This week, I have been mostly trying to ‘sex up’ my story as I continue through my final edits of ‘From Here to Nashville.’ Despite my age and vast experience, it has not been an easy task 😉 It is one thing to have experienced romance, love, kissing, sex (eww, as my teenage daughters would say) but it is quite another to write about it. Not only that but there’s not much help out there for inexperienced writers either.
I had lots of great advice on my blog last week (thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments) and one of the first things I knew I had to decide on was the level of sex scene I am comfortable writing about. How to do this? I know I like to read all kinds of romance, from what I would call ‘closing the bedroom door’ romance to E.L. James, if you get my drift 🙂 However, I know that I’m looking to write something in the middle of these two extremes and I am certain about that. It was clear though that I hadn’t really achieved that in my book as yet.
As I said last week, I went on a course earlier this year which was designed to help writers put passion on the page. However, in a day, we only got as far as kissing! Crikey 😉 Still, I wrote a first kiss scene that I was happy with and it is still in my book almost exactly as I wrote it back in February. Apart from that though, my romantic scenes were very generic – ‘the kiss deepened’ – sort of thing and although I did have a scene where my characters finally made love, it was too far into the story. My editor wanted it to be a lot sooner and a lot more sexy!
I went to find my notes from my course and remembered the handout we’d been given about ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris, from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ You can find the list by Googling it but I’m going to reproduce it here for you to see what I did with it. The other advice my editor gave was to make sure to incorporate each of the five senses in every description of their romantic encounters. This wasn’t new to me. I just wasn’t doing it.
1. Eye to Body
I wrote this into my first chapter as the first time they see each other from a distance. They give each other a quick glance and register an initial attraction. This doesn’t have to be too detailed but needs to give the reader the idea that they want to get to know each other better.
2. Eye to Eye
In the same chapter, my two main characters meet and pick up more details. They now know they find each other attractive enough to begin flirting.
3. Voice to voice
It helps if your male character is from Nashville of course and has a sexy southern drawl. There aren’t many synonyms for ‘drawl,’ I can tell you. Otherwise, they just need to talk to each other and this is where you can really get going on the senses. Again, this all happens in my first chapter when they first meet.
4. Hand to hand
This could be a handshake during their first meeting or it could come later. I do both and it is the touching of skin that is intimate and charged.
5. Arm to shoulder
This one has to come a bit later when they know each other better in my view. It was during my characters’ fifth meeting. During the previous three meetings, I went through stages 1 to 4 above again to reinforce their building attraction so that by the time he puts his arm round her to comfort her during their fifth meeting, it should seem quite natural. This closeness allows you to bring in things like your male character’s smell and you will find yourself wasting hours on the internet looking for ways to describe him that don’t sound weird 🙂 I liked this article, from Vogue here. It’s called ‘How Women Want Men to Smell.’
6. Arm to waist
I included this in their first kiss which comes on their first proper date, although it is about the sixth time they’ve met each other. She slips her arms around his waist as they move in closer for the kiss.
7. Mouth to mouth
This is their first kiss and needs to build on everything that has gone before. This takes place in Chapter 6 in my novel. Here it is for your reading pleasure:
‘As I looked into his dark eyes, he leaned towards me, tilting his head to one side. My heart beat a little quicker in anticipation of a kiss and suddenly, his warm lips were on mine, brushing them gently at first. His kiss was so inviting that I responded naturally, moving closer, taking in his wonderful masculine scent. I was very aware of his hands, one resting on my hip, the other clasping the base of my neck. I slipped my arms around his waist and the kiss deepened. He traced my lips with his tongue and when I opened my mouth a little, he took the hint and started to explore further.
I closed my eyes, and a moan of pleasure escaped me. He groaned too, pulling me closer. The stubble on his cheek tickled mine and I wondered what it would feel like if he was kissing other parts of my body. My face burned at the thought of it.’
8. Hand to head
The first kiss I have written also includes this step and according to the 12 steps of intimacy, this is really quite high on the list!
9. Hand to body
As Jackson’s hand is on her hip during the kiss, this is also achieved at the early kissing stage. However, it could obviously mean many other things.
10. Mouth to breast/11. Hand to genitals (blushing yet?)/12. Genitals to genitals
I knew for me that this was the point at which I wanted to stop. I don’t want to write about full-blown sex, although my characters do have it. I didn’t run and hide from it either, by closing the bedroom door and leaving it to my reader’s imagination. I just went for somewhere in the middle, leaving the reader in no doubt of what was about to happen. My characters make love for the first time now in chapter 8, much earlier than they did previously and I know that makes more sense.
There is no doubt that this is one of the hardest things for a romance writer to do. For most of us, it’s so personal and intimate that putting it on the page in a way that is enjoyable for a complete stranger just seems a bit strange. However, as romance readers, we expect it and so that means we have to learn how to write it. As I have gone through my novel, I have used these 12 steps again and again to help me write convincing scenes. I have looked up all kinds of things from male scents to signs that your date really likes you. Yesterday’s research was probably the best fun so far though – I was writing about great make-up sex! Oh the fun you can have sitting at your writing desk 🙂
For another useful viewpoint on writing sex scenes, see this post here.
Thank you for reading as always. Please do leave me comments about how you find writing this kind of scene and any tips you have for me or readers of my blog.