These are my notes from the Romance Writers of Australia 2022 conference. Please be aware that this is not a transcript.
Let’s Talk About Sex – Kristine Charles
This talk included loads of examples from different books; list at the end.
Write Your Story
– your heat level must suit you
– there’s a market for everything
– you belong somewhere
Discussion on heat levels and how difficult it is classify them. Also don’t use clean when you mean low heat; it implies that higher heat sex is dirty/unclean which is not cool.
Writing sex is about emotion
In romance, sex is important to character development. Sex must have relevance to the story and characters.
If you can write “insert sex here” it misses the point of the romance
– safe sex
A study in 2000 of 78 romances noted that only 10% mentioned condoms. (Anecdotally, this has improved since then, or perhaps it’s just the books that KC reads).
Authors must make a deliberate choice; include condoms or not, and why (eg secret baby trope).
– explicit or implicit
– point of view
– consider power dynamics (example of Fifty Shades and how problematic the power dynamics were in terms of consent)
– ability to give consent (eg too drunk)
Implicit consent needs to be deliberate act, not a reaction
Content Warnings – DO IT! (Note, KC used my website as an example here, which was a cool surprise, so I’ve added the slide here!)
– why now?
– is it necessary?
– true to characters* (example of the virgin heroine who learned about sex from watching porn. She could act like she thinks she should – it’s the WHY that matters)
– sex scene must move the story forward
– does it disrupt the pacing of the book, eg danger banging
What happens after the sex?
– one point of view
– what is at stake?
– emotional attraction
– focus on the little things, the details that are important to the pov character, eg freckles
– relevant to the character
– is it the wrong time or place or circumstances (post sex regret)
Physical intimacy should prompt new choices; relate these back to the GMC for the character
Do your research. “He lay her down in a bed of bogainvillea” OUCH!
The IKEA condundrum “insert tab a into tab b”
– avoid stage directions by focusing on emotions and visceral reactions
– not an instruction manual
– sex is a vulnerable experience
– get emotional
– think of the five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound)
KC asked us to do some writing exercises. Here are mine (yes I was tempted to edit these, but am just going to write my notes exactly as they happened in the session).
“What are you hiding from me?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” She shimmied a little, the lace sliding over her breasts.
“Yes. That’s why I asked.”
“Relax, babe, you’ll love this.”
“Should I close my eyes?”
She grinned, a slow smile that lit up her face, as she strode towards him. “Hell no.”
He sneezed, the smoke tickling his nose. “Bloody fire following me around.”
Carlos laughed gently and tucked him under his arm. “Darl, I’ll protect you.”
“From my aversion to the outdoors and being blasted with smoke?”
“From everything.” Carlos’ voice deepened, husky from the astringent smoke, a remnant of a pack a day smoker (argh, this line needs editing!). “Some people enjoy this.”
“Not me.” To him, the smoke was acidic and reminded him of …
Rough bricks. Soft skin. Ella begging for her touch. It was a sensual dream.
(Note – switching to new micro stories so quickly for these exercises was quite difficult and this one was terrible!)
– you don’t need to use the body parts
– it’s about the emotional response
– use phrasing that is natural to your character
– dialogue as foreplay
LIST OF BOOKS USED IN THE PRESENTATION
The Autumn Bride, by Anne Gracie
Happy Ever After, by Nora Roberts
Bombshell, by Sarah MacLean
Fake, by Kylie Scott
The Devil’s Submission, by Nicola Davidson
American Queen, by Sierra Simone
Rock Addiction, by Nalini Singh
On Dublin Street, by Samantha Young
Waiting to Score, by Elouise Tynan
Protecting His Princess, by Courtney Clark Michaels
How to Survive a Scandal, by Samira Parish
The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang
Playing it Safe, by Amy Andrews
Her Night with the Duke, by Diana Quincy
The Worst Guy, by Kate Canterbary
The Beast, by Katee Robert
Chesapeake Blue, by Nora Roberts
Tempting Flame, by Delwyn Jenkins
Gabriel’s Inferno, by Sylvain Reynard
Little Lies, by H Hunting
Trashed, by Mia Hopkins
Fifty Shades of Grey, by EL James
Beautiful Secret, by Christina Lauren
Eclipse, by Stefenie Meyer
The Submissive, by Tara Sue Me
Fire on the Ice, by Tamsin Parker
Fall, by Kristen Callihan
Untouched Queen by Royal Command, by Kelly Hunter
The Forbidden Man, by Karina Halle