The members of this full-house panel of authors included: Lori Whyte, Nola Sarina, Jessica L. Jackson, Brandy Ackerly. Their advice was witty and on point.

  • There have to be connections between emotional and sexual elements – how do you get from one type of connection to another?
  • Scenes can fall flat when there is limited connection between buildup to emotional tension – sex should not collapse the stakes – can’t be the only point in the relationship nor should it collapse the relationship.
  • Build a strong set of individuals before you can build a strong pair.

Every sex scene has to move the story forward – if there is nothing the reader is learning then you could skim through the sex scene and move on – wastes the space devoted to the sex scene.

@nolsarina (Naomi Davis)

Sensuality – most important moments:

  • Touching can acknowledge many things – helps one person become aware of the other and of the potential that there will be sex
  • Authors can get a lot across without showing a lot of sexual activity
  • Every scene in which the love interests interact is essentially foreplay, even if they are not in a sexual situation

Heat levels:

  • 1 nothing physical – mainly emotional whereas 5 is hot and anything goes, pushes boundaries. Closed door romance, open door – they do it in front of you, darker (BDSM, stepbrother romance, ménage, anything that blurs the line of two-person relationships with consensual sex.
  • Still basically about love conquering all, even when there are many explicit sex scenes. Deal with trust levels, exposing oneself and becoming vulnerable to another person – they are all part of the scene building.

Bodice rippers – start with the physical then circle back to the emotional – actions are not concurrent.

If you want to add sex to a story that is not a romance, the approach has to fit the character – gentlemanly or not? Does he care about her or is he focused on his own world? Apply strong character traits even when the genre isn’t romance.

Make sure your female character is diverse – they can be sexual and not feel insecure. They have their own thoughts about intimacy, sex, satisfaction – don’t have them boilerplate. She doesn’t always want a dominant male or a protector in bed.

Technical aspects of building sensuality

  • Proximity
  • Eye contact
  • Under the table body contact
  • Touching neck of chest, fiddling with hair
  • Turning body, adjust their posture, point to the genitals
  • Build the sensuality around body language cues
  • Thought processes characters have about sensual moments
  • Use words that have double meanings or are subject to misinterpretation
  • Be aware of culture (real or created) and its impact on how sensual beings respond – can lead to more interesting sexual encounters
  • Be aware that genre may dictate how far you can push the boundaries

You can build sensuality with situations where the characters are not together but they are thinking about the other character – wishes he was there, what they could do, would they approve/enjoy – you can set those scenes up at any level.

Delaying fulfillment can enhance the sensuality level – build tension.

There are moments in historical romance (when women were supposed to keep themselves pure) when the heroine gives in…shows interest in the hero – she may be innocent or not

Important to make sure your characters know what the other likes – they have to think about the impact they are having to one another. Noticing their mind as well as their bodies – they have to be able to express what they like. The male has to be able to show the female what turns him on – what does he want to see? That then turns her own – acknowledging those feelings build sexual tension form the heightened awareness.

Use subtle signs – does he hold her gaze longer than before, does she stare at his face – can build hyper-awareness based on their appreciation for one another.

What happens when one character does not respond to or reciprocate the attentions of another character? Heroine – does she hunt for or pursue the signs?

Use the five senses – scent of his cologne or her perfume, sounds of his voice, how deep his breath draws as she draws close, does he grip her with confidence or is he nervous, hugs her close enough so she can feel his heart beating fast.

What are their thought processes – internal reactions – I’ve never been so bold< etc. Respond with awareness of how chaotic what they are feeling. Does she act out of character – unpredictability drives the sensuality forward towards consummation, especially when a character starts to act out of character.

Be aware of who is going to read your book – what will be acceptable to them or what might push them away?

Sensuality can show the humanity of a character – a basic human feeling that shows another side – how they become more relate-able by interacting – moments of vulnerability – mutual vulnerability is part of the magnetism – helps them establish trust.

It is perfectly okay for characters to draw on past relationships and experiences to process what is happening to them now. Naomi likes that the female is not the shy virgin – very experienced but draws on that experience in her new relationship. ‘Roger had great hands but never looked at me this way’…etc. ‘I hope I’m not disappointed’ – sex can be the foundation of more but it can also shift the relationship into another direction that is unexpected.

Tropes – key elements that readers have come to expect – they are familiar – second chance at love, vampire romance, virgin and the billionaire, fated lovers, best friend’s sister, friends to lover, enemies to lover…

  • Present in all genres
  • Authors can twit tropes but be aware the readers may not be positive, e.g., virgin heroes – may be rejected because they are not satisfying
  • What is the mystique?
  • What connects them
  • Are they willing to sacrifice in the face of responsibilities?

When you’re writing scenes and trying to bring the people together, you depend on the same things other writers so – the touches, looks, smells, they look good to you, they end up being the one, the pinnacle of what a character is attracted to.

Fine to use the familiar using standard building blocks. But make different circumstances into something different.

Building tension – is it more difficult to show tension with third person? Not necessarily. More cerebral when you are using first person – one character may have to be more explicit and the other more perceptive…steams it forward.

The person you are concentrating on is the one who goes through the biggest emotional arc, exploring insecurities, etc. Still have to pay attention to the emotional arc of the other person.


Emotion Thesaurus – also check out One Stop for Writers

Romance University (Romance Writers of America)

Blood Red Pen (Linda Howard’s The twelve steps of intimacy – levels of trust).

Local romance writing groups, online groups like Romance Divas. Troll blogs for reviews of romance books to find out what is popular and why.