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Friday, September 17, 2021 character archetype book writing

Different character sketches

 

Characters are the foundation of every story. If your readers can’t connect with the characters, they’ll put down your story. Some characters change and grow over time, and other characters remain the same. Howard Tayler of Writing Excuses calls characters that don’t change over time iconic characters. Think of a James Bond or a Conan the Barbarian character where the world changes around them, but not the main character.

Before moving on, let’s establish conceptual clarity between a stereotype and an archetype. A stereotype relies heavily on using widely believed characteristics of a person from a recognisable group. In the case of French Canadians, there’s a stereotype that we are all lumberjacks, spend our time making maple syrup, are farmers or work in menial jobs. Think of a group that is “other” than you, and you’ll come up with an image of how they dress, talk, where they live, and their general vocations. Some of those portrays may be accurate to a degree, but most won’t be.

Stereotypes can be harmful to individuals in that group, and the reader can find them boring to read.

Character archetypes are different. Archetypes are characters that share common characteristics across the human experience. People across cultures and time recognise a leader, healer, or warrior (among other archetypes). Archetypes play a certain role in society.

Archetypes are different from stereotypes because all cultures have healers and warriors (and so on). However, how each culture expresses its “warrior-ness” differs. A Canadian soldier in 2021 has certain equipment, extensive training in specialised fields (paratrooper, infantry, tank commander, etc.), and a certain mentality that draws them to work and that particular position. An Aztec warrior has different equipment, different training, and but likely the same motivation to be a warrior.

I was asked by @LouSchlesinger if and how I use archetypes to build my characters systematically. The simple answer is that I don’t use archetypes. The more in-depth answer is that I build my characters from the trope and setting out. For Novella 2 of Heartened by Sport, I decided to write a second-chance romance in which the sport of choice (remember it’s part of the Heartened by Sport series) would be pickleball. I thought this sport was unique enough to create interesting circumstances for the characters to interact while engaging the reader. From there, I fleshed out the characters to understand their deep hurts (the reason why they aren’t in a romantic relationship {at all} and, more specifically, why they aren’t in a romantic relationship with their counterpart in the book).

I strive to make unique but believable characters. I often pick careers that aren’t top of mind in romances. Even when I write historical romances, I strive to give the women plausible means to sustain themselves that remain in keeping with the time and social constraints. If they are upper class, I aim to give them unique hobbies that make them stand out.

Why? The simple reason is that I work to create unique characters that readers will relate to and cheer for.

I don’t write to archetypes, but I play around with the dynamic between conflict, career/occupation, and setting. I explore ways that certain careers (combinations of his/hers) create problems for the individual and a romantic relationship. Perhaps someone is a salesperson who is always travelling. Long-distance relationships can be tough. Perhaps one is an early childhood educator who always catches colds and cases of flu from their young charges and hampers their social life. Perhaps the characters work opposing shifts, which adds complications if they are parents and trying to keep a strong marriage while coordinating childcare responsibilities and staying in touch with family and friends.

Each occupation has certain benefits and hindrances. Certain personalities (archetypes) are likely to gravitate to certain professions. There’s also a push-pull between the characters, their interests, their professional interests, and the relationship (in a romance) they seek to establish. Map out the conflicts between these layers and have fun with them. You’d be surprised how you can make each character, personal development arc, and romance unique.

Sure, certain themes are common in romances, but how each character and couple overcome them makes them memorable (or not) to readers.

When developing characters, I focus on unique events in their lives, how those events lead to decisions, and the consequences of those decisions on the character as they mature. What happens if a nurse (healer archetype) is also in desperate need of healing because of a chronic illness? What happens if the character who is a teacher (college instructor, corporate trainer, university professor, the most senior person on the team responsible for onboarding new staff, etc.) is the one who needs to learn the world isn’t the same and they need to adapt?

There are many dynamics to explore to add depth to your character. I choose to start with the trope, theme, and setting of the book. I drill down to career and hurts, and from there, I sketch their layers of conflicts, personal goals, deep hurts, character beats, and plot beats.

Archetypes are interesting to expand and explore. Delve deeper into a character’s background and occupation to highlight what makes them unique. They’ll be more interesting characters, and your readers will be more engaged.

 

How do you use character archetypes in your writing? Reach out on Twitter @reneegendron to continue the conversation.

 

Thank you, @LouSchlesinger, for the topic suggestion.


Wednesday, August 4, 2021 time management writing productivity time

Time

 

A few people have expressed their surprise at my production cycle. I’m going to share with you some insights as to how I maintain production. I’ll touch on making time, time management, time-saving techniques, and neurology.

 

Context

How did I write a 2.5-million-word fantasy series (in need of deep edits), one western historical, one contemporary mystery, one 60k-word collection of romantic short stories from different genres (Heartened by Crime), one contemporary sports romance, contributed to 3 anthologies with more on the way, and have more works in the ways?  (I’m writing a 15k-historical fiction romance short story, a second contemporary romance 70k-word novel, a 40k- word historical western romance, a 35k alternative history supernatural romance, a 70k-cyberpunk romance, and that’s my goal between now and February 2022. All first drafts).

 

Making time

The first thing I did was cut down my television time to a few hours a week. By a few hours, I mean I only watch three to six hours for the entire week, even on days when I’m dog tired.

You would be amazed at how much free time you have when you cut down on television. At first, it seems a bit weird to not sit in front of the television, but the productivity boosts you get from doing more exercise, writing more, and partaking in another activity sheds your mind of dead weight.

Sitting and staring at a television for twenty-three hours a week (the average for Canadians, or thirty-five hours per week for the average American or twenty-eight hours for the average European) drains a mind of imagination, harms the body with aching joints and sore necks, and reduces opportunities for a person to engage in meaningful activities.

Sure, people need to switch off now and then. Absolutely, people need to be entertained. But, in my experience, watching so much television drains a person’s willingness to engage in other, more soul-inspiring activities.

I significantly reduced my television watching time about six years ago, at about the same time, I decided to make writing a part-time job. Do I earn enough from writing to have it considered a part-time job? As of yet, no. But I strive for it, and I feel better about myself when I’ve written than when I’ve only watched television.

Playing computer games is another time sink. Again, you can have fun and enjoy playing them. I recommend you be mindful of how much time you spend playing them. 

 

Time Management

Now that I have more time on my hands (from not watching television), I spend it wisely. I keep a schedule where I build in slack. One of the most comment errors in creating a schedule is being overscheduled. Pad your schedule to allow for slower traffic, time overruns, cranky children that don’t want to leave on time, poor weather, construction, and life’s regular ups and downs.  

I plan slack throughout my day. It’s guaranteed that slack is consumed by answering emails, responding to voice mails, and addressing other concerns. However, I stay on top of things because of the slack.

I build slack in my work life to not carry anxiety after hours. I have a full schedule, but a productive one. At the end of my workday, I can itemise what I’ve accomplished, stay on top of things, and still have wiggle room to play for the next day, week, or month. I also build slack in my non-work life. That sense of control reduces thoughts that crowd my brain and frees space to think creatively.

Sometimes this kind of slack can’t be negotiated. There are, however, other ways to reduce the stress you experience, such as taking up meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong, among other restorative practices.  

While I walk (or drive or grocery shop, or do other activities), I stack my time. I use my exercise time to listen to audiobooks to keep current on what’s happening in the market (or to listen to books on writing to improve my craft). I average one to one and a half audiobooks a week. I sometimes use dead time (such as waiting for a Zoom call or showering or cleaning) to ruminating about what I’m going to write about.

Slack. The more you can build it into your schedule, the less rushed you’ll feel, and the less stressed you’ll be. Stress is a huge drain on energy—both physical and mental.

By the time I sit to write, I’m prepared. I’ve built in enough slack in my day to feel productive and non-rushed. I’m a prolific plotter and have an excellent idea of what I will write before I sit down and write it. If I’m stuck, I have a series of notebooks in which I write word associations, wordplay, and ping the Twitterverse to get me over a hurdle. I write in sprints. Often, sprints are 45-60 minutes intervals in which I write as many words as I can. I average 1,000 to 1,5000 words during that time.

For those who don’t have that amount of time free at once, consider writing shorter sprints on your cellphone or in a notepad. There are always five-minute chunks of spare time or moments where you can dictate the outlines of a scene or come up with the back and forth for some zippy dialogue.  If you’re a discovery writer, you can dedicate that time to think over the first scene you will write.

 

Time-saving techniques

Make batches of food. Plan your meals in advance and have some nutritious meals available in the freezer so that anyone in the house can prepare dinner. It takes just about as much time to prepare a dinner for four as it does to make the same dinner for eight. Use that time to write.

Do other things in batches. If you blog, write a few blog posts one after another. If you have social media posts, create one or two weeks’ worth of content simultaneously. Your brain is already in the mindset to work on it—why not make more?

Get everyone in the house on the same routine. Routines might be difficult to establish, but once put in place, everyone knows the rules, responsibilities, and expectations. Conflict often arises from ambiguity and unclear expectations. Routines help navigate this.

What if your schedule is more rigid? Look for downtime—waiting for medical appointments, sitting in traffic, cooking, ten minutes here and there. Negotiate with your family for fifteen or thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to write. Negotiate for different responsibilities, if not every day, then for a few days a week to give you more time. Before you write, use that downtime to ruminate and know what you’re going to write. There’s nothing worse than having the time to write and staring at a blank screen.

Develop supports to look after the kids, reduce the amount of cleaning (if everyone cleans up just that much more after themselves, there’s less housework to do), and create boundaries around your time. It’s hard at first, but it will help boost your self-esteem, give your more agency, and help create a healthier balance.

 

Neurology

Writing at the same time every day gets you into the rhythm of writing. Patterns help your body and brain adjust. If you think more clearly in the morning, then get up thirty or sixty minutes early to write. If you think more clearly in the afternoon, do your best to adjust your schedule accordingly.

Quality sleep has boosted my productivity. I have at least eight hours of solid sleep a night. I borrowed some time from my television-watching to strive for nine hours of sleep. That extra one hour of sleep has yielded extraordinary results in other areas, including focus, creativity, and over well-being.

Once you have time to write, get used to writing faster. If you improve your baseline skill, you’ll be able to write faster and better. In turn, you’ll need fewer revisions to produce excellent work. I’ll include a list of books at the end of this blog to help you write faster and better.

How do I accomplish so many writing projects? I’ve made writing a priority. I regularly take craft-related courses to boost my craft. I listen to craft-related books.

You have friends and a social life. Yay! It’s important to stay connected to the real world. It’s healthier to maintain genuine friendships and laugh and play and experience life. Is your child at a birthday party? Great! Negotiate parameters. Stay awhile, slip out of the party to sit in your car for fifteen minutes to plot or write on your phone, then pop back into the party. Instead of bumming around an entire afternoon at your friend’s place, say that you’ll be there one and a half hours. Build-in slack for two hours and then get back to your place to do other things.

Find a way.

Maybe you can’t dedicate as many hours per week to writing as I can. That’s okay. You can dedicate thirty minutes or two hours or whatever it is you can per week. Guard that time with your life. Those are sacred hours. Build a fort around them. Have archers walk the parapets to protect your time.

Know your brain. I cannot write one project and edit a second on the same day. That’s not how my brain works. I need to see a project through before I can switch gears to a second. Knowing this, I structure my work to have one writing project (plotting, writing, editing, etc.) done before starting another. It helps my mental hygiene, and I find I write better.

Dedicate some time (even if it’s 10 minutes) every day to your craft. If you’re too tired or rushed to write, find something writing-related. Come up with some social media posts, plot, listen to a craft book, participate in a writing exercise, edit one paragraph. Whatever it is you can do for that day, do it.

Lastly, commit to your craft. It takes time and effort to develop your abilities. I view writing as a work in progress where every day I get better, and I (hope) will get better until I die. I decided to be a writer, and with that decision came the decision to improve my skill. I strive to be better tomorrow than I was today. I don’t see the changes day on day, but I do see them year on year.

Writing is discipline. Defend it. Cherish it. Embrace it.

 

How do you maintain your productivity? Reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron to continue the conversation

 

Thank you, @LouSchlesinger, for the topic suggestion.

 

Here are some great books on how to hone your craft to write more with less time:

Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron

5,000 words per hour by Chris Fox

Point of View in Fiction by Marcy Kennedy


Thursday, July 8, 2021 character characterisation writing flaws

Marble bust with cracks

 

Whether you’re writing a protagonist, an anti-hero, an antagonist, or a villain, you’ll make them more rounded characters if you include flaws. If your readers can’t relate to or don’t like your characters, you risk alienating them. Let’s examine some ways to keep your audience with flawed characters.

Start by giving them deep hurts that created the flaws. Deep hurts are childhood traumas (abuse, neglect), life-changing events (car accidents, sports injury, workplace injury), being misled by someone (nasty older sibling that hid their university acceptance letter, step-father who was intentionally late to a pro-league try-out, a co-worker who doesn’t share all of the information about a project, so your character doesn’t fully complete the assignment), or trusting the wrong person (loving the wrong person, trusting a stranger who then wounds them, believing someone in authority who turns out to be manipulating them).

Most readers can identify with being lied to, missing an opportunity that would give their career a boost, or missing out on something because someone stopped. Let’s say your character is middle-aged and bitter because the three great opportunities for career advancement were sabotaged. The first by a stepmother who was angry they outshone the stepmother’s biological children. The second from a university professor who stole the character’s great idea and claimed all of the credit. The third from a boss who has consistently promoted other people because the character is ‘too valuable where they are to be promoted.’ These are all related events that inform the reader about how and why your character is so angry and takes the edge off for the reader. Such scenarios also create opportunities for character improvement because they are events that can be reworked, improved upon, and the character can heal from them.

Make the characters human. Some characters have personality disorders. Sometimes, the character chooses not to take medication to address their personality disorder. Sometimes, there is no treatment available. Either way, take the time to show the human side of your character. No one is a jerk 100% of the time. No one is anxious all the time. Use the opportunity to show slices of other behaviours, other facets of the characters life, show them trying to improve and failing, but trying again. Someone with severe social anxiety might spend all their time painting. They might produce beautiful works of art they don’t show the world, but the reader knows they exist.

Remember, a person (and a character) is more than their flaws. A person is more than a personality subset. They have talents, skills, experience, insight, and hobbies. Flesh out some of the other aspects of a person’s life to make the character better-rounded.

Give opportunities for your characters to shine—yes, even the antagonist and villains need moments to shine. Everyone is an expert in something. Sometimes the expertise impacts the plot (great at handling weapons, fantastic strategist, excellent at maths), and sometimes the expertise goes to characterisation (can cook a gourmet meal from anything, can knit a shawl in under a day, has a way with horses). Villains often have the best lines because it showcases their wit and intelligence. Expand on this to ensure every character has a moment to shine.

Create opportunities to show a character’s nuance. Most people have a professional side and a personal side. How you talk with your colleagues often isn’t the same as how you speak with long-time friends. The choice of topic, language, and level of detail is often different between groups of people (co-workers and friends). The same applies to your characters. Your villain might be extremely aggressive towards your protagonist but highly personable with their intimate partner or sibling. Your protagonist might be very reserved at work but incredibly open with their hobby group.

Deeply flawed characters generate opportunities to engage your reader. You can shed light on a different world, provoke reflection and emotional response from your audience. Make sure to make a character more than a flaw, and you’ll bring them to life.

 

Feel free to reach out on Twitter @reneegendron to continue the conversation. How do you make character flaws relatable?

Thank you, @minday76, for the topic suggestion.

James' and Mirabelle's story will be released in Fall 2021. You can read an excerpt here. If you'd like to receive an advanced reader copy, please join my newsletter with a note "ARC". 

 


Taking creative risks

Yellow flower on purple background

Taking creative risks can push your skills as a writer. They can challenge how you structure your plot, develop your characters, and force you to come up with a unique twist.

Here are some pros to taking creative risks:

  • you stretch your creativity and imagination
  • you strengthen your writing skills
  • you develop opportunities to collaborate (reaching out to new people, writing in a new genre, developing ways to cross-promote through blogs, etc.)
  • you might discover that you enjoy writing in another subgenre/genre
  • taking creative risks can develop into part of your brand

 

Here are some cons to taking writing risks:

  • you might not have the current skill level to do the story justice
  • you might alienate some of your readers if you switch genres or take too much of a risk
  • the story might be so ambitious that it frustrates you, and you lose your desire to write it
  • it can be a blow to your self-esteem to receive negative feedback

 

There are different types of risks an author can take. You can do something radical with the book cover. The issue with going too far off-genre with your book cover is that your audience might not recognise it and buy it. Many people do judge a book by its cover. If no one stops to read the blurb, they won’t buy it. You can do some A/B testing with your book covers to see which one gains traction. Sometimes, people will be attracted to an off-genre book cover. Other times they won’t. There’s plenty of opportunities to experiment with FB ads, IG, and reading groups.

I write romances, and romances rely heavily on tropes. If I’m reading a historical based in Scotland, readers expect a highlander in a kilt who often falls in love with an English bride. Let’s consider western romances where many stories involve saving a ranch.

I continue to listen to historicals and westerns, among many other books. There’s a certain comfort in knowing how the plot will unfold. I like seeing an unpredictable ending, which isn’t easy considering the sheer volume of stories in which the basic plot is the same: MC1 meets MC2, they need to save the ranch (or defend a Scottish keep), antagonist tries to kill MC1, the black moment between the romantic couple, resolution of romance and non-romance plots, an epilogue with babies.

The great books that stand out (for me) are those with moments of supreme humour (as in I’m walking alone on a highway listening to a book, and I burst out laughing) and unexpected resolution. Humour is fun to write and can push a writer’s skill. An original resolution that resonates is something that takes time, patience, and the willingness to push boundaries.

If you like historical romances, Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare and Sweet Revenge and The Switch by Lynsay Sands are (in my opinion) unique and funny. If you like contemporary romances, Running Wild by Linda Howard and Linda Jones might interest you. It’s not particularly funny, but it deals with a ranch-based romance that isn’t about saving the ranch (which for westerns is unique).

If you don’t like romances, Thirst by Katherine Prairie is a contemporary mystery with a unique plot. Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff is a fantasy with an interesting plot. Stars Like Cold Fire by Brent Nichols and Duchess of Terra by Glyn Stewart also stand out in the sci-fi space. These books aren’t humourous, but they do stand out.

What’s common about the books I mentioned is that the authors took risks. They pushed the boundaries of expectations and crafted memorable stories. I remember each lot very well because they were different. The authors met my expectation for the genre (romance—the couple has a happily ever after, mystery—is solved, SciFi—has spaceships, fantasy—has second world), and they held my attention, adding something different.

What’s different? Their profession, the conflicts they face, their background, the dynamics of the world, the plot they need to address, humour, and how the couple addresses their interpersonal conflict to address the plot.  

You can push your writing boundaries and still gain an audience if you position your book correctly. Test out the cover to make sure it will be well-received by your target audience. Write a blurb that accurately presents expectations. I wrote an article for A Muse Bouche on how authors have a contract with their readers. The blurb is the establishment of that contract. Ensure it accurately presents the plot and how it fits in the genre, and how you’ve pushed the boundaries.

When an audience has a clear understanding of what they’re getting involved with, they’ll follow you to the end.

Don’t be afraid to take risks—that’s how authors grow.

What creative risks have you taken? Reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron to continue the conversation. 

I'd like to thank @RCameronThomas for suggesting this blog topic. 

James' and Mirabelle's story will be released in Fall 2021. It's a high heat contemporary romance set in eastern Ontario. 


Thursday, March 18, 2021 sex scenes writing emotion

Two people kissing

 

Ah. Sex scenes. They can be scintillating, pointless, or boring. In this blog post, I’ll go over what makes a great sex scene and things to avoid when writing them.

The first thing about sex scenes is to know their purpose. Sex for the sake of sex bothers readers because it doesn’t add to the story. Sex needs to further characterisation, advance the plot, and serve a purpose in the book.

If your character is running away from the antagonist and your MC is dodging bullets, they don’t have time for sex. It makes no sense to duck into a warehouse, find some random person, have sex, then run away, narrowly escaping enemy agents, spies, aliens, or whatever else you throw at them.

Sex must advance the plot. If you’re writing erotica, in which sex is the plot, the type of sex (location, heat, partners, etc.) must define the characters. Some characters are shy, and their personality will influence locales and types of sex. Other characters are more forward, and how and when they choose to have sex must reflect their personalities.

How can sex advance the plot?

  • relieve tension (Only if it’s not a chase scene. No one has sex while driving away during a car chase)
  • demonstrate a level of commitment in a relationship (particularly true for romances)
  • serve as an internal conflict for the characters (intense attraction towards one another vs problems with committing to a relationship because of unresolved issues)
  • demonstration of characterisation (an MC uses another person for personal gratification, develops a romantic relationship, etc.)

Where do you place sex scenes in a book? Usually, except in erotica, after the midway point of the book.  Why? The reader needs time to understand your world and character. If you place a sex scene too early in a book, the reader won’t understand its function.

Sex scenes work best as a counterpoint to other plot points. They can follow a moment of intense emotional intimacy or a spot where the characters feel confident they will accomplish their goals (and then after sex, things fall apart in many ways). Or sex scenes can serve as complications. For example, your MC finds out the person they just slept with is married with children. Additional complications include their spouse is pointing a loaded shotgun at your MC, who is still naked in bed. To give your MC a terrible day, have the spouse be in organised crime, and your MC is heavily indebted to them. Not an ideal time to renegotiate the terms of the loan, eh?

The second thing about writing sex scenes is to understand your genre. Do people expect to read a sex scene in a ____ book, and if they do, what degree of heat do they expect? Most genres lend well to sex scenes, but it hinges on how well you’ve set up the story and expectations. You set expectations by having a clear blurb and back cover. If you hint there is high heat (explicit sex), readers will know what to expect. Readers who don’t like high heat won’t buy your book (and that’s okay).

How do you set up the heat levels (to manage reader expectations?) Sexual tension. Sexual tension is defined by how much (or not) your character notices the love interest. The more your MC pays attention to the love interest, the more prepared the reader is for a high heat scene. If, however, you play down those reactions, the reader is prepared for a kiss scene or a fade to black scene.

Let’s compare two examples. The first is from my short story Frontier Love in my collection Heartened by Crime.

Mr Adams stood tall and proud, the tip of his nose red, a blue scarf pulled tight around his neck. “Here.” He reached out and cupped her hands, bringing them inside of his cloak.

Heat surged through her body. Curse her mittens and his clothes for being in the way. This must be why English ladies swooned.

**

Andrée-Anne (the FMC) is formal with her love interest—Mr. Adams. His gesture of placing her hands in his cloak is chivalrous and innocent by today’s standards. However, for Andrée-Anne and her period (colonial Canada), it is a provocative act.

 Here’s another scene from the story:

She retrieved a shirt from the basket on her feet and frowned. She held her gaze on the stitching, enjoying the sensation of Mr Adams’ gaze settling on her. The tug to look at him turned into an irresistible pull.

“Whoever stitched these,” she said, “did a poor job. The stitches couldn’t have lasted more than a day or two.”

“It’s a way of guaranteeing repeat business.”

“It’s lousy business.” Her brows knitted together. “Better to be known for good work than poor work.” She threaded her needle.

His gaze was still on her, warm and curious. A tingle raced down her spine and settled low at her centre.

**

There’s an attraction, but it’s quite innocent.

As a writer, you could amp up the attraction, build up the heat (explicitness) as the story progresses, making a high heat scene expected and welcomed.

There’s the option of a fade to black scene or alluding to sex. Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist series does this exceptionally well (fade to black). Sherrilyn Kenyon’s The League series has excellent examples of high heat sex scenes.

Here’s the opening of Indebted to You in Heartened by Crime:

A splinter of awareness crept into Leigh’s thoughts. She lay on a comfortable bed, someone’s breath warmed her neck, and a protective hand rested on her hip. She lay naked, pressed against another naked body. A firm one at that.

Last night. Ah. The blond in the bar she had met while playing darts. The man with the seductive eyes, athletic body, and tongue that should be worshipped as a religion.

She sighed happily, then eased away from Steve’s embrace. Or was it Samuel? No. Something more unusual. Stockwell. His name was Stockwell.

“Where are you going?” He tightened his grip around her.

“I have to go to work.”          

“At least let me make you breakfast.”

She turned to face him, took in his angled features and the hunger in his eyes. “I have to go.” She leaned forward, pressed her lips against his for the briefest of moments, and pulled away, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed.

**

The previous night’s sexual encounter was implied but not described in detail. When sex is nonexistent or is inferred, the book is considered low heat.

The more you increase sexual tension, the more the reader expects explicit sex.

You can increase sexual tension by:

  • having the character increasingly notice things about the other person
  • create intimacy by sharing secrets or insights only with the love interest
  • create a sense of familiarity (finishing each other’s sentences, preparing coffee the way she likes it, etc.)
  • being kinder or harsher towards the love interest (kinder if they are pursuing a relationship, harsher if they are actively avoiding getting into a relationship but can’t seem to fight the attraction)
  • inside jokes
  • a shared experience that only the love interests have

I’d like to mention a third point when writing a sex scene, focus on the emotions, not the mechanics. Readers will need general information such as location and position, but they don’t need every single motion. If you add emotion, you’re deepening characterisation.

Here’s an excerpt from James’ and Mirabelle’s story. It’s a contemporary romance I aim to release in 2021. It doesn't have a name because titles come last for me. I do know the name of the series, however. This is book one of the Outdoorsman Series. It’s written but not fully edited. All errors will (I hope) be corrected by release. That said, it’s a reference point for how to write explicit sex scenes.

*

Firm hands held her hips, keeping in her place, he licked her slick folds. He flatted his tongue against her. Wet, soft, tender. Bliss.

Bright energy coiled inside of her, tightening and twisting, racing up every nerve ending. Every sense focused on him. Gentle sucking noises drowned out all sound of existence. His masculine scent, a musk that was uniquely James. His hair tickled the inside of her thigh, and that one spot on his cheek he’d missed shaving electrified her skin. His fingers spread under her, in control but gentle. His hair still glistened from their shower, now tussled from her fingers.

She shifted left; he stayed with her. She squirmed, he laughed. She shied away; he pulled away. She arched against him; he stuck his tongue out, letting her roll her hips — seeking, feeling, on the point of breaking.

A thread snapped. Muscles spasmed in delight, sending cascading pleasure through her.

Breath fled on a sighed, “James.”

***

How will this article affect how you write sex scenes? Reach out to me on Twitter to continue the conversation @reneegendron