Intimacy: So much more than “A” meets “B”

If you’ve come looking for something salacious or scandalous, sorry to disappoint. If, however, you’re thinking your written love-making scenes might need help, this may be the post for you.

As you probably know, I write romance. But I also read romance, and I’ve read and edited anything from “closed door” love making scenes, to scenes where frankly, I didn’t know most of the terms or quite what was going on. In any case, what always annoys me is when an intimate scene between characters is distilled (and reduced) to little more than “insert tab A into slot B.”

It’s horrific. It’s boring. And usually, the same kind of scene is repeated throughout the book with little variation.

Okay. Hopping up on my little soapbox …

All intimacy (from casual touch to love making +), should ALWAYS be:

  1. Relevant and appropriate for the characters.
  2. Relevant and appropriate to the genre and plot.
  3. Come from the characters and the place they are in their imaginary lives.

Here’s the thing: I truly believe that if you want to write believable lovemaking scenes, than you need to remember that your characters are supposed to be people (or person-like). And people make love and enter into intimacy for a lot of different reasons, and in a lot of different ways. An intimate scene could be slightly awkward, or off-beat, or a bit unusual – just like the characters in it. Characters may have different levels of experience, different preferences, different motivations – just like real life. Why does this seem too rare in written love scenes?

Don’t believe me? Check out this article about a study done in the U.S. – I read some kind of summary of it years ago, which got me thinking. Why We Have Sex: 237 Reasons.

This article speaks to motivation – and some of these might be worth keeping in mind for fiction. Because even if a scene may be more than slots and tabs, if there wasn’t anything leading up to it (like clear motivation, growing intimacy, etc), it comes across as awkward and embarrassing for the reader and you. Sometimes this is an issue of placement within the plot of the intimacy, sometimes layering (such as increased layering of attraction between the characters), sometimes lack of clear motivation or clarity within the text. I’ve read fantastic books where intimacy can occur very quickly in the text, and it works – just so long as there is some build up or explanation to clearly motivate the action. And, of course, that it’s significant to the plot and (especially in romance) the journey to the happily-ever-after (HEA) ending.

Considering these factors, far from decreasing how readable, relevant, or sexy the scene is, instead increases the significance and impact of the scene – and helps your story, rather than hurts it.

Finally we come to how revealing and detailed a scene should / can be. And that, dear readers, comes down to personal preference – yours. I started out writing closed door scenes, and (probably because of writers I’ve worked with), I’ve progressed to a fairly spicy level. But always, it comes down to the characters to determine when, if, and how they make love.

As when you decide anything for what your character will or will not do, you may want to consider:

  1. Previous experience. A Regency wastrel and a virgin are probably going to have different views on what is and isn’t appropriate intimacy – especially if it’s before marriage.
  2. Personal beliefs. Religion, cultural, and social reasons, to name a few, can determine your character’s actions.
  3. Current situation. Is there a pressing reason that might make a character do something unusual? Might force their hand? Would their current situation / life make them more or less likely to want to engage in intimacy?
  4. Motivation. Why would they want to engage in intimacy? Has this been explained?
  5. External plot. How does an intimate scene and /or growing intimacy between characters fit into the larger plot? Is it motivated by the character themselves? Circumstances of external factors?
  6. Repercussions. What will be the result of this intimacy? What is the purpose for the character? What is the purpose for you as a writer?

Hopping off the soapbox now. So, no more tab and slot scenes for you, right?

Am I off base? Have I forgotten anything? Do let me know.

Thanks for reading, and happy writing out there!





2 responses to “Intimacy: So much more than “A” meets “B””

  1. donnagalanti Avatar

    Great post on this! Funny, as I read my first erotica recently and it was most definitely “insert A into B” with hardly any character development or plot…b-o-r-i-n-g. I only want to read about sex if I care about the characters…and the best part of the sex is getting there along the way so when the 2 do meet up it is a climactic part of the plot. I think writers need to bring their writer’s toolbox along with them when it comes to writing a sex scene in a book, like any other scene: using emotional arcs, experiences, character motivations and desires (the non-sexual kind!), and the overall story arc. An what transformation occurs from the sex scene? what changes do the characters go through that moves the reader along to the satisfying ending that all began with the inciting incident?

    1. S.C. Chalmers Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Donna. I absolutely agree with you! There’s nothing worse than that misplaced (or dead) love scene. I agree that there are so many things the writer needs to consider – just as they would for any other scene or action. Have a great week. 🙂