“Sex is an emotion in motion.” – Mae West
I thought I’d tackle the subject of sex scenes in this month’s post. I personally love writing them – I can’t wait until I get to them when I’m writing a book. I love building that anticipation throughout the story to bring my characters together in a perfect storm. But I’ve heard enough writers say they don’t feel comfortable writing them or they find them difficult to write, that it seemed like a good topic to tackle.
I understand the hesitancy some writers feel. When my book, The Divorce Party, finaled in So You Think You Can Write, my first thought was, oh my God, the public are going to read my unedited manuscript! My second thought was, oh my God, my coworkers, my mother might read my sex scenes. And that’s where I learned the first rule of sex scenes: You can’t think of anyone else reading them, you can’t censor yourself as you write them, you need to get in to them, you need to enjoy them. You need to remember these are your characters, not you. Have a glass of wine, write what turns you on, because if it doesn’t turn you on, it sure isn’t going to turn anyone else on. But likewise, what gets you going might not be everyone’s thing. But like everything else with writing, you can’t please everyone all of the time.
So now that’s you’re focusing on the sex scene between your characters and who they are as individuals, this answers the other frequent question I get asked: How do you keep writing sex scene after sex scene and differentiate them? Well, because, every one of us approaches sex a different way because of our backstory. The culture we were brought up in, our experience levels, how liberal our families are, our religious beliefs.
It’s also about the scenarios our characters find themselves in. A sex scene I wrote recently in which my very experienced, deeply wounded hero takes the virginity of my sweet, naïve heroine is going to have very different emotion attached to it than two lovers who were saying goodbye with one last hurrah. With my experienced, jaded hero and naïve heroine, the emotion was about the forbidden, tenderness, passion and consideration. With my two passionate lovers it was hot, perhaps a bit angry, sad and there was definitely regret and pain there.
The one common thread in writing a memorable love scene is, as Mae put it so well—emotion. We can have meaningless encounters in our real life and we can write a lust-based sex scene, but when sex is truly magical, it’s about the feelings behind it.
Here are some of my tips for writing sex scenes. I’d love for you to join in and tell me yours!
· Take all self censors off and go for it. It will read awkward if you feel awkward about it. Save the critiquing for the editing process.
· The best sex scenes are ones you build to – they don’t just come out of no where – unless of course a hot, one night encounter or something similarly impulsive is what you’re writing. You stoke the fireworks between your characters, let the readers see the stakes for both them—just how bad, good, or disastrous this is going to be. Make your readers so desperate to have your hero and heroine pull back the sheets they can’t turn another page without it happening.
· We sometimes focus on sight and sound when writing when the other senses are so crucial in a love scene to make them three-dimensional – taste, smell, touch. Think about how much more ‘in the scene’ it puts you to describe the texture of your heroine’s skin from the hero’s POV, or the coarse hair on your hero’s thighs as he pushes the heroine’s thighs apart…
· As Isabel Allende puts it so well - "For women the best aphrodisiacs are words. The G-spot is in the ears. He who looks for it below there is wasting his time." Love that! To me dialogue in a sex scene is hot. But it has to fit the character – if he’s the passionate, silent type, he’s not going to egg the heroine on with verbal foreplay. It just wouldn’t ring true. But because for so many women, sex is about what’s going on in their head – letting your hero play to that with words can be so sexy
· Use real words and less euphemism. Euphemism has its place too. It’s very effective in certain instances, just not too much of it. You don’t have to spell everything out in clinical detail either. Sometimes allowing the reader a window into how your character is feeling about the act, how it is changing their world, is much more effective.
· Sex will evolve. Your first sex scene will be very different from the last. Second and subsequent sex scenes should show your characters growing, their emotional bond strengthening. They should be responding differently to each other, the emotion should change. Sex is when people are at their most vulnerable – it’s the perfect time to crank up that character arc and push it forward, to use those feelings your characters are experiencing to change them. Nothing will be the same after sex – it can be good or bad but never indifferent.
· Sex can be a lot of things – fabulous, awkward, soul-baring. I like to keep it real between my characters to give the lovemaking authenticity. Not that you want your alpha hero fumbling around, but if a character is inexperienced, they’re going to feel this at moments – exposing these moments and vulnerabilities can be very powerful. But not so much that you’re writing awkward sex, because no one wants that. Likewise with humour. I love injecting a bit of humor into a love scene, but a light touch is necessary or it turns into a comedy and no one wants that either.
I thought I’d leave you with a scene from my upcoming release, Reunited for the Billionaire’s Legacy. This was a very emotional scene for me to write as my hero gives in to one last night with the woman he still loves, but with whom he will sign divorce papers the next day. Sometimes a kiss is not just a kiss…
The play of the moonlight through the skylight was all he needed to absorb his wife’s jaw-dropping beauty as he deposited her on the bed. She was everything he’d ever wanted, everything he could no longer let himself want. Not after this.
He stripped off his pants, shirt and tie and slid on a condom. Diana was staring at him as if he was a beast on the prowl, and he liked that. Liked when she was at his mercy. He straddled her, pinning her to the bed with his heavier weight. She looked brazen with her dress half-off and her eyes full of desire. He ran a hand from her throat to the heat between her legs, pushing her dress up to her waist. Her lips parted in an unspoken message. The urge to kiss her, to take possession of her sultry full mouth, was so strong it nearly consumed him. He swallowed it back, clamped his jaw down hard on the need. If he did that, this bedroom would never be his own.
“Coburn?” Diana lifted her hand to curve around his nape. Her dark eyes were confused, questioning. He closed his against the emotion he saw there because now it was too much for him. Now it threatened to singe him beyond repair. He allowed her fingers to bring his head down toward her parted lips, but at the last minute he turned his head and buried his mouth in her throat. She went rigid beneath him. He captured her nipple in his mouth to distract her, his hand moving down her stomach to ready her silken flesh for him. The stiffness left her on a low, reluctant moan.
That was when he took her with a powerful, driving thrust. She accommodated him easily. She had been built to take him. He had to close his eyes to hang on to the moment, to focus on the pleasure drawing the act out would bring both of them, or he would have been lost, she felt that exquisitely good. Like returning to heaven.
To find out more about Jennifer and her books, you can visit her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
You can read an excerpt from Jennifer's latest release, Tempted by Her Billionaire Boss here.