This lesson, part two of “Sex in Writing,” speaks on topics like sexual tension, internal and external dialogue, point of view (POV), taboo, and the woman reader/writer preferences in a sex scene. This is meant to serve as a basis on how to begin exploring the art of writing sexual encounters and how to keep an audience in mind.
Sexual tension is arguably one of the most important aspects of writing a successful sex scene. It plays off of every other aspect and combines them to form the tone of the scene. Sexual tension doesn’t happen in these juicy scenes. It begins much earlier through character interaction in everyday life. Writing gratuitous sex is one thing (it goes by the name of erotica or smut), but a compelling sex scene, regardless of the goals of the characters, must be compelling. And if you want your scene to draw your reader in, make it believable. You’ve got to create sexual tension using this vulnerability to highlight the fear and emotion of the characters. Why do you think forbidden love is the most popular genre of romance? It’s sexy as hell and this is because of the sexual tension. You just need to create a reason for your characters not to do the nasty, then tear that reason to shreds.
A lot of people don’t know about this one, or don’t think it’s important. But internal dialogue serves as a way to show character. If you’re not showing character while writing a sex scene, stop. That may work for erotica, but not anywhere else. This category works best if you are writing in first person or third person limited. Doing this with third person omniscient could lead to confusion as the characters thoughts could get jumbled together for the reader or it could be too much and the reader won’t get into the scene. The last thing you want to do is confuse a reader, regardless of content, but especially here. Too much can bring the reader out of the scene, much like anything else we write. The internal dialogue should be short and honest. No soliloquies. No having epiphanies. These are cliché and reek of amateur writing.
External dialogue can be one of the most sexy parts of your scene. It’s where the characters are so lost in the lust of it all that only their primal voices emerge. The trick to external dialogue is not to be too vulgar or reach too far. These are easily identified as erotica techniques and can make the rest of your novel suffer, especially if you write with a particular voice. Don’t make your character be someone they aren’t. It has to be realistic. The best reference is yourself. When writing sexy dialogue, the key is to make the character so lost in the sensations that they are feeling that the only thoughts that can break through are ones they say as they catch their breath. For instance, my personal technique is to write within a gasp, to get it all in one suck in of air. To test this, say your phrases out loud to see if they have the effect you want.
Here is an important topic. If you plan on having a sex scene in your novel, choose your point of view based on that. First person and third person limited are going to be your most personal accounts. Use these if you really want to give emotion. Internal dialogue will be better achieved with these. Third person omniscient would be more for the view. Use this one to be the most descriptive in a tactile and visual sense. It’s like you are writing it from all angles, seeing every reaction to every touch and word spoken. Not that you can’t get emotion here, but it’s going to come mostly from narration rather than the characters themselves.
So, this is going to be a tender subject. I’m going to keep it brief. What are some taboo topics dealing with sex that you are aware of? Some that come to mind are incest, bestiality, teacher/student, etc. In dealing with all willful sex, unless the two parties involved didn’t know this was going on, you need a disclaimer (if it’s a minor scene that’s not developmental to the plot drop it or make it implied). You need to be crystal clear on what parties are involved and whether it is consensual. If it is not consensual, that’s a whole other matter altogether. I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows someone who was raped or molested. If you don’t, as bad as it is, you will one day. You are writing for an audience, and some of them will have gone through this. Unless you are writing it to highlight the negative aspects, it’s best not to write a detailed scene at all. You will put yourself at risk for negative feedback and possible shunning, so make sure you are aware of all the consequences with embarking on such dangerous topics. If you are writing it to be descriptive about something tragic, tread lightly. Don’t use too many details. Do what you have to do to get the point across. Rely more on the emotions of the character than the act, then move on. Use reflective memory to give any sort of specific details. This will also help with character portrayal.
P.S.Lesbian sex, not so taboo anymore. But gay sex, surprisingly, still is despite the rise in LGBTQ literature. If you don’t know what you are talking about, you could offend someone. So, do your research and tailor to your audience.
The Five Senses
As women, we have a million things running through our minds at all times. So, when writing from a woman’s perspective, that needs to be taken into account. When we have sex, we don’t want other worries creeping into our heads. We want the pleasure to overtake us and shut out everything else.
We want to focus on the TOUCH. Every tingle or even painful sensation. Whether something is cold or warm, gives us goose pimples or makes our bodies writhe.
We want to focus on the SIGHT of things. When things are getting really good, our eyes will most likely be shut. But before all that, or even in between, our eyes are open and we see everything and it’s all sexual. They way his mouth is curved in a smirk, his hungry eyes gazing up at you, the way the sweat glistens off of certain body parts. We make these observations in real life, so they need to be transferred to book form as well.
We want to focus on the SMELLS. Yes, I said smells. I’m not talking about the actual smells of sex. If you want to put those, that’s on you, but that is more consistent with smut. The smells I’m talking about are things like cologne, candles, food (i.e. chocolate, strawberries). What smell drives your character crazy and what’s the connection?
We want to TASTE. Again, let’s not be raunchy, but don’t be afraid to comment on the way he tastes. Did he just brush his teeth? Did he have some chocolate? Better yet, did he lick the chocolate off of your character? I’m getting ahead of myself. Subtle details can be the best ones.
Lastly, we want to HEAR. Maybe not everything. I don’t know about you, but actual “sex” noises are not attractive to me. I’m talking about moans, gasps, grunts, and best of all, dirty talk. When having sex, there is no moment where everything melts away. More like everything melds together and what we hear is the icing on the cake. Readers want to know if hearing the character’s significant other being pleased arouses their character, as well as the noises and phrases that came out of their own mouth.
You want to create a cacophony of senses and emotions and have them overwhelm your character to the point that nothing else can break their sexual bubble.
Most of women’s preference has to do with the five senses, but there are some kinky women out there and you need to appeal to your audience. That being said, if you haven’t tried it, you probably shouldn’t write about it. You don’t want to get called out for not knowing what you’re writing about. Or worse, writing a dry sex scene. Sex should never be dry. If you do choose to write about something you have limited experience with (I’m gonna say it loud for the people in the back) DO YOUR RESEARCH!
Preferences of most women have when reading sex scenes are:
- The Bad Boy/Rough Guy: Usually gives a harder style of sex, but shows vulnerability when doing sensual sex.
- Dominatrix/Submissive: Some women either want to be handled or do the handling.
- Forbidden Fruit: This can include fantasies involving their boss, friend’s boyfriend, the bad boy, or even some taboo elements.
- First Time: It’s all sensual and romantic, usually. Although, there are some that are rougher as a sign of the character throwing their chastity away.
There are definitely more, but when I googled women’s erotica preferences, these were among the top choices. There were others, but they were more in the fan-fiction genre.
Bottom line, if you don’t enjoy writing sex scenes, or you’re not aroused while writing them, you aren’t doing it right. Or, maybe, sex scenes just aren’t for you. And that’s OK. You can always use sexual tension and implied sex so you don’t have to write the details. Emotion is key and it’s driven off of the senses. Everything else builds from there. Just as well, if the sex doesn’t further character development or plot, it is considered gratuitous. Gratuitous sex in a novel is generally frowned upon, unless you write romance (and even then, it can go too far). Always consider how the content will affect your readers and the potential marketability of your book.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post. I had a blast composing it and it was fun to present it to other writers who were contemplating including sexual scenes in their work. Now, I know we didn’t cover everything. We had a time frame to stay in, so we chose specific information that seemed the most important. Let me know what you thought by commenting below or contacting me via social media or email. I’m always ready to listen to critiques or suggestions, as well as answer questions.
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