I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.
That quote is by George R. R. Martin and it hits me right int he feels. I may not be Martins biggest fan but he touches on a topic that will get my engine going every single god-damned time. There are thousands of books out there about war, battle, death, dismemberment, decapitation, and blood. Battle scenes are written with enthusiastic veracity and heralded by critics everywhere.
If you write about sex this way…chances are you are going to get called a pervert. I don’t like this. I don’t agree with it. I want to take it back and I want you to help me by writing awesome sexiness.
Sex, unlike war, is an intrinsic part of humans everywhere (though not every human) and far more pleasurable. Yet I’ve seen great authors shy away from (or ignore completely) this aspect of their stories.
Today’s writing tips will revolve around the naughty bits and how you can write a scene that leaves your audience breathless and satisfied. It will comprise of some do’s and do-nots that you are encouraged to look over and ignore as you see fit.
- Write the entire scene in one go. Great sex is like a dance. It moves from one step to the next in a natural rhythm that needs to flow with your writing. This is easiest to go through if you plant you tuchas in a seat and write the dang thing from beginning to end in one swoop.
- Keep the language in time with your setting, or at least close to it. There are few things more jarring for me than being in the middle of some heavy petting in a victorian era romance and having the male main character bust out in modern slang. I’m not saying you have to use quim or lady laycock or anything like that (but I wouldn’t be disappointed if you did ) but please, don’t use shlong. Unless your character is German, because Schlonge is a term for a snake. That’s…weirdly appropriate.
- Pay attention to details. What makes a good sex scene unforgettable are the visceral moments where we can see the action. This is true for all scenes, but sensuality especially. Let us see fingers digging into sweaty flesh, or lingering kisses on shivering backs. Give me the scents, the sounds, the cries of delight.
- Keep it in character. Sex is a complex part of every person. How we choose to go about it (if we choose to go about it), whom we choose to go about it with, and what we do once it gets down to it is one of the most critical parts of our humanity. A sex scene shows that part of a character. Yes, it may be hot to let your character work out your darkest fantasies…but if it doesn’t make sense for them to be into yiffing…don’t put them in a furry suit and have them wallow in a mrring pile.
- Write a sex scene just because. Do you write ANY scene just because? No. It has to make sense to the story, keep with the characters, and further the plot in general. Don’t say ‘sex is awesome’ and then hash out a scene between two of your characters. Trust me, your audience will know.
- Be unoriginal with your descriptions. I’ve seen this a lot. People are really used to sex going a very certain way. Kiss kiss, undress, fondle the naughty bits, some form of penetration (yes, even in LGBTQ lit) and all of it is done with very similar phrasing and uninspired words. Seriously, moving mountains and crashing waves may be poetic, but they are someone else’s poetry.
- Be too original with your phrases. One of the things that I cringed at with some of the modern erotica that I recently read were some really unfortunate descriptions of scenes that were supposed to be titillating. You want the words to match the moment, please don’t bring in chocolate starfish or warm syrup colored anything. They just don’t fit.
What it really comes down to is that you need to treat sex scenes with respect. Approach them with the same interest and intellectual ideas as you do the rest of your work and don’t get lazy about it.