Happy Valentine’s Day!
Most appropriately for this day dedicated to love, romance author, Alice Orr, launches A Wrong Way Home, her most recent romance suspense novel. A Wrong Way Home is the first book in her Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series, and in honor of its launch, she is my guest here today with an article I think every romance author, and even romance readers, will want to read, A Not-So-Dirty Secret About Writing Sex.
As a romance author and reader myself, and one who enjoys intimate love scenes, I am in complete agreement with Orr’s views on writing them. There is a delicate balance in the writing of a truly romantic erotic love scene which each author must find for herself. But I am sure it will be much easier for any author who understands this not-so-dirty secret.
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A Not-So-Dirty Secret About Writing Sex
by Alice Orr
Let’s talk about sex. More to the point — let’s talk about writing sex.
I teach a workshop called "How to Write About Sex and Respect Yourself in the Morning." At the Q&A there’s one question I always expect. "Does there have to be a sex scene in my story?" I prefer to call them love scenes by the way. We’re writing primarily for women and women prefer some heart action along with the hot action. Most of the time.
I answer that Q&A query with another Q. "Are you writing the true-to-life story of adult characters?" If you are — guess what. Adults have sex and sex is a huge part of their life experience. Especially when sex is a huge source of conflict for them and their relationships.
That should set off alarm bells for any writer. Because — guess what again — conflict makes a story Intense/Dramatic/Powerful. The magic three of strong storytelling. And by strong I mean storytelling a lot of people will want to read. By the way I prefer the term Struggle to Conflict because I think we all understand the feeling of struggle right down to the marrow of our bones.
Whatever you call it — stories thrive on struggle/conflict. And I know you can write the dickens out sex as a struggle between the lovers in your story. Sex works for storytelling. And blood flow and a general sense of wellbeing and taking the bad out of bad-itude. As long as it’s good sex that is. That’s as true in storytelling as it is in life.
But this isn’t the not-so-dirty secret I mention in the above title. That secret arises in response to another FAQ. "How sexy does my story have to be?" Again I answer that question with a question. "How much do you want to turn your reader on?" This may sound like a smart-mouthed remark to get a laugh but I’m actually very serious here in storytelling terms.
The turn-on element of your love scene has everything to do with the level of reader engagement you’re after in your story. Deep reader engagement plants a story in magic threesome territory. And I’m not talking about a menage. I’m talking about Intensity/Drama/Power. Sex in writing is all about deepening reader engagement straight to the most sensual places in that reader’s being. Good love scenes are all about turning your reader on.
Which brings us to another FAQ — a crucial one. "How do you know whether or not you’ve done that successfully?" Which brings us to the not-so-dirty secret. Your readers will be turned on by the reading only if you’re turned on by the writing. This isn’t a secret because nobody knows it to be true. This is a secret because almost nobody talks about how true it is.
If you don’t believe the turn-on element as crucial to good sensual writing then I have a story to tell you. About the love scene I wrote flying to Colorado seated over the plane’s engine. Suddenly it was no longer a nonsmoking flight. I’ll bet you catch my meaning without further detail. One review of that book said "Alice Orr turns up the heat." They should have added "She also loves to fly."
P.S. Once you’ve turned your readers on don’t turn them off again with your choice of language. One passage by a suspense writer described her character’s vagina as “slick”. Cringe. Cringe. Turn off time. Pavement is slick. A vee-jay-jay should not be. I’ll bet you catch my meaning about that too.
Going home can be dangerous…
Kara Cartwright returns to her hometown the same night Anthony Benton is murdered. But she doesn’t know anything about that. She only knows she vowed never to come back to Riverton, New York or to see Matt Kalli — the man she once loved and still lusts for.
Matt has made a vow of his own. He’ll never forgive Kara, the woman who loved him then betrayed him nine years ago. And he can’t forgive himself for the way she’s stuck in his heart — and in other parts of his body too.
All these two have in common is their undeniable sexual attraction for each other and their hatred of Anthony Benton. Now Benton’s dead and they could be suspects. People they care deeply about could be suspects too. That gives Matt and Kara something else in common — a dangerous search for the real killer before he murders again.
A Wrong Way Home is the first book in The Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series featuring the Kalli family, the four Kalli brothers and others who find safety and a warm welcome at Kalli Corner on Riverton Road. A Year of Summer Shadows is the second book in the series and launches on May 15, 2015.
ALICE ORR is the author of eleven novels, two novellas, a memoir and No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells. She’s a former book editor and literary agent. Now she lives her dream of writing full-time. Especially Romantic Suspense fiction. She also leads workshops on writing for publication and/or pleasure. Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and lives with her husband Jonathan in New York City.
Or by regular mail at:
P.O. Box 6224
Long Island City NY 11106
She’d love to hear from you.
You can find Alice’s books at amazon.com/author/aliceorr