The following are two snippets from sex scenes in my upcoming (Date TBA) EC release Accustomed to His Fangs, a vampire My Fair Lady spoof. I chose an unpublished work so everyone gets to play along.
One is from the beginning of the story. One is from the end. You tell me which:
She reached for him, longing to feel that skin under her fingertips again, and he leaned forward to allow it. His cock touched her thigh, its hard thickness hot enough to scorch her skin. An answering heat flowed through her body, although she thought she might not be ready to take that length inside her after what she’d just experienced.
She was wrong. In one swift movement, Sebastian leaned forward, cupping her face in one hand and using the other to guide himself into her body, impaling her, stretching her as he drove himself balls-deep into her slick heat.
“Vadushkia,” he whispered. A shiver ran through his body and transferred itself to her as he started moving, slow, steady thrusts that built the pressure in her body again.
Her exhaustion left her. Her hands wandered over his strong back, down the heavy muscles of his arms that shook as he kept up his rhythm. His lips found hers, more tenderly than before.. As if a circuit had been completed with his kiss, Becky felt his pleasure run through her in a rush, felt it leave and go back to him, only to come back. Again she left her body and found herself in his. Again she was back in hers with him. If she’d thought she was floating before, when his masterful tongue coaxed multiple orgasms from her trembling frame, she knew it now. This was unreal, unbelievable and she prayed it wouldn’t stop.
Her hand stole down his stomach to his cock, squeezing him, pulling him forward. The need to be inside her overwhelmed him and sweat broke out on his skin as he pressed her back further into the pale silk sheets. Around them, candles flickered and wavered. The whispers of his ancestors, of the Gods of the rotagosja, echoed in his ears. His muscles screamed, tightening as he fought to accept her change for her. He positioned himself at her entrance and slid inside.
She was so tight, so wet. He squeezed his eyes shut as her muscles squeezed his cock. Her back arched, pressing her breasts up to his chest, exposing her throat. Her canines were already lengthening. The sight excited him more than he’d ever dreamed.
“Rebecca,” he whispered, driving himself deeper into her. She responded with a moan and wrapped her legs around his waist, rocking her hips up toward him. Even her body felt different, warmer, more alive. The scent of her skin, that perfect Rebecca-scent that always made something inside him feel both cheerful and feral at the same time, had changed. It did not lessen his reaction. Instead it called to that feral part, called to the barely tamed wildness of his race, and let him know she was one of them.
The ache in his body, the burning of his bones as he carried her pain, started to lessen. The transition had almost ended. His muscles shook as tension grew in his pelvis, in his stomach. For the first time, he thought of the chance that their love could create a new life. The idea sent his hips thrusting faster, harder, as the woman he loved matched his every move with delirious speed.
Ha! I can hear you now: “No fair! It’s obvious which one is from later in the story!”
And my response to that is…Damn right. It should be.
Now, in an erotic romance, there are a lot of sex scenes. It’s possible to take a snippet from a scene near the beginning, and trade it with a snippet near the end, and perhaps find them interchangeable. But that’s a snippet. Not a whole scene.
Remember, if the sex isn't advancing story, character, or relationship, it shouldn’t be there. Which means something should be different between the characters in every scene, no matter how small. Even if it’s simply something about the new ease they’ve found, or how he nibbled her neck in the spot her knew she loved, or something. (Ideally it should be more, but it also depends on what the scene is most heavily focused on.)
So let’s look at these two snippets—and a little more at Friday’s Black Dragon snippets, as well. Remember how I mentioned the one other big difference between those two Dragon scenes?
The difference was, in the first scene, the two are fighting—it’s literally sex as a weapon, and they’re using sex as a substitute for emotion. In the second, sex is an adjunct to their emotion. Rather than Gruffydd taking Isabelle, they’re taking each other—Isabelle is a more active participant in this scene, or rather, her actions are described more specifically, which makes her seem more active. Their movements are slower—they’re taking their time, looking at each other, being with each other.
We have the same with the two Accustomed scenes. Yes, there’s the obvious stuff—Becky’s change, Sebastian thinking about babies (he’s such a sap), the candles and ancestors which indicate this is no ordinary sex scene.
But in the first the focus is on Becky’s sensations. There is—or at least I hope there is—a feeling of discovery in Becky’s hoping it doesn’t stop. There’s a sense of impersonal-ness (is that a word?) in the first scene. Becky knows it’s Sebastian with her, she’s thinking of him by name, but she’s not making love with him. All he is to her in that scene is broad shoulders, a talented mouth, a hard cock. She’s not looking into his eyes, or really at him at all. She’s not wondering what he’s thinking or feeling, beyond the physical. She is totally focused on herself.
In the second we have more of a sense of people doing this together. Sebastian isn’t just thinking of himself, and neither—in the bits from her POV—is Becky. It isn’t simply a matter of moving more slowly or being more tender, because that isn’t always the case. It’s a lot of little things: focus on the other person, need for them and not just their various body parts, thoughts and feelings. It's the difference between Hero wanting to be inside Heroine's hot cunt, or wanting to be inside her.
Now, not every scene is going to be quite as obvious as the snippets above. For example, the bathroom scene in Blood Will Tell or the up-against-the-lightpost scene in Eighth Wand are both pretty violent, really. But the reasoning behind them and what they’re meant to show are different as well—both are more story-advancing than character-advancing, although they of course do their share of both. The reckless passion of the bathroom scene, for example, stems directly from Julian’s frustration at being unable to tell Cecelia how he feels and from his sense of having failed her. This is obvious from the dialogue and his thoughts before the scene, and through his thoughts during about seeking redemption, trying to forget, etc.
Everything counts. What your characters are thinking while they’re having sex is at least as important as what they’re doing, and you can show the way their relationship advances simply by changing their focus, or the course of their thoughts, just as much as you can add a little staring-into-each-others’-eyes or sweet dialogue. It all adds up to give the reader a much more complete picture of these people an their relationship.
(Oh, and conversely, you can use this change in focus to show a sexual relationship that isn’t going anywhere. If your characters never think of each other, or think of each other only in the most base physical terms, you’re subtly signalling the reader that this is a relationship without a future, no matter how pleasurable or hot the sex may be.)
So. Here’s an assignment. Grab any book (with sex in it!) from your shelf. Read the sex scene, but focus on how much the characters think of each other, and what they think. What does that tell you about their relationship? Now look at one of your own scenes. Have you used the POV character’s thoughts and what they see and feel to illustrate their feelings?
Try writing some new scenes, from the viewpoint of a character totally in love. Now try one with a couple who’s been having some problems, and is having sex more out of duty than anything else. It can still be good sex, but how does it change the course of their thoughts? Are they able to lose themselves in the physical as easily?