Love and Sex: Is There a Wrong Way?

Love scenes.

Didn’t see that coming, did you? Hehe. I’m crafty that way. Actually, I’m thinking of a scene right now…but perhaps my tastes are a bit different than most. Something about a sexy beast holding me while shooting at a murderous thug–blog post, Renee. Writing a blog post.

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of reading some great love scenes, like those in Maria Zannini’s True Believers, which made reading the not so great scenes in another bestselling novel a distant memory. You can read that review here. For those easily offended, I will warn you, there is a large amount of clit in that review.

Anyway, it got me to thinking, what makes a good love scene? What makes a good sex scene? Is there a difference? I think there is. A love scene involves far more than just two characters getting it on. We, as writers, have to stir more than just the reader’s lust. We must convey the intimacy and vulnerability of the characters involved. I’ll share later, to show you the difference. Don’t worry, it’s R-rated at best. Definitely no X’s on the Edge.

How do you avoid cliche’s when writing these scenes? Here’s one way: Avoid purple at all costs. I swear if I see the words manroot, love cave, orbs, mound, or anything like that in place of penis, vagina, or whatever words real live humans use for those bits and pieces, I’m done with the scene. I know we need variety, I mean, in my review I explain that, although clit is a great little word, overuse makes it as bad as writing love button instead. But does variety mean writers should go all crazy and fancy with naming these parts? No, good writers will find a way around it. The reader is smart enough to know that tab A goes into slot B, and so the writer doesn’t always have to spell that bit out. You can write a sex/love scene without even going into the tutorial.

Yes, a poorly written sex/love scene is a bit of a pet peeve for me. I hate poorly written scenes, but poorly written sex is just inexcusable. If you can’t do it without embarrassing yourself, then avoid them. Fade to black, whatever works. If you can’t work up the nerve to write penis, dick, or cock instead of dagger, manhood, or love club, then just don’t write it at all. But (because I like to be contrary) be sure the word you’re using suits the scene. In the novel that I reviewed, one love scene (there were many) began very sweetly, almost poignant, and then the writer smashed the shit out of my fantasy by inserting cock in the middle of it. And clit, yes clit showed up too. That ruined the moment and for me, as the reader, it jolted me right out of the scene. I literally jumped. Then I threw the book as though it caught fire. Then I picked it up again because damn it, that book cost me a good chunk of change.

Why am I blogging about it? I’ve had to write two scenes for my post apocalypse (sort of) story that involve sex with a tiny bit of romance sprinkled in. The participants are dirty, tired and smelly and laying on the ground on a blanket that’s as nasty as their bodies. I considered going with the standard scene, but then I thought, no that’s not realistic. They’re fulfilling a need in the first scene. It isn’t love. It’s basic. The characters just need to feel human again, to hold someone and have someone hold them. Survival, get it? So standard romance doesn’t fit. Neither does cock or clit, so I was having quite the time writing the first scene. The second, because the awkwardness of the first was over and the characters have developed a mutual affection, was slightly less difficult.

Anyway, I considered what makes a good love scene and how is that judged. I know that what I consider ‘hot’ might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but surely there’s a guideline, some sort of happy medium that writers can work toward in order to spare their readers from the extremes of moist tunnel and multiple clits. Right? Am I right?

Okay, so here’s a sampling of a sex scene. It’s a work in progress. Love need not apply here:

(WARNING: SEX TO FOLLOW er…not like actual sex. Um…written sex. You know what I mean.)

“I don’t know what I want. Why don’t you surprise me?”

“If you don’t know, how can I decide? There are so many possibilities. Are you sure there’s nothing you need? I guess I could just climb on so you can be done with it and go home to your wife.” Her voice turned cold.

Whitney might look like a woman and she moved like a woman, but she behaved as spoiled and unpredictable as a twelve year old girl.

“Don’t be that way. You know I like to spend all of my time with you.” Jack pulled her back over his chest, brushing his lips over hers. She purred deep in her throat and ground her hips against his. “I want you to take that damn shirt off first, and then I want to taste you. How’s that?”

She leaned back, pulling her shirt over her head. Jack’s mouth watered. Whitney had magnificent breasts. Even before the kids, Jenny’s tits never looked like Whitney’s. Jenny’s had been small and pert. Whitney’s were round and heavy.

“Are you sure you want to taste? Maybe you want me to do something for you first. Then we can play later with these.” She pinched her hardened nipples, bending to to taste herself. “Mmmm, that is good though, maybe I don’t need you after all.”

“I doubt you need anyone, but I need you.”

She smiled and slid down his body until her face hovered above his thighs.

“That’s a good girl, now show me what that pretty little mouth can do.”

“What do you want? You want me to kiss it?” Whitney raised wide blue eyes to his. “Is that all you need? Or do you want me to lick it?” She flicked her tongue across the tip and Jack’s legs turn to jelly.

If someone burst in with a grenade and threatened to blow them up, he couldn’t have moved.
Is that too coarse? Is it startling, shocking or icky? Maybe. Since Jack hasn’t been exposed to many readers, I won’t know if he is in the too many clits category. However, I did carefully consider every word I used.
Now love? Here’s love and sex:
Wade lifted her and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He carried her down the bar to the pool tables, his lips never leaving hers. He pushed his tongue into her mouth and she groaned as he teased her, pulling away when she met him with her own.

“I wanted this to be special, not like this. This is…” He set her down in front of the table.

“This isn’t special?” She imagined Wade and Sheila atop the pool table and her sudden bravery faltered, her mind screaming at her to stop.

Wade frowned and tugged at the button on her jeans. “You aren’t running, are you?”

She shook her head, steeling her resolve. What he did before and with who didn’t matter, shouldn’t matter. Just once, she needed to be with him and then if he never wanted her again at least she’d have this night.

“God, I’ve waited years to see you like this.” Wade lifted her shirt over her stomach, running his hands up her sides to her breasts.

Kristina helped him pull the shirt over her head and then pushed her jeans down over her hips. He caught her hands in his and placed them behind her on the table.

“What?” Suddenly she felt uncertain, shy.

“Let me,” he lifted her onto the table, the cool wood of the rail dug into her bottom and her heart skipped at the thought of what she was doing.

Almost naked in a bar, making love to a married man on a pool table—what the hell was she thinking?

Wade knelt in front of her, pulling her jeans down and over her legs. He kissed her ankle, trailing his tongue up her calf, over the inside of her thigh before doing the same to the other leg. Kristina gasped when he dipped his head, flicking his tongue against her before looking up with a grin.

“Want to run?”

She shook her head arching her back when he lowered his head once more. “Never.”

His mouth roamed her body, tasting, teasing, before he stood and unbuckled his belt. She stared as he lowered his jeans, her body trembling when he stepped out of them and moved toward her to grip her waist, pulling her against him. His flushed face and the intensity of his gaze sobered Kristina, she couldn’t remember anyone looking at her as Wade did.

I wrote this scene many times. Why? I wanted the emotion to be evident. I want this one to affect the reader in a different way than the first. I wanted the reader to feel what Kristina felt, the tortured need to be with him despite the obvious reasons that she should stay away. Which is better? Personally, I prefer the second, but I don’t mind the first if the intent is purely fun reading. Jack is definitely fun.
What do you look for in a love scene? Do you write them or do you avoid them?

5 thoughts on “Love and Sex: Is There a Wrong Way?

  1. I'm glad the atmosphere is clearly different. It should be. And yes, so easy to screw up a love scene. Actually, a couple of the wrong words here and there could ruin any scene. Is it bad that now that I've used love button once, I kinda want to use that somewhere again…

  2. Ref: love clubLOL. I hadn’t heard that one before. Obviously, I need to get out more.I’m glad you liked True Believers and thank you for the very nice review. :-)I write SFF romance so love scenes figure prominently. I wrote an article for some publication once—darn if I can remember who published it. But basically the gist of the article was this:The way to write a love scene is by describing that tentative, shallow-breath shudder of anticipation. Not only does it create sexual tension, which is the most uber important part of a love scene, but it takes the reader along for the ride. The reader is not a voyeur, but rather s/he lives vicariously through the character.As you so rightly surmised, sex scenes are different from love scenes, but they too have a place. It all depends on what you want the reader to take away from that scene.Of your two examples, I like the second one better. It shows more motivation and it takes its time. I would’ve like to have seen more of the world building in that scene. Dirty skin, torn clothing, the utter stillness of a world now void of technology. Let Wade find some cuts and bruises on Kristina’s body that he might touch tenderly. It gives them a chance to show their humanity and their fallibility.I'm rather excited about your work in progress. You've been giving this a lot of thought.

  3. I like that description, Maria. You've summed a love scene up perfectly. Now, I have to apologize. I caused confusion. These aren't from the PA novel. But I'm totally using your advice for Rayne and Melissa. The scenes here are from a WIP I'm rewriting called The Legend of Jackson Murphy and a finished Romantic Suspense novel; Dirty Truths. Although there is one scene in Dirty Truths, Kristina cuts her finger on some glass and Wade…makes it all better.

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