Is your romance novel too steamy? - Authors A.I.
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Alessandra Torre
February 15, 2021

Romance novels often get a bad reputation as being nothing more than tawdry scenes linked to each other by a cookie cutter plot. But as any romance reader knows, sex is just one portion of a beautiful and intricate romance novel. And in some romance novels, sex is missing altogether from the pages.

In our Feb. 12 episode of First Draft Friday, I spoke with fellow romance author Bron Whitley about heat levels in novels and how she so brilliantly adds sizzle without steam.

Watch the full episode above. Here are some of the highlights from our chat.

Heat levels vary by subgenre

Bron writes Christian and Clean & Wholesome romances under her Vivi Holt pen name. With those subgenres, love scenes only occur after marriage, and always off the page. The reader can understand that the characters will or did have sex, but any acts are not described, with the scene simply “fading to black.”

Here’s Vivi Holt’s author page on BingeBooks to give you a flavor of her writings.

A few of the Clean and Wholesome Romances from Vivi Holt.

I write Contemporary Romance and Erotic Romance, where sex scenes range from steamy to explicit. In the video chat, we discuss trends in romance and how sexual levels have changed over time. Today, contemporary romances often contain one to two detailed sex scenes, and that standard holds true for the majority of other romance subgenres.

Tips for writing love scenes

If you do write contemporary to erotic romance novels, you may be interested in a few tips I shared at the end of our chat. Here are five tips to writing a sizzling sex scene.

Tip #1: Use all five senses

You want your reader to be IN the scene as much as possible, and you can heighten that experience by using all of your characters senses. For example….

What do they hear? Pants, moans, bed rattling, sheets rustling,

What can they see? This is your opportunity to describe the glean of sweat on his muscular chest, or the drugged look in his eyes.

What do they smell? The jasmine scent of her shampoo, or the smell of the fire that is crackling in the hearth.

What about touch? I won’t go too graphic here, but this is the easiest of the bunch to describe. They should be touching each other constantly, but don’t just describe what their fingertips feel. You can point out the scrape of his teeth or the soft silk of the sheets against her back, or the cool blow of the air conditioner as it comes to life.

Tip #2: It’s OK to be clumsy and natural

Sex isn’t always glorious perfection, and that’s OK! Your characters can get tangled in the sheets, get a cramp or need to get a sip of water mid-coitus. They can laugh and talk during the act. If anything, the more realistic, the better.

Tip #3: Use dialogue

Sex shouldn’t be a silent act. Communication is a great way to keep the scene realistic and bring the characters closer together. You don’t want to have long conversations about tomorrow’s gardening plans, but it’s a great idea to have the hero check on the heroine, tell her how beautiful she is and let them communication what a good time they’re having.

For more tips and to see our full conversation (which is really interesting, especially if you ever want to write clean romance!), check out the video above.

Want to see more First Draft Friday chats? Visit our entire library here.

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