Why Isn’t There More Steam In My Steamy Sex Scene?
Writing the Dreaded Sex Scene
By Nicole Delacroix
It’s been said that a well-written sex scene can make your story sizzle, multiple scenes can propel you to bestseller status, and a badly written scene, much like a bad experience, just leaves you wishing you hadn’t participated. I was terrified when it came to writing a sex scene; sure I had experience reading great scenes, both tame and explicit.
I was certainly aware of what worked and what didn’t, but wasn’t sure that I had the ability to write a really good scene myself. So I did what I do best, research. I started with the nuts and bolts of the topic and picked up a few books on the subject. My choices on this were “Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet” by Stacia Kane and “How to Write Hot Sex: Tips from Multi-Published Erotic Romance Authors” by multiple authors (US links to both appear below).
(Please note these were my personal selections, there are a multitude of great books out there on the subject)
Once I had a grasp on the general formula I figured it was time to delve into a few examples of good scenes. I decided on three each of a romantic scene and three more explicit scenes. I wanted to make sure what I wanted for my own writing had a nice balance, so I had to see both sides of the genre to make an informed choice. I am, by no means, a prude, but I wanted my scene to be pivotal to advancing my story for my characters and would keep my readers engaged, maybe even give some valued insight into my characters. Here’s a few of the things I picked up in my research that helps readers and writers alike see that sex doesn’t have to be smut no matter how explicit it is, (Thank you “50 Shades of Grey”) and as writers it’s time to bring the sex out of the bedroom.
Do I Use The Less Is More Approach?
Sometimes innuendo is a writer’s biggest asset, and sometimes the story requires you to tell it like it is. The answer to this is simple, what does your story tell you? If you’re writing an aggressive story with explicit action, then you want the sex scene to follow the same format. There’s nothing worse than being all amped up by the action only to get to the sex and feel like the author missed the mark by being coy. On the other side, if you’re using the power of suggestion to propel your story, you don’t want to write an explicit scene filled with ‘naughty bits’ as that would simply turn your readers off to the story itself. Balance is crucial, and no one knows your story the way you do.
I think we’ve all read enough of the obligatory bodice ripping, heaving bosoms, and throbbing members, and have rolled our collective eyes at the characters ‘raging’ with passion and intensity. What I want to know is do people know how much replacing those ripped bodices actually costs, they aren’t cheap folks? Clichés are a writers’ abysm, and where most stories lose focus and more importantly…readers. These descriptive proses simply don’t add to the story and many readers are tired of the same old same old. Used sparingly, clichés can add to the story, but over use simply leaves the reader wishing they had picked up a different book. So my personal rule is if it seems like you’ve read that before, you have, find another way to say it.
Where’s The Emotion?
I’ve read funny sex scenes that were perfectly true to life; characters falling off the bed, rolling around on the ground and the dreaded rug burn. Sex scenes become more poignant when you focus on the emotions behind them. There’s always the underlying desire in the sex scene, but this is basic, there are so many more emotions to explore, and sex can run the gambit of them. Ask yourself, what is my character feeling? What are they thinking? How do they feel about what’s happening? These are the ingredients that will bring your scene to life. Don’t be scared to use anger, sorrow, fear, pity, aggression, disgust, intimidation, jealousy or sympathy just to name a few. Emotions fuel our sex drives in real life, so they should in your characters’ lives as well.
Metaphor, Metaphor, My Kingdom For A Metaphor…
"But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill."
Hamlet, i. 1.
Hamlet, i. 1.
Okay, so we’re not all Shakespeare, but sex is one of those topics that induces fits of giggles, blushing and embarrassment in most people. It’s why erotica is the silent best-seller, no one admits to reading it, but we all have it. With the advent of the E-reader, we dirty minded folks can enjoy our smut in privacy without anyone the wiser. Using a metaphor can let you say what you want directly without it coming across as clumsy. In addition, a good metaphor can add much needed depth by giving the scene emotional weight and greater meaning. There’s a reason why poetry is so popular, it’s called a metaphor.
Don’t Write A Sex Scene Just To Have A Sex Scene
With the popularity of “50 Shades of Grey”, it’s hard not to jump on the proverbial bandwagon of writing a sex scene. You have to be strong and remember that everything in your story, much like in life, happens for a reason. Does the scene lead to some insight into your characters? Does the scene advance the plot? Does the scene add something to the story that it was lacking? I had the occasion to receive sage advice from another writer and that is this “Sex in your book, should be like sex in life, it should mean something”. If the scene is there simply to add an air of lustiness to your writing, then you should focus more on your writing and less on the sex. Don’t fall victim to be trendy and include something your story simply doesn’t need. Yes, sex sells, but bad sex puts everyone off, and the point to writing is to gain a loyal readership, so know your audience.
In closing, a good sex scene can add that needed spice or impetuousness that your story or character needs or it can be the Albatross that sinks the boat that is your story. Hopefully these tips will help you decide what’s right for your story and helps you keep the clunky clichés where they belong – in bad fan fictions.
What are your tips for writing better sex scenes? Share them in the comments!
Glimpse of Darkness
Volume 1: Chronicles of the Cursed
Genre: YA Paranormal/Fantasy
Number of pages: 367
Word Count: 68183
Cover Artist: Javier Charro
Charlene (Charlie) Bennett is a simple waitress in the wilds of Hyder, Alaska whose father has just gone missing. Isolated and alone, her fathers' disappearance is nothing new to her, but this time things are a little different.
For starters, there is a handsome stranger, Daniel that has come to town and while Charlie has never taken more than a passing interest in strangers, she has an immediate and intense attraction to this one. Secondly, she's soon to find out that this stranger isn't what he appears. He's about to throw Charlie's entire world into a major upheaval.
Daniel finally turned to her and acknowledged that she was there. "You've guessed right. We are just ahead of the cannery and yes we are going to catch a cannery truck. There is a shipment leaving in about 15 minutes that will come this way. When they come this way the pack will delay the driver so we can sneak onto the back of the truck. What I need you to do is wait until I give the signal to go and then run to the back of the truck quickly and quietly without drawing any attention. It's imperative that the driver does not know we're on the truck. He can never see us if he does this whole thing will fall apart. Do you understand?" Charlie nodded, she didn't like the plan, but she would do what Daniel asked of her.
"We will stay in the back of the truck until they get to Washington state and then we can make our way from there. But it's very important that until we make it out of town and on the highway that you don't say or think anything. Focus on your music, keep your eyes closed and try not to listen. If you hear something make sure it doesn't break your concentration Charlie, it's very important. I can't block you and both our lives depend on you keeping quiet. I know you're tired and upset and I haven't been very forthcoming, but we're almost out of here. You've had your life in my hands up to now and the only way I can return the trust is to tell you that my life is in your hands until we make it out of town. All you have to do is focus on the music in your head; can you do that for me?"
Charlie felt the gravity of his words and hoped that she could come through for him. She would definitely try her very best to do exactly what he wanted her to do. She had managed to grab her ear buds when they were leaving the cabin, she figured she could dig those out and put them in. They weren't completely noise canceling but when she had them in she found it easier to focus. Besides she could put her MP3 player on and the music could just play helping her focus even more.
Daniel started to look a little relieved that she was taking his words to heart and coming up with the best solutions to keep them both safe. He relaxed his grip on her hand a little letting her know that he understood what she was thinking and was on board with her plan.
They hadn't been sitting very long when they heard the unmistakable rumble of the oversized cannery truck in the distance. She figured they had about 5 minutes before the truck made it to where they were hiding. Her adrenaline was pumping and her tiredness eased up and she was on pins and needles waiting for the truck to make it around the curve.
It seemed like forever before the truck lights showed on the horizon meaning that the truck was about 3 minutes away. Daniel looked focused on what was going on and the pack was on edge as well. It was clear a plan was in play but Charlie was clueless as to what exactly it was. All she knew was her part in it, pay attention get to the back of the truck without being seen.
It wasn't long before the noisy truck was making its way around the curve and picking up speed. Charlie started to let her doubts creep in, how were they going to be able to jump on a moving vehicle. When without warning the answer to her unspoken question showed itself. The missing pack members were corralling a wild black bear on the other side of the road. It was clear by their behavior that they were going to push the bear into the road in front of the truck about 30 feet ahead of where Charlie and Daniel were hiding.
Charlie started to worry that the bear would make it across the road before the truck could make it, when the rest of the pack moved into action. They ran up to intercept the bear and block it onto the road, there was no escape as the truck barreled down on the bear. Since the curve in the road had hid the bear, the truck slammed into the poor animal. As soon as they heard the tires squeal, Daniel pulled Charlie up and they both ran to the back of the truck. Daniel quickly cut the seal on the truck as the wolves started howling loudly. Sound cover to pull up the door so they could jump in, the pack had thought of everything.
Only Charlie worried that the bear may have damaged the truck too much for it to continue its journey, but she didn't have to wait long as she heard the bear growl and the pack disperse and the unmistakable sound of the cab door closing. Soon enough her fear was squashed as the truck lurched into movement. Charlie dug out her MP3 player and ear buds and started listening to music. She had her classical mix playing David Garrett so she was instantly lost in the music.
About the Author:
Nicole Delacroix was born in Frankfurt Germany to a German mother and American Military father. Her parents instilled in her a deep love of the written word and a profound respect for literature in all forms. So it's little wonder that from the moment she could first write she knew that writing would always be a part of who she is. From short stories to dabbling in scriptwriting she passes her time with her day job as an IT professional but feverishly writes well into the night. Her passion for literature encompasses many different genres but her heart beats true with fantasy and science fiction. She's fiercely loyal to friends and family and is eagerly awaiting the day when she can move to London England, her childhood dream.