Using It All - Writing Sex That Uses the Emotional Magnitude of Intimacy
In the last 8 years, definite rise in the sensuality in books, especially in Romance. Great, but there’s this expectation to write ‘hotter’, and ‘more is more’, which is not actually ‘more’.
Who are your characters, what are they doing, and go from there. A touch can be hotter than a full out sex scene, depending on the characters. You don’t have throw a blow-job onto page 70, there isn’t a schedule or map.
Quality not quantity. The number of sex scenes in a book doesn’t raise the ‘hotness’ level.
Each needs t means something to the book, and to the characters. It’s a real intimate thing, a moment of total vulnerability. A sex scene isn’t about tab A and slot B, it has to belong there, it has to make sense.
If you have sex in your book, it doesn’t matter what genre it is… if it’s there, WHY is it there?
There’s a whole lot of fluff-fucking in books, so don’t write one.
Why is it there, where it’s at, and what does it do for the overall arc of your story?
It’s about trust, intimacy, vulnerability, revelatory…
Most of your readers have had sex, it’s a fairly common experience. They know what it’s like, they know what it feels to have a touch to the hand or a kiss to the ear. They know how it works, don’t be repetitious or over write, you’ll mess up your pacing.
The story seed is always ‘WHY?’ What are you trying to do with that sex scene? Who are they and how are you farthing the story? Are they fighting? Is it make-up sex? Are they throwing away a past hurt/argument and reconnecting, re-trusting. Expose the characters, who they are to one another.
Remember your voice as a writer.
A big, strong man getting on his knees and kissing a woman’s hand tells you a lot about why they are, and can be sexier that a super erratic scene. (he’s older, she isn’t ready, and this older rough man is being gentle, taking it slow because that’s what she needs -> that’s intimate, that’s sexy. That’s seduction. this is an example form one of Brenda Joyce’s?? series about a suffragette).
So think about the ‘why’, what purpose does the scene need to fulfill, that’s the seed that the scene should grow from. Not jus sex for the purpose of sex. Has to be crafted for the individual moment of the story.
It has to have a tone, so who are these people, what should they do do, or with one another, what words to use (centre, sex, pussy, cunt, what is the right word for this moment, for these characters, for this subtext. how do they feel about the words they use, and what their partner use? Also silence… can make a really hot sex scene -> example of two partners reconnecting after their child died, needing that physical reconnection), and where in the story arc is this?
If a sex scene isn’t popping, think about whose point of view is the scene in, and look at what words are being used.
Then you need to figure out the practical logistics, the logistics. Where are the hands, etc? Are the lights on/off, is it cold, hot, music, silence, etc. Just like a fight scene, figure out where everything is and where it goes. Also things like smell, is the place clean, think about ambient stimuli, how it might impact the scene.
Switch it up. For example, if there’s a scene with oral, then intercourse, don’t have the same pattern in every scene, but also location/time. Are they worried of being caught? Are they on a timeline? Laughing with someone shows a lot of trust, two partners trying to give each other what they want, but also not taking it too seriously. Masterbation is also good because it’s even more vulnerable.
Can you unpack the emotions to reflect the emotional arc, the moments of transition, invite your reader into the character’s heads.
Also, please remember what body parts do, and what they don’t do. Penises do not go into wombs. Also, think about condoms/etc -> what does this say about the characters?
Times change, but connection doesn’t. Historical vs sci-fi vs fantasy, it’s sort of all the same, the connection has to be the core. You want your readers to connect to your story, you characters, and the characters have to connect to each other.
Shelly Lorenston writes really hilarious paranormal romance with unsuccessful/clumsy sex, but the characters can still connect, you can really do a lot, especially build up the frustration. Also, bad sex can be a fun thing. ‘Faking It’ by Jenny Cruisie is a really good book about this, it made the reader laugh, but really connected the characters to each other as well.
Use other emotions other than happy and sad, use guilt, anger, etc, enemies to lovers, star crossed lovers, class issues, and all kinds of things that create tension, external and internal stressors, who they are, especially in Romance, which is always happily ever after. Draw it out. Make them work for it. Have one woo the other, the seduction can be layered, building and building until they actually have sex.
Guilt is a great emotion to use in a sex scene, you’re not supposed to be with that person, one thing in public but another thing in public. Can be a great way to see how they work past what’s outside that door.
Linda Howard, “After the Night” has the biggest douchebag hero ever, but there’s great chemistry. Carnal Innocence, by Nora Roberts is also good. All those late 90’s books, before the trend to ‘more=hotter’ are great.
You don’t need too many shine buttons, don’t over clutter. Parse it out over the story, don’t cram the scenes full of clutter. Think about small, personal/unique things like, does she wear granny panties, and does he like it? Think about morning sex scenes, don’t they have to pee first? Kinda fun if they have to get up part way through…
Sex scenes can be a punch to the gut, hard-and-fast, make you mad, make you sad, or tease you.
Some books with well written, evocative sex scenes
Emma Holly “Personal Assets”
Lisa Kleypas “Dreaming of You”
“Night Embrace” about a kookie hippie named Sunshine
Allison Kent “The Sweetest Taboo”
Lauren Dane “Relentless”, “Dirty, Bad, Wrong”, “Drawn Together”, “Cake”