Home » Romance » Erotica » Sex or No Sex…That is the Question

Sex or No Sex…That is the Question

So you want to write a love scene, huh?

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Let’s see if we can break it down to make it easier for you to tackle that dreaded love scene you’ve been avoiding for months.

First thing’s first, let’s ask ourselves a few questions.

Is the sex needed? Does it push the plot forward or help your character’s grow? I personally only write a sex scene if it pushes the story in the right direction or if it forces the characters to grow, either positively or negatively depending on the story. So, is the sex necessary to SHOW their journey? I emphasize show, because it’s too easy to tell. That’s the point of writing the sex scenes, to show the intimacy and how it affects the characters, not to mention the plot. The sex isn’t porn to get your reader turned on, it’s to show the connection, the bond between the characters.

What are your character’s telling you? Yes, I realize this makes you sound crazy, but I’m dead serious. Your characters will lead you if you let them, and going against them will make the story or the scene sound forced. Trust your characters to know their own story and lead you down the right road. Believe me, some of the best scenes I’ve ever written have come from letting them take control, and not just in the bedroom. *wink*

What is the point of the scene? Really think about this…is it sex for the sake of titillation or is it a dynamic revelation of emotion for the characters? This always comes at the editing phase for me. You really have to think about it. If you’re writing a romance, this is important because the entire focus of the story is on the relationship between the characters. Sex is a major factor in that so you have to take it into consideration. Do I need to show the intimacy to really portray the emotions and conflict of the story? It comes down to personal preference of the author to be honest. You can’t write something you don’t feel coming from your characters. Don’t sell your soul by adding sex just to have it there. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it.

What’s your heat level? There are many different types of love scenes with heat levels ranging from sweet to erotic. When I say sweet, I don’t mean closed door sex (when you lead the reader to the bedroom door and then slam it in their face.) I mean generalizing the experience, a soft touch here, a vague euphemism there. Let the reader know they had sex, but don’t go into detail. Erotic is going into hard core detail, drawing the scenes out, making them encompass most of the story. Erotica itself is about the sex more than the plot. Romance is about the plot more than the sex.

My publisher, Breathless Press, has a Heat Level Chart (this is taken directly from their submissions page HERE):

0 – No love scenes.

1 – Sweet Confections: Unconsummated sensual scenes, or love scenes that contain no description of actions.

2 – Monogamous couples. Infrequent loves scenes with no graphic language.

3 – Explicit love scenes with graphic or strong language.

4 – Frequent and explicit loves scenes/graphic depictions of sexual situations. May include BDSM, D/s, homoerotic sex acts.

5 – Diablo Delights: No holds barred high frequency of sexual interactions with strong erotic content. Extreme BDSM, group sex, ménage, ménage a trios. No HEA (Happily Ever After) required.

My stories normally hover around a 2 or 3, depending on the language I use. This chart may help you figure out how “hot” you want your stories to be. I will be writing a post in the next few weeks about the language we use in romance and some of the “trigger” words that make me cringe as a reader. (Everyone has their own trigger words, but I’ll only address mine.)

Another thing that may help you determine your heat level is your comfort zone. It’s kind of hard to write BDSM or ménage when you’re not comfortable with it. So make sure you write what you’re comfortable with, or your discomfort will show in the prose.

If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or questions. I’d love to discuss this more, but I don’t want to bore everyone. *giggles*

Until next week…

❤ Kirsten

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8 thoughts on “Sex or No Sex…That is the Question

  1. Excellent breakdown on the variety of ways to approach a sex scene. Once you decide to include one, there are so many ways to go about it and so many factors to take into account to assure that the way the scene is expressed fits the tone and target audience of the book. Also, I’m so looking forward to that trigger word post. Those cringe worthy phrases are always worth some giggles 😉

    • Thanks, Amanda. I am looking forward to writing that post myself. 🙂 People seem to have a negative view of romance novels, because of the sex. But not all romance novels have the same heat levels or tone. So they can’t really lump them all together and make a blanket statement. I aim to broaden some horizons with my posts on this subject. 🙂

  2. Really great breakdown of doing the dirty deed, Kristen. I have several friends who are published romance authors who also hate the bad rap the genre gets. I tell them to ignore the naysayers because romance is still by far the #1 selling genre. People may joke about it, but they sure do read about it.

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