This article originally appeared on on 8/1/2014

Why Isn’t There More Steam In My Steamy Sex Scene?
Writing the Dreaded Sex Scene

By Nicole Delacroix

It’s been said that a well-written sex scene can make your story sizzle, multiple scenes can propel you to bestseller status, and a badly written scene, much like a bad experience, just leaves you wishing you hadn’t participated. I was terrified when it came to writing a sex scene; sure I had experience reading great scenes, both tame and explicit.

I was certainly aware of what worked and what didn’t, but wasn’t sure that I had the ability to write a really good scene myself. So I did what I do best, research. I started with the nuts and bolts of the topic and picked up a few books on the subject. My choices on this were “Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet” by Stacia Kane and “How to Write Hot Sex: Tips from Multi-Published Erotic Romance Authors” by multiple authors (US links to both appear below).

(Please note these were my personal selections, there are a multitude of great books out there on the subject)

Once I had a grasp on the general formula I figured it was time to delve into a few examples of good scenes. I decided on three each of a romantic scene and three more explicit scenes. I wanted to make sure what I wanted for my own writing had a nice balance, so I had to see both sides of the genre to make an informed choice. I am, by no means, a prude, but I wanted my scene to be pivotal to advancing my story for my characters and would keep my readers engaged, maybe even give some valued insight into my characters. Here’s a few of the things I picked up in my research that helps readers and writers alike see that sex doesn’t have to be smut no matter how explicit it is, (Thank you “50 Shades of Grey”) and as writers it’s time to bring the sex out of the bedroom.

Do I Use The Less Is More Approach?

Sometimes innuendo is a writer’s biggest asset, and sometimes the story requires you to tell it like it is. The answer to this is simple, what does your story tell you? If you’re writing an aggressive story with explicit action, then you want the sex scene to follow the same format. There’s nothing worse than being all amped up by the action only to get to the sex and feel like the author missed the mark by being coy. On the other side, if you’re using the power of suggestion to propel your story, you don’t want to write an explicit scene filled with ‘naughty bits’ as that would simply turn your readers off to the story itself. Balance is crucial, and no one knows your story the way you do.

Avoiding Cliché

I think we’ve all read enough of the obligatory bodice ripping, heaving bosoms, and throbbing members, and have rolled our collective eyes at the characters ‘raging’ with passion and intensity. What I want to know is do people know how much replacing those ripped bodices actually costs, they aren’t cheap folks? Clichés are a writers’ abysm, and where most stories lose focus and more importantly…readers. These descriptive proses simply don’t add to the story and many readers are tired of the same old same old. Used sparingly, clichés can add to the story, but over use simply leaves the reader wishing they had picked up a different book. So my personal rule is if it seems like you’ve read that before, you have, find another way to say it.

Where’s The Emotion?

I’ve read funny sex scenes that were perfectly true to life; characters falling off the bed, rolling around on the ground and the dreaded rug burn. Sex scenes become more poignant when you focus on the emotions behind them. There’s always the underlying desire in the sex scene, but this is basic, there are so many more emotions to explore, and sex can run the gambit of them. Ask yourself, what is my character feeling? What are they thinking? How do they feel about what’s happening? These are the ingredients that will bring your scene to life. Don’t be scared to use anger, sorrow, fear, pity, aggression, disgust, intimidation, jealousy or sympathy just to name a few. Emotions fuel our sex drives in real life, so they should in your characters’ lives as well.

Metaphor, Metaphor, My Kingdom For A Metaphor…

“But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill.”
Hamlet, i. 1.

Okay, so we’re not all Shakespeare, but sex is one of those topics that induces fits of giggles, blushing and embarrassment in most people. It’s why erotica is the silent best-seller, no one admits to reading it, but we all have it. With the advent of the E-reader, we dirty minded folks can enjoy our smut in privacy without anyone the wiser. Using a metaphor can let you say what you want directly without it coming across as clumsy. In addition, a good metaphor can add much needed depth by giving the scene emotional weight and greater meaning. There’s a reason why poetry is so popular, it’s called a metaphor.

Don’t Write A Sex Scene Just To Have A Sex Scene

With the popularity of “50 Shades of Grey”, it’s hard not to jump on the proverbial bandwagon of writing a sex scene. You have to be strong and remember that everything in your story, much like in life, happens for a reason. Does the scene lead to some insight into your characters? Does the scene advance the plot? Does the scene add something to the story that it was lacking? I had the occasion to receive sage advice from another writer and that is this “Sex in your book, should be like sex in life, it should mean something”. If the scene is there simply to add an air of lustiness to your writing, then you should focus more on your writing and less on the sex. Don’t fall victim to be trendy and include something your story simply doesn’t need. Yes, sex sells, but bad sex puts everyone off, and the point to writing is to gain a loyal readership, so know your audience.

In closing, a good sex scene can add that needed spice or impetuousness that your story or character needs or it can be the Albatross that sinks the boat that is your story. Hopefully these tips will help you decide what’s right for your story and helps you keep the clunky clichés where they belong – in bad fan fictions.

What are your tips for writing better sex scenes? Share them in the comments!

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