One of the questions beginning writers ask us most often is: “How do you know if you have captured the love in your characters’ lovemaking, and aren’t just writing a run-of-the-mill sex scene?” To answer that question, twelve writers offer their own thoughts and advice in this unique WriteSex Author’s Roundtable. Each Monday a well-known romance author will discuss the difference between a sex scene and a love scene, and show us how to charge an erotic encounter with romance. Look for personal insights and how-to tips from our participants in this first ever WriteSex Authors’ Roundtable. —Ed.
By Mary Marvella
I remember several years ago I met an older man who thought he was writing romance or erotic romance. He said he needed an editor, so I agreed to edit his books. Contrary to his idea of them, his stories were all about sex with no romance involved. He had all the sex acts of porn and none of the finesse of erotica or erotic romance. Not once did his writing make me want to be part of his sex scenes. I tried to help him and finally found someone who could tell him where he might get his books published, if anywhere—and even they suggested his books were similar to the ones sold for men in truck stops. Today, if the dear man still lived, his stories might be self-published, or he’d need to let me just rewrite his books for a fee.
A sex scene is about bodies commingling in various ways—part A goes into slot B; there’s some licking, some sucking and a lot of coming—but isn’t required to include meetings of minds or points of view, let alone emotions. As such, the idea of a standalone sex scene bores me to tears; so far I haven’t let a sexual encounter continue in any of my books without also describing the emotional connection or need that motivates it.
In my book about a 40-year-old who lost her virginity in a one-night stand, I thought I had done it—I thought I’d written a sex scene between two strangers who met, briefly rocked each other’s worlds, and then parted ways, never to see each other again. But I thought wrong. The “stranger” character was hurting, but I didn’t know it at the time. I had intended for him simply to make the heroine feel beautiful and have a sexual experience to remember, as a new chapter of her formerly-repressed life. The man I had chosen to give this woman a baby—yes, I did, and she was grateful, too—turned out to be a man in pain and a responsible man. The next time they had sex, there was love neither could admit.
When I write a sex or love scene, I make sure my characters want each other and need that connection to the point of emotional pain. They move from old-fashioned kissing and petting to doing what comes naturally. My readers must also want the characters to finally consummate their passion with vividly described, rather than just implied, sex—I’m no more inclined to write a “sweet” romance any more than I am to write straight-up porn. I don’t have my heroes “take” the heroines and “make them theirs”, especially if the men don’t love the women. I never let my characters actually consummate the sex scene the first time they think they will, and they tend to think of that sex as lovemaking by the time they finally “go all the way”. My guys worship the heroines’ bodies. They don’t use the old trite terms. Their encounters are not just about being horny and gettin’ some ass. They are drawn to their sex partners for more than tits and long legs to wrap around the men’s hips and scream with…
Protective Instincts was the first book I wrote and edited and rewrote to give it stronger romantic suspense. I also added as much emotion as I could each time I worked on any scene where the two main characters were together.
They are considerate of each other. Since they have fears and self-doubts, they are vulnerable. Brit, the heroine, has been attacked twice by a man who planned to rape and kill her. Several women who had worked with rape victims warned me Brit would have issues and not likely have sex with Sam early in the book. That led me to remove two early sex scenes.
Sam wants Brit, but he doesn’t want to frighten her. Her fear that she can’t let a man dominate her from the “man on top” position leads to a sex scene where she must take control and he must allow her to do that:
With a moan, he moved both hands to her bottom, pressing her against him. She wanted to feel his touch all over her body. She wanted all he could offer – now!
She trembled in his arms.
“Brit,” he whispered. “Scared?”
She brushed her cheek against his chest, kissed his throat. “No,” she said against his skin, “not as long as you hold me.” She unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, branded his chest with kisses, then his neck, then his chin.
“Make love to me, Sam.”
“Not so fast, Teach.” Sam touched his lips to her forehead. “Take it easy, love.”
“But I need you. I need for you to make love to me.”
“We have all night.”
Brit shivered again. “But what if I can’t? If I wait too long I might lose my nerve. What if I can’t, what if I panic?” What if I disappoint him?
“We’ll take things slow and easy. If you need to stop, we’ll stop,” Sam’s voice rasped. “So, sweetheart, take charge. Make love to me. Take me, take me now!” He flung his arms wide and grinned. “I’m all yours.”
Brit chuckled against his chest. “You got it, bud, I’ll take you to heights you’ve never been before.”
She kissed his throat again, unbuttoned another button.
Tunneling his hands through her silky hair, he tilted her face up. Lowering his head, he kissed her slowly, gently, thoroughly.
Brit needed this man. Sam was so different from Tommy. Was she disloyal to want this man so much? Surely not! She needed to feel alive and clean. She needed to enjoy a normal sexual experience with someone who cared. She needed to know she could stop whenever she wanted to.
Kissing Sam made her feel cherished. He made her feel he needed her as much as she needed him. He was handsome, manly, sexy as all get out, gentle, in control, and caring. If Sam can’t help me through this, no man can. I can do this. I can. I must.
Sliding her hands inside Sam’s shirt, Brit absorbed the rough texture of springy chest hair between her fingers, against her palms. She gasped into his mouth when he picked her up and moved to a couch. Without breaking the kiss, Sam seated them, with her in his lap.
Kissing Sam, nipping at his lips, Brit tried to stoke his passion. She wanted him to make love to her but he held back. Why was he waiting? If he would just make love to her, she would know she wasn’t scarred for life.
Changing positions, she became more aggressive. She straddled his legs and faced him. “Too many clothes,” she yanked his shirt from his jeans. Gliding her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, she exposed his sculpted torso.
Gripping the bottom of her blouse, she yanked it over her head. Heat and moisture spread through her loins. Sam’s emerald eyes glittered. She knew she was tempting him. His heat burned through their clothes.
Emboldened, she slowly unclasped the front catch of her lacy bra, freeing her breasts to press against him.
“Come to the bed, lie with me. We need to slow down.”
“Why? I need you now.” Snaking her arms around his neck she pressed her breasts against him.
“Hang on.” He rose with her. “Lock your legs around me.”
She knew making his way to the bedroom wasn’t easy while she kissed his face and rubbed against him.
When Sam reached the large bed, Brit leaned over to grab the satiny coverlet and toss it back. He toppled them onto the bed.
He lay on his side facing her. He kept his touch gentle. Her pebbled nipples begged for more than his touch. Dipping his head, he stroked his tongue over a nipple, then its mate.
She clutched Sam’s shoulders. Tension built to an unbearable peak. When Sam’s hand moved between her thighs, touching her through her jeans, she felt heat spiral inside. Her world flashed, went dark. She floated and she wanted him with her. He pushed her over the edge.
Sam hadn’t taken his pleasure. If she could just rest for a few minutes, she would show him real earth-shaking pleasure.
Mary Marvella has been a storyteller for as long as she can remember. She made up stories for the other children and created the details for their “let’s pretend” games. Sometimes the details were so real they scared the other children away; sometimes she even scared herself. The arrival of the book mobile was as exciting as hearing the music of the ice cream truck. It was more exciting, since she could check out books but seldom had the money for the ice cream.
Mary was born in Augusta, Georgia to two eighteen-year-olds. Her daddy, a young Mississippi man, was stationed at Camp Gordon and fell in love with a young girl selling flowers. The story of this particular romance is told further in Mary’s blogs.
When Mary’s daughter was small, story time often meant Mama made up stories. Now retired from teaching the classic works of the masters, Mary writes her own stories and reads modern novels. Sometimes she writes books with steamy sex and danger.
Georgia raised, she writes stories with a Southern flair.