Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Writing Sex

I can't resist an intriguing prompt. The prompt was write a sex scene that takes place in a given local. I wrote a sex scene -- no love, romance, or emotional bondage intended.

Jo, a no-fear femme fatale, barred no holes in her pursuit of the object of her desire.

Mick, the tasty morsel she shared an office with, played hard to get by throwing out the morality roadblock. Mick lusted after Jo, maybe even more than Jo lusted after him. He obstructed her path with arguments about office dating, and the prerequisite rules that society demands.

That didn't hinder Jo, since she wasn't after romance, a relationship, or even morning coffee. Jo knew the backlash Mick feared would only come into play if they tried to sustain their tryst in the real world. Jo wasn't about to sweat the petty stuff. She itched to get naked and pet Mick's sweaty stuff.

She thumbed through her list of feminine wiles, and chose the tricks that would demolish his blockades. She used her brain and her charms to end up sandwiched between his solid heat and the icy bite of a metal railing. No promises, no excuses, no consequences. Hot, horny sex with her chosen stud muffin... She wanted it; she got it; she was gone.

It was a fun piece to write. Jo was no wimpy, whiny, abused damsel in distress. She could navigate her way in the world without help. It was liberating to play in her head awhile. Unfortunately, some of my readers didn't share my sense of adventure.

There were comments like "not romantic". Good, I say. I wasn't writing the great American love story. I was writing a sex scene.

Another didn't like the way Jo dallied to her point. An old fashioned tease-and-tempt was, in Jo's mind, the best route to her destination. It was her buildup to the big moment; foreplay, if you will. She was careful to choose the psychological warfare most likely to topple Mick's defenses. His body was willing. Only his psychology kept them apart.

I took the opportunity to flex narration muscles I don't normally use.

My scene was written in first person, to see if I could make a sympathetic character narrate her own story. First person makes it tough for the reader to identify with a character. In order to help the reader establish a connection with my leading lady and gent, I avoided any identifying physical traits. I was happy with the feedback I got concerning the characters. I think I pulled that off.

I wondered if I could make it go real time and be believable. I used present tense. This, it seems, I didn't accomplished so well. With words like dallying, and a comment about forgetting they were even in a stairwell… well, I think I fell flat there. It was still fun to do something different.

The last part of my experiment was to make it sizzle without using any harsh words, while escaping the purple prose trap. I think I managed to check those two items off.

Even though I missed my mark with my audience, the experience was enlightening. The best part is the responses got me thinking about rules for writing sex. I've read them before, but they really sink in when you have something personal to relate them to. We all struggle with our sex scenes a bit, so I thought I'd share my thoughts.

Number one on my list: Know your audience. If your readers expect the raging inferno of raunchy sex in exotic locals – that is what you must give them. Dish up a helping of that course to an audience hungry for a sweet shaky first kiss to plant the seed of forever love; you'll spoil their appetite.

Number two isn't very far from number one. Understand what the sex is about. People have sex for all varieties of reasons: Because it feels good. Maybe they are looking for love, starved for a human connection, or they can't help themselves – as in addiction. For some, it's a way to get what they want, distract a lover from their true purpose, ease some emotional pain, or even because they are bored. And once again - it's my favorite - because it feels good. There's a whole host of sexual motivations I haven't touched on, but that isn't my point. You have to understand why your characters are about to lose their laundry. And, refer back to rule one, and decide if your audience can connect with your reason.

List item number three: Avoid the ick factor, but don't slip into the so-so everyday boring rut of tameness. Be open-minded, but know when to slam the gate before that train of thought derails. I'm not able to elaborate on this one much. I hope that we'll know it when we see it as writers and critters.

Number four: Last, but absolutely not least… switch it up and have fun. Live vicariously through your characters. Put on the Goddess Gown and play with attitudes that may be out of your reach, but so within the grasp of your fiction-vixen. Explore, dream, and give your reader something more than they get in the confines of their reality. Fiction is fantasy.

Thanks for visiting us here at Tabby's!


Charli Mac said...

Great timing with this post. I am about to write a love scene where the hero & heroine make out, lots of emotional baggage but the sex doesn't happen.

When I do write my love scenes they are not explicit nor three pages long. I give enough to guide the reader and let their imagination fill in the blanks. Not erotic but not purple either.

I never refer to their lady and man bits by any name. For me, I describe what happens in a more sensual way. I can let the reader know they are having sex without saying manhood, cock, love bud, yada.

But I write love stories and my first MS has only about three major love scenes. For me its the journey. I know the audience I am aiming for.

Penelope said...

I think that's the most important guideline. If you know what your readers expect, it's half the battle. A well written scene that leaves much to the imagination can be even hotter than one that shares all the naughty bits. Either, or anywhere in between can go cold if we don't fulfill audience expectations. Give 'em what they want. ;)

Thanks for stopping by Charli.

Dee Dawning said...

Hey Penny, Like your post, especially since sex scenes are in ninety...make that ninety-five percent of my stories. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said know what your readers expect. Unfortunately you cannot know who's going to pick up your book. That's when you get a one star raring on a five star book. I write both erotic romance and erotica. Your sex scene was strictly lust, therefore your readers should be those who like the commitmentless sometimes kinky sex in erotica. Unfortunately it sounds like you had a couple hea readers in your group.

Keep up the good work, Dee

brenda said...

Great post, Pen. I love number four--live vicariously through your character's. And you said it: Fiction is Fantasy!!!

jcdeacons said...

Considering I cringe at having to write sex scenes. Not because I don't like them. I'm just not any good at them. I really appreciate the advice. And in Dee's case, especially because he writes e-books I think the buyer so read some kind of review before they themselves pick up the book. I tend to like everything from really explicit omg I can't believe that was just written to awe how sweet. *shrug* It's all subjective. So honestly, I wouldn't worry about it while you write. I would just write it how the character's dictate it.


Kris said...

I tend to get the giggles, blush and have the maturity of a 13 year old when I try to write or read a love scene. More so when I read something explicit. I personally enjoy a love scene when it's implied that they're getting down and dirty instead of out right explaining every little lusty detail. As long as it's believable, romance doesn't have to be a factor. Like you said people get it on for various reasons.

Ash said...

Great points. Sex scenes are hard to write. My recent scene was just sex; not about love at all and that was odd for me. But, it was you who helped me to pull out the feelings and emotions of the situation to help the scene sizzle, in more ways than one! ;)

Penelope said...

Wow - I'm impressed with all the great feedback on this subject. Maybe Tabby should post half-naked men above my posts every week. *wink*

There's such variety in reading preferences and what we each struggle with writing. A perfect combination for any writer's circle. It's always nice to see things from a different viewpoint.

Ambrielle said...

Penny, great post, you listed some things to include or not to include in sex scenes. I tend to like emotion and tension in sex scenes (reading and writing) and don't really care about the length. It can be three seconds or three hours, I still need to see and feel the connection between the couple. Even if it's just erotica, I still need to see some emotion.

As far as the audience thing, I agree with Dee, you may not always know who your audience is, but you can certainly guage interest in any of your books by looking at backlist sales.

Also reviews sometimes don't sway my decision as much when buying a book. If I happen to stop at Borders, I'm not gonna insist to the sales lady that I look up a review before I buy a book. No. And I'm certainly not going to hunt down a ton of reivews before I buy one either. I want to read a book, not a review. Like the other day, I had a friend tell me that their view on a certain movie was only so-so. Dislikes, likes, and opinions vary. Needless to say, I watched the movie anyway.

Oh, yeah, and what were we talking about? Sex. Of course, readers need to understand why the people are having sex. Don't just throw them together in a description-less setting with nothing but action and make them do the boinky boink.

Emma Paul said...

I feel the same way, Sex is just more explosive with a little emotion thrown in. And I love the "boinky boink" visual that comes to mind... LMFAO!!!


Zee Monodee said...

Hey Penny
Very good points indeed! I'd also add something - sex is gonna vary/be different depending on your characters, not just on their motives. Both play together. For example, an office worker used to a humdrum life hooking with a tycoon will probably have hot sex, but it won't be the same scene as say, a female spy undercover having illicit sex with an undercover cop. The setting, the moment, the time frame, as well as the motivation and the 'push' and attraction are going to determine how the sex scene will take place and how the characters will act out in there. You cannot sub the office worker and the tycoon for the spy and cop and expect the sex scene to flow well. Each character needs its own characterization even where sex is concerned.
I'll stop rattling! :) Great post, girl!

Penelope said...

Great additions Zee. Feel free to rattle anytime.