Do your sex scenes sizzle or fall flat? @bethanyhalle @gpwriter #mywana

Writer Wednesday Exercise

Sex scenes are tough. How hot is too hot? Just exactly what DO you call the necessary bits of anatomy? What if the writing just falls…limp?

Finding the right balance between steamy and corny is my greatest fear. Especially since I write psychological thrillers: to me, everything has to come from the character and be authentic.

I write a sex scene in just about every novel, and I think I’m OK with it—with what I end up with anyway. Anomaly had a very short scene that I thought was critical for J’s character, One Insular Tahiti had a forced sex scene, and Secret Language of Crows had an invisible sex scene.

I’m not a master of erotica like Cassandre Dayne or George Pappas but I’ve learned a couple of little things along the way that have helped me when I needed to write a scene.

  • Just call the anatomy bits what they are (unless you’re writing for one of those pulp romance novels) or at the very least what the ‘character’ would call them.
  • The characters still have to react to one another. It’s not about listing out mechanical acts
  • You don’t have to describe each and every detail. Just the highlights.
  • Stay clear of alliteration
  • Consider rhythm. Ahem. Sex has rhythm. Keep that in mind. And get it right. It doesn’t have to overtly match that of real sex, but it needs to have some sort of scene matching rhythm. Is the encounter a harsh one or is it romantic?
  • Stay away from clichés. If you must use one/or recognize one in the scene, change it to a conceit.

So: your job? Take one of your characters and put him/her in a situation where some sort of sexual encounter is a forgone conclusion. In fact, it is a NECESSARY thing for the evolution of the scene or character. You might not use it in your novel, but you might discover a thing or two about the character that you can use somewhere else. It can be a vanilla style or erotica style or straight out hardcore. Your call. Your writing.

But please come back and comment. Tell us how you made out. Or tell us what your tips to writing these scenes are. Tell us anything. You’ll get entered to win a copy of Larry Enright’s Four Years from Home at the end of June.

A few resources to help you out:

Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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2 comments on “Do your sex scenes sizzle or fall flat? @bethanyhalle @gpwriter #mywana
  1. Sex scenes… Where would we be without them?

    Our first novel, Sugar & Spice, has none. Our next two, Rose Red and Equilibrium, are jam-packed. Well, Equilibrium is, anyway.

    But that’s all down to my writing partner, who does all the sweaty stuff. I just edit it and blue-pencil all the bits we’d probably be arrested for if it went out,.

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