Writing Thursday: A Matter Of Some Delicacy; or, Getting Intimate With Your Characters

First off, my apologies for not getting this posted last night.  For some reason, my netbook just didn’t want to talk to the network last night.  It gets that way sometimes.

This is an entry I’ve been saving up since last November when, in the midst of the NaNoWriMo frenzy, one of my NaNo buddies realized she had reached the point in her story where she needed to write a sex scene, and she had no idea how to go about it.

While I’m far from being an expert on such things, I have managed to write a few steamy scenes without blushing myself out of existence.  So here’s the advice I gave her:

  1. First and foremost, the scene should be necessary to the plot.  Because as much fun as it might be to show your characters finally hooking up, just like any other scene, if it doesn’t move the story ahead or help develop the characters in any way, it doesn’t need to be there.  (Unless you’re writing erotica, and even then, it probably works better if your characters have some motivation for being together besides, “We’re horny, let’s have sex!”)
  2. A tactical scene cut can be your best friend. Talk about the foreplay, and how it makes your character feel, and have her ask herself whether she’s really ready, and so on. Show them starting to get down to business, and then…cut to them cuddling together in bed afterward.
  3. This really is one of the times when “less is more” — all you have to do is sketch out the outlines, and the reader’s mind WILL do the rest. I once had reader take me to task for how “pornographic” one of my stories was, when it really only had two interrupted sex scenes (one where they never even got as far as undressing) and one all-out sex scene that lasted all of about two paragraphs. But to her mind, I had written pages and pages of smut.
  4. Remember that the path to true love–or at least, lust–is not always smooth.  Let’s face it, sex can be darned awkward, especially with someone you don’t know well.  Don’t be afraid to show that, or to have your characters involved in a scene where they don’t end up cuddling happily together in bed after having both achieved total satisfaction.
  5. Make the language you use fit the piece.  A gently-bred Regency-era miss having her first experience is going to describe the act far differently than a hard-bitten New York City street kid or a bored suburban housewife.
  6. On that note, however, use euphemisms carefully.  Using clinical, scientific terms will either make the scene sterile and uninteresting, or it’ll turn out sounding like porn.  But you probably also don’t want to go too far to the other extreme and describe things too euphemistically, either–phrases like “his throbbing, pulsating rod” are more likely to make your reader giggle than feel the mood.  Remember that this is one place where subtle inferences such as, “she felt his warmth pressing against her” can work. Your reader can probably figure out what part of him is warm and just where it’s pressing against her.
  7. Keep an eye on dialogue. This is a place where it can easily get cheesy or stilted. Remember that people don’t usually talk in complete, coherent sentences when in the midst of the act. And be on the lookout for cliches–they can slip into a sex scene oh-so-easily!
  8. Finally, relax and have some fun with it. Remember, unlike real life, if it doesn’t come out well, you can always edit–or even delete–it later!

What advice do other folks have regarding those intimate scenes?

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About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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2 Responses to Writing Thursday: A Matter Of Some Delicacy; or, Getting Intimate With Your Characters

  1. Susan Lewis says:

    I remember your advice to me! It worked! I somehow managed to write a scene that I liked and was true to the characters and the story. And I didn’t blush all the way through the writing.
    You helped me tremendously!

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