No More Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am

writing sex scenes
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Okay, it’s been awhile since my last post, and I apologize. I’ve been insanely busy editing, and for that I’m grateful. In fact, I should be editing right now, but this post idea on writing sex scenes won’t leave me alone.

Writing Sex Scenes

Sex scenes. Please, people. If you’re going to write them, and I know you’re going to write them, make them good. What is sex? At its most basic, it’s two people (or any two creatures, but how many of you write about sex between anything except people? Okay, there may be a few of you…) slapping genitalia together in the hopes of procreating. But that’s not why you write about it, is it? At its best, it’s about the emotional connection, not the physical one. Even if your readers are in it to get turned on, it’s the emotional connection that really seduces them. So, keeping that in mind, let’s talk about what will keep the reader on the page and not skipping this part to get back to the story. Yes, it’s true… this does happen. So before you write filler just to hop from one sex scene to the next, think about that for a moment.

Sex scenes should be about more than the mechanical motions your characters are going through. Let’s face it… there are only so many ways to do it. Who’s on top? Who initiates the act? Is someone submissive? Yada, yada, yada. Yawn.

Do we really care if it’s the most amazing love fest they’ve ever had? Do we care if she’s never gone down on a guy before but suddenly she’s an expert? Do we care if he’s rough and ready the moment she bats her eyes and sighs? Do we care that all he has to do is flex his muscles and her panties are wet? Do we care about her bounteous breasts and his six-pack abs? Meh.

Let’s delve into the emotional aspects. That’s what we’re really invested in with our characters, isn’t it? What is going through our main characters’ minds during that scene? Is she really into it and filled with mental fireworks or is she going through the motions and thinking about that deadline at work or the fact she’s worried that he’s cheating on her with her best friend? This is what really makes a sex scene interesting. Maybe she starts off being distracted, but he manages to pull her focus back to the moment, and they create some magic. That stroke along her cheek that sets her nerves singing and engages an old memory of their last anniversary that was so special (which started in a similar fashion), which makes her try a little harder, makes her more attentive to [fill in whatever he’s doing to her] and makes her respond by [fill in whatever she’s doing to him]. Now how does that make them feel? Add the other senses. Are there scents that trigger a response? Lighting? Sounds? Maybe he’s able to convince her through his actions and whispers in her ear that she’s the only woman for him, now and forever. Or if he did have a dalliance, that he’s sorry and it will never happen again; it was the worst mistake he’s ever made. Or it could be reversed. Maybe she’s the one who made the mistake and she feels guilty because he’s devoted to her completely, and with every touch, every reaction she feels, guilt colors it. Make it real. Make us feel what she feels. We want to feel her relief or her guilt. We want to feel his devotion or his pain when he finds out. That’s why we read.

If we’re taken along for the seduction, then find that we’ve been betrayed, we feel the pain. But if all we get is the mechanics of sex, we don’t feel the seduction or the love and/or pain. We might as well be reading the Penthouse forum.

When writing sex scenes, invest your characters in the scene. You can only say an orgasm was more amazing than ever before once, then it isn’t believable. And besides, how was it more amazing? If you can’t describe it, there’s a problem. You’re a writer… describing is your job! Saying things are wonderful or amazing may be okay for dialogue (occasionally), because let’s face it, most of us are pretty trite when we talk. But if you’re doing a first person narrative and your sex scenes are full of these adjectives, you need to delve deeper. Explore what you’re trying to convey. If that’s all you can say about the scene, do you really need it? Get back to the story. If your story must have sex scenes, make them count. Make them an integral part that is woven into the story so well that if you cut them, the story would be missing bits it can’t do without. If your story is fine without the sex, then they’re just added in as set dressing, kind of like what happens in HBO series. You’re doing it because you can, not because it’s needed. If you’re writing erotica, this is also important. Just because you’re in a genre meant to be about sex doesn’t mean the sex shouldn’t be integral to the story. Make every scene count.

Writing Sex Scenes

I edit a lot of sex scenes. What can I say? A lot of people I work with write romance and/or erotica. While I also get my share of fantasy, sci fi, thrillers, and so on, even they can have a sex scene or two thrown in. And when I say thrown in, I mean they are built into the story so they make sense with the characters, not just thrown in like an HBO series does as the backdrop for a scene about something else entirely because they can.

I read one of the best posts about writing sex scenes, and I highly recommend every writer contemplating adding one read it, too. Chuck Wendig, of Terrible Minds, devoted one of his 25 Things lists to sex scenes. Read it here. Then read it again. Maybe print it out and hang it near your desk. Yes, I admit to being a Wendig fan girl, but once you read his blog, you’ll see why.

Adding sex to your story should enhance it, not make it screech to a stop, have a sex break, then start back up again. If 90% of your story is sex, not only does it have to make sense to the story and BE a part of the story, you have to mix it up. We’re talking about more than flowery prose or a list of body parts. Each scene has its own arc. Each scene is a scene. Oh, just go read Chuck’s post. He’s already said it better, funnier, and with more detail.