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How to Write Sex Scenes the Red Sage Way

by Red Sage Publishing

In keeping with our current trend of offering editorial pointers on Wednesdays, I thought today might be a good day to give some tips for writing sex scenes. (Are you all polishing your contest entries? The deadline is approaching!)

Sex scenes in erotic romance tend to be longer, more frank, and more explicit than sex scenes in traditional romance. There are exceptions to this general rule, of course. There are always exceptions to general rules! And, with the recent blending of subgenres and increasing tolerance in traditional romance for more inventive sex scenes, almost every romance reader can probably think of a sex scene in a traditional romance that involved unusual positions, handcuffs, or fantasy elements.

So what sets apart a sex scene written the Red Sage way? There are a couple of elements we look for.

First, it must be emotional. Are you surprised that this is the first ingredient? Sexual encounters between characters are made meaningful by their emotional context. You want the reader to care about the sex scene, and to do that, the sex scene should contain a strong emotional text or subtext. It’s not just about physical titillation, though the physical part is certainly important, too.

Second, it must be inventive. Wild foreplay, unusual positions, toys and blindfolds and other accessories — these are all great ways to enhance a sex scene. Surprise the reader.

Let me give you an example. I recently spoke to a writer’s group about sex scenes, and I read from Flint’s Fuse by Sandy Fraser (Secrets Volume 6). In that story, the heroine (a wild and willful sort) is tied to the bed, and for various reasons the hero wants to teach her a lesson. She’s begging for sex, and he decides to give her more foreplay than she can handle. He begins, and as she’s starting to respond, he reaches for a candle burning on a dish on the bedside table.

Right about now, I bet some of you are starting to predict what he’s going to do with that candle. What do you expect? If you’re like the members of that writers group I spoke to, you expected something that didn’t happen. What did happen?

I’ll tell you. He balances the dish on her belly and returns to the business of pleasuring her. If she can’t hold still, the candle will fall and possibly burn her. She must find some self-control, even as he’s driving her wild.

Now that’s an inventive sex scene, and it’s got a strong emotional component, too.

Third, it must be supported by the story. Writers sometimes ask how many sex scenes we want, or what percentage of sex and story should they aim for. There’s no magic number. If you want to add a sex scene and your story spine can support it, then by all means, add it.

Fourth, try to include some fantasy elements. Nothing crass, nothing that triggers an ick response, but still something that plays with common fantasies. Having sex with a gigolo, being captured by a skilled seducer, sex in public, sex in airplanes or on beaches or in other exotic locations — these are all fantasy elements. Remember that your audience is a female readership with sophisticated, adventurous tastes. Try to appeal to those tastes.

Theresa Stevens
Managing Editor

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