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Tips for Writing Sex Scenes and A Writing Prompt

May 12 / Jeanne De Vita
When I write a sex scene, or any physical contact–a kiss, a touch–I’m immediately thinking about who is doing what. Who is touching what. Who is wearing (or not wearing!) what. Right? Because that’s what intimacy is about! The touching!
But not entirely… If you’re writing a vivid, compelling intimate scene of any heat level (from sweet to steamy), you’re trying to convey not just what the hands and lips and eyes are doing, but everything that fully developed characters are thinking, feeling, and experiencing.
Challenge yourself to write a sex scene of about 500 words. BUT…and here is the challenge. Try to AVOID the following words:
TOUCH
FELT/FEEL
GAZE
EYES
HAND(S)
Okay, wow. What now? Why would we even bother practicing something like this? What’s the point of writing sex/physical intimacy without saying TOUCH!
Well, because a realistic and compelling scene between characters is about a lot more than what the body parts are doing. What are the emotions behind the actions? Is one character insecure, while the other is confident? Are they two equally hungry, enthusiastic partners? What words do they say that reveal more than any discussion about hands could?
Have you relied on the other senses to create the scene? Smell and hearing are often underused in sex/intimate writing. But… one small warning. You don’t want to write something so unusual that it ruins the mood for your reader (literally!) but writing something memorable and insightful will make the scene that much more impactful.
Compare these examples. Which examples reveal more about the characters and the scene? Which examples reveal less? Which is more satisfying to you as a reader?

Example #1

She touched the scruff of stubble on his chin.

Okay. This isn’t BAD WRITING, is it? We see what’s happening. The sentence is clear. But consider what happens when we challenge ourselves to avoid using the word TOUCH.
“Two days,” she said. “When you haven’t shaved for two days, all I can think about is that beard rubbing against my skin.”

Wow. I think this second example gives us MORE. Do you agree?
In version #2, we have a sense of the connection between the characters and the sensuality of the moment. We know what one character thinks and wants–even though nothing has actually been touched yet. Is one example “right” and one “wrong”? Not at all. But which gives the reader a more full, complete, and engaged experience? You need some simple, transactional sentences, of course, but you can vary the way you write and avoid the most common and overused words to make your intimate scenes unique and more revealing. (Bad pun intended there…)

Example #2

I looked into her eyes, longing to feel her lips against mine.

This is another “not terrible” example. We have the hint of an emotional note with the word longing. But consider how not talking about looking into the eyes (and let’s avoid that FEEL word) opens up the opportunity for more specific, more scene-setting emotions and experiences to come into your writing.

I don’t remember who started the kiss, but once we did, I opened my mouth to hers and greedily tasted every incredible inch of her lips, her tongue.

How different are these two examples? In the second one, I sense longing and desire even though those words aren’t used. We convey the emotion through the action. Not remembering who started the kiss likely means it was mutual and also so passionate, that what came after was more memorable than how it began. (Every incredible inch!)
You can probably come up with 1,000 different variations!

Challenge yourself. Write those 500 words! If you try and avoid the most commonly used words and relying on emotion and the other senses when writing sex or intimate scenes, you might just find your writing is more complex, nuanced, and satisfying to the reader. If you’re interested in taking a course on romance writing, or want to work with an industry pro on your novel-in-progress, Romance Writing Academy is here to help you learn to Write Your Heart Out!