7 Steps to Making Great Sex

The Kiss, by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)*

“Where most beginning writers screw up (you should pardon the expression) is in thinking that sex scenes are about sex. A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids.” (Diana Gabaldon, Chatelaine Magazine, Feb. 2012, p. 160)

When it comes to writing great sex scenes, Diana Gabaldon is considered a master. Her article in Chatelaine  makes the writing of ‘the steamy stuff’ seem do-able. Armed with my mighty, yellow highlighting pen I reviewed every detail and came up with what I call Diana’s Big Sexy 7:

  1. “A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids.”
  2. It, “… can encompass any emotion.”
  3. Lust gets boring. It’s not an emotion.
  4. Show the emotion through dialogue, expression or action.
  5. Dialogue is, “the most flexible and powerful tool…What people say reveals the essence of their character.”
  6. “Anchor” the scene with physical details. Choose sensual not overtly sexual ones.
  7. Use metaphor and lyricism, if possible.

“In essence, a good sex scene is usually dialogue with physical details.”

Gabaldon has sold over 19 million books worldwide and is well known for her Outlander series.  She makes writing sex sound easy, but it’s not.

Deconstructing a moment in time that is so intensely personal, and powerful is difficult. I want it to change my characters’ lives, but that’s easier said than done. For me, it’s about making love.

Got any tips to add to Diana’s Big Sexy 7?


*(Depicts lovers from Dante’s Divine Comedy condemned to wander Hell for eternity. http://www.musee-rodin.fr/en/collections/sculptures/kiss-0)

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

14 thoughts on “7 Steps to Making Great Sex”

  1. You are absolutely right! Writing effective sex scenes is tricky, or perhaps I should more accurately say, writing good sensual scenes is tricky. I’ve read some that border on clinical descriptions all the way through triple-X porn. I appreciate these tips though and will keep them in mind when preparing my own scenes.


  2. Elspeth…I know what you mean. I would never have guessed that lust is not a central item in a hot scene, but I’m going to trust her on this one and see what happens.


  3. Hi, Jo-Ann – Great timing! I’m re-reading the Outlander series now (just started book 3) as I haven’t read it in many years. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever read them all. I’m going to keep these tips in mind as I read; it’ll ‘teach’ me as I read. Thanks!


    1. I’m listening to the fourth part of the audible books version. Hard to imagine she started with an image of a guy in a kilt! Thanks for stopping by.


  4. I am almost finished book 3…shipwrecked:) I am looking forward to book 4. Let me know if you get ahead of me because I have book 5 to download too.


    1. I’m way behind you (part 4 Outlander), but enjoying every minute. The woman who reads the series does an amazing job of the accents, and Gabaldon is a master story teller. Thanks for the loan:)


  5. YES! Sex scenes – for me – are by far the hardest scenes to write. I try to start with whatever emotion my H/H are feeling and try to let that guide what happens. As a reader, I don’t like reading about body parts as much as I like how the couple interacts with each other non-verbally… I think that’s a very subtle, but critical difference. Setting, mood, feelings…give me that, but let me fill in the rest of the blanks. I have a very vivid imagination! Great post, Jo-Ann! 🙂


    1. I agree…it’s hard to make good sex (scenes). I like what you say about sliding into the scene with an emotion and letting it direct you. Thanks for sharing.


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