As we discussed Monday, a large portion of your sex scene is probably going to be foreplay. You’ve spent your entire book, or at least large chunks of it, preparing the reader for this; so how do you bring it all home?
By being true to your characters, and writing the scene as honestly as you can.
Now, of course some things in a sex scene are a bit idealized. Nobody ever has bad breath. Everybody comes, often more than once (for the women, anyway.) Everybody smells good (more on that in a minute), men almost never need more than a few moment’s encouragement to get hard…it’s a lovely world, really, and not always true-to-life, but you must be honest when it comes to your characters’s emotions. Because those emotions drive the scene and make it theirs; those emotions develop and strengthen their characters and their relationship.
Monday we looked at an atypical foreplay scene, a big fight. So today we’ll focus on more “traditional” foreplay.
Here’s a snippet from Blood Will Tell. I think it’s still a bit unusual in that it doesn’t include any oral sex, but let’s see what you guys think:
He put his arm back around her and pulled her close, so her head rested on his chest. Under the covers, his legs snaked around hers. The hair on his thighs rubbed against her own smooth legs, sending shivers of delight through her entire body.
She flipped over so that she straddled him, her hands braced on the smooth muscles of his bare chest. His cock stirred beneath her and she gave a little wiggle, making him gasp.
Cecelia smiled, suddenly determined to show Mr. Mansfield what kind of woman he was dealing with. “I think it’s my turn to be on top.”
She centered herself over the hard shaft of Julian’s now-erect cock and moved forward slightly. He sighed softly as her wet lips stroked over the head and back down again, and she sighed as well when her clit came in contact with the silken skin covering the head of his dick.
His hands slid between her legs to toy with her clit, then rose up to play with her nipples, tugging them gently with fingers covered in her own juices.
She dropped her head back and let her hands fall, lightly running over the head of his cock before they reached the trimmed hair of her mound. She separated her lips and began gently pulling at them, glancing down to see Julian watching her hands, his face transformed by lust.
“You are amazing,” he whispered, as she slid her index finger down over her clit and began rubbing it lightly. The sensation of being watched combined with what she was doing made her incredibly hot, and she let her eyes fall closed as she continued teasing herself with her fingers. Her hips started moving, her wet pussy sliding deliciously along the length of his cock, fiery and rigid against her own soft flesh.
“Cecelia.” He grabbed her hips, pulling her upward so that he could fit himself inside her. She pulled away.
“Not yet,” she whispered, enjoying the frustration on his face. “I’m in charge here.”
“Oh, Jesus,” he groaned, throwing his head back on the pillow and closing his eyes.
She grinned. “Patience is a virtue.”
“It’s not one I want to learn.” He gasped as she ground herself harder on his rampant cock, teasing him by letting the tip slide just into her entrance then pulling away again. His fingers dug more deeply into her hips, but he did not try to move her again. He was letting her control things, at least for the moment, and Cecelia enjoyed the power in a way she never had before. Watching Julian’s reaction to her was incredibly sexy.
She rubbed against him faster, his gasps filling her ears, her blood racing as her clit became more and more sensitive and engorged against his cock. She leaned back, her full breasts moving gently, her erect nipples dark red against her pale skin.
She reached down behind her and let her fingernails scratch gently up his inner thighs. His hips jerked up beneath her, and when she ran her nails across his balls he groaned.
“Enough,” he growled, and before she knew what was happening he lifted her up again and impaled her in one smooth, quick thrust.
(I used “dick” in that scene; in retrospect I wish I hadn’t, btw, but I used cock so much I needed some variety.)
So what do we notice here? First, there’s a lot of dialogue. I think it’s fairly sexy dialogue, too. I also think that for those of you who haven’t read BWT, it gives you a fairly good picture of what the Julian/Cecelia relationship is, or at least has been before this: lots of banter, with Julian dominant (I still think he got two of the best lines I’ve ever written for a hero, btw; right before their very first kiss Cecelia says, “Wait a minute. I don’t even think I like you,” and he replies, “You don’t have to”; and later she tells him her mother warned her about men like him and he says, “Let’s go back to my place. I’ll show you why she was right.” Sigh.)
Second, this is Cecelia’s conscious attempt to assert some authority, to stop being Julian’s sex toy and start being a strong woman. How do you think it worked? What do you think it says about her that she feels confident enough to do that, what does it say about the relationship and her hopes for it that she feels the need to do that?
For me, what makes this scene still a bit atypical is that it doesn’t include any oral sex. Oral sex is one of the touchstones of foreplay, IMO; if you recall, this entire series started because I was thinking about oral sex and whether everyone has to trade off equally all the time. I don’t think they do, personally. I’m happy to assume they’re both getting and giving some, I don’t need to see it every time. And yes, to me, as a woman, it’s far more important that I see the woman get hers than it is to see the man get his. I’m pleased by both, but as I said in that long-ago blow job post, the woman is the partner who isn’t guaranteed and orgasm from penetration; she’s the one who can come and still have sex immediately after. Logistically it makes more sense, and emotionally it makes more sense; if he isn’t even going to make sure she comes he’s kind of a jerk.
For this reason I am intensely annoyed when I read heroines in romance or other genres—I haven’t seen this in a while but it seemed to be all the rage at one point—who really enjoy, um, manual stimulation but don’t like having oral sex performed on them for whatever reason. Who are these women? More to the point, who are the men who’ve been giving them head in the past? Because seriously, if you can’t arouse a woman that way, you are really doing something wrong. (Yes, this is a total digression.) It’s oral sex, it’s not rocket science (incidentally, I was so pleased with that line that I almost used it for the title of this post. Oral Sex: It’s not Rocket Science); the heroine-who-doesn’t-enjoy-it always feels to me like a projection of the writer’s discomfort with sex or her own ladyparts, or a cheap “modern” way of using that old romance trope of “I never really liked sex until HE came along, sigh.” I don’t particularly like writing those heroines and I don’t particularly like reading them.
I can buy a virginal heroine being nervous or uncomfortable with oral sex, sure, but not a woman who’s supposed to be at least somewhat experienced (and again, if you want to make her nervousness or discomfort part of her character that’s fine; just don’t suddenly yank this “I hate oral sex” crap out of your hat because you, the writer, aren’t comfortable writing an oral scene or think it makes your hero look Especially Manly or whatever. Making her uncomfortable is fine, if there’s a reason for it, especially if you’ve set that reason up and made it a part of her character. It can be incredibly hot to have the hero explain exactly what he’s going to do to her and how very much he wants to do it; if he’s that type of guy, go for it.
The simple fact is, women should like oral sex and a true hero wants to give it. End of story. A man who doesn’t want to do it, or who makes derogatory statements about it, is not a hero; he is a jerk. (I will never forget reading a snippet of a book where the hero looks up from his task and admonishes the heroine for not keeping her pubic hair properly trimmed. If a man did that to me I would have done a damn good impersonation of Van Damme cracking a guy’s skull between his thighs. But then I always keep tidy, too.) A heroine who won’t give head is not a heroine I want to know; she’s prissy and frigid.
Sorry, I realize I’ve digressed all over the place, but that’s why foreplay gets its own week instead of just one post.
The point is, foreplay is a golden opportunity to really get into your characters’s heads. Don’t wimp out on it. Even if they’re just saying some nice things to each other, even if they’re barely speaking, every word and every action counts.
This is your chance to have the hero or heroine really take charge; it’s your chance to show how well they know each other; it’s your chance to show them interacting as people, just people. Be honest about who they are and what they want; show their weaknesses as well as their strengths.
Maybe someone is shy about their body. Maybe someone is so desperate they can barely speak. Maybe there’s anger there, or sadness. Remember how we can illuminate subtext through sex? That’s especially true of foreplay.
Your readers are not going to enjoy and be aroused by your foreplay if the characters themselves are not. Use this opportunity; let them do what they want. Your readers will thank you for it.
Try writing some sexy dialogue for your characters. Really think about what they might say, and how to make it theirs.
Write a scene where the hero is simply stroking the heroine’s body. First from his POV, then hers. No dialogue. What are they thinking? How does what they think play itself out through their actions?