I was once argued down in a Facebook group when I said that every scene in a romance novel should either move the plot forward or teach you something about the character — especially the sex scenes.
That was years ago, and it’s still something I stand by. It once inspired me to write a blog series on the different types of scenes you find in romance novels and how they can be written to establish intimacy and vulnerability between your characters. I fully intend to dig up that series, but in the meantime, let’s discuss what is arguably the best way to establish intimacy and vulnerability between characters in a romance...
If you're a romance author or reader, you’ve probably seen image quotes filled with what I like to call Dirty Talk SEO - which is basically those kinky, filthy snippets that grab the attention of readers. I’ve definitely used it, because while I know readers are here to read how I get these characters to their happily ever after, I know that they’re also here for that good filth that I’m known for writing.
It’s in my tagline, after all.
I said all of that to say that we all know that a steamy conversation can be just as good as when the characters get down and dirty. Sometimes, especially when it comes to writing praise kink, it’s necessary to have convincing dirty dialogue. However, writing convincing and authentic dirty talk can be surprisingly challenging. Newbie authors may worry about coming across as awkward or distasteful, or you might struggle to create dialogue that moves the plot forward while still being arousing. More often, this results in authors using the same lines and pulling those lines to create Dirty Talk SEO, and I don’t know if it’s the chicken or the egg, but a lot of these stories are starting to read alike — especially the dirty talk. It's true that somethings come to be expected in certain tropes and relationship dynamics, but I don't think that dirty talk has to be one of them. In my opinion, the secret to writing effective and memorable dirty talk in your romance novels is to use sexual communication to build intimacy and vulnerability between your characters.
Here's how I do it.
1. Ground dirty talk in emotional honesty: In my opinion, dirty talk is sexier when it's rooted in an emotional truth. Characters should explore and talk about their desires, boundaries, and fantasies in a way that feels organic and genuine. For example, if a character struggles with vulnerability, dirty talk can be a way to express their fears and insecurities in a safe and intimate context. Similarly, if a character has a dominant streak, dirty talk can be a way to explore those power dynamics with their partner. By grounding dirty talk in emotional honesty, I can deepen the connection between my characters and give readers a reason to invest in their relationship. This dynamic shows up between Hadassah and Ahmad in Liquor and Laundry. These two are playing around with power dynamics but this scene and the dirty talk in it showcases their relationship:
“So our talk last night,” he began, carefully.
“What about it made you change your mind about waiting until Ava and Levi’s wedding to tell them?”
I shrugged.“I don’t know. It just felt silly to me all of a sudden. Are you sure you’re okay with me telling them like this?”
He smiled so broadly that it made the corners of his eyes crinkle. “Yeah, I’m okay with it.”
“Okay, I just want to make sure.”
“I’m all in, baby. Always have been.”
“Yeah, I know. I was a little slow to catch up, but it really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to tell all of our friends that sweet, shy Ahmad comes for me on FaceTime calls and fucks me like a pornstar every chance he gets.”
“Comes for you, huh?” he asked.
“Are you sure you don’t mean with you?”He pushed his hands under my dress.
“Nope, I mean you come for me whenever I call,” I said, dropping my voice down into a seductive whisper.
“You gonna come for me now?” I gathered the hem of my dress, pulled it over my head and dropped it to the floor. Now I was in my bra and panties — a barely there sheer set that showed him every place I wanted him to kiss and touch.
“Damn. I swear it was damn near impossible not to come on the spot when you look this damn fuckable and talk to me that way. So, yes. Yes, ma’am,” he said, drawing his hands up the back of my thighs to cup my ass. “I’ll come for you.”
A little shiver rushed through me. We were still playing around with this dynamic. Tossing this power back and forth. Trying it on for size. Now that we were out to our friends, it might be cool to have a conversation with Yves and Elijah about it — if Ahmad was willing, of course.
He pushed me away to give himself some space before he stood and dropped his sweats. Like always my eyes were drawn to the perfect, thick length of him, and I couldn’t help it, I shimmed a little.
“I will never get over your delighted reaction every single time you see my dick. God, I love you.”
It was silly, but hearing those words still made me feel like a teenage girl hearing those same words from my crush. My belly bottomed out, and I smiled so big my cheeks hurt. “I love you, too.”
“What for?” I asked with a frown.
“Supporting me. Being here for me when I know you have your own life and goals. Loving me…” he leaned in, pressed his lips to my ear and whispered, “and saying it without my dick inside of you this time.”
Shame filled pleasure made me roll up on my tiptoes and pressed my body against his. “Don’t get too ahead of yourself, chief. And don’t expect me to say it again once you have your dick inside of me either,” I joked before pressing my lips to his.
“We’ll see about that,” Ahmad whispered.
He sat down on the bench again and pulled me into his lap. Straddling him, I placed my hands on his shoulders again, and while he held his dick steady for me, I sank down, filling myself with every inch of him. It was so good, and it had been so long that I felt weak and boneless from the perfection of it.
“Hmmm…look who’s suddenly gone quiet,” he teased, cupping my cheek in his hand and using his thumb to tip my head back. When his eyes met mine, he smiled a knowing smile. “Who needs to be taken care of now?”
His hips shifted under mine, and I trembled at the delicious friction it created. My hips surged forward of their own volition, wanting and needing him closer — deeper.
“That’s how you want it, huh?” He gripped my ass with both his hands, and grinned, and said, “Let’s see how deep those I love yous are buried.”
2. Use dirty talk as a form of negotiation: One of the most exciting aspects of dirty talk in romance novels is that it can serve as a form of negotiation. Characters can use sexual communication to set boundaries, express consent, or negotiate a particular kink or fantasy. By weaving in these conversations naturally, you can show that your characters care about each other's well-being and create tension and anticipation as they move toward their physical interaction. Additionally, portraying characters negotiating boundaries and consent can raise awareness and understanding of these issues among readers. I do this often, but one of my favorite scenes where I used this particular tip is in She Said Yes when Tommy and Darcy are establishing boundaries and consent.
“So I read a lot of erotica and saw myself in some of it, but one of the things that they stressed was consent and knowing each other’s limits. So can we? I have this list…”
“Another list. Cool, let’s do it,” he said with an eager nod.
Another list. I grinned at that. “Okay, it’s a yes, no, maybe format. If yes, share your experience. No is no, of course. If it’s a maybe, we can discuss it and see if there is an approach that would make either of us more willing.”
Tommy smirked. “Okay.”
I opened my notes app to the list I’d copied there but then stalled when I saw the first item on the list.
“This…this list is in alphabetical order—”
“First one’s anal, right? That’s a yes for me,” Tommy interrupted.
“And, uh, your experience with it?”
“I gave and received.”
“And you enjoyed it?”
“Yes, I enjoyed getting pegged, Darcy,” he said plainly.
As many times as I’ve reviewed this list, for some reason, I’d considered some of these acts as things I do to him or he would do to me. And that was plain silly, wasn’t it? Because receiving was part of it, but the power exchange was tipped in my direction.
I would do the act.
I would…fuck his ass.
I would fuck his ass.
My brain stalled as I considered that — as I envisioned myself wearing a strap-on and him begging me to fuck him. This conversation wasn’t going to get very far if my brain kept stalling like this, but he did have a pretty little ass for a man. Small but firm globes with a light dusting of hair that somehow made it sexier when he was naked and walking away from me. Would I bend him over to fuck him or—
Tommy cleared his throat. “Did you hear me, Darcy?”
I blinked a few times, and his face swam into focus. “Heh, no. You caught me daydreaming. What did you ask?”
3. Experiment with different styles of dirty talk: Dirty talk doesn't have to be limited to explicit or crude language. I like to experiment with different styles and choose the one that suits my characters and their story. For example, some characters might prefer more poetic or romantic language, while others might use humor to diffuse tension or express vulnerability. Similarly, some characters may use sexually explicit language, while others might rely more on body language and non-verbal communication. Variety keeps the dialogue fresh and engaging while making my characters more relatable and authentic. For example, Elijah and Yves have a teacher/bratty student dynamic that I love to play around with. I think it’s best demonstrated in this excerpt from Everything She Never Wanted:
When I stood up straight again, his hands went back to my breasts, kneading and massaging them, pulling on my nipples until they stood up proud and hard for him. He bent slightly to take one of them in his mouth. The slow sucking pull of his tongue made my pulse thud in my ears and between my legs.
“I don’t understand,” I finally managed to say at the end of a breathy moan.
“Is this the present?”
He pulled himself upright and produced a nondescript jewelry box from his pocket.
“This is your present,” he said, holding it out to me on the flat of his palm.
A sort of wild panic came over me for a moment. What was this? A proposal? But no. This box was too big for a ring. And really, why would my mind go there? I put a hand over my heart and tried to calm it as I reached for the lid on the box. Inside was a coiled necklace, decorated every half inch or so with sparkly silver filigree.
“This is beautiful,” I whispered, pulling it out gently so as not to tangle it. “What a beautiful necklace! Thank you.”
Elijah smirked. “It’s not a necklace.” He set the box down and took it from me, presumably to help me put it on.
“Those are some strange closers,” I said as I watched his fingers working what looked spring loaded pinchers. “Is it an antique?”
He smirked. “If by antique you mean used for years by the Japanese for erotic pleasure then, yes. Do you remember the little story your wrote me about toys and which ones you would like to try?”
He bent again, lifting my breast to bring it to his mouth. Again he suckled my nipple to make it hard and erect before he brought the closer of the necklace to my nipple and secured it in place.
“Ah! What the fu…? Ow!”
Elijah laughed at me. “You really didn’t know what they were?”
“The message is pretty clear now. These are fucking nipple clamps.” I glared at him.
4. Make sure dirty talk serves the plot: As with any other type of dialogue, I always want to make sure that the dirty talk serves a purpose that's integral to my plot and/or character development. I don’t include dirty talk just for its own sake — even though it can be fun to write. Instead, I like to make sure that it moves the story forward, reveals something about my characters, or creates tension and conflict. I think this scene between Keesha and Raheem in Pretty Memories, my current WIP, serves this particular point up nicely.
When I finally took him into my mouth, he hummed a sound of approval and whispered, “good girl.”
My little speech about being grown felt slightly over the top now because what I loved best about sex with Rah was those two little words. Those two little whispered words of praise always made me want to give him everything.
“Mmm, you did remember everything I taught you,” he whispered, cupping my stretched jaw in his hand and looking into my eyes.
I made my mouth sloppy wet for him. Used my tongue to lick as I sucked. Savored the salty taste of his precum. Kept sucking him until it felt like the fucking I wanted him to give me. Until I was lost in it.
Raheem gripped the back of my neck and pulled my mouth off him. “My good girl wants me to come in her mouth, huh?”
I nodded, feeling drunk on that need.
“You sure? You sure you don’t want me to come in your pussy?”
My pussy clenched so tightly at that suggestion, and a moan slipped out before I nodded and said, “Yes, I want you to come in my pussy.”
“Stand up, baby girl.”
On knees wobbly as a newborn calf, I got to my feet. He grasped my bare ankles and then skated his hands up my legs to cup the backs of my thighs. He held me there, firm enough for me to know it wasn’t just a casual touch but so lightly that every inch of me lit up in expectation of something more. Then he undressed me. His thick fingers made quick work of disposing of my tiny shorts and T-shirt until I was in nothing but my black panties and bra. Looking up at me, he paused for a moment with his big hand spread wide across my belly. And… I don’t know…something about that made me emotional. I covered his hand with mine and swallowed back tears.
“Shh… I feel it, too. Don’t cry.”
But of course, the moment he told me not to, the tears immediately fell from my eyes.
His deft fingers peeled away my panties and plucked the bra enclosure free one-handed. Raheem stood. His shorts fell to the floor, and he pulled his shirt over his head. Now we were both naked in the warm lamplight. He bent his knees slightly and scooped me up. I wrapped my legs around his waist and my arms around his neck. He drew his nose along the line of my neck, scenting me, and his dick throbbed where it was pinned between us against my pussy.
“Mm, yes. Daddy’s gonna give your sweet pussy exactly what you want,” he whispered, his voice dark and husky against my skin.
“Rah,” I whispered as my pussy gave the underside of his dick a wet kiss at the promise of his words. That one word, really. Daddy. I always felt weird about it because I’ve been told that I have daddy issues by men more than once. Issues they all assumed were associated with my absentee father, and sure, maybe some of it was, but mostly, it was about him. About my Rah, my sun. The man cared for me in ways no one else ever had. Raheem smiled and kissed me.
“You thought I didn’t know? Baby girl, I always knew.” He reached under my bottom to grab his dick and notched the fat head at my entrance. “Tell me what you need, princess.”
He was right there, and all this dirty talk had me dizzy with want. “I need Daddy’s dick inside of me.”
“Good girl,” he whispered as he slid inside.
5. Practice, practice, practice: Lots of authors feel shy about writing sexy scenes and dialogue, and get embarrassed by the thought of reading those words. Like any other aspect of writing, dirty dialogue becomes easier the more you practice. Don't be afraid to experiment with different dialogue, try out new styles, and ask for feedback from beta readers or critique partners. With time and effort, you can master writing dirty talk that feels authentic, emotional, and arousing.
Effective dirty talk is an essential component of any steamy romance novel. By using communication to build intimacy and vulnerability between your characters, you can create dialogue that's exciting, genuine, and emotionally resonant. Remember to ground your dirty dialogue in emotional honesty, use it as a form of negotiation, experiment with different styles, make sure it serves the plot, and practice frequently. With these tips, you'll be a master of dirty talk that fits your characters and their narrative in no time.
PS: Because I know y'all are gonna ask, I don't know when Pretty Memories will be released. Burnout is a relentless bitch and I'm still struggling to get out of her clutches. Be patient with me, friends! xo