Basic Tips To Write Intimate Scenes

Moments of intimacy are a key component in any story or story arc focusing on a relationship. These are the moments that make audiences really feel the characters' emotions for each other, as well as give them the emotional gratification they crave. So it's very important to write them into this type of story, and to write them well.

But first, just what is intimacy? One thing it can be is sexual, but that need not always be the case. Holding hands can be intimate. Platonic cuddling can be intimate. The bite of a vampire can potentially be intimate. Two people having a candid discussion about their innermost feelings over the Internet can be intimate. At its core, intimacy is about some form of closeness, be it physical or emotional, that implies or promises something meaningful and profound for the characters involved.

So, here are some tips for writing intimate scenes into your works - and how you can tailor them to the type of intimacy you're trying to create, and how to make them fit into the larger scheme of the story overall.

Figure out what the payoff of your intimate scene is going to be. What is your scene working up to? What's the goal for it? Is it going to be the first time your characters hold hands? Their first kiss? Something a little more than that? Is it going to be a confession of one of the characters' deepest desires or feelings? Are the characters going to realize something about each other they never knew before? Is one or both of them going to have a personal epiphany? Is it perhaps going to be a mix of any of the above? The payoff can be just about anything you want - just so long as you know what it is.

You need to build your way up to the payoff. There's little to no satisfaction for your audiences in seeing a payoff without buildup, so you'll want to take and show what leads up to your payoff one step at a time. (And besides that, if you jump right to the payoff you don't really have an intimate scene, anyway.)

Remember, the name of the game is sensation. When you write out your scene, stop and think: what are your characters feeling, physically and emotionally? What do they hear, smell, or taste? How does all of this shift and change throughout the scene? How do they feel about their feelings? For those whose perspectives the story isn't told from, how do their physical reactions reflect what they feel? This is the kind of stuff you'll want to detail as you work your way to up the payoff. (And you do need to work your way up by taking and detailing things one step at a time, or else you defeat the point of having an intimate scene.)

Maximize the important details, minimize the unimportant ones. If you're writing a scene that's supposed to be all about the emotion, it's probably not appropriate to spend too much time describing the characters' personal appearance details - instead, keep your primary focus on the emotions and how they affect your characters' facial expressions, body language, tone of voice etc. On the other hand, if your characters are about to get physical in some way? Well... you know those teeny-tiny little details (EG, little moles, faint scars, rings around irises, etc.) you've been told not to go into in other parts of your story? This is a time when you can go into them, because this is a situation where it's reasonable for someone to notice and pay attention to them. (And of course, your intimate scene can have both physical and emotional aspects, and include descriptions of both - you just need to be mindful that you are describing the right things for the type of scene you're going for.)

Don't skip time with your words. Don't use words that imply a skip over a passage of time (EG, "soon," "eventually," and "before long"), no matter how brief that skip would be. Instead, describe what happens as your characters move and progress from A to B and so on.

Variating your words and terms is good, but don't overdo it. It's good to find alternative terms for what you're describing, but if they're excessively flowery (EG, describing eyes as being like "scintillating emeralds" or somesuch) or are rarely, if ever used this way outside of fiction (EG, "orbs," "oculars," or "hues" in place of "eyes"), you should reconsider using them. Same goes for any word that sounds like it was pulled from a medical textbook. If something doesn't really have a lot of commonplace synonyms, consider trying to describe a different aspect of that thing - EG, the irises, the lashes, etc.

It's okay for your characters to be human in these moments. It's okay for them to fumble somewhere or make a little mistake. It's okay for them to say something a little odd or silly. It's okay for them to say something that needs clarification or sounds less than poetic. It's okay if they need to be told what to do or where to touch. Things like this happen all the time in real life (it is all being done off the cuff, after all, and people can't read each other's minds to always know exactly what to do), so for it to happen with your characters can make their own moments of intimacy feel more real.

If your characters are getting physical, keep track of where their body parts are and how they're positioned. You don't want to accidentally end up with them doing something that would take more body parts than they actually have, or would require them to contort into impossible positions!

If your story doesn't end with the scene, ask yourself what it's going to do for the rest of your story. Will it reveal or establish something about the characters that the audience needs to know about them? Will it change the status quo in some way that moves the plot forward? Will it change something for them or will they learn something that ultimately ends up creating complications or leading to challenges that will force at least one of them to make a dramatic choice later? Or will it have some other consequence or impact on the plot? If it doesn't do anything for the rest of your story or doesn't tell the audience anything new, it's just filler/fluff. Try to have your scene do at least one of the aforementioned to give it relevance to the rest of the story, too.

If you liked this, you might also be interested in:

What Romantic Chemistry Looks Like
Are Your Characters In Love Or Just Infatuated?
So You Want To Have An Attractive Character?
Basic Tips To Write Healthy Relationships
Plot Punter - Romance Edition

On Buildup, Payoff, & Contrast
On Plot Structure & Plotting
Stuff You Should Cut From Your Story
On Showing vs. Telling
Describing Your Character: Tips & Advice

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