Flying Sparks: 5 Tips for Writing "Clean Romance" That's Just as Hot as Explicit Sex Scenes

Sweet romance is a genre defined by it's lack of sexually explicit scenes—but how can you ensure yours doesn't feel flat? Romance author Sariah Wilson shares her top tips for creating chemistry and intimacy between characters who aren't sleeping together.
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As a lifelong romance reader, before I even considered the possibility of writing my own romance, I often found myself skipping all the love scenes. They weren’t my cup of tea; I wasn’t interested in reading them. When I discovered sweet romances, I ran into a new problem.

(Sariah Wilson: Escapes and Happily-Ever-Afters)

Many of them didn’t have the couple kiss until the last page. There was no sexual tension or chemistry between the two leads. It felt like I was trading in one problem for another. So, when I sat down to write my first romance novel, I wanted to combine the elements I loved from traditional romances with sweet romance’s closed-door/non-existent love scenes.

With that in mind, here are my five tips for writing a sweet romance that doesn’t leave out the spice.

Flying Sparks: 5 Tips for Writing "Clean Romance" That's Just as Hot as Explicit Sex Scenes

5 Tips for Writing "Clean Romance" That's Just as Hot as Explicit Sex Scenes

It’s Okay for Your Couple to Be Attracted to One Another

This was a key element that I felt was missing from the sweet romances I was reading—a total lack of attraction between the two leads. It rang hollow to me and was so far removed from my own life experiences that I could never suspend my disbelief. So, show us that the characters are attracted to each other.

In my newest release, The Seat Filler, my heroine is unable to speak when she meets the movie star hero for the first time. Not only because she’s a lifelong fan, but also because he’s so handsome that it freaks her out and renders her speechless. Hearts should race, mouths should go dry, chests should constrict because that physical attraction is there from the start.

Sexual Tension: It’s Not Just for Steamy Romances Anymore

This goes back to the attraction tip—not only should your romantic couple be attracted to each other, but they should want to act on it. The trick here is that we’re not going to let them, but they still very much would like to move past the kissing part. Part of your job as a sweet author is to give your characters brief moments to act on that overwhelming tension without letting things progress too far for your readership.

Those readers want all the tingly fun of chemistry and undeniable attraction, but also want the “sexy times” kept off the page. The audience is here for the thrill of the chase. Give them that sizzle without crossing any lines.

The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson

The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson

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So Emotional

The focus in all romances is on the romance and the emotions of the people falling in love. But because we don’t have descriptive love scenes, sweet authors have to rely even more on escalating the emotions in the scenes where your couple interact. If they do kiss, why did they kiss? How did they feel about it? How did it change their relationship? If they didn’t kiss—why not? What’s keeping them apart?

And in a sweet romance, there should be all kinds of obstacles keeping them apart. When you write a couple who are highly attracted to one another and want to act on it, you’re going to have to come up with some good reasons as to why things haven’t progressed to the bedroom.

Redefining Intimacy

We often automatically picture intimacy between characters to mean that they’ve spent naked time together. But the true intimacy comes in the conversations, in the connections your romantic couple makes while falling in love. Often, physical acts are expressions of that.

Let your couple confess their deepest secrets to one another and show the reader how those talks change their physicality. In a sweet romance, maybe they hold hands or cuddle more or start making out on a more regular basis.

(5 Elements That All Good Rom-Coms Should Include)

Show All the Actions/Reactions

When you have your characters finally (finally!) kiss, you want to approach it the same way you would a traditional love scene. The same rules apply—don’t make it too cheesy or riddled with clichés, keep the action moving along and punctuated with dialogue to highlight what’s happening between the couple, be sure to engage all the characters’ senses, and show actions and reactions to the physicality.

This is probably the most important tip on how to make your kissing scenes scorching—the point of view character’s reactions to what’s happening is what your readers will connect with. Does it make her stomach flutter? Does his heart pound? Is there a shimmering warmth spreading along their veins? This is not a time to tell—show, show, show what the characters feel!

By incorporating these tips, you can write a sweet romance that will knock your readers’ socks off! 

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