Sex. What makes a fictional sex scene good? This is an important question for fiction writers because, if you’re going to include one, you need to do it right. A poorly constructed sex scene can leave readers disappointed and reluctant to become emotionally invested in the rest of the story, even if they read on to the end.
Don’t get me wrong, the actual sex the two characters have together doesn’t have to be good. Perhaps one of them is a sexually suppressed puritan and can’t let loose, making the sexual encounter less than satisfactory for one or both participants. But the scene itself still needs to be good, needs to propel the plot forward in some way, and needs to hook the reader further into the story.
Case in point: when my late mother (who thought I walked on water) read my first crime novel, Motion to Kill, her only criticism was that the sex scenes were a little dry! Ouch!
Grab a copy of Motion to Kill and see what you think about the sex scenes. Then come back with your verdict: dry or steamy. I’ve written many other books that contain sex scenes since then and like anything else, the more you do something, the better you get at it.
Writing Sex Scenes – My Hot, Steamy, Sticky Tips
1. Stay away from clinical words and body part euphemisms. Don’t use “penis” or “vagina” when describing a sex scene. That’s a surefire way to elicit an inward groan of displeasure from your reader. Likewise, using genital euphemisms like man root, secret flower, love tunnel, love shaft, and others will cause readers to give you the dreaded inner eye-roll. You could, probably, get away with using one of those body-part euphemisms for humor, but that’s just about the only exception.
2. Avoid porn-movie dialogue during sex. Most real people don’t say things like, “Suck it hard, baby”, “Harder, deeper, give it to me”, “That’s right, take me like a man”, or any other similar phrase. Most people don’t say anything much during sex, except for uttering various sounds indicating pleasure. You could include some inner dialogue that isn’t spoken aloud. For example, the female could think, He’s so damned hot (or big, or sexy) as he presses his naked body up against her. A male might think, God, her body is incredible as he runs his fingers up her inner thigh.
3. You have 5 senses, use them. We use all five of our human senses during sex: taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing. Don’t leave any of them out in your scene description. Talk about the clean smell of his sweat, or the scent of lavender in her hair. What sounds are around them? Is it raining? Do they have music playing? Perhaps they’re in a car, or doing the deed right out in the grass somewhere.
4. Foreplay – the foundation of good sex. Seduce your reader with the flirtatious dialog and sexual tension between the characters. Don’t rush into full skin-on-skin contact. Describe every detail leading up to where the couple gets it on. Men, it takes quite a while to bring a woman to climax. Don’t write the sex scene with her reaching nirvana 30 seconds into the act. You’ll lose any female readers and any male readers who have actually tried (successfully or unsuccessfully) to bring a woman to orgasm, if you make this mistake. For the women writers out there…you know better, so write it real.
5. Tell readers what they don’t know. Once a couple starts to have sex, it’s a given that the genitalia is involved. And, typically, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all, save for size and the occasional piercing. So no need to go into too much detail describing those parts. Instead, tell us about his trembling hands or her lithe, graceful neck.
If you’re planning to write your first sex scene, you might want to do it while alone…not in the midst of a Bohemian hipster crowd at Starbucks. Those of you who feel you might need a little help “letting loose” in this department, drink a glass of wine or whisky (whatever lubricates those hidden recesses of your mind). Maybe you need to have a little sex yourself before starting your sex scene. Go ahead! And (gasp) you might even get turned on by your own sex scenes.
Have you written a sex scene? What about reading them in your favorite fiction? What do you think makes these voyeuristic journeys into the characters’ most intimate moments work? What are some of your favorite books with sex scenes that work? I’d love to hear about them. You know, for research purposes only.
Photo credit: feminiya [dot] com