A Little Bit of Lust by Shirley Goldberg

Please help me welcome today’s guest, Shirley Goldberg…

How I Write the Smoochy Scenes

Some readers like it hot, while others prefer it sweet or steamy. Despite the title of my new book, A Little Bit of Lust, writing love scenes is more about the feels and less about lust.

Here are the first two sentences from an early chapter in A Little Bit of Lust. The main characters, Lucy and Deon, take a trip to the beach. Their friendly relationship changes that afternoon. No, this isn’t a spoiler since this tidbit is in the blurb for the book.

Later that same evening, Deon has these thoughts:

It wasn’t easy kissing his best friend.

Well, not true. Once they made it up the sidewalk and through the door, him fumbling with the key, it was easy, way too easy.

Writing smooching scenes is part of the job of the writer ‘cause someone’s gotta do it. If I know my characters well, writing love scenes comes naturally as a logical progression of the relationship.

Everyone’s idea of what is appealing in a love scene differs. When I’m writing a smoochy scene that’s early in the book, I’m all about discovery, going slowly, a few moans, lots of kissing and…talking. My characters need time to warm up to one another.

The couple are connecting and dialog, brief bits of banter, teasing, and even a few questions, add to the fun. Sexy scenes can be playful. They can be fun and gentle. A drawn out smoochy scene with agonizingly slow undressing is a way to show the emotional connection between characters. 

As a reader, I’m open to all kinds of love scenes, from playful to serious, from silly to steamy. As a writer, steamy is a new thing for me. So far, my sex scenes are closed-door, so when the characters get heated, the door swings shut and the reader imagines the rest.

But I’m working on a book that takes place in Crete, the largest island in Greece, (I lived there for eleven years.) and my heroine, a widow, rediscovers love and sex. I’ve left the door ajar after a long buildup to the major sex scene. No buzz words and no specific naming of moving parts, by the way.

Sometimes, the perception of “steamy” depends on that reader’s experience. When my first book, Middle Ageish, came out, one reader told me she thought my sex scenes were “pretty hot.” This surprised me because the love scenes are closed door.

Foreshadowing of a sex scene can start way before the couple ever embrace and go on for pages. That’s emotion and perhaps a little banter at its best. Here’s a brief example where the characters, Lucy and Deon, are dancing to a band at their favorite hangout:

“I haven’t felt like singing for a while anyway.” Deon turned Lucy gently and pulled her in again, sang along with Elvis about rivers flowing and fools rushing. “I am annoying you, aren’t I?”

“Not at all.” Dancing with Deon was… intimate. Lucy lifted her head. His lips were six inches away, full lips.              

“You have Elvis lips,” she said and put her head back down on his chest.

The reader gets the hint from this short teaser that Lucy and Deon will connect in a more intimate way later on in the story.

If the feels shine through and the characters connect with each other, I’m doing my job as a writer. 

Diana Gabaldon, who knows a thing or two about writing sex scenes, says, “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.”

I agree. And I’m open to a variety of love scenes in my reads.

What do you think?

Please post a comment. Are you a sweetie when it comes to love scenes or do you like them steamy?

Anyone interested in more of author Diana Gabaldon’s wisdom on the subject may like to read her excellent book, I Give You My Body, How I Write Sex Scenes. I’d also recommend her Outlander series, but you’re probably well aware of it already.

How many second chances will she give him? 


Love-cynical Lucy Bernard delights in her independence. Baking, all things Instagram, the occasional special guy, and most of all hanging out with best friends Deon Goldbloom and Phoebe Karis. But when Deon kisses Lucy at the beach on a chilly afternoon, the two friends jump into a lust-filled romantic weekend. So what’s with slotting her into “ignore” status afterward?

Deon Goldbloom is a widower who can’t move on after his wife’s death. Is he a little crazy spending a sexy few days with Lucy and calling it the best time he’s had in four years? Yeah. Except blue Monday comes calling, and Deon isn’t ready for the guilt.

Lucy wonders how a smoochy weekend turns into a friends-with-benefits disaster. And Deon wonders if he’s made the biggest mistake of his life putting Lucy on “ignore.” Using all his nerdy charms, he launches a campaign to bring Lucy around. Maybe they can chart a course back to one another if Lucy will only forgive him.

Excerpt from A Little Bit of Lust

Lucy aimed her phone at Deon’s Patrick Dempsey hair. The young Patrick.

“Throw your head back. Run your hand through your––”

“No way.” 

“Come on. Unbutton a few buttons.” He’d been working out more, she could tell by the swell in his arms and chest. The nerd was looking good.

“Stop it.” He held his hand up blocking her view.

“You’re all gussied up for this eight-minute dating thing. I just wanted to mark the occasion.” She climbed up the ladder. No fun teasing Deon if he wouldn’t play.

“You tried on this crap already?” He gestured to the bed where her dress, jeans, and tops lay splayed like scarecrows minus the stuffing. 

“Pardon?” She shot him her most stern teacher look. “Deon Goldbloom, it isn’t crap. You’re supposed to be my calming influence.”

“Relax, Ms. Bernard. I’m here, aren’t I?”

True. Irritatingly present, like a fungus.

“What happened? Did Noelle cancel?” Noelle was their friend who taught at the high school.

 Lucy took a few shots and climbed down to reposition the ladder. “Yeah. Phoebe needed help.”

“You’re saying I’m your last resort?” He looked genuinely hurt.

“Of course. You’re a guy.” Lucy smirked. “I didn’t even know you were coming.”

“Not just any guy. A guy with sensitivity and extraordinary taste.”

 “Sensitivity, my ass.”

“Are you bickering?” called a voice from the hall, and Lucy’s daughter, Lily, flew into the room to say goodbye. Lucy wobbled on the ladder, almost dropping her phone. Lily was on her way out for dinner with her grandparents, who lived one town over, in Hamden. “Play nice, you two.” She shot them an amused glare.

“Hey, Lily, nice to see you.” Deon and Lily hugged. “When do you start the internship?” Lily, visiting for the weekend from grad school, had snagged a much-coveted internship at the NPR Boston station.

“I’m so excited I can’t stand myself,” she snorted and ran a hand through her wild mane. “Staying with my besties. It’ll be a blast.”

 Lily and Deon caught up for a few minutes while Lucy took more photos and rearranged the flat lay.

“So,” Lily said, eyeing her mother on the ladder, “ice cream dating is a thing now?”

“Crap, I hope not,” Deon laughed.

Lucy was glad Lily barged in with her freshness and humor, and her white jeans shorts and tiny, blue, raggedy-cool top. Her daughter disappeared a moment later, and Lucy got off the ladder.

She should stop picking on Deon. A tad sick that getting under his skin had become a game. Forty-seven years old, and she’s playing games. Pitiful.

What she’d like to do is punch him in the mouth. Since she kick-boxed Mondays and Wednesdays, this wasn’t an idle threat, even way inside her head.

Only a month ago, her legs had turned to marshmallows when he touched her. Now she’d happily crush his thumb in a vise. Or stomp on his big toe with her hiking boots and ask him, “How does that feel, dear?”

Author Bio

Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website http://midagedating.com offers a humorous look at dating in mid-life, and her friends like to guess which stories are true. A Little Bit of Lust is her third book in the series Starting Over, although all her books are standalone. Shirley’s characters all believe you should never leave home without your sense of humor and she agrees.

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6 responses to “A Little Bit of Lust by Shirley Goldberg

  1. Jennifer Wilck

    Best of luck on your new release!


  2. Kim Janine Ligon

    Love hearing about how you write sex scenes. Your writing must be proof that showing less can definitely be enticing!


  3. D.V. Stone

    Best of luck with your release, Shirley.


  4. I found your discussion of sex scenes very illuminating and absolutely agree with you and Diana Gabaldon. Too often the sex in steamy stories fails to advance the story. My own novels are “traditional” (i.e., more like Georgette Heyer’s)…although I did allow a character to wake up in his wife’s bed in my most recent book.


  5. The excerpts are very good! When I write sex scenes, I like to go into the characters heads, and see what they’re thinking.


  6. Love the excerpt — wow! When it comes to writing sex scenes — I like to call them “intimate scenes”, which might give a heads up — most of mine fade to black when it starts getting hot. But not always. 🙂

    Shirley, you lived in Crete for eight years? That sounds like an amazing experience!

    Wishing you all the best!

    Cheers, ladies!


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