“Write about sex – how you write your sex scenes.” When I was trying to think of a topic for this blog, this was my wyf’s suggestion. The problem is all I could come up with at first is ‘I just write them’. But as I gave it more thought I realized quite a lot actually goes into them. Some authors I’ve talked to hate writing sex, even referring to them as “the dreaded sex scenes.” They know many readers want them but they’re not comfortable writing them. I, on the other hand, like writing sex. For me it’s a natural part of the story. Although when it isn’t, I try to allow the story to be what it needs to be.
In my first novel, A Reunion to Remember, there is quite a bit of sex. Those scenes work well for the story. In contrast, in my current work-in-progress, one of the main characters spends the majority of the book avoiding being with the other which equals a lot less sex. Again for the story I’m telling, it fits, at least the way the story is unfolding right now. A number of authors simply prefer to ‘fade to black’ and leave these scenes up to the reader’s imagination. There is nothing wrong with that and there are times where that strategy is best. But I am not going to shy away from a sex scene if that is what the story needs.
But still I haven’t answered the question, how do I write sex scenes. Sex scenes can set the tone or mood for many other facets of the book. The same characters can have sex, make love, or fuck at different times and in various ways throughout the book, each lending a different tone to the story. That’s a lot of flexibility. So one of the things I have to determine is the characters’ moods. Has one just discovered she loves the other but isn’t ready to say the words, so she pours all her emotion into a sweet love making scene? Or has one had a horrible day and wants the rest of the world to be drowned out so she asks her partner to take her hard? Is it a scene of discovery or growing passion?
The mood helps define the speed and actions. It determines how much dialogue is needed or how much is too much. If it becomes a conversation rather than a sex scene, it will not be a very good sex scene, no matter how great the conversation. But then you also have to be a bit of a choreographer because all those hands, fingers, and mouths, as well as other body parts…their movements need to be explained like a commentator of a erotic Twister game. And all of the movements need to be driven by the characters themselves. You can’t have random body parts acting on their own, which makes sense but it wasn’t something I thought about until my editor pointed it out.
Tempo is also an important consideration. You need to pace a sex scene just as you would any other scene. Sometimes it’s fast, other times slow, but you need to decide what is needed at that point in the story or for that scene. The characters can even be moving at different speeds in the same scene if that’s want you want as long as they reach the payoff at the same time, or not, it all depends on the story and the characters.
The one question people most frequently ask my wyf is “do you feel vulnerable or exposed by what she writes?” Her answer is, “No, we have a healthy sex life and we talk about sex a lot but she develops the sex scenes around the characters and I’m not a character in her books.” She is exactly right. The sex scenes I write are character and plot driven. They are a piece of a fictional story. I like sex, I like writing sex, but the sex I write isn’t personal because it’s about characters not about my real life. But it also allows room for a lot of exploration. Elle reads everything I write. If she wasn’t comfortable with a scene it would never be seen by anyone else.
So, when I talk to people about my book, who may not draw the distinction, I warn them that there are “steamy scenes” and let them make their own decisions related to reading them. Such was the case when I shared A Reunion to Remember with my six brothers and sisters and my mother.