Sensual Romance Part 2

>> Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Here, I'm just going to talk about guidelines I use when incorporating sensuality+romance in my books. These are things I bear in mind when I write it as well as features/aspects I like when I read a book. Use them only if it works for your own work: there are no hard and fast rules here.

Use all the senses. I've said this repeatedly but it's the one thing I see happen over and over again. Taste, smell, touch, sound and sight can all be used, but also physical reactions, how the individual(s) involved (depending on POV) are actually feeling, how they're reacting, sounds and movements they make. That's another thing...

Don't make it too static. Have the characters gasp and tremble and stroke and move, sweat and slide. Sensuality is to titillate the senses and get a reaction. If your character isn't reacting, your reader likely isn't either.

Get emotionally involved. Physical reactions, including lust, are all well and good but it's not romance unless you have something else as well. That doesn't mean that the emotions have to be in every scene (or even every sensual scene), but if you never tie the sensuality with the romance, the romance will likely fall flat and or the sensuality can seem impersonal. Or both.

Sex does not equal romance. Lust is often associated with romance for good reason and losing control has it's own appeal; however, romance (by my definition) requires a pointed interest in the other person's happiness, which means restraint of that lust or curbing one's own passion can be far more romantic than losing control entirely, particularly if one's partner is not in the same place yet. Or in love at all for that matter. Sexual/romantic tension, in fact, can be quite effective in involving the reader (one could make an argument that sexual/romantic tension is the primary draw for the Twilight series, but I digress). My point is you don't have to jump into sex over and over again in order to get the most from your sensuality+romance.

Leaven your use of sensuality+romance. Just like sensuality (non-romantic) lost it's punch if you use it all the time, same goes for the romantic kind. If your characters are spending every other page mooning, touching, breathing each other's air, etc, those scenes where you really want to draw the reader in or really move the relationship forward can be leeched of their impact. A healthy relationship is more than physical interaction. A successful romance is ideally between individuals that are both contributing to the relationship, people who can talk and interact and work together effectively. Hopefully, there's more going on in the book than just billing and cooing.

You don't have to describe everything. I know, I know, I talked about movement and senses, etc. But there are things that can be implied and, in general, every little movement and/or sexual act does not have to be described in detail. What you want is the reader involved. Once you've pulled them in, chances are they can fill in the blanks themselves. Let them. Part of the charm of books is that your imagination fills in between the lines, so sometimes less is best. Use your best judgement.

Mix it up. Don't make all the scenes sound the same. Using a formula for a romantically sensual scenes is a sure way to dilute them. In real life, people may be creatures of habit, but inflicting that kind of reality on a reader is a good way to send a reader looking elsewhere for entertainment.

Hmm. You know, I think I might just be done with this topic.


  • Dr. Cheryl Carvajal

    Yes, yes, yes! (Wait, am I getting hot and bothered?)

    I'd add, too, that these more physical scenes will build as the novel does, climaxing at some point.

    This is fun! Are you sure you want to switch to another topic?

  • Stephanie Barr

    Truthfully, I'd rather write the scenes than talk about them. I just ran out of things to say about it. Weird, no?

    Feel free to add any of your own guidelines. I like the one about physical scenes building to a climax.

    If I don't like a guideline, I'll say why in a comment.

  • Jeff King

    Your posts have helped me see the side from a women’s perspective. My writing of female characters has grown leaps and bounds… it doesn’t have to relate to this topic to help grow an understanding of females mentalities and perspectives.

  • Anonymous

    This is a great list. Anyone writing sensual or sexual scene would benefit from thinking through these points.

  • Stephanie Barr

    Thank you both, Jeff and Rebecca.

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