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.

 

lets-do-this-ucas-gif

  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!

Writing 101: Stepping Away

There is a rule out there that says when an author finishes their first draft they have to put it away for a certain amount of time before they edit it. While the amount of time that is suggested varies from a few weeks to “…until you forget that you even wrote it…”, according to a fellow author friend, everyone says the same thing.

I thought this was a really weird idea. I mean, when I’m writing a paper for school I don’t need to set it aside for a few weeks before I edit. I can usually do that as I write, or as late as the next morning. So, why should I bother with my creative work?

Well I’ve got a few ideas about why/how this works in our brains.

  1. You’re too close to it.
    1.  So, have you ever been digging around in your closet and come across an old work of yours? Do you remember how awesome you thought it was? How perfect the prose? How intricate the characters? Do you ever re-read it and think “Oh dear snicky-snack what was I thinking?” Yeah.
      Apply that same thought process to your work today. When you first write something you are absolutely sure that it is amazing. It’s your best work and it will only need the most perfunctory of editing polish to make it shine. I hate to tell you this, but you’re wrong.
      You need to put it away and step back from it. You need to give yourself some breathing room to let the rose colored fog seep out of your glasses so that you can look at it clearly.
  2. You grow as a writer over time
    1. As a creative person with a literary bent you should be devouring the written word. You should be reading poetry, literary fiction, non-fiction news articles, lifestyle articles, history, genre fiction of all variety. And with every word you devour you become a better writer. You see how other writers handle characters, situations, scenarios. You learn different words, or are inspired by different descriptions. With every piece of work that you read YOU become a better writer, and you owe it to your work to gain a little experience before coming back to it.
  3. You grow into your style
    1.  Have you ever been in the middle of reading a book and flat out said “Okay, I wouldn’t have done it like that?” That’s because you, as a writer, have a style that is all your own. You are looking at this work with your own perspectives and that makes you a more analytical writers than those who are reading just for fun.
      Now, this helps you. That little voice that says “Do it better!” will actually prompt you to go back to your own work and go “Okay, did I do this badly?”
  4. Your experience changes your perception of your work
    1. I know this might sound like a fortune cookie but I mean it: Every day is an experience. Read that again, it’s sorta a big deal where a writer is concerned. Every day you can see something, hear something, taste something that could add a dash of perfection to a scene that you wrote. While this is a tricky reason since it basically says that you could always do better…you should give your work at least a little time to make sure the inspiration is played out.
  5. You need to be in love with it, not just attracted to it
    1. Okay, you know the first part of a relationship when everything is wild and crazy and you just can’t handle not being around eachother? You call at three in the morning and you wanna smell each others hair? No? Just me? Oops…anyway!
      There is always a rush in the beginning of a romance. It’s not love, it’s attraction. You are drunk on the hormones of “Ooooo!” and you just can’t get enough. You, friends, are addicts.
      When that time settles down, and everything has lost that overwhelming shine you begin to see that the person you are with has a few flaws. Now, as intelligent human beings you decide whether or not these are flaws you can live with, or if that laugh is going to cause you to flip out and stab a pillow.
      You have the same interest in your work. In the very beginning you are enamored with it. You are besotted. You need to be able to be in love with it. Take a little break and come back to it to see it in that less impassioned light.

I hope this helps you, because what it means for me is that I’ll be working on Book 2 of the Domina Claire series. Yay.

Writing 101- How to Write Great Sex Scenes

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.

DO:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

DON’T

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Writing 101- Editing pt 1

For regular followers of my blog you know that I’ve been hung up on editing the first draft of my first attempt at a professional work. Okay, let’s be honest, it’s more like my third draft. But I thought I might give you a look at what that process looks like, step by step. So I will be taking a very old work (oh god, why?) and doing a quick five step editing process.

Note: I am NOT saying that this is how editing has to be done. I am merely giving you an inside perspective of my creative process. Take what you want, leave what you don’t.

I found this note scrawled on a couple of lines of my notebook paper. I remember writing it. I was sitting in my history class listening to life in the Edwardian Era. The note was:

-Half-Elven Edwardian marries and gives birth to a man with whom she has nothing in common. After giving birth to her first child she is free to seek out actual love, which she finds in the form of an orc.

I had to go back and look at my notes in which I found out that in aristocratic Edwardian society men and women were allowed lovers so long as they were very discreet (especially women) so long as she did not flaunt the relationship the husband wasn’t really up for caring.

I remember finding it fascinating and different from the Jane Austen concept of relationships. So, to get in the mood, I put on Mansfield Park and jot down some scenes.

My paper now looks like this:

  • Chapter 1: Giving Birth and introducing the society (Should I use London/Great Britain or make a fantasy land that is very London/Britain inspired?)
  • Chapter 2: Ariadnea’s first party after giving birth, a year after the birth of her son. The conversation with several friends about their lovers.
  • Chapter 3: Leftenant Yurgot Vo’Morn, of Her Majesties Navy, arrives at a luncheon, late, smelling of dog, and rustic. Her physical and visceral response to his utter masculinity (Orcs are celtic based, old traditionalists)
  • Chapter 4: Getting caught in the rain, first kiss.

So that’s a fascinating little beginning. Right? This is what I call my Outline Draft. It’s not a traditional outline, not really. But it is how I plan things. Now, if this were a full fledged novel (and hey, one day it might be) I would continue doing this for about 20-30 chapters. I would have the entire story done out in these little blurbs.

I’m not sure, at this moment, what the main problem would be: pregnancy, the relationship becoming common knowledge, possible death of the leftenant, the culture of my orc character getting in the way, the leftenant getting married, I haven’t got a dang clue. But that would be all of these little snippets.

Next I take the scene that is most vivid in my mind and write it. For me, right this moment, it’s that kiss.

He was tall, so tall. Her fingers trembled as she clutched the wet fabric of his uniform. He pulled her closer. His head dipped. The rain fell around them as his mouth dipped down to hers.

Okay, it’s not horrific. But it’s certainly not what I want it to be either. This is what I refer to as my rough draft.  There’s almost no emotion, it’s just a series of what happens. The only sense that I evoke is the wet fabric. I used the word ‘dip’ twice in as many sentences. Ick. While I wouldn’t be disappointed if I read that in a book, I certain wouldn’t be invested either. So what can I do?

“There’s no use for it,” His green hands splayed on his hips, looking out over the field. “We’ll be stuck here till the rain lets up.”

She paused, her kerchief pressed delicately to her neck, “Pardon?”

“We can’t go out in that. Not with the moorecats out, we’ll be hunted.”

She shook her head, droplets flinging from her golden curls. “My husband will be worried if I do not make up home in time for dinner sir. You are armed, and of the royal forces, are you not?”

He smirked, a quirk of fang showing over the mossy green of his lip. “I’m an orc, Missus, not a god. Even I can’t fight off a pack of moorecats in the middle of a mistfall.”

“Oh, I see.”

She didn’t. She didn’t see at all. She was ridiculously aware of the intimate confines of the hunter’s cabin. The single room was barely large enough to fit a fireplace and a bed. The sound of the rain on the roof muffled the sound of her heart pounding.

“Are you worried, Lady?” he asked. He was watching her now, with those ruby colored eyes. She wished he wouldn’t. And, for all that, she loved that he did. It was all too easy to imagine falling with him unto that bed. To feel him peal away the layers of her clothing with those big green hands. She wondered what it would feel like to undo the thick twisting braids.

Okay, so that’s what my second draft looks like. My next step? Showing it to people and getting opinions. That will be covered in part 2.

Writing 101- Research, Just Do It

When I first got into writing I had this brilliant thought that I was so intelligent and so well-versed that I didn’t need to research. This was MY writing after all, what did I need to research?

This writing thing has a heck of a learning curve, lemme tell ya. I had barely gotten to page three (maybe it was four) when I realized I needed to learn about something. So I set my work aside and googled a few things, got immediately distracted by the internet, and forgot a good portion of what I had planned for my chapter.

In short, I failed to do proper research.

I didn’t give up, mind you. I kept trying to write. But it wasn’t the only time that it happened. Somewhere around chapter three I just sorta tossed my work to the side because I kept getting interrupted by myself. I ruined my own novel because I didn’t bother to research.

Now…here’s the flip side of the coin of self-education. The next time I tried to write something I spent four months reading up on serial killers, decomposition, law enforcement, biology, and the Northern Virginia.

I never got around to writing that story either. I was so overwhelmed with information that I didn’t know what I should have, what I shouldn’t have, and what I was adding just because I wanted to show off what I knew. It was a disheartening experience.

So I’m here to tell you how I go about my research. This is what works for me, specifically, and is only offered as advice. Keep in mind that some stories need less research and more world building (such as fantasy novels) but that doesn’t mean you should skip the researching step entirely.

  1. Write an outline for your story. I know a lot of people cringe about this step but I promise you it’ll make your actual writing a lot easier.
  2. Now that you have an outline make a list of all the things that you will need to research. This list, for me, has been as little as three things and then there was that one time where it covered like…four pages in a notebook. It can cover foods, jobs, recipes, laws, family names, cultures, science, medicine, languages, so on and so forth.
  3. Now, put your list in order of priority. What do you need to know a lot about? The kind of things that you will need to read actual books for? What might you need to contact someone with hands on experience about? What will a quick google search cover?
  4. Now do it. Take that Shia LeBouf plunge and get your research done. Take notes, plan a little, and use your carefully cataloged research to make your story come to life.

Writing 101- Oh God, What do I Write?

A funny thing happens when a brand new author sits down to write for the first time. I don’t mean the notes you might have jotted down in your spare time or that scribble of research you managed to garner from google. I mean that moment that you sit down at your computer and are ready to tickle your keyboard with the next great literary work of all time.

You freeze.

Okay, maybe you don’t. You’re perfect and awesome and wonderful. I, however, did. I remember it quite vividly. It was nighttime. I had nothing absolutely pressing to do and I thought to myself “You know what…I could totally be writing. Let’s do that.”

So I opened up my word program of choice and just…stared at the screen for a while. My mind, which I had always thought to be full of story ideas and great characters, and moments both amusing and heart tugging…went totally and completely blank.

So I did what any modern budding writer would do. I went to google. I typed in a few choice search words and voila. Nothing really. I found a few articles about the best opening lines of literature of all time. I found out that a lot of people place a lot of pressure on the first few lines-few pages of a novel to grab (and keep) their attention.

While time wasting and informative the articles weren’t really covering what it was I was having a problem with. I knew I wanted to write. I didn’t know WHAT I wanted to write.

I had a few scenes and a couple characters floating around in my head. I had an interest in nearly every genre out there. I was just brimming with ideas yet every time I sat down to write I could really…you know…write. So I did the next best thing. I read.

I stumbled across a series that intrigued me and after getting to the end of it researched what else that they had written. It was while perusing the authors page that I discovered a quote:

“Write the book you want to read.”

It was such a simple phrase. But, for me, something clicked. I rolled over and began to think about all the times I had read a book and gone “I really wish that -insert plot point/character/idea here- had happened.” I began to write things down.

I started to imagine what might be my perfect book. Well I like writing female characters. It’s not just because I, myself, am a woman but because I like reading about women more than I like reading about men. Alright…so there was one box checked.

Main Character: Female

Well that’s all well and good…but what else? I have the very miniUmum of a character forming and at this point I could write in appropriate adverbs but that wasn’t particularly entertaining. What else did I need to do?

Well I needed a genre. It’s not much good to have a character and nothing to do with her. So did I want to write romance? Action/Adventure? Historical fiction? Fantasy/Sci-fi?

Uuuuuhhh. Maybe? I mean I like all of those. But were they what I really loved? time for more soul searching. And by soul I mean bookshelf. I didn’t just look at the authors that I purchased the most of. I looked at the spines with the most cracks. The books that always ended up on the top shelf.

I plucked ideas from each of those and shook them around in my mental mason jar and made my own thing. Paranormal Fantasy Alternate History. Which is a mouthful way of saying “I wanna see orcs in jeans and Dragons in WWII.”

Next came world building, themes, character creation….but that’s totally another post.

What the point I’m trying to make is…write the book that you want to read. The rest is easy.