“8 Rules for Sex Scenes.”
I’ve been reading a lot of books with sex scenes in them lately. (New Kindle = new Kindle book addiction). Not surprisingly, I have a few thoughts on the subject. Now, originally, I had assembled those thoughts into a meandering, chaotic rant. Fortunately, I did a little editing before posting this blog and organized my rant into what I now call my “8 Rules for Sex Scenes.” Bear in mind, this is all highly unscientific and subjective to the extreme. Nevertheless, this is what I have to say on the subject.
For illustrative purposes, I have pulled a couple of sex scenes from my book Gratification, one involving the 2 main characters, Preston and Maggie, who have deep feelings for each other and destined for a happily-ever-after. The other involves Rod and Taralynn, 2 supporting characters with feelings for each other at all and are using sex as a means to manipulate each other. So, on to my rules.
Rule # 1: (and frankly, if you decide to ignore ever other rules here, please remember this one). Your sex scene should not be boring. If I’m skimming through a love scene (and you’d be surprised how often I am), the author has gone off the tracks at some point…and not in a way that makes me think hot and steamy bad boy. This is a scene involving sex, perhaps the most popular subject in the history of mankind. This is not the place to bore your reader with mechanical descriptions and over-used clichés. So, how you may ask, does one keep Clara from skimming? The answer to that question brings us to Rules # 2-8.
Rule # 2: Answer the question: Why are these characters having sex? If your answer does not involve something about revealing character and/or moving along the plot, your characters should be doing something else. Rod has the following thoughts while having sex with Taralynn, helping the reader understand why he’s having sex with her: “And Preston thought it was a bad idea. In his mind, he savored a secret victory over Preston. Now that she’d said the word, however, the reality of marriage to Taralynn got him thinking. He wondered first whether she really meant it. Or, was she merely toying with him, as he was with her? Who proposed marriage on the very first date? She could very well have her own agenda at play.”
In fact, this entire scene provides a glimpse into the minds of both Rod and Taralynn, and sets events in motion that come into play later on in the book, providing the reader with multiple things to think about while the scene is taking place. This particular scene really packs an emotional punch, one that defies the reader to skim. At the end of the day, that is what we authors should be going for: an emotional reaction from our reader.
Rule # 3: Use your setting to enhance your characters: Not all sex takes place in a bed in someone’s bedroom. If you are trying to convey intimacy, a private setting accomplishes this quite well, but it doesn’t have to be a bed in someone’s bedroom. How about a secluded beach? Or deep in the woods? Setting is a great tool to set the mood and reveal something about your characters. Are they people who would feel comfortable making love outdoors? How about making use of other areas in the house? In the first love scene between Preston and Maggie, they are so eager and have been denying themselves for so long, they begin making love in the kitchen.
In stark contrast, Rod and Taralynn have sex in a dark corner of the bar, emphasizing the lack of intimacy between the characters.