Is literary sex better than real sex?
Literary sex is always much better than real sex, says romantic-fiction writer Jennifer St George. My heroines have had sex on the boss's desk, in lifts and in the pool, and many times they have only just made it into the house before being pinned up against the wall.
My heroines are always wearing their finest lacy lingerie - and it rarely comes off slowly.
I write sexy stories for a living. I have to make sure the reader is right in there with the hero and heroine when the clothes are hitting the floor.
In my romance novels, the heroine reaches that climactic high and the sex is great, mind-blowingly great. This, after all, is supposed to be escapist entertainment - and ecstatic sex is part of the fantasy.
The sex scene is a place to use all the senses. How does he smell? Like spice and vanilla? How does he taste? Of salt and sweat? What does he say and how does he say it? How does the heroine feel when she runs her hands down his back for the first time? Where are they? Is it all silk sheets and scented candles, or fast and furious against a graffiti-covered brick wall down a dark alley in the rain?
The pounding heart of the romance novel must be the relationship between two people - usually a man and a woman. Readers expect, nay, demand a happy ending, and certain themes recur in the romance genre - for example, Cinderella, Secret Baby, Marriage of Convenience, Amnesia, or Lovers Parted Then United.
It goes without saying that romance heroes tend to be tall, dark and good-looking. And yes, the popular professions for our heroes include doctor, cowboy, prince and boss. But there's no template for a great romantic hero. Make him cute, blond and wayward; brilliant, serious with glasses; or ripped, gorgeous and executive - just as long as the heroine fancies the pants off him.
The hero must be heroic. Readers won't easily forgive a cruel, lazy or brutal man, and be aware the hero can't just stride around being arrogant, wealthy and entitled. If he is behaving badly, there must be a very strong and justified motivation for his actions, most likely something in his past that has defined the man he is today. For example, one of my heroes used work and sex to help him forget about his tragic past, which made him appear remote and unfeeling.
My heroes predominately arise from my imagination but they do sometimes feature characteristics of friends or colleagues. Once I've defined my hero's appearance, I search through magazines to find him. He's then pinned on the wall of my office. We get to know each other very well.
The sex scene must contain raw emotion. If it doesn't, you're left with a thrust-and-grunt fest. And no matter the degree of anatomical description or acrobatic difficulty, without believable emotive content you will not deliver a sensual experience.
But it won't do to just throw in a sex scene without advancing the story; it must change the relationship in some way, move it forward (or back). Building up the sexual tension is vital. Your aim is to make the anticipation almost unbearable.
Just like in real life, safe sex has become the norm in romance-land. If they forget the condom, readers will be on the lookout for an unplanned pregnancy. And let's face it, lapses happen all the time in real life. But in contemporary romance we are writing for the times, and nothing kills a relationship faster than some nasty communicable disease.
Romance offers a broad range of "heat levels", from very explicit, steamy sex scenes to sweet stories full of sexual tension where the bedroom door remains modestly closed.
The language used in a sex scene can be as tricky as navigating a first date. My stories aren't graphic. For example, I would never use the F-word. I like to use straight language, but personally I prefer non-anatomical descriptions. Readers can be ripped out of a story by a single misused word; you must write for your audience.
My mum reads all my first drafts, but I realised pretty quickly she wasn't the person to critique my sex scenes after she exclaimed, "Do people really do that?"
Normally, I love writing in a cafe with strong coffee, the beach and a bit of noise nearby. But when it comes to writing sex, nothing beats a chilled chardonnay in a dark office. I can't write sex scenes in a cafe ... everyone would see me blushing.
Jennifer St George is the author of The Convenient Bride (Destiny Romance, destinyromance.com).