Huge thanks to Incy for coming onto my blog today and chatting about those dreaded love scenes. Okay, I’m less embarrassed to write them now, but I hate to say not only is her advice hilarious, but very true and helpful too. Hence Wisdom.
For those of you who don’t know, Incy is a lovely lady who has contracted a few amazing books with Entangled. Can’t wait to read the finished versions. Her links are below and you must head over to her Pinterest page. It really is a work of art. (Yes, it has lots of hot men).
Take it away Incy…
Clinical Accuracy sucks. Euphemisms blow.
Did you know there are only 64 standard sex positions listed in the Kama Sutra but in reality, there are hundreds, many hundreds, more…and they have names? You’ve got the good old traditional Missionary position, the Cuban Cradle, the Butterfly, the Cowgirl, the Reverse Cowgirl, the Eiffel Tower (ouch), the Slider, the Bicycle, the Cat (seriously?), the Corkscrew, the Moon over Miami (that one has got to be a joke) to name but a few. So, given a half decent eye for detail and a wide enough vocabulary, writing sex scenes must be easy, right?
Nope, it’s a bloody minefield, fraught with all the prejudice and sanctimony to be found in a society where ‘to fuck’ means something exquisitely pleasurable whilst also being a curse/swear word of the strongest order, and where everyday words innocently referencing genitals are just as likely to be used to insult or describe disaster—you dick, what a cock-up.
Furthermore, describing sex is not easy. The physical act itself is ugly. On a purely biological level, it involves sharing body fluids, (sweat, spit, semen, vaginal fluid)—yuk! Also, in reality, you’ve got random arms, legs, even noses to accommodate, weight to distribute if severe injury is to be avoided, and imaginative angles to contort because human bodies are not jigsaw pieces of an automatic, natural fit.
So how do you write a half decent sex scene? Frankly, I haven’t got a clue, (thanks for the invite, Aimee), but here are a few Don’ts that might help.
1. Don’t be too clinical. There is nothing sexy about the sentence: ‘He penetrated her vagina with his penis. Ejaculation followed.’ Your aim should be to engage. Cold commentary, however accurate, ain’t gonna do it. Inject emotion! Similarly, accuracy isn’t always to be applauded. Maybe he does slurp whilst lapping away with his tongue, but slurp is not a sexy word, nor is dribble.
2. Avoid purple euphemisms. Frankly, I wouldn’t be turned on by the approach of ‘manmeat’, a ‘pulsing wand’ (however magical), a ‘hooded warrior’ or ‘rod of lightning’, I’d be bloody terrified! And it sure as hell wouldn’t be getting anywhere near my ‘love tunnel’, ‘secret lady garden’ or ‘pleasure folds’. There would be no ‘ploughing’, ‘hoeing’ or gardening of any kind. And I have nipples that simple resemble nipples. Not cherries, not cherry pips, pink bullet tips or juicy pickled currants. Just nipples. We all know what they are, we all get the picture.
3. Don’t sell falsehoods. Trust me, if you can wrap both hands round his ‘girth’ and your fingers still don’t meet, it’s not gonna fit. No way, not anywhere. Also, and maybe I’m deficient here, but orgasms are not like spontaneous combustion, there’s no ‘poof and you’re there’. They have to be worked for, so include the reader in a little bit of foreplay. Oh, and a current pet hate of mine: ‘He tore through her panties. With his teeth.’ Um, you ever tried gnawing through cotton/silk. It’s gotta take time and surely you’d have to grind those back teeth. Images like this can toss the reader out of the moment.
4. Don’t provide clichéd, running dialogue. Frankly, if either party is sufficiently coherent to hold a half sensible conversation, they’re not doing it right. Furthermore, and I’ll take correction here if necessary, but I can’t see any man chanting chorus after chorus of ‘yeah, baby, suck it. Suck it harder. Deeper. Deeper. More. More. Yeah, baby, yeah baby, all the way down. Harder. Harder.’ My experience may be limited, but I just don’t believe men/woman talk like this. (I’ll have to ask around).
5. Don’t skip the foreplay. Use foreplay to tease the reader, your aim should be to arouse but don’t bang (pun intended) on and on and on…and on. Personally, I think if you’re still mid-description without a finish in sight after 10 pages, there is every chance your reader is now running cold and yawning widely. Better to increase the number of sex scenes and spread them out, than bore the reader into impotency.
6. Don’t traumatise your reader. If targeting YA and exploring young love avoid hard core sex. If writing ‘sweet and tender’, shut the door. Avoid the gratuitous. A bad sex scene is not going to be saved by the strapping on of a plastic penis or sudden introduction of an extreme fetish. Shock is never a good tactic.
7. Only use humour if you are very, very, very, very, very good at it and the timing is perfect.
So what does work?
· Even sex scenes have a purpose. Reveal something about a character or the plot, the reader didn’t know before. Drive the story forward. Use sex to alter the relationship.
· For every action, there should be a reaction. (He strokes, nibbles, licks etc, what’s her reaction?)
· You’ve got 5+ senses to play with – use at least 3 of them. Touch and texture can be powerful, taste and smell keep it real, sex isn’t known to make one deaf.
· Make each sex scene different. And I don’t just mean location (on/under the kitchen table, backseat of a car, in the shower) or position (on top, beneath, against the wall). Explore a different emotion each time. There’s certainly a raft to choose from—resentful sex, tender sex, shy sex, hot furious sex, happy sex, sad sex. Repetition of the same old, same old, is as boring on the page as it is in real life. In fact, a sex scene without emotion is little more than porn! (Fine, if that’s what you write, but in a romance it’s all about the emotion.)
· Despite what I said above, use dialogue. Just keep it real and in character. A little encouragement can go a long way.
· If you hit a brick wall and you can’t picture the scene, search for sensual images, we all need a little stimulation from time to time. Google is the obvious choice, but Pinterest can provide a feast for the eyes across any number of subjects.
Finally, I’d like to ‘thank’ Aimee for inviting me to post on this oh-so-easy topic. Bottom line, power up the act (sex) with emotion and you can’t go too far wrong, (unless you slip into the purple, in which case, cut the scene all together.
Thanks for stopping by, it has been very enlightening! :o)