So you want to write a romance book. Now, what kind of romance do you write? Do you stay with the teenage version of romance where a kiss on the cheek and a yearning for more is enough, or do you go all the way and break through those bedroom doors? I think this is a question every romance writer faces. How far do you go? The level of heat you wish to put into your story depends on such factors as the story, the characters, and the writer.
The story and how sex contributes to it should play a role in your decision. Not every story needs sex to sell it, but when you are talking about the human condition, sex is invariably a part of our sense of self. Also, sex is a real life issue, and whether your characters have it, or don’t, could make or break your story. I let the characters decide that facet of a tale. Some characters, like people, are less sexual, some more. Their interaction with others is sometimes based on a sexual relationship. After all, the goal of any romance may be a “HEA”, but do you know of many couples in today’s world that get to that “HEA” without a having a little SEX.
Terminology is also important. You can make it really dirty by how you refer to those “sensitive areas” or try to be descriptive without getting into what some people might call a vulgar territory. It’s tricky, but then again how your characters interact in the story will have a lot to do with how detailed you wish to get. If you are writing about werewolves, it might be easier to get to the nitty-gritty, as opposed to writing a story about intrigue among a Manhattan social set. Just be prepared to defend your choices. I invariably find that how the sex scenes are played out has a lot to do with likability for readers. Many reviews of your book will come down to how deftly you handled the way your characters get down to business.
If you are going to get graphic, then I suggest you also get ready for some interesting questions from fans about sex, safe sex, and your sex life. It was the one thing I never expected as a writer, but readers have a funny way of associating your books with you. I get asked a lot of questions about my love scenes, namely are they based on fact. Personal, yes, but we humans are known for our curiosity. Needless to say, you had better be prepared to explain yourself if your characters go all the “R” or “X” way. There will be questions about safe sex, as well. In our AIDS and STD wary world safe sex has become the norm, and some readers will wonder why you do or do not address it.
The bottom line with sexual content is do what moves you as a writer. As in life, sex does not a relationship make, and unless you’re writing erotica, it isn’t the beat all and end all of a good romance book. It’s about love; happy, sad, unrequited, or lost. What gets us to the bedroom is sometimes a hell of a lot more interesting than what goes on behind those closed doors.