As someone who writes stories with strong romantic elements, I often end up on this side of a potential sex scene. By this side, I mean: the characters are about to go there. I then have to decide if I want to go there, too.
Sometimes I close the door. What happens behind that door can remain a delicious mystery. Hopefully I’ve provided enough detail, up to a point, that the reader’s imagination can take over. Instances when I close the door usually occur in stories where the romance is not the main plot. It’s a facet of the story and the sex isn’t important. Not really. Yeah, I could probably stuff some character development in there, but when there are aliens snatching folks off the streets of a post-apocalyptic Philadelphia, I’d rather write out the plans to bomb their extra-terrestrial asses. Seems a little more important, right?
But if romance is the plot, or the whole point of the book, to not write my characters into the bedroom (or up against the wall, into the shower, over the couch?) seems a bit rude. Coitus interruptus. (I thought about using that as the title of this ramble. I’m sure you’re glad I didn’t.) Here’s my thought process when it comes to actually writing out a sex scene: if you enter a romantic relationship with another person, you pretty much accept the fact you’re going there. That you will end up having sex. Or making love, however you’d like to phrase it. So, not going there in a story feels a bit cheap. It’s all foreplay with no climax.
This doesn’t mean the sex has to be cheap and tawdry, though. I think the tone of the scene needs to match the tone of the book, and the characters, obviously, and the relationship between them. As I generally write sweet romance, my sex scenes tend toward sweet as well. I haven’t actually bent any characters over a couch (not to my memory?), but I guess that could be sweet, too. Under the right circumstances.
After deciding to write out sex, there are a few more things to consider. First, you need to tune out the bow-chicka-wow-wow soundtrack in your head. Particularly if you’re going for sweet. But, you also have to remember that you’re dealing with two consenting adults who have decided to go there. So they’re going to go there. And it should be sexy. Discovering a sudden reticence in the bedroom is more usually a case of me thinking: Oh, my God. Do I really want to write that? Or, it could be me scanning the internet for another word for ‘penis’ because ‘penis’ isn’t sexy when it’s used three times in one paragraph and ‘cock’ can be slightly offensive if over used and ‘length’ can be somewhat analytical, ‘dick’ makes me giggle, and her simply taking him into her mouth can be sort of hard to imagine if you’re like me and your mind loves to dive off into sudden tangents.
Seriously, how do you fit a whole person into your mouth?
Then there are the ways in which he can enter her. Or him. Words that are just not sexy or downright ridiculous. And that leads me to the next issue with sex scenes: choreography. Nothing puts me out of the mood quicker, as a reader, than mysterious third hands, back jointed knees and unsustainable positions. I’m forty-six. I’m married. I’ve tried a few things. I have a good idea of what works and what feels good. (Ahem). I have an excellent idea of what’s next to impossible. But, as a writer, I’ve learned that too much emphasis on placement of limbs can detract from the sensuality of a scene. It’s not a football play-by-play. There is not a coach in the bedroom with the happy couple. There shouldn’t be, anyway.
Personally, I like scenes that have an emotional edge to them. Ideally, the book has been building toward this moment and if the author has taken the time to write it out, it should be a heady experience. All five senses should be engaged, and there should be thought bubbles, too, even if it’s simply a note that thought has gone the way of the dodo. That’s acceptable. It’s almost preferable. But, I have written a scene where the guy was thinking about fishing. In a comparative way. Sort of. It was funny and suited the character completely.
Which, brings up another point: fun. Sex should be fun, in my opinion. Yes, it can be hot as hell and sweetly romantic, but fun sex scenes make a great read. Where the couple rolls off the bed, or when something tickles. Even a weird sound. (C’mon, y’all know things sometimes sound weird and not entirely sexy.) Little additions like these can make a scene feel more real. But you don’t want to get too real. It’s fiction, after all, so there should be a good element of fantasy. No need to talk about morning breath or the fact someone’s bladder is full. Just wave the magic wand and decide they dealt with that already. They’re perfect.
But not hairless. People shouldn’t be hairless. (Except perhaps Kellan Lutz who can be whatever he wants to be.)
Anyway! One of the problems I ran into this week—while writing sex—might be unique to me and is sort of the purpose of this ramble. Sometimes the difficulty, for me, in writing out a scene isn’t that I can’t think of another word for that all important body part. Or that I’m giggling like a teenager, or maybe blushing. Or that my twelve-year-old daughter is standing behind me, or that my husband has decided to make coffee just as the belt buckles have come undone. (I often write at a desk in the kitchen.)
Sometimes, I feel so maternal toward a character that it embarrasses me to undress them. I don’t want to know about their sex life. It would be like peeking through my daughter’s bedroom door when she had a boy over (or maybe a girl??). Of course, she wouldn’t be closing her door in that case. She might not have even made it upstairs with her paramour. But I think you get my meaning. It’s just plain weird.
That’s when I usually revert to humour. When the scene becomes amusing and/or inherently sweet. When I leave the thesaurus unopened and concentrate more on how the character feels about the situation than what he’s actually doing. What strikes me as interesting, though, is having to discover the sexual identity of a character you have created. Their preferences, their quirks. Their desires and fantasies. It’s about as much fun as suddenly finding out they like lime popsicles. Or strawberry ice cream. Except, it’s infinitely more personal. I like exploring the hidden facets of a character. Even if you don’t use them all, they can still shape how they appear on the page, and how they react to certain situations.
So, that’s it, another ramble—and I didn’t blush once while writing it, which probably means I’ve been writing too many sexy stories. Maybe it’s time to return to alien invasions!
The featured image for this post is the gorgeously sexy Alexander Skarsgard in his role as Eric Northman in True Blood. RAWR.