Now Imagine a couple married 32 years in the middle of a garage that hasn’t been cleaned since their 20th anniversary.
“Tell me what you want,” he shouts, exasperated. She is equally frustrated. She wants to park in the garage, but can’t because of the mess.
“You know what I want,” she says.
When it comes to sex scenes, context, tone and tenor matter more than size.
As writers, how do we capture the sexual tension as well as the act – for the two are not the same – in a way that is arousing, revealing – in terms of character development – and which successfully moves the story forward?
Here are seven tips:
1 – Use Sex Scenes To Expose Your Characters
Well-written sex scenes are titillating, sure, but they can also reveal personality, creativity, and other traits. Is she comfortable enough to guide him? If so, does she whisper directions? Move his hands? Change his pace? Are these two givers or takers? Traditional or experimental? Talkers or quiet? Are they clumsy? Athletic? Patient? Frantic? Do they want the lights on?
2 – Eroticism Should Advance the Story
This actual line from a work of fiction does not advance the story: “When he slid his tongue into my mouth, I felt like a pork loin simmering away on the stove. All warm and mushy.” When the passion has subsided, we should be further along in the story than when clothes started flying.
3 – Treat Sex Scenes Like Any Action Scenes
Sex is not new. Courtship is not new. The chase is not new. Everyone knows a lot about the subject. If you’re going to tackle sexual tension and the act – or its many variations – you must work extra hard to make your prose unique. As Kerouac said, “It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”
4 – Be the Bikini
A skimpy bathing suit or short black dress is more erotic than a naked body. There are things readers do not want to see, hear or smell in sex scenes. Leave a little to the imagination. Be the bikini.
5 – Prevent Premature Evacuation
We speak in fiction of breaking the dream – of writing something that is so jarring it stops the reader cold. It could be a line of awful dialogue, a factual error, or an inaccurate description of a city. Or it could be plain old bad writing – a confusing sentence or a participle dangling. Commit any of these infractions and your readers will be gone – premature evacuation.
6 – Beta Test Trusted Readers
That means well-read folks (professional writers or editors if you know or can afford them) who will give an honest reaction to your work.
7 – Attend to Before and After, as well as During
Before: What makes sex sexy is all that goes on beforehand – the eye contact, the sparring, the walk to the door. Just as you only get one chance to make a first impression, the first kiss is also the last first kiss. The path isn’t always smooth. That’s okay. Bumpy is fine so long as the bumps are intended and believable.
After: Theoretically, there’s no more tension now. What’s going to keep the readers interested? The cliché is that women want to cuddle; men want to get out as fast as possible. Avoid the cliché, just as you would with anything you write. What they do and say here is important. Be creative.
What else goes into a well-planned sex scene?
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