Monday, January 24, 2011

SEX!!!! (Got your attention, right?)

Sex is fun! Sex is exciting! Sex is fun to say. SEX SEX SEX! We love writing, reading, talking, thinking, and having sex. We’re all romance authors here, right? With very few exceptions, even in more mainstream romance circles, you’re going to have to approach the elephant in the room. Your characters are likely going to get naked at some point, and…then what? Are you aiming for cable TV or Showtime? Do you want a nice R or XXX me up, baby? The answers to these questions will determine your choice in publisher, reader, and the overall feel of the story.

So, what sort of sex are you going for? What sort of sex will your characters want or have? There have been some fantastically HOT sex scenes in movies and literature. Anyone see Watchmen? Very graphic, very hot…yet there’s also something to be said for the understated sex scenes, like that in Atonement. Now, I didn’t care for the movie, but that scene remained with me well after my husband and I left the theater. I will admit to having a preference for both types of sex scenes; I typically lead with an all-out Watchmen-style scene, but too many of these can be overkill, and let’s face it, boring…and you don’t want your readers to get bored with sex, or more specifically, sex your characters are having.

Sex scenes can be both fun and nerve-wracking. I’ve spent days crafting the perfect blend of steam and heart, agonizing over wording, what-to-call-what, and how much UMPH is needed for the AHHH. Everyone is different when it comes to sex. For some authors, readers, and publishers, the more descriptive, the better. Other readers might cringe upon tumbling across a “cunt” or “dick” in a sex scene. Others might find the word “penis” too funny to take seriously. When in doubt, it’s typically safest to go straight for the throat and avoid purple prose.

Then again, there is something to be said for flowery language. I’ve read and edited books/scenes wherein “he gave her two more fucks,” and that sounded so absurd I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe. Yet, the author was straight to the point. Sex can be titillating (ha! Pun), sensual, or downright awkward. Be careful how you craft your scenes; virgin sex? This can be uncomfortable, but do it right, and your reader will come back for more. Old lovers sex? You’re working with characters with built-in chemistry and tension; things are bound to get explosive in the bedroom. New lovers? Work it up, make them want it, make US want it, and you’re good to go. Sex scenes are essential to romance; if you’re writing erotica, you gotta do it well. If you know what you like to read, you have a good basis of what to write. The rest, hopefully, will come (ha! Pun!) naturally.


Nikki London said...

Your column is the highlight of my Monday! Thanks for shedding light on this! It seems that good sex scenes is a concept hard to grasp (Ha! Pun!) for most beginning authors.

Reena Jacobs said...

I love a novel with a bit of sexy in it. :) But like you said, too much can be a drag. I love the novels that have a couple of graphic sex scenes then gloss over the remainder. The reader knows what's going on behind the doors, because they got a taste of it earlier.

Great article.

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