Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I love romance.

I love to read it. I love to write it.

Most of the time.

I love my heroes and my heroines. I love getting inside their minds and hearing what they’re thinking. I love it when they surprise me with the things they say and do. I enjoy creating dialogue and I LOVE the sometimes zany secondary characters that appear out of nowhere on the page and the unexpected twists and turns the story can take.

I enjoy building the sexual tension.

And then . . .

It. The sex scene.

I will tell you my dirty little secret. One of my favorite things about reading romance novels is the sex.

Unlike Billy Crystal’s character in WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, I do not read the last page first to see how the story ends. But when I start reading a new romance, I ALWAYS thumb through the book and find the culminating moment. I don’t read it, mind you. But I know what page it’s on.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. It’s supposed to be about the romance and the glorious, all-conquering, life-changing love between the H and H. And that’s great too.

But me, I like a steaming hot sex scene.

And knowing where Tab A meets Slot B in the book gives me something to anticipate.

But WRITING a love scene? That’s different.

How to make it romantic and sensual but not purple? You know what I’m talking about. ‘His magnificent scepter’ or ‘her steaming tunnel of love.’


It’s a quandary. Euphemisms are tricky. And as for the medical terms . . . .

Penis? Forget it.

If I were a guy, I’d be picketing Washington or NIH or wherever demanding a better word.

And I’m not crazy about the anatomically correct term for the girl part either. You know the one. It rhymes with Regina with a long ‘i.'

Nothing romantic or hot about either one of those words.

So what’s a romance writing girl to do?

Erection works. It’s simple and straight forward. Not sissy and wimpy like penis. But ‘erection’ is a relatively modern term and the guys in my books haven’t been to Earth in centuries.

You see my problem.

So, sometimes you just have to call it what it is. Or, rather, what you character would call it.

And, ultimately, that’s what it’s all about: Being true to you characters.

The last love scene I wrote took me the better part of four days to write. It also required a big bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream and several glasses of wine. But I did it.

Or, rather, THEY did it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate writing sex scenes. But I pull my hair out trying to get it right, because love scenes are important.


Emotionally satisfying.

And darn hard to write.


Tammy Lynn said...

And that was SOME four days! I'm surprised it only took one bowl of ice cream. Although, wine before noon was a true indicator of your distress at getting it right. :0)

Jeanie said...

You are so right, Tammy. It was an awesome four days at the beach. Hated to come back to reality.

As for the wine before noon, shh! That's our little secret.

Heather said...

Great post. I know exactly what you mean about the difficulty in writing the sex scene. Several books I've read recently have completely destroyed the mood through language choice. Until the sex scene, the language had been PG13ish. Suddenly, the sex scene comes around and there are words flying around on the pages that I'm not sure sailors would feel comfortable using. I'm not a prude, and I love a steamy sex scene, but you have to stay true to your characters and their voice. The deviation from the tone of the book made the scene uncomfortable to read. I love a good sex scene, but it needs to be appropriate for the story.

So, can you give us a hint on what page your sex scene will be in your book????

Callie James said...

Jeanie, please tell me the love scene also lasts four days.


And another thing. I should never read your blogs at work (as I cackle and snort back in my cubicle).

I agree on all points! :)

Jeanie said...

Heather, it's on page 182 of my manuscript and is contained in Chapter 18. Where it will be in the published work, I have no clue! I love a hot sex scene, but your are right. It needs to stay true to the tone of the book. Shannon McKenna writes smoking hot sex. (My hubby says it's porn) But she writes contemporary and her steamy sex scenes fit the voice and tone of the rest of her books.

Jeanie said...

Callie, FOUR DAYS??? There's not enough wine and mint chocolate chip ice cream in the world for me to write a four-day love scene. Wears me out just thinking about it!

And my poor characters would have blisters. Yikes!

Melissa said...

Page 182 - oh goody. I agree damn hard, er difficult to write. Love the title of the post and your posts always make me laugh and make me think.

First time I ever attempted to write a sex scene I ended up hammered. Drank way too much wine. Too many hangovers later I discovered a secret. It's easier and better when the characters are in control.

And I agree on your characters and their surprises. My characters are way more fun and lustful than me. That's my story/approach and I'm sticking to it.

Kat Jones said...

Great post! My characters haven't made it past first base yet which I guess makes me a love scene virgin. :)

I'll make sure to stock up on wine & ice cream for when I'm ready!

Jeanie said...

Melissa, my characters are DEFINITELY more interesting than I am! I am BORING with a capital B. That's one reason I write and make up stories, I guess. It's so much fun to put your characters through their paces, in and out of the bedroom.

Jeanie said...

Kat, you have such a wonderful imagination, you won't need it! Can't wait to read a little hot Chocolate! (The name of one of Kat's heroines).

Carla Swafford said...

I love the scene in TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU when the principal, Ms. Perky, is writing a romance novel while on the job. "What's another word for engored?" LOL! Love that movie.

There are lots of love scenes in my books, but everyone of them are dang hard (too funny, had to say it) to write.

Jeanie said...

I love that movie, too, Carla! And that is one of my favorite scenes. Some of the early romances I read were flowery to the point of being silly. At the time, I didn't notice, but, my, how times have changed! I recently read a romance by a well-known author and was amused when the heroine called it 'her portal or pleasure.'

Wha? I flipped to the front of the book and saw the release date. It was a reprint of a book that came out in 1996. Even in that length of time, things have changed.

Louisa Cornell said...

Cracking up and glad I am reading this one at home, Jeanie! For me it is Milo's tea and Reese's cups as sexual aids or at least sexual aids for my characters. I write Regency so no power tools for me.

Sex scenes are DEFINITELY tough to write. And you never know what is going to happen most of the time. As a writer I THINK I am in control, but it never works out that way. I've written twenty page love scenes and I recently wrote one that is barely two pages. I have to admit that I have no clue which one was easier to write! And the book I am polishing now (the Manwhore book) has more sex in it than any of my previous books. I have no clue why!

Jeanie said...

A twenty page love scene! Good grief. You are the champ, Louisa. I am not worthy. As for your characters taking over, they do that at times. The trick it to not let them run too wild.

No power tools in my scenes either, unless you count my . . er . . .alpha males.

Cari Hislop said...

My characters have sex on their own time. I tend to leave them in the bed or bedchamber (I write Regency romances). I use lots of sexual tension which I ratchet up as the story progresses, but (for me) descriptive sex scenes tend to kill the sexual tension or they're so out of place (ordered by the editor?) that they enrage me, like a wrong notes played on purpose in an otherwise perfect performance so I avoid them.

Saying that, my characters aren't prudes, some are sluts, some are virgins many in-between. One of my heroes (in an unfinished story) has been a prostitute; he won't get to bed his heroine until the end of the story and the lights are out. Needless to say, I'm not on his Christmas list!

Speaking of sex...
I understand the term orgasm didn't exist until the Victorian era! Before that it was simply called 'a minute of happiness' or sometimes referred to as just 'happiness'. ;)

Jeanie said...

Interesting perspective,Cari. Certainly, sex scenes in romance are relatively new. I remember when I read my first romance that had sex in it. It was Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower. I was in high school, and I stayed up all night reading it! But before that I was happy with my Georgette Heyers. No sex, but plenty of romance and, at the most, a kiss. She was a wonderful writer. Clever, witty, and terribly romantic. My idol.

I've talked with women who skip the sex scenes when reading romance, so not every reader wants them or likes them.

To each his own!

M.V.Freeman said...

Love your post.

Hmmm "Tunnel of love"

Just kidding....That would make me laugh out loud if I was reading a story...

A man called Valance said...

Well, your title's a real grabber, that's for sure. Can't say I've written many sex scenes, but I hear it's a tricky thing to pull off without shifting through the gears mechanically. I mean, how many exciting new ways are there of saying 'the man picked up his fishing rod, put on his hat and went through the door.' I think it’s best to minimize the act itself, and put the spotlight on the emotional/sensual aspects of the scene.

Jeanie said...

Valance, I agree. You do have to concentrate on the emotional (and hopefully!) sensual aspects of the scene, especially if you're writing romance. And you are right about reinventing the wheel. There are only so many ways to 'do' it. Janet Evanovich spoke at RWA last year and said the reason she stopped writing romances is she ran out of sexual positions! That cracked me up.

Stern Rake Studio said...

You would think that someone who tests positive for Y-Chromosome would have an easy time writing sex scenes. The most difficult blog post I wrote was, in fact, a synopsis of a "Writing Sex Scenes" workshop at last year's PNWA Summer Conference. Maybe wine & chocolate chip ice cream would have helped...

Great post Jeanie!

A man called Valance said...

'Janet Evanovich spoke at RWA last year and said the reason she stopped writing romances is she ran out of sexual positions! That cracked me up.'


Jeanie said...

Ted, so glad men struggle writing sex scenes too! I will have to check out that blog of yours in the archives. Sounds interesting!