After my debut romantic comedy, Tangled, was released in May of this year, I had life-long friends call and ask me if I had a secret double life. Perhaps I was hiding a “red room of pain” in my basement? They couldn’t reconcile the “me” they knew with the sizzling, explicit voice of Drew Evans. My answer to their question was always: If I wrote a book about a serial killer, would you think I had bodies buried in my backyard?
But their questions got me thinking. Romance plots are viewed differently than murder or intrigue or paranormal plots. Because sex is universal – everyone’s doing it – none of us would be here without it. Some readers imagine authors base their works on their own fantasies or first-hand experiences. Although we sometimes do (I’ll never tell…), having great sex, is not the same as writing good sex. That can be a slippery slope (no pun intended).
Depending on the sub-genre, readers have certain expectations about love scenes. For YA, sex may be vaguely referenced or implied. For historical romance, euphemisms abound. For novels involving BDSM, kink is mandatory – ropes, collars and whips are run of the mill. For erotica, the more is definitely the merrier – be it more scenes, more details, or more partners.
Whatever the genre, the love scenes are most enjoyable to read when they enhance the plot. They can deepen the relationship between characters, build or break trust between them, or just show that they can have naughty fun together. Whatever the case may be, the frolicking should serve a function.
When writing a love scene, it’s important to describe what’s going on without slowing down the pace of the plot. Readers want to know what the characters see, feel, taste – but if they’re reading a sex scene and thinking, “Aren’t they done yet?” that’s never a good thing. And while scenes should contain some element of fantasy, it’s important to keep things realistic. Mindblowing shower sex? Yes. Effortless up against the wall lovemaking – definitely. But we are humans, not octopuses – our hands cannot be in eight places at once.
Word choice is also crucial – and tricky. I’m keenly aware that certain words are deal-breakers for readers. Some loathe the word “cunt” (and may even stop reading this post now that I’ve used it) while others despise vague, cliché descriptions like “love tunnel” or “rigid staff.” Like sex itself, this is truly a to-each-his-own circumstance. It’s impossible to please everyone, and if you try, you’ll probably end up pleasing no one. All an author can do is strive to stay true to the character’s voice. If the voice is genuine and consistent, a reader may not even notice certain phrases that would have otherwise been a distraction.
The last component to a good sex scene is emotion. What does the author want the reader to feel while reading this scene? Love, lust, anger, disgust – there is no wrong answer, as long as the scene is choreographed to meet the emotional goal. Here, sometimes less really can be more. A poignant “fade to black” can have as great an emotional impact as an explicit sex scene – so as long as the writer has given readers the foundation for imagining what will happen next.
Whatever your tastes or genres, happy reading and writing to everyone! And to my dear, wonderful, nosey friends, remember…it’s just a story.
Or is it? *wink*