Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Divas Dish, revisited

I wrote this for RT's Diva's Dish panel on Erotica, but I didn't get to go. Mike had to go to the ER. So because I'm loathe to waste a handout, here it is:

1.) The reader should feel the sexual tension start to build between the hero and heroine from their first glance. As many times as I’ve written love scenes, there are times I find it almost impossible to get a couple into bed. That’s usually because I’ve neglected to build sexual attraction because I’m focused on the romantic conflict.

2.) The elements of seduction:
A.) As Linda Howard says in her “12 Steps to Intimacy,” there is a definite pattern to seduction. The guy has to gain the woman’s trust and acceptance before he can make love to her. This is done in a natural set of steps.
I.) First is a quick look – is this person attractive? If so, the couple makes eye contact and smile. Then the guy can come over and start a conversation. You need to show an emotional connection start growing between them as they talk and look at one another. Boy, he’s hot! Wow, she’s sexy!
II.) Then and only then can he move forward with the seduction by touching her hand, then her shoulders, then her waist. These touches may appear to be casual or accidental, but they’re not, and both characters know it.
III.) Next comes the first kiss, which needs to be given a lot of attention. The kiss is a precursor to lovemaking, an indication of what we and the heroine can expect. How skillful is he? How tender? Build the anticipation.
IV.) Now we can start the actual foreplay, but that can’t begin until you lay the groundwork with the early stages of seduction. Think about it: if some guy just came up and grabbed your breasts, you’d slug him, scream, and call a cop. You have to build the attraction first.

3.) Do not treat your love scenes as porn breaks in the middle of the story. This is a problem I see even among mainstream published romance writers. They know their editors expect a love scene somewhere around chapter seven, so they just stick one in. The characters have a mechanical kind of sex that doesn’t really reflect the development of their romance or who they are as people.
A.) Think about what you can show with this scene. What kind of people are they? Is he dominant and aggressive? Is she sensual or unsure of herself? Is there humor – and there really should be, because humor humanizes characters and makes them seem more three-dimensional. What’s the romantic conflict?

4.) Don’t make your characters too stupid to live.
A.) In general, if it’s something you wouldn’t do, don’t have your heroine do it. If you wouldn’t pick a complete stranger up in a bar and have unprotected sex, your heroine shouldn’t do it. If you wouldn’t let a stranger tie you up for sex games, she definitely shouldn’t do that.

5.) For erotic romance to work, the love scenes need to be fun. You can have angst coming out of your ears everywhere else in the book, but when those characters get into bed, they have a very good time. They may be angry with one another to start out with, but the sex needs to rapidly morph into something lighter. If the sex is too emotionally heavy, it’s not going to be fun, just disturbing.
A.) Avoid characters with serious psychosexual issues, such as frigidity due to rape. The minute the sex becomes a form of therapy, you’ve lost about ninety percent of your heat.

6.) Things to think about when planning a love scene:
A.) Location. Go for someplace that is naturally sensual – a garden, a pool. Probably not a gynecologist’s office...
B.) Who makes the first move? Let them take turns.
C.) Where are these characters in their journey to love? What’s their mood going into the scene? Are they angry? Frightened? Just plain horny? Use that. Express the emotion in the way they touch. Maybe he knows she’s scared, so he’s particularly tender with her. Focus on the feeling, because it’s that emotion that will make your happily ever after believable.

For more, check out Passionate Ink: A Guide to Writing Erotic Romance by Angela Knight, ISBN-10: 1596323906 or ISBN-13: 978-1596323902. Angela’s website is


Sair said...

About point 4.
I've read most of your stuff!?!

*raises eyebrow*
*big grin*

D said...

Hi Angela!

First, thank you kindly for the words of wisdom on depression. It can’t be easy putting your heart and soul out there for all to see, and your courage is really overwhelming. There’s hope for some of us yet! The post is firmly stapled into my inspiration kit (alongside a distractingly handsome picture of Brad Pitt as Achilles, yum...).

Second, I’m really enjoying Passionate Ink! How would you feel about answering a few questions on it? Or is that something best kept for conferences and things?


Angela Knight said...

Sure. E-mail me at and I'll answer whatever I can. Or you can ask here, whichever.

Jenna Leigh said...

Ooh.. smuuuuuuttt lessons.
I like eet.

I'm ordering my copy of your book this week, you know. *wiggles brows*

Teresa D'Amario said...

Just some food for thought on the 12 steps....

I reserached, and found they were originally created by Desmond Harris, a behavioral scientist. (all of the links for the writer you mentioned have been removed, so I couldn't read her article).

While I agree with the concept, I think it's erroneous in one point. Interestingly, it says putting arm to shoulder is before arm to waist.

I occasionally go on "People watching" sessions, and what I find on that is the Arm to Shoulder out of place- it's more possessive, more "you're mine" than even arm to waist is.

Arm to waist, yes, that seems intimate, and caring, and is often reciprocal (i.e. both parties wrap around each other, and walk together), But Arm to shoulder - that's possessive.

While I see in alot of romances, they talk of the hand to the waist/small of the back as possessive, to me, that's subtle. That's telling the woman she's his, not the world. But there is nothing more possessive than seeing a man with his arm over a woman's shoulders, with her snuggled in for closeness, and in some cases, looking rather submissive- something you don't see with the arm to waist.

It screams of "she's mine, don't touch" as well as "I'll protect you from all evils."

But it seems to me this beyond the arm to waist portion - that the two should be reversed. The arm to shoulders could actually be moved to AFTER the deed in some situations (mostly depending on age I'd say)

But I can think of only one time any man ever put his arm over my shoulders (when it wasn't done in jest), and my husband has never done that... before, after, or during our courtship/marriage. (don't want that to come across as after marriage - we're still married).

What I haven't been able to determine in my people watching sessions, is if this is an alpha move, or something done out of insecurity. You don't see it once full committment has occurred (i.e., marriage), but is that because it's not socially acceptable to be an alpha, and he's learned that? Or is it because he now feels he doesn't have to scream "she's mine" anymore, because he's confident in the relationship and has a ring to prove it?

Who knew something so simple could be so complicated? LOL.

Angela Knight said...

You know, you've got a point. On the other hand, you sometimes see men with an arm across another man's shoulder, so I dunno. Interesting point, though.

Robin D Owens said...

Wonderful as always, Angela.

And you've been tagged: Tell us 8 things we might not know about you. Rules for the meme on my blog:

Elizabeth Jewell said...

If the sex is too emotionally heavy, it’s not going to be fun, just disturbing.
A.) Avoid characters with serious psychosexual issues, such as frigidity due to rape. The minute the sex becomes a form of therapy, you’ve lost about ninety percent of your heat.

I have to respectfully disagree here--this pretty much rules out the entire hurt/comfort subgenre, and dude, hurt/comfort is HOT HOT HOT. Some of the very best erotic romance I've read falls into this category, where sex really is a form of therapy for one of the characters. Willa Okati uses this in Chain of Thorns, and I've used it myself in Gale as well as in Weary Memory and Persistent Memory.

Angela Knight said...

Hmmm. Good point, Elizabeth.

Adrianne L. Hill said...

Hi, Angela.
I have three 30 to 40 page stories that are completed but need a little editing. I'm working on that, but I don't really know what I'm doing in the ebook business, which is where I want to start out. Can I contact you for some advice? (Also, I'm african american, and my characters are African american as well.)Any advice would be very appreciated

Angela Knight said...

E-mail me dear. You'll find my address on my website at Don't want to put it out here for the freaking spam bots. I hate those things.

Angela Knight