I was at the Epicon conference last week and attended a fantastic presentation by Angela Knights on how to write a good sex scene. Here is more or less what Angela said—I hope I got it right, Angela.

Love scenes illustrate the development of romance and show the way people feel about each other. A love scene reveals characters, enhances the conflict, and develops the romance.

Love scene and the characters:
How does it reveal the hero? The hero must be experienced. Don’t ever write about a virgin hero! Mention his romantic and sexual history before the first sex scene.
Show how his attitude toward the heroine change in the course of your story
Show how the heroine helps him develop his strengths and overcome his weaknesses.

The love scene should reveal how he makes love to the heroine, how he finds her different from past lovers, and how his way change toward her by the end of the story.

Before a love scene, we should also know the heroine’s romantic history: how does she feel about sex? In historical romances, a love scene is a big conflict for the heroine who is usually not experienced. Give the heroine good reasons to trust the hero enough to sleep with him. Picking up a hero in a bar and making love with him is dangerous and borderline erotica.


Is she sexually confident?
How does making love to him change her?
Does she gain confidence in them as a couple?
Let the heroine take the lead in some scenes.

Love scenes make them both grow. A love scene is always a turning point. You develop the plot with a love scene. You also develop the conflict with a sex scene. To intensify the conflict through a love scene you can make him dominant if she doesn’t like an alpha hero. And then make her reaction to him strong and dramatic. Let one character turn the tables on the other—heroine dominates the hero.

Logistic of a love scene:
A hero can’t go directly to kissing before a few steps of touching that establish trust.
You have to create the environment of trust for her to accept his kiss.
Love scenes should complicate the situation: A love scene is a critical turning point. What problems does it cause? How does it change the way the characters view each other now?
To know if your love scenes make sense read them back to back by themselves and see if the romance grows and develops through these love scenes.

Love scene pacing:
Where does the love scene fall in the romance? What kind of emotion do you want to communicate? The love scene can intensify the mood: We are at our most vulnerable when making love. This is a perfect time for drama. Taking off clothes is a big act of trust.
Or it can lighten the mood: for example it will keep a romantic suspense or a thriller from getting too dark.
Watch your timing: Characters who are supposed to be hunting the bad guys can’t waste their time making love. Don’t follow a gruesome murder with a love scene.
Love scene construction:
Don’t rush. Good lovers take their time. You need at least five pages for a satisfying love scene, for emotional impact. Don’t cheat the reader
Set the scene with a sensual environment: sharp vivid emotions with five senses. A long pre-scene is acceptable but stay clear of purple prose.

Who makes the first move? Stay within characters.
More interesting when there is more than one objective to the love scene.

Sexual roles of hero and heroine: The heroine sets the sexual pace. She decides when characters make love because she’s the one who has the most to lose.
Concentrate on sensual details. Focus on sensations that characters feel. Use lots of sensual details, smell, touch, taste. Reader doesn’t want to guess.
It’s always better to be in her point of view. Don’t shift POV in the middle of a sex scene.
Use a lot of emotion to give love scenes their power.
Use dialog during a love scene.

Pillow talk: remember blood doesn’t go to a man’s brain when it rushes elsewhere. So keep dialog lines short and sexy. Moans are not considered dialog!!! Use sense of humor and keep tenderness to the last chapter otherwise your story is over.
Keep sex language appropriate to time and characters.
Keep heat levels corresponding to your readers’ comfort. Trade paperback and ebooks allow sexier content than mass market in terms of language and erotic details.
Look at other books in the same genre to decide what you can get away with.
Happy Ever After: Readers want to know what it’s like to find HEA with a sexy hero. Capture that experience with passion and imagination.

Remember that your first paragraph sells your book and your last paragraph sells your next book.
{more details in A Guide To Write Erotic Romance by Angela Knights}
My new book Rx in Russian follows Angela Knights’s advice. It has a great sensual tension and a memorable love scene.

Release date April 11, 2011!!

If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat.

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN winner of 2009 Best Romance Novel at Preditors & Editors and winner of 2009 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite.
Rx FOR TRUST, winner of 2010 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite and 2011 EPICON.
http://www.monarisk.com/

44 comments

  1. Ana Morgan // March 15, 2011 at 7:57 AM  

    Thanks for sharing this, Mona.
    I'm curious as to why the hero can never be a virgin?

  2. Barbara Monajem // March 15, 2011 at 8:07 AM  

    Actually, I've read a few books where the hero was a virgin. One of them was by Jo Beverley, and I remember enjoying it. However, I think many readers are looking for a fantasy where the man is skilled and pretty much irresistible, which is why most romances work that way.

    I wrote a prologue for a historical romance where the hero was a really TERRIBLE lover, and my editor nixed it. She said we have to maintain the fantasy that the hero is a great lover. LOL. I was going to have him much, much improved by the time he and the heroine met again... Oh, well. It was fun writing the scene, though. He wasn't such a bad guy -- just oblivious to everything but his own satisfaction.

  3. Beth Trissel // March 15, 2011 at 8:23 AM  

    Well done, Mona. Good post with a lot of super info. I also think it would be fun to break some of these rules, like hero can never be a virgin, or Barbara's idea of growth from bad lover to amazing.

  4. Judy // March 15, 2011 at 8:46 AM  

    Mona, this is terrific! Thanks for sharing what you learned! So many interesting points of view for a hero! I never have thought of a love scene as being full of conflict, but I can see that in many cases it would be.

  5. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 8:47 AM  

    Apparently readers now like a manly man who knows enough in that area. The reader lives the romance and the love scenes through the heroine. Even if readers accept a virgin hero I doubt editors would. I had to revise a manuscript recently because the hero, non other than the god Osiris had his member cut by his jealous brother. That didn't make him less virile and he was going to find it by the end of the story, but seven editors told me they couldn't publish such a story. I revised the story and gave him one.

  6. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 8:49 AM  

    Barbara, you see editors insist on a super lover for a hero. I guess the hero can grow in any other areas, but this one is very sensitive. LOL

  7. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 8:50 AM  

    Beth, I remember seeing a french movie where the hero and heroine were both virgin. Their first love scene was lovely as they discovered each other.

  8. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 8:52 AM  

    Judy, imagine I went and revised my love scene in my current wIP right away and added sexy dialog to reach the five pages. I remember one of my editors telling me a real hero takes his time, make it longer. LOL

  9. Kathy Otten // March 15, 2011 at 9:40 AM  

    Thanks so much for sharing this. My love scenes can use some work. Another book with a virgin hero was The Endearment, by Lavryl Spencer.

  10. Tamara LeBlanc // March 15, 2011 at 9:49 AM  

    Excellent, excellent info!!!
    I'll be copying and pasting this to a word document to review over and over.
    You must have taken great notes!
    Thank you so much:)
    Have a great morning!
    Tamara

  11. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:54 AM  

    Kathy, thank you for the information about The Endearment by Lavyrle Spencer. I haven't read this book.

  12. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:56 AM  

    Hi Tamara, I was writing every word she said so fast I could hardly read my notes. I wish I had my Dana, but I don't think I missed anything.

  13. Keena Kincaid // March 15, 2011 at 10:32 AM  

    Love this advice. Thanks, Mona.

    In one of my books, my secondary characters loss their virginity to each other (they were like 17 and 15). I faded to black before actual penetration because it wasn't going to be all that good for the girl. Later, when they get their own book, she actually teases him a bit about how quickly it was over that first time.

  14. StephB // March 15, 2011 at 11:00 AM  

    Mona, I absolutetly loved this post. I'm going to save it for future reference. Thanks so much for sharing what you learned.

    Smiles
    Steph

  15. Lia Slater // March 15, 2011 at 11:22 AM  

    All really great advice! I have Angela Knight's Passionate Ink book and just love it to pieces. Personally I love a sex scene where the writer really shows the character's emotions, along with the five senses. Those scenes draw me in and keep me reading.

  16. LK Hunsaker // March 15, 2011 at 12:00 PM  

    Some nice advice here, but I think some of it tends toward hotter romance than more mainstream romance. For instance, I would never read five pages of a love scene! I'd skip over all that musing and get back to the story. And some of it puts too many limits on a story that could be fuller than "A, B, C, the end."

    I do agree that authors need to realize how much a love scene, as well as the prelude to the love scene, can change how readers feel about characters and the story. Good thing to keep in mind!

  17. Jennifer Jakes // March 15, 2011 at 12:10 PM  

    Good post. I agree with almost every thing she said. The part about the love scene adding conflict or furthering conflict-- That's a sticking point for me b/c that doesn't have to be true in every novel. At least not to the point of the heroine thinking -Oh, what have I done now? I'm never having sex with him again.

    I'm actually tired of those kind of story lines to the point I think they are cliche. Besides the fact that if she's not doing it w/ him again, I'm done reading that book! LOL

    There are certainly some story lines where that is the obvious conclusion to a scene (for outside circumstances)and that's fine. But to have that happen just to create an internal conflict...:(

    I love how she *paraphrasing* said emotion is the key. I think that's 100% true. I have to love and care about them and whatever/whoever they care about -- otherwise it's just insert Tab A into Slot B.

    I've never written a virgin hero. I guess I'm one of those who likes him experienced. And even though my heroine in RAFE'S REDEMPTION was a virgin, she was a curious virgin and didn't regret what happened between them. No siree. Not at all. *grin*

    Great post. Lot's of good points!
    Thanks!

  18. Anonymous // March 15, 2011 at 12:22 PM  

    Very good information, Mona. I'm keeping it.

    I think that even a love scene should move the story forward in some way. Deb

  19. Mary Ricksen // March 15, 2011 at 12:51 PM  

    Mona, this is one of the best blogs I have read in a long time.
    Thanks for sharing this information with us. You are so good at this!!!
    As well as any other writing you do!
    This was very informative!!!

  20. Lyn Armstrong // March 15, 2011 at 1:36 PM  

    I was in the workshop for Angela Knight's How to write a love scene. She was brilliant. Great blog topic, Mona. :0)

  21. isabel // March 15, 2011 at 1:40 PM  

    Thanks Mona

  22. Cheryl Pierson // March 15, 2011 at 1:50 PM  

    Great post, Mona. Very interesting advice. This is one to save for future reference. I would love to have been at the conference and heard this workshop.
    Cheryl

  23. Maggie Toussaint // March 15, 2011 at 5:44 PM  

    Hi Mona,

    I very much enjoyed reading your post. Love scenes present a challenge for me as a writer because weaving the physical experience of what's happening underneath the emotional revelation is indeed an act of creation.

    I learn from other authors on how they do it; I especially agree with what you said about a build-up of touching needed. Those touch moments are oh-so-important.

    Wishing you great sales with your upcoming release!

    Maggie

  24. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 6:32 PM  

    Hi Keena, I am curious to read that book.

  25. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 6:34 PM  

    Steph, you are welcome. Actually I am going to save that post myself. I will use it as a check for my love scenes.

  26. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 6:35 PM  

    Lia I have that book too. I won it by asking the first question during her presentation. Isn't that cool!

  27. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 6:39 PM  

    Loraine, I was impressed by the five-page scene as my love scenes are never that long, but I remember that both of my editors asked me to make the scenes longer!

  28. Mary Marvella // March 15, 2011 at 7:46 PM  

    Thank you Mona and Angela! Mona, you take great notes and Angela gives fabulous information.

  29. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:26 PM  

    Jennifer, I laughed at your tab A into slot B. Thanks for your input and interesting comments.

  30. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:27 PM  

    Hi Deb, glad to see you here.

  31. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:28 PM  

    Mary, I am glad you enjoy this post. Thank you.

  32. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:29 PM  

    Lyn, I wish I could reproduce here her slide and picture.

  33. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:29 PM  

    Isabel, you are welcome.

  34. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:30 PM  

    Cheryl, I agree with you. This post may prove handy even if we don't apply it to the letter.

  35. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:31 PM  

    Maggie, love scenes are the hard part for me too. That's why I took good notes.

  36. Mona Risk // March 15, 2011 at 9:32 PM  

    Mary M. I am so glad you rnjoyed this post.

  37. Sherry Gloag // March 16, 2011 at 8:19 AM  

    Great Mona, thanks for sharing. I do not find writing sex easy either.

  38. Mona Risk // March 16, 2011 at 8:56 AM  

    Sherry, tell me about it. Love scenes are the most difficult to write for me.

  39. Bianca Swan // March 16, 2011 at 12:52 PM  

    What an informative post. Since I also write erotica, I found this most interesting.

  40. Mary Marvella // March 16, 2011 at 1:15 PM  

    Mona, honey, I like writing, reading and talking about love/sex scenes. (grin)

  41. Pamela Varnado // March 16, 2011 at 5:20 PM  

    A virgin hero, what an interesting prospect. I've read a few Angela Knight stories and she's an expert at making a love scene sizzle. I have to constantly remind myself to allow the romance to build to the sex scene.

  42. Caroline Clemmons // March 17, 2011 at 10:37 AM  

    Great post and just what I needed! Love scenes are my least favorite part of writing a book. It's so hard to make it fresh and different.

  43. Mona Risk // March 18, 2011 at 7:43 AM  

    Bianca and Pam, I am glad you found this post useful.

    Mary, just saying don't we all do. LOL

  44. Joanne // March 21, 2011 at 1:19 PM  

    Hi Mona,
    Good points, Mona. Angela Knight is a real pro at writing wonderfully sexy scenes. She's a wonderful woman and a true inspiration.