Frothing and Weeping – Writing Sex Scenes that Sizzle not Suck – Allie McKnight

Allie introduces herself again and introduced Loose Id and her own novels.tanga-109155_150

Sex Scenes is a Scene.

It has a beginning a middle and an end. It will have a goal. It isn’t always orgasm. it may be their immediate goal but it isn’t their only motivation. They need to have a motivation beyond doing each other. There should be a disaster (per Jack Bickham, Scene and Structure). How do you do that if everyone gets off? End on a high note — a quip, a remembrance of something that needs doing. etc.

Scene needs a balance dialogue, narrative, inner monologue

Sex Scenes should be multi-purpose. Stroke fic can have it’s only goal as getting people off but novels need purposes.

Reinforce your theme, reveal character, etc.

Think of ways that you can use a sex scene in place of another scene — how can it be used as a meet cute, an interrogation, a fight, denouement, etc. What will it do if you swap POVs?  How do you use a sex scene as a black moment? Think Buffy and Angel — true moment of happiness and he lost his soul.

Avoid magical “didn’t now it was coming” moments.  You need to know, even if the characters don’t.

Allie recommends The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook because of the author’s clever use of a sex scene to reveal character, create a major turning point and develop the story. (Also because it’s great.)

Sex scenes in alleys can be fun but you need to be realistic. If there’s a bad guy chasing them, they deserve to get caught.

A sex scene is not IKEA. It is not a blow by blow. No one cares about every single step. You don’t have to do the steps in order every time. It’s not always kiss, grab, penetrate. And it doesn’t have to be done in order in the book either. Some people don’t see penetration as the be and end all of intimacy. Think of Pretty Woman. Vivian wouldn’t kiss because it was too intimate. Allie has a heroine who doesn’t cuddle but will give a blow job right off the bat. People have trauma, strong emotion attachments to acts and touches.

They don’t always have to come and they don’t both have to come. Most erotic romance editors want them both to come but that doesn’t have to be the case as long they do both eventually get off, maybe in a later scene.

Delayed gratification works for reader as well as for some participants.

Sex isn’t instaglue. People aren’t always immediately attached after sex. Some people are, some people have hate sex.

A sex scene is like a football game. No one cares about what happens in every hour-long minute. Skip the play by play.  Consider instead the pan and zoom. Show the whole field then zoom in on the active player.  How does that look? Example: One partner is determined to make the other scream, cry, beg, etc before completion. Narrow in on one act for a paragraph or two. Then pull back and give a gloss, give internal narrative. Focus back in then on something else. It doesn’t have to be an act — it could be a wrinkle in the sheet that rubs against the thigh.

It needs a two minute warning: two minutes left before the end of the game. It’s the time for the big play. Give the reader a warning that the orgasm is coming. There’s nothing worse than “and then he came.” You need to build up to it. Give a couple paragraphs of build up. By the way, no one says “oh my god, I’m coming”.  Change the language you’re using. Write shorter, more urgent sentences.

Don’t rush the kicker. Don’t rush the orgasm itself. Even if you have build up, you can’t just “they came, moving on”. You need to have a revelation and a high note.

Scene scenes are not an anatomy lesson. You don’t need to name the parts and arrange them in text. You, on the other hand, MUST know your anatomy. You need to be sure that people can GET into the positions that you’re describing. Most men can’t actually suck a nipple while penetrating a woman. Assholes are not self-lubricating, they are not backdoor vaginas. They need preparation.

“What do I call it?” It depends on what you’re writing, who you’re writing and what genre. In New Adult, they aren’t kama sutra experts. But they could certainly experiment with it. They won’t be good at it. And it would show you something about the characters.

Genre appropriate — erotic romance, you need to name the parts. Most women won’t use pussy or cunt to refer to their own vagina. But don’t use something ridiculous — “down there” “vajayjay” “inner goddess” etc. Clitoris, labia, mons, folds, slick, tissue, slippery. (Watch overuse of S words. it can sound repetitive.)

Specific parts can be focused on to avoid overuse of terms. Consider “balls, shaft, head, glans” instead of “prick, dick, cock”.

If you’re writing multiple partners — count your hands. Two per character at most. And put them in feasible locations.

Use texture, sensations, emotional or introspective moments.

Think about what your character would call it. Know their vocabulary and sexual history. Know their desires, know how they feel about sex. BEFORE you start writing.

A sex scene is an EXPERIENCE. It is larger than life. It is MORE than real life. Better, worse, stronger, more intense.

Focus on setting, location. (Cars are uncomfortable and awkward to have sex in, btw.)

Temperature, what are they wearing? Make sure they actually get all their clothes off include shoes and socks (if they’re going to get naked.) But it can be hot if they’re still partially dressed.

Krav maga theory of sex — everything in your environment is a potential sex toy. Mirrors, ice, cold beer bottles, hot cups of coffee, clothing as do it yourself bondage. Using the environment helps develop the setting as well.  It could be “weird” but if they response well, it’ll be hot. (remember to establish what’s in the room before you manifest it to use.)

Don’t forget the condom! (Unless there’s a reason for them not to need one.)

When you’re working on creating ambiance, do a sensory interview — five or more senses (vampiric, telepathy, etc). Use lesser known senses. Smell, hearing, feeling. It’s not just what it looks. Don’t fetishize people of other cultures. People who are brown do not taste like chocolate, darker doesn’t mean warmer. Latinas don’t taste like cinnamon. People don’t taste like peaches. They taste like skin.

Talk to your characters. Have them describe in their own words what the scene is like through each of their senses. Using their words, not your own.

Sensory Interview: Five minute exercise

What does the scene look like?

What do you smell?

What do you taste?

What do you feel/can you touch?

What do you hear?

Do this with both characters. It doesn’t have to be every scene but it’s good to use to check in on your characters from time to time.

Talk to people and ask them to describe things. Talk to people of genders other than your own. talk to people of different experience. Ask them what terms they use for things – fucking, shagging, etc.

Consider how to incorporate “slams”. (See last night’s liveblog from Cherry.)

Note: After your characters meet/touch, they can’t have sex with other people. (Well, they can but readers tend not to like it in a romance.)

Avoid cliches. “Her panties got damp.” It’s a genre trope. People do expect it. But you can find another way to express that the heroine is SUPER HOT for her partner. Juices dripping down people’s thighs is not sexy.

Sex scenes are fantasies, but they’re not fantastic. Virgins can’t take a 10″ dick. (and there aren’t that many of those.) First time anal sex takes prep. Fisting requires lubrication.  Multiple orgasms are not that common. And they’re not always that fun. Your heroine is going to get tired. And it takes intention.

Realism issue — men do not maintain erections after orgasm. There’s a refraction period. You need a few minutes of recovery.

If you have a character who can deep throat, how did they learn that? If they can put their ankles behind their ears, that needs to be motivated by backstory. (Yoga, acrobat, gymnast.)

Pain and pleasure — most people are not that into it. Banging the cervix is PAINFUL.  It’s like getting kicked in the balls. it’s not sexy. A womb and a vagina are not the same thing. You can’t fuck a womb.

Sex scenes are fantasies. Realism can be useful though. Two virgins have sex and no one comes. Or one of them doesn’t come. Learning your partner takes time most of the time.

EMOTION. YOU MUST HAVE EMOTIONAL RESPONSE. How did they response emotional. If you’re going to skimp on anything, skimp on the physical not the emotion.

The sexiest thing in the universe is intention. He is doing this because he wants her to have the best orgams, becuase she’s his, because he’s the only man for her. No one should bumble through a sex scene accidentally giving the best sex of their life.  It’s not about someone fulfilling your fantasties (or the character’s fantasy), its about them WANTING to fill it.

Sex scenes are not a B movie. Avoid wound words – frothing, weeping, gash, burning. If it is burning or frothing, go see a doctor. If you must use weeping or seeping or leaking, use it sparingly. Or better yet, find a different way to say it.

Avoid violence words. “Rending and sawing” kisses are not sexy. Do use forceful words like slamming.

Impact good, cutting bad. If it leaves holes ,that’s not a good thing. (Exception, fingernails down the back.)

Your characters can laugh during sex. Your readers should not laugh at your sex writing.

Purple prose — you can soar during an orgasm but leave off before

Avoid OTTO – over the top orgasms

Avoid Ridiculous dialogue! – Ride me, Big Harry! Oh god, I’m coming!  People don’t use complete sentences during orgasm. Break up long sentences somehow, ellipsis, dashes, actions. Know how their breath is coming.

Everyone gets pet names during romances but use them sparingly. Establish very well why this particular ridiculous pet name is appropriate and not laughable. People rarely actually use the name of the person they’re talking to. Names are for emphasis.

A sex scene is not a sex manual. It’s not the kama sutra. You don’t need to get through every position on one book or for the love of god in one scene. Momentum gets lost, story gets lost, readers get lost. One position at a time. New lovers generally don’t get fancy. Against the wall, missionary, lady on top. keep it simple.

Don’t give out kink instructions. If you’re going to do kink in your book, you will do a lot of research. But don’t spill all your research onto the page. You’re not giving them instruction on how to do shibari bondage, you’re giving them the experience of how it feels.

Know your kinks. It brings variety into your sex scenes. Everyone has a little bit of a bent to them. You can make a fetish carry a book. (Nice Tie, from Loose Id, is about watching a guy do up his tie. And it’s hot.)

Power exchange: Fundamentally BDSM is about power. Who has it, how they use it, who is giving up and who they are giving it up to and why they are or aren’t. If you are writing BDSM (not kinky sensualism, i.e., tying up a partner just for funsies) understand how power exchange works not just in the bedroom but also in social situations. Subs are not weak. Giving up power happens for a lot of reasons and it’s not weakness.

A sex scene is a character study. People when they are naked are so interesting. People who are exposed give up different parts of themselves. Clothing is armor. Taking away their clothing is making them vulnerable. What happens to your character when they’re naked? Are they more likely to lie? Do they babble? Do they feel compelled to tell the truth. You’re slamming their personalities against each other in a way they can’t avoid. Trust, baggage, issues…they all come up and can be explored.

Lessons from my grandmother:

  1. Of course, you swallow.
  2. You’re not done until everyone’s done.
  3. Whatever he buys you, wear it to bed.

People think about sex differently. Don’t assume that people from the same background have the same feeling. People can surprise you. On the other hand, despite the fact that it was progressive, the feeling under it is very traditional. So don’t stray so far time and upbringing that it’s unrealistic. Know what’s beneath your character’s sexual attitudes.

Write diversity.

Sexual experiences are not plug and play. If your sex scene could be put into any book, it is a terrible scene. Throw it away. No two couples (or whatever) will have the same sex, even if they are literally having the same order of acts. Emotions are different, people are different.

 

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