Writing intimate scenes bonds your characters, moves your story forward, and provides great satisfaction to your reader. People want the buildup and the payoff—whether that means seeing characters fall in love, finally tumble between the sheets, or even share a highly personal relationship. Here are some tips for how to write intimate scenes.
The Excruciating Delight of the Buildup
Whether it’s the sex scene, a first kiss, or a revealing conversation, readers crave that will-they-or-won’t-they tension. This is a dated example, but the Sam and Diane romance dynamic on Cheers carried the show for years. People don’t just want sex scenes (although, in many cases they do), they want to go on the journey. They want the tension. They want to fear it’ll never take place. They want to be relieved when it does happen.
I don’t know about you, but wondering and hoping for Hazel and Gus to finally kiss in John Green’s A Fault in our Stars was a huge part of the book’s appeal. It’s not like the magic moment happens on page ten. It takes a long time for the pair to become friends, trust each other, and eventually, fall in love. By the time it happens, we the reader are rooting for them so hard.
Bottom line? When it comes to intimacy, it’s not intimate unless the readers know the characters and care about them as much as they care for each other.
Details Enhance Intimacy
Intimacy isn’t about rushing. It’s about taking the time to notice someone, to hear them, and to see them. You might write twenty conversations or even a sexy romp without these scenes being intimate. To move into this space, you’ll need to add details. These details should center on the two people and what’s happening between them. The setting, weather, attire, etc, is likely less important than visceral experiences like smells and sensations.
This goes for an important conversation too. When someone is sharing a deep moment or innermost desire, the room seems to narrow, and the focus is on the person and their delivery. Now is a good time to draw your writer’s eye to how this person seems to feel and how exposing this information effects the person they’re telling.
Don’t Forget the Aftermath
An intimate experience is revealing. Things change after these types of moments. The relationship between the characters cannot stay the same after they finally kiss or hold hands or make love or share their confession. The question is: how will it change? Some people clam up. Others might have regrets and want to protect themselves. Others will fall in love or feel closer to the other person. No matter where you decide to take the narrative, don’t forget that intimate scenes are game changers for your characters and the plot of your book. Use them for what they are—a fork in the road, an opportunity for change.
Intimate scenes can be intimidating to write because intimacy is uncomfortable for many people. It exposes vulnerabilities. However, that’s what readers are craving to know and experience along with your characters. Done right, intimate scenes enhance any story.