Posted On February 12, 2010 by Print This Post

Writing Hot Love Scenes

Today, we’re thrilled to have Nicole North join us to talk about a subject dear (okay, VERY dear) to my heart—writing hotter-than-August-in-Hades love scenes. To make things even hotter, Nicole has offered to give away a trade paperback copy of her anthology Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures to one US-based commenter. Comment by Sunday, February 14 at midnight CST to be eligible to win! And in case you want more of Nicole’s excellent advice on writing love scenes, she’s teaching two classes this spring: “Turn Up the Heat! Heightening Sexual Tension” in March and “Writing Hot Delicious Love Scenes” in April. See Nicole’s website for more info.

So let’s get to the good stuff!

Kelsey: Some writers are uncomfortable with writing love scenes. Do you have any suggestions for making the process easier for those writers?

Nicole: Thanks so much for inviting me and asking great questions! If a writer wants her book to be sensual or erotic, she needs to feel comfortable writing at that specific level, for her targeted market. If she isn’t comfortable, this will show through and the reader will be aware of this discomfort. (In other words, the reader will be uncomfortable reading it.) As a writer, if you blush simply reading a love scene, then reading them aloud, in private, should help. Gradually expand your comfort zone by reading and writing slightly hotter and hotter scenes.

Kelsey: How do you balance the emotional and physical aspects of a love scene?

Nicole: I blend and layer the emotional with the physical. Some beginners make the mistake of including only the physical in love scenes. This makes it come across as clinical or maybe even porn-like. But if we analyze a well-written love scene from a romance novel and highlight the different elements with a different color, we’ll find there are not only physical actions, but also emotions/thoughts/internalizations, reactions, five senses/ sensations, and dialogue. The scene needs a balance of elements. There should be about the same amount, if not more, of the emotional component compared to the physical. The reader wants to know how sex affects the characters internally. How does he/she feel about the other person? What are they experiencing as far as sensations? What do they see, hear, smell, etc. Some writers mistakenly treat the characters as if they no longer have a mind during sex. When, in fact, the mind is probably more active than the body at that time.

Kelsey: If every scene should have some component of conflict, how do you integrate conflict into a love scene?

Nicole: You can do this in several ways. Tying the main story (external/internal) conflict into the love scene brings tension and makes the scene necessary to the story. Sex should complicate the characters’ situation, internally and/or externally. The characters should hold something back (such as emotion or commitment) during the love scene, until the end of the story. If possible, use society’s or their families’ reaction to their sexual relationship to add more conflict. The conflict shouldn’t interfere with the sensuality or the emotional experience. The reader wants to enjoy a hot scene. But slipping in conflict and tension in a subtle way makes the scene far more interesting.

Kelsey: Where do you get your inspiration for writing these scenes?

Nicole: I’m not sure. The ideas pop into my head. 🙂 I have a psychology background and I love to delve down into the characters’ psyches and explore their behavior and emotions. My characters’ personalities and attitudes about sex guide me in how the love scenes play out. I like to give each of my heroines a different type of sexual history so we can see how that affects her interactions with the hero. In the case of Leslie from my novella Kilted Lover, she has settled for a boyfriend she’s incompatible with. They have no sexual chemistry and are more like friends. When she meets the hero, Scott, their attraction is scorching. She’s never experienced this type of sexual chemistry before and she’s more than intrigued. She’s not about to pass up the opportunity to see what this attraction could lead to, even though it means feeling some guilt in the process. The love scenes are sizzling-hot, yet playful and emotional. The unexpected passion forges a bond too deep to forget. These kinds of conflicted, sexual situations inspire me because I find them so fascinating.

Kelsey: Do you have any friends or family members who have reacted negatively to your “hot” writing?

Nicole: Aside from my husband, my family doesn’t read my stories. They’re very uptight and conservative. 🙂 Most of my friends have said they enjoy my stories. So I haven’t had any negative reactions yet.

Kelsey: How do you keep your love scene writing fresh?

Nicole: I challenge myself to write slightly new and different things with each story. Perhaps a situation I haven’t written before. This applies to almost any aspect of a story. I don’t like writing the same thing over and over. I like to move into new territory. So even though it might be the same subgenre, I still want new elements, new things happening. That keeps it interesting and fresh for me (and the reader).

Kelsey: Could you offer suggestions on authors who write excellent love scenes to study?

Nicole: In my workshop, Writing Hot Delicious Love Scenes, I direct writers to many different authors and published books for examples, so I hesitate to mention only one or two. In general, most published love scenes are good. The best way is to find love scenes YOU love, then read them over and over to figure out why they work so well. Not everyone is going to like the same love scenes.

Kelsey: Any other advice you’d like to offer about writing love scenes?

Nicole: Just relax and have fun with it. If you enjoy writing love scenes, chances are the reader will enjoy reading them. And make sure you have plenty of emotion in the love scene. It doesn’t have to be love-type emotion. Lots of different emotions surface during sex. Explore them. Does anyone have questions about writing love scenes?

Okay, RU crew! This is your chance to get the down and dirty on writing fantastic love scenes, so fire away! Don’t forget, Nicole is giving away a copy of Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures to one US-based commenter.

Be sure to join me again on Monday when Christy Reece returns to RU to discuss back-to-back book releases, an increasingly common occurrence in the romance publishing scene!

Nicole’s Bio:

Nicole North’s erotic romance novellas have been described by reviewers as “exciting, high octane, captivating, scintillating, sinfully delicious and pure romance.” Her latest release from Red Sage, Kilted Lover, is contemporary erotic romance novella with a touch of paranormal. Her first story, Devil in a Kilt is in the anthology Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures, out now from Red Sage. The second novella in the series, Beast in a Kilt, will be in Secrets Volume 29, July 2010. Her works have finaled in over a dozen writing competitions and won several awards. She teaches online workshops about various aspects of writing, including sexual tension and how to write great love scenes. Though she has a degree in psychology, writing romance is her first love. Please visit her website at:

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58 Responses to “Writing Hot Love Scenes”

  1. Thanks for the great post, Nicole. :mrgreen:

    I write suspense, thrillers and paranormal novels. I’m an action girl. Give me lots of bad guys and cool weapons and I’m a happy girl. 👿

    Writing love scenes has always been my weakness mainly the emotional aspect. I’m not sure why I find this so difficult but believe me–this girl can find a million other things to do when she has to write a love scene. :mrgreen:

    Posted by Kim Cresswell | February 12, 2010, 3:48 am
  2. Nicole –

    Thanks so much for being here today! I LOVE this interview.

    This question popped into my mind this morning: what’s the most unusual setting you’ve used for a love scene? 😉


    Posted by KelseyBrowning | February 12, 2010, 6:32 am
  3. Thanks, Kim! I enjoy writing action scenes too. They’re fun and exciting. Creating the emotional aspect of love scenes can be difficult at first, but I’m sure with practice you would perfect it. It’s something a lot of people have to remind themselves to add back in or interweave later with the physical and other elements. 🙂

    Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 7:29 am
  4. Thanks, Kelsey! Unusual settings… hmm, let me think. Nothing really bizarre comes to mind. :mrgreen: Here are a few: outside in a garden on a bench, in a library on a table, on a boat, outside behind bushes. What I tell people in my classes is that basically any setting can be used for a love scene. And sometimes those unusual settings can make the scene very memorable. 😀

    Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 7:36 am
  5. Great post, Nicole. I tend to be one of those who doesn’t do well putting the emotional into my love scenes. I hope to take your class in April to improve my love scenes and to learn to add emotion into these scenes.

    Posted by Julie Shumway | February 12, 2010, 8:40 am
  6. Hi Nicole,

    Welcome to RU!

    I like your suggestion about color coding different elements of a love scene to find balance. Sounds like a Margie Lawson technique to me!

    I’ve never really known if I write hot love scenes or not until recently. My CP said she wished her husband was around after reading one of my scenes. 🙂 So, I guess I got that scene right.

    All kidding aside, I took her comment as a great compliment.

    Thanks again,

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | February 12, 2010, 9:03 am
  7. Thank you, Nicole. I appreciate learning how you are unafraid of family reaction. (I worry about that.) Also about how you make each book’s love scenes fresh.

    Posted by Ana Morgan | February 12, 2010, 9:10 am
  8. morning Nicole!

    great post….i liked the layering part, that’s something I’ll definitely be putting into my work….i always go back and make sure i’ve used all the senses, but putting in emotion the same way will work great for me! (and my characters!)



    Posted by carrie | February 12, 2010, 10:21 am
  9. Dang! I’m probably like some of those uptight people you spoke of. 😉 My old fashioned values want to keep the door shut. After 30 passionate years of marrieage with my own Welsh Warrior I know how important sex is in a relationship but I want to leave my charactors a bit of privacy behind closed doors. I want my readers to know how important “it” was and how it changed my charctors and affected their feeligns for one another good or bad or complicated, without actually giveing the reader an organsm. 🙄

    Any suggestions?

    Posted by Darcee Yates | February 12, 2010, 10:38 am
  10. I guess what I’m asking is – are there authors out there that go heavy on the emotional side of the equation that you use as examples in your class or could suggest?

    I know that was one reason I like the Twilight series was Stephanie’s ability to handle (even their wedding night scene) at a level of revelation that I could handle. And since that was written for young adults-hmm at 50 that puts me on the emotional level of say a 17 year old? lol. THat’s ok. I’ve been called worse. I think that emotional factor is what keeps the romance in me.

    Posted by Darcee Yates | February 12, 2010, 10:45 am
  11. I first “met” Nicole when I judged her entry in a love scene contest. I gave her a perfect score (what a pleasure, because I so seldom feel I can do that). She knows what she’s talking about. 😀

    I think the key part about it was she made those characters so real, which is probably the emotional component she’s talking about.

    Posted by Carly Carson | February 12, 2010, 10:57 am
  12. Hi Nichole!
    Great post.
    I like hot love scenes in the books I read, and tend to purchase books by authors who do a good job of bringing us into the bedroom, car, office, closet…you get the idea….and making us feel a part of the encounter. I enjoy writing love scenes but am still working on adding the emotion without slowing the action.

    Posted by Wendy Marcus | February 12, 2010, 11:09 am
  13. Nicole, Thanks for the wonderful advise. I am like Wendy, having a hard time adding enough emotion to my scenes without slowing them down. Although I just received some contest results back and two of the judges said I should without a doubt submit this story to Red Sage, so that must mean I am doing something good! LOL!

    I will most certainly look into the classes you are offering!

    Posted by Jane L | February 12, 2010, 11:44 am
    • Jane, thanks for checking it out! You received some awesome feedback from that contest! I’m sure your story is hot and yummy if it’s ready for Red Sage. 😀 Red Sage is a fantastic publisher with excellent editing and beautiful covers. Of course, I’m a bit biased. LOL

      Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 3:06 pm
  14. Hi Nicole

    ” I blend and layer the emotional with the physical.”

    Could you say a bit more about how you do the above? Or perhaps an example. Thank you for sharing this fecund information.



    Posted by Laurel Kahaner | February 12, 2010, 12:16 pm
    • Hi Laurel, Here’s an example (an excerpt from Kilted Lover
      which is on the Red Sage site.) This isn’t sex yet. It’s leading up to sex and involves a kiss. But the same principal applies, a mixing of elements.


      His heated breath fanned her cheek. Her lips tingled with anticipation. She inhaled his virile scent, heavy with arousing male musk—the kind that drew a woman on a primal level. His feverlike warmth heated her own skin.

      Why didn’t he make a move? Did he want her to take the lead? She certainly wasn’t adept at seducing a man. What should she do first?

      She touched his chest, ran her hungry hands over the muscles from his wide shoulders to the bunched cotton sheet at his waist. She explored him, finding every chiseled curve and hard plain more enticing than the last. She’d never felt anyone so masculine and arousing.

      “Mmm. Your hands feel good.” His whisper in her hair sent a shudder down her body. Thrilled she could please him, she kissed his neck, his throat. His sharp intake of breath guided her actions and told her what he liked. She brushed her lips across his stubble-covered chin and his mouth. His fingers tangled gently in her hair. Was it restraint that caused his hands to tremble?

      The second meeting of their lips ignited the explosion. A flame of need and emotion licked through her, consuming all rational thought. She craved him so fiercely, she ate at his mouth like a woman starved. Her body ached for him, and her heart pounded. “Scott. Scott—”

      “Shh, baby, slow down,” he whispered.

      Tears burned her eyes. She could hardly draw breath. Why? What did this man do to her? He sparked off the most profound, primal yearning and at the same time, her soul craved to entwine itself around his and never let go.
      Copyright © Nicole North, 2009
      All Rights Reserved, RED SAGE PUBLISHING, INC.

      The first paragraph is basically a tiny action and sensory details (sensations, heat, scent.) The second paragraph is internalizations. The 3rd paragraph begins with action, her touching him, then her reactions to that (thought/emotion.) 4th paragraph, his dialogue (“Mmm. Your hands feel good.” ), her sensation (shudder down her body), her emotion (Thrilled she could please him), her action (she kissed his neck, his throat), his external reaction which shows what he’s feeling (His sharp intake of breath guided her actions and told her what he liked.) her action (She brushed her lips across his stubble covered chin and his mouth.), etc.

      So you can see how the elements are combined and blended, sometimes two or more in one sentence. Some people make the mistake of focusing on one element at a time as if they’re putting their writing in compartments. A whole paragraph of nothing but setting description. A whole paragraph of nothing but physical actions. Then a paragraph of nothing but emotion. But it can work so much better if you take a little of this and a little of that, blend and stir.
      Thanks for the great question!

      Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 3:32 pm
      • Hi Nicole,

        Ahhhhhhh, I get it.

        Thank you!

        “So you can see how the elements are combined and blended, sometimes two or more in one sentence.” Yes, now I do.

        I love those ‘ a ha’ moments.

        I picked a Tarot Card to help me remember your verra important and pleasurable teaching. I selected the Magician. Honoring the quicksilver mind, as well as having access to all the tools, as the attention is directed.Fire, water air and earth await our writerly focus.

        I’m ready to, Magician like, segue into conjuring a new scene for the Magical Library Novel, I’m writing. May my learnings be wildly evident in my writing this knight.

        Thank you again,

        I will find my way to your site later tonight.

        Writerly blessings,


        Posted by Laurel Kahaner | February 12, 2010, 8:50 pm
  15. Hi, Nicole! Thanks for being a part of Romance University – and thanks, also, for suggesting I check out RU. Great site!

    To Julie and Jane and anyone else that hasn’t taken one of Nicole’s classes – DO SO! My love scenes tended to be very….um…dull? before I took her class and now – much better! One of my friends, who likes to read all my stuff, actually commented that she “couldn’t wait” to find out what happend next between the characters. Which was a big change from her usual comments, like, “It’s an ok story, but I don’t get the ‘romance’ part.”
    Something else I learned from Nicole, unusual locations are good, but it doesn’t have to be unusual – it’s what the characters do there that makes the scene. Thanks, Nicole!

    Posted by Jacqueline | February 12, 2010, 12:41 pm
  16. It is my great privilege to edit Nicole’s wonderful stories, and I can honestly say that she writes some of the most emotionally powerful sex scenes I ever see. If she’s teaching a class on this, it’s bound to be worth taking. If you want to see an example of how she balances the physical with the emotional, I recommend the boat scenes from Kilted Lover. Watch the way the innocent heroine sheds her reluctance and embraces her own sexuality. It’s very deftly written.

    Posted by Theresa Stevens | February 12, 2010, 1:09 pm
  17. Julie, thanks! I look forward to seeing you in class if you decide to take it. We definitely try to have fun with it and learn at the same time. (Sex should be fun!) 😈

    Tracey, thanks! I’m thrilled to be here. I don’t know if she uses the color highlighting or not. LOL But it’s a great way to analyze any scene to see which elements are in it. For a love scene, if you highlight action in yellow, for example, and emotion/internals in pink… and you end up with a mostly yellow page, then you know you need more emotion. Of course there are other elements too that will be different colors. Sounds like you received awesome feedback from your CP! Way to go! If they go looking for their DH then you know you did your job right. LOL 😎

    Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 2:37 pm
  18. Ana, thanks for checking it out! Yes, there comes a point where fear of the family reaction 😯 can hold you back if you’re not careful, and then you have to decide how to move beyond it. This is different for everyone. Best of luck! 🙂

    Carrie, Thanks! Yes, that’s usually how I do it too… add most of the emotion on 2nd or 3rd draft. That’s when the subtle nuances can come into play. I love that part! 😀

    Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 2:42 pm
  19. Hi Darcee, Yes, everyone has their own preferences about love scenes, from closed door (sweet romance) to… no limits. LOL If you don’t like writing sex scenes at all, then you might look into targeting sweet romance publishers. I’m not current on them at the moment, but a few years ago these were like Harlequin Romance (is it still called that?), any inspirational romance, Avalon, some young adult. Not sure who else. When you look at the guidelines, it will say no sex. Most of my favorite authors combine strong emotion with hot sex so I’m not sure who to suggest as an example of a mild, glossed over style physical component with strong emotional. My class covers sensual love scenes to erotic romance, sort of the middle ground. I don’t cover sweet romance or pure erotica.

    Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 2:54 pm
  20. Hi, Nicole. Thank you for being with us today. Great post. I love the color coding idea.

    Do you think some writers are naturally inclined to write a hot sex scene? I’ve read sex scenes that were steamy hot, and then I’ve read some that don’t have that “hotness” (LOL), but they are both great scenes. Maybe it’s just that the emotion is there with both and that’s what makes it a good scene.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | February 12, 2010, 4:01 pm
  21. Hi Adrienne, thanks for allowing me to be here on the awesome site you guys run! I think some people have a gift for writing hot sex scenes well, and others don’t. But it can also be learned. Yes, some write it scorching hot and others write it medium hot or mildly hot (salsa comes to mind. LOL) Sexual tension is one thing that will make even tame love scenes feel even hotter than they actually are. 😈

    Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 4:47 pm
  22. Hey Nicole!

    Getting here a tad late, but wanted to say hello.
    I really like the questions you ask to blend the emotional with the physcial. That way you’re not just writing a how-to manual. :mrgreen:

    You know I’ve taken both of ‘sex-scene’ classes, so I highly recommend them for anyone who has not.

    Posted by Julie Robinson | February 12, 2010, 8:38 pm
  23. Thanks for your response. I also liked your example, above, and the explanation of same.


    Posted by Darcee Yates | February 12, 2010, 8:53 pm
  24. Sensory detail, Internalization, and dialogue.

    Am I missing any elements that need to be woven into a successful love scene?

    Posted by Darcee Yates | February 12, 2010, 8:56 pm
    • Thanks, Darcee! You have most of them. Sensory detail (5 senses), sensations, Internalization/thoughts/emotions, reactions, dialogue, physical action, a minor amount of setting. At times you may even have a bit of backstory. A dash of conflict but this usually is seen in internalizations. There might be other elements too.

      Posted by Nicole North | February 12, 2010, 9:53 pm
  25. Hi Nicole!

    I’ve learned so much from taking your workshops. Love scenes are daunting anymore. I actually look forward to writing them! :mrgreen:

    Jen T.

    Posted by Jen T. | February 12, 2010, 9:04 pm
  26. Oops…what I meant to say is: Love scenes AREN’T daunting anymore.
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Posted by Jen T. | February 12, 2010, 9:04 pm
  27. BTW, I shall be adding your example and advice to my class notes. In fact, I think your advice in the paragraph about paragraphs can be applied to other parts of the story. Because now that I think about it, you can’t just read a whole paragraph describing a setting; it’s better when it’s seen through the eyes of the character.

    By George, I think she’s got it!! ❗
    Sometimes, I have to wonder about myself . . . .

    Posted by Julie Robinson | February 12, 2010, 10:33 pm
  28. Hi Nicole…I really like your take on writing romantic erotic. While I’m an eclectic reader romantic erotic is at the top of my food chain 😆 I’m a book a day reader and while I rarely buy anthologies, the big exception have been the Secret Volumes, which I started acquiring in either 2004 or 05. The quality and variety of novellas is excellent and some of the authors have since become auto buys for my favored stand alone reads.

    I only have a few missing Secret Volumes in my personal library so I’m hoping I’ll get lucky. Even as much reading as I do, you’re a new-to-me author. While I have many favorites, I regularly try new ones. Sigh. My TBB list and TBR are obscene 😉

    Posted by Nancy Bristow | February 13, 2010, 1:04 am
    • Hi Nancy, I wish I read that fast! LOL But I agree, romantic erotic is my favorite thing to read too. I’ve been a fan of Secrets for a long time… long before I was fortunate enough to be published in one. I agree with you about the excellent quality of all the stories. My TBR stacks are so large I need to learn speed reading fast. 🙂

      Posted by Nicole North | February 13, 2010, 9:46 am
  29. I enjoyed reading your excerpts I have a collection of Secrets and have to say i enjoy them for the love scenes and the stories those scenes are in one is not good without the other IMO.
    I am good writing one or the other but am having a difficult time with them together. Never giving up makes it better.
    Mary A

    Posted by Mary Ambra | February 13, 2010, 4:55 pm
  30. Nicole –

    We’ll likely have more commenters over the weekend, but I just wanted to say thanks so much for being at RU. It’s obvious so many people enjoyed this lecture!


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | February 13, 2010, 10:26 pm
  31. As a new novelist who is writing her first love scene this coming week, I really needed the information you presented here. I can’t wait to get back to my love scene and apply what I learned from you. Thanks so much.

    Posted by Carol Jo Kachmar | February 14, 2010, 2:53 am
  32. Nicole, Loved your advice about included the senses in writing love/sex scenes. Layering the senses is intoxicating. Thanks!

    Posted by Susan Blexrud | February 14, 2010, 2:40 pm
  33. Another vote for signing up for one of Nicole’s classes–some good thinking on what else needs to be said besides “right foot on yellow…left hand on green….”

    I just finished reading Sex, Straight Up, by Kathleen O’Reilly, which used sex scenes masterfully to push character growth and also complicate their lives.

    Posted by Ann Marie | February 15, 2010, 3:41 pm


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