Posted On January 22, 2018 by Print This Post

Keeping the Bedroom Door Closed – by Rayne Hall

RU Contributor Rayne Hall is back with a discussion on writing love scenes. Do you really need one?

Does the plot require the couple to have sex, but you don’t want the reader to share their intimate moments? Then you can metaphorically ‘close the bedroom door’ and simply let the reader know what is going on.

Many new writers believe that they need to write graphic sex. But not all readers want that. Many prefer stories in which the bedroom door remains discreetly closed. For this type of story, the characters don’t need to be chaste—but they don’t act out their intimate passions in front of an audience.

If this approach would suit your novel and your readers, here are some techniques to make it work.

 

SKIP TO THE NEXT SCENE

The smoothest way is to end the scene shortly before the characters get intimate, and to begin the next scene after they’ve finished.

For example, Scene A plays out in the evening in her flat, where couple enjoy the lovely candle-lit dinner she’s prepared. Scene B opens with the man coming out of the shower in her flat and cooking breakfast, wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his hips.

This feels natural, and the reader knows that the two spent the night together.

If you like, you can plant additional hints. For example, you can mention in Scene A that her flat doesn’t have a guest room, and describe in Scene B the warm glow filling her whole body.

 

WHAT IS THE SEX LIKE?

If the intimacy is important for the relationship or the story, your readers need to know what it was like. You can convey this without graphic descriptions, and without even mentioning sex.

My favourite method is to let the couple share a meal before they become intimate. Show how they eat: Do they devour the food hungrily, or do they eat slowly, savouring every morsel? Who takes the initiative? Does one serve the other, or does each try to provide enjoyment for the partner?

You can use this method to hint at harmony or at conflict. For example, if you want to indicate that the man is impatient and inconsiderate, you can show him starting to eat at once before she’s ready, and helping himself without offering the dish to her. If you show how he takes most of the dessert for himself, the reader understands that the sex that follows will not be a rewarding experience for her, and that the relationship is not going to be as loving as she had hoped.

If dinner doesn’t fit the plot, you can also use a meal afterwards — for example, breakfast — and apply the same techniques.

Food-sharing works best as a metaphor for intimacy, but if this doesn’t suit your story, use whatever action fits the plot, e.g. they may be bandaging each other’s wounds after the battle.

 

WHAT NOT TO DO

The use of “…” in place intimate action is outdated and clumsy, and can leave readers irritated.

 

ASSIGNMENT

If the couple in your novel have sex and you don’t want to show it graphically, imagine what their intimacy will be like. Write a few sentences describing how they share a meal before they make love. Each sentence should tell the reader something about the attitude and actions that will happen behind the closed bedroom door.

Do you think all romances need a love scene?

***

WRITING DEEP POINT OF VIEW

Do you want to give the readers such a vivid experience that they feel the events of the story are real and they’re right there? Do you want them to forget their own world and worries, and live in the main character’s head and heart? The magic wand for achieving this is Deep Point of View.
This book is available as a Kindle ebook, paperback or audiobook.
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Bio: Rayne Hall has published more than fifty books in several languages under several pen names with several publishers in several genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. She is the author of the bestselling Writer’s Craft series (Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing About Villains, Writing About Magic and more) and editor of the Ten Tales short story anthologies.

She is a trained publishing manager, holds a masters degree in Creative Writing, and has worked in the publishing industry for over thirty years.

To learn more about Rayne, visit her website or follow her on Twitter where she posts advice for writers, funny cartoons and cute pictures of her cat.

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Discussion

21 Responses to “Keeping the Bedroom Door Closed – by Rayne Hall”

  1. Definitely more of a fan of this, sometimes seeing what’s going on is great, but more often I’d rather if the author would just let it fade out and we can fill in the blanks ourselves!!! Great post:)

    Posted by Berni Maycock | January 22, 2018, 8:31 am
    • Thank, Berni.

      I think it’s important that we choose if and when to include sex in our fiction, how much of it and in what style.

      Each book is different, each author is different, and readers have different tastes and requirements.

      Sadly, many writers think that adding more sex will make their novel ‘better’ and increase sales. It won’t, and may even have the opposite effect, if the sex isn’t well written, doesn’t suit the story or offends the book’s target audience.

      I think the author’s personal tastes matter too. We should write what we enjoy reading. 🙂

      Posted by Rayne Hall | January 22, 2018, 10:51 am
  2. I agree. Bad sex scenes, mechanical sex scenes written just for the sake of it, are a turn-off. Sex scenes where you feel the author doesn’t really want to be writing them, or the characters don’t want to be taking part, just don’t work.
    Fortunately there are a wide range of authors writing a wide range of love stories to meet the tastes of a wide range of readers. So no-one should feel they HAVE to write anything they don’t want to.

    Posted by Susanne McCarthy | January 22, 2018, 4:59 pm
    • Yes, writers should include sex scenes only if they enjoy writing them, and if their intended audience enjoy reading them.

      Unfortunately, many new writers believe that inserting gratuitous sex will make their book more desirable and lead to bigger sales.

      But by doing so, they actually put off both types of readers – those who enjoy reading sex and and are critical about how well it’s written, and those who prefer a clean read without sex.

      Writers who don’t enjoy writing sex should write for readers of similar tastes, and either allow their characters to stay chaste or to keep the bedroom door closed.

      =

      Posted by Rayne Hall | January 23, 2018, 4:57 am
  3. Agreed. I much prefer the intimacy of shared emotions to a voyeuristic exposition. Any adult can fill in whatever details they want from their own experiences and imaginings. I prefer the cut-away at the last moment approach, with the reader left knowing what comes next.

    Excellent tip on using the couple’s mealtime interaction and the like to show what can be expected in their more intimate interactions.

    Posted by John Hoddy | January 22, 2018, 9:56 pm
    • I also don’t like watching people having sex… I think that’s something private between them. Whether real-life people or fiction characters, I prefer them to keep the bedroom door closed.

      I think most characters prefer to keep their intimate moments private, too. Of course, some characters are exhibitionists who at a kick from performing for an audience… but those aren’t the kind of characters I enjoy writing or reading about.

      Posted by Rayne Hall | January 23, 2018, 5:00 am
  4. Never write about sex if you’re not comfortable writing about it.

    I have no problem writing graphic scenes. My second novel has several, but they were written not to include graphic scenes, but because I felt that level of intimacy was needed to understand the three main female characters and to depict the emotional distance of the main character. I’ve written other stories where graphic added nothing to the plot or the drama.

    I know a number of writers who prefer erotic adult romance. I don’t care for romance, much less adult romance, But I do know the best way to get a feel for the material, and if you’re prepared for it, is to compare books in both genres.

    And don’t, for goodness sake, substitute ham-handed metaphors such as, “her quivering loins” or “His thrusting manhood.”

    Posted by Phillip Stephens | January 23, 2018, 9:16 pm
  5. Hi Rayne,

    If a love scene is pertinent to the story, it’s important to emphasize the emotional aspect rather than the physical one because even if the characters are engaged in a meaningless physical act, they still wrestle with their emotions.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 26, 2018, 11:47 pm
    • Yes, the emotional experience is definitely more important than the physical experience.
      (Unless it’s a porn novel, where the emotions are secondary to the sex.)

      By the way, I wouldn’t use the word ‘love scene’ as a synonym for ‘erotic scene’. A scene may have no erotic content at all, and still be a love scene.

      Posted by Rayne Hall | January 31, 2018, 12:57 am
  6. Hi Rayne,

    As many comments say, I also like your tips. I write comedy scripts mainly (but not exclusively), that don’t require sex scenes, especially graphic ones, but novels and short stories usually do. Tricks like yours always come handy! 🙂

    Chris

    Posted by Chris | February 2, 2018, 8:20 pm
    • “Novels and short stories usually do” … hmm, mine don’t. In my novels, I almost always close the bedroom door and let the character enjoy their intimate moments in private. In most of my short stories, sex doesn’t even come into the plot.

      Posted by Rayne Hall | February 5, 2018, 9:44 am
      • Neither do mine, but as I said, I mostly write comedy scripts, which don’t require these scenes. I have only one fully completed fiction (it’s a crime fiction), but I didn’t write sex scenes in it (or I can’t really remember now, I’d written it 14 years ago, and re-wrote it about 7 years ago! 😀 But I guess I would remember if I’d written some explicit graphic sex scenes! 😀 ).

        Posted by Chris | February 5, 2018, 10:20 am
  7. I am late to reply, but – honestly – the biggest problem is that publishers (and some readers) demand sex scenes. Authors who do not want to write them are forced to in order to get their book published.

    Until this stops, we’re going to get lots of bad sex in books!

    Posted by Sonya Heaney | February 4, 2018, 10:45 pm
    • Yes, I agree, Sonya.

      Posted by Chris | February 5, 2018, 10:09 am
    • I’m a little surprised to read your comments. While there are plenty of readers who do like sex scenes, I should have thought there are plenty who can take ’em or leave ’em, and plenty of others who would prefer to leave ’em. It’s a huge market, there’s room for everyone.

      As for publishers, I haven’t researched it, but I would have thought there are plenty of openings. Mills and Boon, while they are publishing more in the sexy genres, still have their traditional market. Maybe its a question of looking around to find the right publishers. Surely they’d want a good story, rather than just one with a sex scene shoe-horned in for the sake of it.

      As for short stories, so far as I can tell magazines don’t go for sex scenes at all – there just isn’t the space in a short story.

      Posted by Susanne McCarthy | February 5, 2018, 10:35 am
    • Testing Testing Testing

      Posted by Rayne Hall | February 5, 2018, 10:51 am
    • Testing testing testing

      -I’ve tried a dozen times to post my reply, but it simply won’t post. I don’t know what’s wrong. I can reply to all other comments.

      Posted by Rayne Hall | February 13, 2018, 4:06 am
      • The problem is that writers submit their novels to publishers who specialise in fiction with erotic elements.

        Publishers aren’t going to change their specialisms, their customer base and their marketing strategy because writers want to write something different.

        If you want to write chaste fiction, then you need to submit to publishers who publish chaste fiction.

        Whereas if you want to write steam fiction, you need to submit to publishers who publish steamy fiction.

        Yet publishers of chaste fiction constantly get manuscript submissions with erotic content, and publishers of steamy fiction get submissions that neither steam nor sizzle.

        Posted by Rayne Hall | February 13, 2018, 4:07 am
        • (continued answer) I’ve worked on the other side of the desk (as a publisher’s acquisitions editor) and I can say that around 90% of all submissions are simply not suitable for what the publisher wants. Whether it’s the heat level or something else, more than half the writes ignore the guidelines, or expect that publishers change their business to suit them.

          Of course they get rejected. If you want a genuine publisher to take you seriously, you need to submit what they want… or more specifically, to submit to a publisher looking for the kind of fiction you want to write.

          Don’t complain when publishers look for manuscripts that suit their business.

          You need to find publishers who publish the kind of fiction you want to write, for the kind of reader you want to write for.

          If you want to bypass the publishers, you can indie-publish, but you still need to write for a specific target readership and meet their demands. E.g. if you want to sell your books to fans of steamy romance, you need to write steamy romance. 🙂

          Posted by Rayne Hall | February 13, 2018, 4:09 am

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