Thursday, September 13, 2012

Do You Have to Have Great #Sex to Write Great #Love Scenes?

Love scenes! Ah, when the romance gets hot, and the characters can't help themselves, how does an author send them over the edge?

Do you have to have great sex to write great love scenes?

I can't say it doesn't help. Besides, it's so much fun when you have a partner to experiment with. There are some things that just have to be experienced: the combination of visceral feelings and emotions can't be duplicated by a how-to manual. That said, imagination takes off and melds with the individual personas of the characters in a scene. Writing love scenes from both the male and the female point of view requires deep immersion into the character, and once I'm lost in them, the scenes come easily.
Rachelle Ayala, crazy owner of this blog, author of Broken Build, available at Amazon

Yes. My feeling is experience is the best teacher.  You can read the 'instruction manuals' (for lack of a better description) all day long, but nothing takes the place of actually experiencing, participating in the real deal.
Melisa Williams, upcoming author of Going Native

I think that what makes a great love scene - one that arouses all the senses - is the lead in to the sex, not the sex itself. You could call it foreplay - it's the part that messes with a reader's head and emotions :). How is the interaction constructed between the lovers? How does their connection evolve toward ultimate fulfillment? I think that by the time the down and dirty sex act is warranted, the readers should have already experienced a roller coaster of emotions, so that whether the sex is explicit or not, they don't feel cheated.
Natalie G. Owens, author of Everything to Lose, available at Amazon.

As a writer of erotica I'm often asked if my steamy scenes come from real life inspiration. While having great sex in real life can provide incentive to writing a great love scene, it's not a requirement. People forget that a writer's most powerful weapon is imagination. I read, and often write, to escape. Sex in romance novels and erotica tends to be larger than life–as it should be. No one wants to read about the real life challenges of couples as they try to juggle mundane responsibilities. Most authors writing erotica aren't dominatrixes or sex workers. They are regular people with normal constraints on their time, kids, etc. I never assume that a horror writer runs around murdering people for inspiration. Fantasy is what makes fiction so wonderful. Writing allows us to carve out whatever our imaginations desire. That being said, I do believe that passionate, open minded and sexually curious folks do write better love scenes. Cheers.
Narcisse Navarre

LOL. I just love these questions of yours! Okay - sexy writers - that's me ;-) I think you have to have great sex on the BRAIN to write great love scenes. It all starts there, otherwise love scenes can become stilted and lifeless, unimaginative, forced, etc. You have to have imagination, otherwise all of your characters and everybody else's characters are doing the same things. What's the fun in that? We live in a world where too often, everyone thinks they have to conform, even in the bedroom. I've noticed lately, too many people thinking they have to shave all over, or perform specific sexual acts because it's the norm, or it's expected. NO, no, no! Your personality and your individual desires make love scenes real. I just read a wonderfully character-driven, unique love scene in "Soul Weaver" by Kym Grosso. Refreshing! A big part of being sexy and writing sexy is allowing yourself and your characters to be individuals. Sex is, afterall, a mind thing.
Dariel Raye, author of the Dark Sentinel Series, available at Amazon.

Boy, Rachelle, you sure know how to ask the probing questions! I think to write good love scenes, you need to have a basic understanding of the mechanics of sex, just so you don't have characters doing impossible things. Beyond that, imagination is all anyone needs to describe their perfect fantasy!  And that's all romantic love scenes are, right? Fantasy?
Chantel Rhondeau, author of Always and Forever, available on Amazon.

Absolutely not. But each writer and reader is different. I love reading a juicy, descriptive, sexy love scene and feel like something is missing if the writing isn’t somewhat explicit. I’ve explored a lot in my day to be able to embrace the fabulously committed and loving partnership I have with my sweetie pie. Hence, when I write, I aim for enough descriptive qualities to get both me and my readers stoked. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with suggestive dialogue between my characters – it hints at what is simmering beneath the surface in what I hope is a most delightful manner. But again – to each his or her own. The spectrum for sexual preferences is wide. I’m only going for the slice of the pie that appeals to me and my readers – one that sizzles in a loving way.
Calinda B, Author of the Wicked Series 

"My reply to that would be that it takes a vivid imagination to write a good love scene. Plus a definite sense of the dramatic.
I still remember a show I saw online called, "So You Wanna Be a Soap Star?" One week they were doing love scenes, and to this day I remember the career actor telling a contestant, "There's no such thing as vanilla sex in soap operas."
And that is the philosophy I use in all my sex scenes.
Each sex scene I write has to have its own tone, according to the context of the scene, the people involved, and of course the chemistry between the characters.
It also takes a measure of patience and a little bit of choreography. :-)"
Jon Bradbury, male erotica author

Not in my opinion. You may have to have great sex to write great sex scenes, though! When it comes to writing love scenes, what's more important is knowing what it feels like to fall in love and being able to recreate the tension, the excitement and the chemistry between the characters. Both characters need to be very appealing, and it's best if you can make readers root for them to be together despite any conflicts or hurdles.
Bonnie Trachtenberg, author of Wedlocked and Neurotically Yours

The answer is a big no. The love scenes I create as a writer have nothing to do with me personally. I'm just a conduit to the page. Each scene written is about the characters of the story and the chemistry the couples create together. Sometimes the loving is slow and sensual, at other times fast and frantic. It really depends on the story itself and what each character brings to the table. Every word written must be authentic to who they are.
Cate Beauman, upcoming author of the Bodyguards of L.A. County Series

My ego demands that I claim to have great sex and that I write great sex scenes. While I’m speaking for that side of me, I have a great butt, look like a twenty year old and sing like Celine Dion. Now, outside of my fantasy, I realize that there are many reasons to have sex and regardless of the acts performed, the motivation behind the deed determines the greatness. Did the characters just meet in a bar to hook up?  Or have they had a passion between them since the moment they laid eyes on each other and are aching for the moment they can show their love and be a part of each other? Maybe I’m just a romantic, but I think most adults have had that feeling in their lives whether or not they’ve had sex. If a writer can translate that feeling to page, to me that is a great love scene.
Melissa Mayberry, author of Mellifica: Devastating First Love, available at Amazon
Ah. I think not. I'd have to agree it helps, but I can't say that would be the only qualifier. You know the old saying 'Pictures are worth a thousand words'? Visuals create ideas inside of our minds. They capture the essence of the moment and, well, stimulate endorphins and permeate desire. If it were all about having great sex, then why would we need to read about it? I think written sex scenes are descriptions of how we'd certainly want it to be. Always sizzling hot sensations that go on and on. A mate who never disappoints, who knows all those hot spots, and never EVER fails to explore them.
Melisa Hamling, author of Twenty Weeks, available at Amazon

I think having sex or (if you're older having HAD great sex ) can help enormously. Yes, you can leave a lot to your imagination but touching, tasting and feeling the real thing must be paramount. After all a little bit often goes a long way...
Faith Mortimer, author of Harvest

I love this question! My husband would love to say yes to this and to some point I have to agree. Although, my characters tend to be different than I am and more experimental, I live precariously through them. Once I write a great scene, I dare to say that my evening is a lot more exciting! :)
Melinda Dozier, upcoming author of Time Changes Everything, to be released on June 3, 2013

Not at all. And sadly, I know this from personal experience. But no one wants to hear about that, now do they? Thankfully, a writer’s job is to use our imagination. Sure, there might be a bit of life experience in there as well—the great and not-as-great experiences. But love/sex scenes are primarily about what women want men to say or do. You know, the kinds of things that don’t always happen in ‘real life’ anyway. Certainly not for all of us. But we all can appreciate the fantasy, that moment when two people connect for the first time and everything becomes right in the world.
Lauren Stewart, author of Hyde, an Urban Fantasy, available at Amazon 
Which author do you agree with? Comment below.

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  1. I think I'm with Natalie -- the love scenes are always a bit anticlimactic to me. I enjoy to build up, the romantic tension, and really feeling the desire between the two characters. I think having good romantic tension makes a love scene *that much* better.

  2. Fascinating how different everyone's answers are. Dang, lots of smart, sexy writers in there. ;)

    Nice job, Rachelle!

  3. Great post and a great question. I found it interesting that even though the answers basically were yes or no, there were a lot of circumstances to those answers.

  4. Great post. Love seeing all the unique responses.

  5. Great job, great responses. Lots of food for thought.

  6. These are so much fun, Rachelle. Kudos to you for thinking them up :-) I enjoyed reading all the responses. Even though our answers differ, it's interesting that there's still a certain amount of consensus.

  7. I love this question! So much fun to see what everyone said!

  8. I agree with all of the authors! Duh ;) And with all the comments, imagine if we all put our sexy writing together! Holy cow! I think we'd blow Fifty Shades into your sandy background ;>

  9. Thanks for all the comments. It was super fun gathering all the answers. But I think one thing we all agree. We LOVE those love scenes, don't we?

  10. Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog, Rachelle. All the answers are awesome!

  11. I think if you share real passion combined with emotion and feeling, rather than raw stimulus and the usual "bump and grind" method of sex, you would do better to connect with your readers than most writers do these days. I've seen what passes for "sex" these days in books and it's beyond horrific. There's just no *feeling*. It's pure carnal pleasure than actual bonding with your paired characters. I mean, I could make every main character of mine into one big sex object (which is easy), but where would that leave the rest of my cast of characters?

  12. Very interesting to read all the responses. :) I agree with Natalie and others in the comments, for me it's all in the lead up and the emotion that goes with it.

  13. I agree with Faith. I used to think that writing from your own experience rather than from your imagination is cheating. However, over time I noticed that the scenes I have experienced always come out more vivid, more detailed, as well as more real. And I'm not talking about sex only. Knowing what you're writing about definitely helps. At the same time, great sex doesn't have to be acrobatics. It just has to be a special act between two people a reader can connect to.