particular, who I admire, is able to balance that out, especially when he write multiple sex/love scenes. However, if writing for a gay male audience, I have heard that often times they will put the book down if the sex scenes are "all mushy".

    You are correct in saying that it does vary from man to man.


    1. Hi again, Max.Of course my blog post above is not written specifically for MM writers in any way, but since it's based on my process, it certainly includes them. Yes, we must consider our readers. I have a lot of gay men who read my books, but the average reader of MM romance is a woman between 30 and 60 years old, so both men and woman writers must take that into consideration also. : )

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