It’s February, the month for Valentines and all things romantic: love and…sex.
When I have to face writing sex scenes, I sometimes feel like I’m getting undressed in public. I feel like my mother is watching; like everyone will think I do all the things I describe. Do you ever feel that way?
Get over it.
Check out these 9 tips to help you.
Sex is emotion in motion.
~ Mae West
1. Don’t be afraid to write outside your own experience.
Research and write just as you would for any situation you haven’t experienced personally. Read sex scenes by other authors and note which resonate with you. Ask yourself why. I just finished reading Marissa Campbell’s Book, Avelynn. She expertly handles a full range of sexual encounters, from that first romantic kiss to attempted rape and a great deal in between.
2. Treat a sex scene like any action scene.
Have a reason to include it that involves advancing the plot or illuminating character, or developing a relationship.
3. Make your characters human.
Keep your characters human, flawed people, not a larger-than-life Adonis or Aphrodite. While romance has an element of wish fulfillment about it, if you make it so like a fairy tale, some readers won’t believe it.
4. Keep the sex real.
Sex is not always spectacular; it can be boring, mundane, or unsatisfying too. And it doesn’t always have to be completed. Interrupted sex can be quite a tease.
5. Get the timing right.
Don’t let things get hot and heavy in the most unlikely of moments and places in your plot. Don’t shove sex in because it’s been four chapters since the last tryst. Remember tip #2.
6. Get the choreography right.
Not just on a physically level, but on an emotional level too. Physically, make sure your transitions let us know if someone goes from standing to lying, or from facing to spooned. More importantly, let us know their emotional reactions and changes. The physical act by itself is just porn.
7. Be careful of metaphor and simile.
Clichés about “stars exploding“ will only undermine what you are trying to do. Find fresh and appropriate comparisons and don’t hide behind them to avoid being explicit or to add drama. And remember that sex involves all five senses. Use them!
8. Use the correct terms and don’t be offensive.
Research if you have to. If euphemisms pepper your scene, you’ll leave the reader giggling or cringing. Also be aware of the accepted sexual practices of your genre and age group and stay in those boundaries.
9. Keep the scene brief.
Sometimes less is more. Subtle hints are often more effective than graphic description. Give readers enough to satisfy the moment, but leave them wanting more.
Have fun with it
Remember how you felt when you first discovered that French kissing involved touching tongues? As a teen, did you practise on your arm or the mirror? What about your first kiss?
Kisses come in so many forms: passionate, wet, teasing, rough, slow… In 50 words or less, write about a kiss—fun, steamy, chaste…. Post it in the comments below.
[By the way…for a great workshop on characters, check out Ruth’s Character Master Class on March 5.]