How to Write a Sex Scene

How to Write a Sex Scene

I am a ghost writer. This means where someone has a scene (or a story) that they don’t want to write, they ask me to do it for them. In college this would have been called an ethics violation to the Cod of Conduct, or fraud. In the wide world of professional literature, it’s called freelancing.

Neat.

In the months that I’ve been doing this I can tell you 95% of my work is romance, and more often than not, I’m writing the naughty scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. More often than not I am getting $80 or more to write 3k words about a couple of characters doing the horizontal tango. But it has me thinking, why the hang ups?

trying-to-flirt

Yes, I know that America is the strangest mix of prude and sexually obsessed. I know that we are weird about it, but many of my clients come from India, Thailand, Canada, and Australia. So, it has little to nothing to do with the location.

The fact is, I have¬† no clue why an author can write the most heart-wrenching death scenes, pick apart the psychology of watching a thunderstorm, and get gloriously visceral with battles…but can’t write about bumping uglies.

Ugh, I hate that term, but I’m using it anyway.

So, below I have a step by step process, and some tips, for writing a sex scene.

 

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  1. Make sure the scene is necessary
    • I think one of the main hangups that any author can have is trying to force a scene. I know that a lot of us believe that we HAVE to show the sex between two (or more) characters, but that’s not always true. Sit back and really think about whether or not you NEED to show the scene. Don’t just write it because everyone else is, that’s going to make the scene feel forced.
    • How do you know it’s needful? Just ask yourself the following:
      • Does it add something to the story?
      • Does it reveal something important about the characters that cannot be shown in another, more natural, way?
      • Is it appropriate to the intended audience?
      • Does it further the plot or turning point?
  2. Plan
    • Even if you are a pantser, you still take the time to think over a scene before writing it. If you have evaluated (and possibly reevaluated) that a steamy scene needs to happen, sit down and think about the characters involved. How would they approach sex? Everyone does it a little differently, and in a way that is most comfortable to them.For instance, If you have a heterosexual scene between a submissive male and an aggressive female, don’t suddenly switch their personalities because the clothes come off. Yes, some people who are submissive out in the world are more aggressive in the bedroom, but you better be prepared to back up the switch and still make it sound natural to the character.
    • Things to think about:
      • This is where those five question words really come into play (who, what, where, when, and why…the how is pretty much the entire scene.)
      • Who are the characters involved, and how to they feel about one another?
      • Is this encounter sensual, languid, comforting, aggressive, or something else? The ‘flavor’ of the scene is very important for picking word choice. There is a huge difference between taking ones clothes off, ripping ones clothes off, slithering ones clothes off…you get the idea.
      • What is so important about this scene? Let’s take out SubMale and AggFemale from earlier. Let’s say they’ve been friends for a long time and he has been having a lot of self confidence issues since his last gf left him. The importance of this scene is his confidence boosting. Keep that in mind throughout the scene.
      • Where is this taking place? Yeah, this is important. Where should matter. Don’t just have them couple (or trio, or quartet) in the bedroom because that’s where the sex happens. Bedrooms are great when you want the scene to have safety and confidence. But if these two characters have been angling to get into the skirt/pants/spacesuit for some time they are probably going to hop ion whatever semi-private, mostly horizontal surface they come across.
      • Why. Okay, this one is the biggest one. WHY is this scene happening? Is this the moment when two characters turn to each other for comfort? Have they been holding back from going to bed with one another? Should they be here? Why are they having sex? This thought needs to be an ongoing theme for the entire scene. It should impact your words and the characters action.
  3. Organize
    • Sex, in real life, is messy. I’m not saying that makes it bad, sometimes messy is awesome. What I am saying is that people don’t plan out an encounter before it happens. But you are an author, and your characters are in your head. You need to think about your characters sexuality before you write the scene. Re-using my submissive male/aggressive female couple why is the male a submissive person? Is it just his last break up? Because in American society guys are encouraged to be aggressive sexually and socially, so what in his background makes him more prone to a more docile approach? Perhaps he grew up in a highly feminist house, or perhaps because he was bullied or picked on as a youth.

      In counter, our aggressive woman, what formed her sexuality? What does she like about being in command? What about the situation appeals to her, and how emotionally attached is she, if at all? Think of all of this and more, for a while. Let the thoughts simmer, maybe jot some notes down, and then:

  4. Write it all in one, uninterrupted, sitting.
    • A sexual encounter is one thing that flows into another. I’m not being metaphorical here. Sex is a singular act made of many motions, like a dance. In order to get that flow, you need to write it all in one go. Throw yourself into that scene as much as possible. Don’t get too distracted as it unfolds, just let it all happen.

      I would say that this is the most important rule for writing a steamy scene.

  5. Leave it alone for (AT LEAST) a week.
    • You are going to be very tempted to go back and read what you’ve done. Don’t. Right now it is still too fresh. You either think it’s perfect, or you think it’s crap, and like any rough draft the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. You need to leave it alone.

      Once upon a time, while I was working in the grand world of fast food I was writing a love scene between two of my characters in between taking drive thru orders. I got home and immediately wrote up the scene, certain that it was the best thing I had ever written. I, being the tech genius that I was, lost the file a while later.

      I was crushed. I was certain that this scene was the most evocative and emotional thing I had ever written. It haunted me because I had lost it. About two years later I brought it up to a buddy of mine and she gave me the weirdest look. “You mean the one between (character A) and (character B)?”

      “Yeah! Do you remember it?”

      “Yeah,¬† you sent it to me. I think I still have it.”

      She sent it to me that night and I re-read it and nearly gave up writing altogether because after two years of being enamored of the memory, I realized that the scene was….okay. It wasn’t terrible. There were some good lines, and the characters were good…but the scene was a solid B at best.

      What I am getting to is that you need to take time away from all your writing before you edit, but I think emotional scenes (which you sex scene ought to be) need this the most.

  6. Edit
    • This is a step that doesn’t need a lot of explanation, but is still important. Make sure that the scene matches the characters, their actions, their word choice. I’ve found that sex scenes are the hardest places (for me) to distance myself from what I like, from what my character likes. So make sure that you didn’t just write out your own dark fantasy, but rather stayed true to your characters.

 

Thank you for reading! I hope that at least some of this has been helpful. If you have any particular problems, thoughts, or ideas leave a comment and I’ll do my absilute best to respond! Happy writing!

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NaNoWriMo- Day 25

Soooo….someone please remind me to contact Bethesda and inform them that releasing a game I’ve waited on for 7 years during the month of NaNo is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

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For my non gaming friends out there I am referring to Fallout 4, the most recent installment of Bethesda Entertainments ridiculously popular post apocalyptic setting. While not without it’s faults, the game is phenomenal. There is so much content, and awesome stories, and amazing characters! It even does this really neat thing where it tells me just how long I’ve been playing when I save.

I’m a frequent saver, by the way; and because I am I can tell you that I have spent over 57 hours playing this one game in the past week. Yup. There is a good chance that I’m not going to make my writing goal because Bethesda didn’t bother to push back their release til December or something.

Because, you know, it’s definitely their fault. It certainly can’t be *my* complete lack of willpower, right? Right.

Anywho, my word count stand at just shy of 35,000 words. Tonight I am making fish sticks and tater-tots for dinner and I don’t have to cook tomorrow. So, here’s hoping I still have a chance, even if it’s a snowball vs Hell type of chance.

NaNoWriMo- Day 21

Word Count: 34,602 words

So, my story is just sitting there looking at me. It’s like a cat that’s just knocked something off the counter, swishing it’s little tail going “So what are you going to do about me, human?”

And the answer (for both really) is “I haven’t got a gosh darn clue.”

It’s the rotten truth of it all. I’ve covered the story that I was going to write. If I do any more it will be because I go back and start editing. I could do that, but it sorta breaks the Don’t Think, Just Write motto that is the core of NaNo mentality.

Okay, I’m going to be extra honest. I’ve already done a little editing. That’s how I went from 21,000 words to my current word count. Shhh. I wont tell if you don’t. I mean, I haven’t ACTUALLY gone back and edited. I’ve just re-read some of my work to be inspired to write extra things. It’s…not quite editing. Right? Yeah, right.

In my “not quite editing” I’ve noticed several themes in my work. food is a reoccurring background element. There is a diner scene, a grocery scene, two different grilling scenes, and two making breakfast post coitus scenes.

I may have a fascination with food.

Oops. I might change this in editing, chances are I wont. My lycanthropes need to eat, and my main character is a bit of a foodie. So…it fits. I just look forward to any and all reviews that go “This writer really likes to talk about food.”

Yes, yes I do.

I’ve also noticed that there are a lot of long conversations. Like, yeah they are broken up with description and movement, but the conversations go on for pages. I like it, and I’m terrified that readers are going to go ‘uuugh, these people wont shut up.’

I guess what I’m really saying is I’m terrified that everything I’ve done is wrong. Yup. That’s me. Super confident writer of all things paranormal and erotic. -insert self effacing sigh here-

My Cursed Bed

I’m a cheap person when it comes to everything but food and my bed. I like to shop at thrift stores and second hand shops. I will sluice water in my shampoo bottle to make sure I get every last drop. I will use friggen’ sandpaper to wipe my special parts if it means I get to sleep on something comfortable.

Not that I have ever actually used sandpaper anywhere on my body, especially not my special parts.

Now that that’s cleared up, the point I’m actually trying to make is: I really like my bed. It is very easy to relax in and get ready for my (second) favorite bed related activity…sleep.

It’s very comfortable. It’s got a nice squishy mattress, more pillows than I could ever actually need, and the comforter was a gift from my dad when I was ten years old. It’s in reaching distance of my to-be-read pile (that’s my favorite bed activity by the way…naughty people). The sheets are, in fact, Egyptian cotton, Oftentimes there is a cat in it just waiting to purr. It’s Heaven.

Also, I’m also pretty sure it’s cursed.

I know, I know, it’s a weird thing to think about your bed; but here me out. I make a fairly credible case. There is this thing that happens just as I’m getting ready for sleep. I have set aside my current reading project. A glass of ice water is merrily melting on the nightstand. The blankets are settled in just the right way. Daydreams, both strange and pleasant, have permeated my consciousness and my body has grown heavy with the desire to sleep. and at that very moment my brain is taken unawares by…IDEAS.

Not just any ideas, oh no, but the perfect ones. That word I was looking for earlier has decided that it’s ready to come out and play. A scene that would perfectly express a characters faults and yet maintain their heroic nature. The perfect circle to my literary theme has made itself known.

While I COULD get out of bed and go write them down…my bed is just so damn comfy. It wont even let me reach for that little notebook that I have sitting near that glass of water. My has completely lulled me with a spell of lethargy and deceit. My pillows whisper a promise that when I wake up I will remember all of these awesome ideas, they are just too perfect to forget. Of course, when I wake up, I’ve forgotten completely.

See, it’s totally cursed.