Let’s Talk Sex: How Soon, How Often, How Explicit

So I’ve been thinking about sex a lot lately. Heh. Get your minds out of the gutter.

Correction: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about weaving a strong sexual component into a paranormal romance.

In addition to odd questions I’ve had to consider (i.e., would a 400-year-old Irish farmer-turned-vampire be circumcised, and do I really need to address that?), I’ve had to think about the structure of my manuscript.

–How early in the story does the deed first occur? From studying other PNRs, I’ve determined the sweet spot to be between pages 50-60. Earlier, and they look slutty. Later, and…well, later doesn’t seem to be an option.

–How to finesse that first sexual encounter in a way that works with the story, feels natural to the story, and only further complicates the 300  pages that follow.

–How to weave an ongoing physical relationship in with the building romantic, emotional journey the characters are taking, without detracting from it or overshadowing it?

–How to show and phrase things so that the story doesn’t cross that fine line and go from being PNR to becoming EroRom–and you know exactly what I mean. Anyone who’s stuck with the entire Anita Blake series as I have knows.

So, here’s today’s question for those of you who read paranormal romance and/or erotic romance: what makes a paranormal sex scene hot but not slutty? What lines do you draw in terms of what you like to read versus what goes over the line? Who does it well?

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate’s Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man’s Curse; Black Diamond).

6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Sex: How Soon, How Often, How Explicit

  1. Hmmm. I’m all for a good juicy sex scene as long as it’s not dripping everywhere :}. I’m not real crazy about supes using superpowers during sex, it kind of takes away from the humanity of it, if that makes any sense. It’s like it becomes more about technique than emotion. It’s like, “Oh, I am a vampire and I can fly, so we’re going to do it swinging through the air, and you’ll come really hard!” And don’t try to turn me on with your mental powers. Turn me on the regular way, then I know I’m really turned on, and not hipmopized.

    Except that whole multiple orgasm thing that the Black Dagger Brothers can do, that’s kind of cool, not sure it’s a superpower, tho. And with them it’s still about the emotional stuff.

    I guess I agree with the timing of the first encounter, whether it’s an all the way thing or not. It raises the stakes for the characters and makes the next roadblock that much more potentially devastating.

  2. Interesting questions. So I would say that the difference between a slutty scene and a good sex scene is not necessarily where it happens timing wise in the book. I’ve read books where sex happens very early but if proper motivation and tension is there, it works.

    As for the line between erotic and steamy–it’s a tough call sometimes. Here’s what I use:

    In my opinion, it is erotic if the language for body parts is graphic, if there are kinky acts–backdoor action, menage, BDSM,etc. if the sex scenes are fully described and abundant (my erotic has 7-8 sexual scenes whereas my sexy contemp had 3), and if the sexual relationship is a main thread in the book.

    What would probably be helpful would be to read an author who writes both. So like Shayla Black (try Wicked Ties or Decadent for one of her erotics and then read one of her sexy paranormals–Doomsday Brethren series). Or Maya Banks–read one of her Sweet series (erotic), then read one of her Kelly series. I think that will help because you can see the difference the same author uses to differentiate the two.

    Wow, this is a long comment, lol. 🙂

  3. I agree with Teri about the not dripping everywhere part. LOL I like the build up of sexual tension to the point of you know it is going to happen. Almost to the point you can’t take it anymore. Ok so tease me.

    But if it is done right.

  4. Ewwwww. Guys. DRIPPY? No (shudders), no drippy things. I’ve also forbidden my characters to undulate, shout, mewl, or purr. They may arch, however. I might be swayed on the undulation thing, but they’re gonna have to convince me.

    Great suggestions on authors, Roni–thanks! You know I’m gonna beg you to read my scenes.

  5. Hi Suzanne!
    I don’t read much paranormal but have you read Kate Douglas? She writes for Kensington’s Aphrodesia line. She writes a wolf tales series that I really enjoyed.

    I actually don’t mind how graphic a sex scene is as long as there are appropriate emotions that accompany it. It’s got to be about more than two bodies slamming together…for me anyway.

  6. Hmmm. Wouldn’t the emotional atmosphere of the scene matter as much as the level of detail?

    If the first encounter takes place on page 50 / 350, and I wanted an romantic effect, I think I’d want the protagonist to feel conflicted (e.g., not sure this is what I want, not sure this is who I want, uncertain how to reconcile this with my other goals). If you have a three act structure, a lot depends on which act you’re in (as oppose to which act you’re performing).

    For example in Act 1 we are getting to know the protagonist. This is happening before she is knocked off course. It may tell us what “normal” is like for her, although she may be storing up trouble for later. In Act 2 this event is definitely complicating things for her, taking her away from her goal. In Act 3 this is her taking charge of her destiny, or her reward for doing so.