Ugh, apologies for posting this late. We had to go get glasses for the Faerie. Yes, the curse of my terrible vision has crossed into the next generation.
So. I’m actually having a bit of a hard time with this one, because it’s basic. You’re writing an action scene, so you need to make sure the physical action flows and makes sense. If a hand appears, the reader needs to know whose hand it is. This is especially important when writing ménage-and-more type scenes (and btw, it occurred to me that in Monday’s post I mentioned that the scene is about two people, and have repeatedly throughout referred to H/h or two people. This is simply for ease in writing and brevity; it’s not meant to imply in any way, shape or form that scenes should or have to only involve two people. I’ve written a few ménage books, as you guys know, and like them just fine and in my case they were certainly romances. Just wanted to get that on the record.)
So. A sex scene is an action scene, and you need to make sure the action flows and fits the scene. How do you do that? What exactly are they doing, anyway? (We’re going to work on choreography etc. later, too, this is just an intro.)
Here’s where the potential problem comes in. Because we’ve pretty much all had sex, and because we’re intimately familiar with the act (no pun intended) and with what we’re writing, it’s easy to slip and create body parts out of thin air. Or forget to mention something. Bad sex writing often isn’t just clunky or drab; it’s laughable, because it can create such odd images in the reader’s head, even more so, I think, than other bad writing.
I can’t for the life of me remember where I saw this, but I will never forget reading on a blog or something an example of bad sex writing. It was something about the hero “spreading the twin lobes of [the heroine’s] clitoris.” Ummm… Yeah.
But most mistakes aren’t that bad, or that obvious. They’re things that make perfect sense to you, the writer, because you see it in your head. For example, you might think it’s very hot to have the hero lift the heroine and brace her against the wall—and it totally can be—but if his hands are under her thighs, it is impossible for him to them grab her breast unless you mention he shifts his grip. Yes, it’s the type of thing you’d expect the reader to know—too-detailed sex writing is bad too—but you really should at least give the reader some clue.
So here’s some common mistakes:
*If the hero is physically inside the heroine, he cannot lick, suck, or kiss her bellybutton. Breasts I’ll buy, depending on the height difference and how limber he is (although I’ve seen editors and readers ding writers for that too, so be careful) but there is absolutely no way his cock is inside her and his mouth is anywhere near her stomach. Try it out with your partner, seriously.
*If you’re writing a ménage, you need to use names. It might be very clear to you which “he” is behind the heroine and which “he” is in front, but once somebody grabs her hair we need to know who it is—unless you’re going for a “She wasn’t sure which one and didn’t care because of the blissBlissBLISS” sort of thing. Using names all the time can sound clunky, but trust me, you’d much rather use names than have your readers laugh or get confused.
*If the heroine is giving the hero head, he cannot do the same to her unless you specify she is turned around or have him turn her around.
*Nobody’s arms reach their feet when they’re lying down flat.
*If the hero is much taller than the heroine, they can certainly kiss while having sex but not with their chests pressed together. (Trust me on that. My husband is a foot taller than me.)
*Also with the height difference thing, if he’s much taller and they’re standing up, he needs to seriously bend his knees or she needs to find something to brace her feet on or something.
*Two men cannot enter the heroine from behind at once.
*Clothes have to come off or be otherwise out of the way. You don’t have to describe this in detail, at all; I’ve blogged before about how my heroes rarely wear underwear simply because I hate writing removal of male underwear. You can say “Her clothes seemed to melt away under his skillful hands”; you can have the hero tear her panties off; whatever you like. It’s supposed to be sexy, not a laundry list. But the reader is not going to just assume they’re naked if you don’t at least give a hint.
*Beware of phantom body parts; keep a clear picture in your head of what everyone is doing and where their hands and feet etc. are.
What others can you think of?
I know quite a few writers who use books like the Kama Sutra or The Joy of Sex to help them choreograph and write sex scenes. I never actually have, but somewhere I’ve got a sex book (that my MOTHER gave me, no shit) with lots of nice pictures of different positions and stuff. Books like that—guides—are worth checking out. Porn really isn’t, at least not for these purposes. Because porn is a fantasy. The job of a pornographic actor or actress is to make the sex look hot; it doesn’t matter if they’re cold or uncomfortable or their back hurts or their arms feel like they’re going to pop out of their sockets, they have to look like they’re having a great time. It may be a great visual to have a woman balance on one leg on a railing while somebody nails her from behind, but a reader is going to think of the physical awkwardness of it simply because s/he can’t see the character’s face.
There is a lot more to cover on this topic but it intersperses with stuff we’ll be ding through the remainder of the series, so apologies that this installment isn’t everything it could be. We will get there. For now I just wanted to get some basic stuff out of the way.
Beware of phantom body parts or bodies doing things they physically cannot; re-read the scene slowly. Act it out (literally, heh heh, or even with dolls or your hands or whatever. Make sure you’re giving the reader something real to picture.
I do want to touch very quickly on POV here as well. We’ll do more on that close to the end—I don’t think POV is a very involved topic, frankly—but someone asked about writing from the male POV so here’s my thoughts on it.
I love writing from the male POV, especially sex. And I find it fairly easy to do; of course, they’re my sex scenes and I like them, so of course this is something I think I’m good at, but the reviewers seem to agree. And there is a bit of a trick to writing sex from a male’s POV, sure, but it’s an easy one.
All you have to do is ask yourself what you want a man to be thinking when he’s having sex with you.
Do you want him to be worshipful, reverent (Yes, Bernard, lol, reverent.) Do you want him to be thinking this moment feels like forever? Do you want him to be thinking how beautiful you are? How good you smell?
What type of man are you writing? A big Alpha who’s always in control? What would the reaction of a man like that be, to discover during sex that he’s losing that control?
Now, you don’t want to go too overboard with this. Remember, he’s still a man. He’s not going to be picturing unicorns and rainbows. But he is going to be seeing the heroine a certain way, without flaws. He is going to be overwhelmed by certain things about her. He is going to feel things, just the way the heroine does. She feels him stretch her inner walls and fill her up; he feels those walls grip him and surround him with wet heat. She feels his chest hot and hard against hers; he feels her breasts crush against his skin.
What I’ve just done there, with the little examples, is something I like to do a lot. I mirror their thoughts and sensations. If he sees her, even for a dizzy moment, as some sort of goddess he’s worshipping with his body, I like her to think of herself that way or that he makes her feel that way. It’s a way of demonstrating to the reader how in-tune they are. It adds depth and cohesiveness to the scene, and again, makes the scene uniquely theirs.
Writing sex is just like writing any other action scene; you must make sure the actions flow and are physically possible. You don’t have to get fancy, but you do have to make sure everyone’s body parts are accounted for and everything makes sense.
You don’t want people laughing at your sex scene.