So here we are. Tessera Guild is more than six months old, and yet there’s not a droplet of pornographic material on our site. Borderline impossible, that feat. I’m not saying this week’s post is gonna snap the streak. I’m just sayin’. Seems every other site is drowning in sexual imagery and conversation. Hell, even CNN posts the occasional nipple, don’t they?
I guess what I’m saying is; sex sells. Well duh. Why shouldn’t it? Even if plenty of folks are more than a little stuck-in-the-50’s about gettin’ busy, deep down everyone wants it, needs it, craves it. It’s like the prize behind every curtain. Mention any topic, seriously any, and I bet we can tie it (no pun intended) back to sex. It’s in the movies, in every Dos Equis commercial, in Halloween stores, Wal-Mart lingerie departments, and off every other exit on Hwy 75 from Atlanta to Miami. Lion’s Den, I’m looking at you.
And of course, it’s in books.
“Hmmmm… Missionary or surprise flaming dragon? I’m just not sure.”
Disclaimer: I’m not really here to talk about romance or erotica genres. I like to think everyone knows what to expect when they search the aisles for Fifty Shades of whatever. I’m here to talk about every other piece of literature, every fantasy, mystery, horror, sci-fi, etc written with a central story revolving around something besides sex. Because, you know, people do actually f**k outside of Penthouse forums and Christian Grey’s bedroom. Who knew?
Writing sex scenes in fiction is hard. Yeah. Pun intended. Unless you’re gifted with the ability to spill your hottest fantasies out and come across as less than creepy, you’ve got a challenge on your hands. You’ve got to appeal to guys and gals. You’ve got to set the right mood (just like in real life) work the reader up a bit, rub ’em down where it counts, and then get the F outta there before you distract everyone from the main story. There’re so many things you can do wrong. You can creep the reader out. You can ruin an otherwise realistic flow with a ridiculous, out-of-place, fairy-tale romp. You can be too dry, too clinical, or you can risk being too graphic (I had no idea our heroine was that flexible!) Unless you’re rocking an amazing knowledge of sex and realism, and maybe you are, you risk boredom or creepiness with every groan, sign, and lip-bite.
Now, I’m not gonna sit in my couch, wine in hand, candles blazing on my table, laptop scalding the tops of my thighs, and tell the world how to write about sex. I’ve written my fair share of scenes, but that hardly qualifies me. Rather than preach, I’ll offer up what I like when I’m reading about the deed, and you can decide whether you agree or not.
My top 6 got-to-have-it conditions for a lovely, mid-book bump:
1. Keep it short. (No, not that.) I mean keep the scene short. A huge chapter about crumpled sheets, six-packs, ripped panties, and sweat-beaded boobs belongs in a different kind of book. Give us just a taste. Our imagination will do the rest. Trust me.
2. Unless it’s part of the story, keep the kink to a minimum. If Boffer the Elf has a spanking obsession, no one really cares. Well…maybe a little. (Announcing Boffer and other Spanktastic Tales – Due to hit Kindles in Fall 2015). Just kidding. Probably.
3. Make it count. Make it relevant. We don’t want sex between a bored housewife and her distracted-by-football husband. Give us a moment worth remembering. Make us tingle. Make us say, “Whew!” If you’re only gonna have one or two sex scenes in the book, you might as well give us something to think about.
4. Realism. If you’re not sure about how to pull a scene off, read up on it. Find some decent erotica and shave the fluff down by 88%. Or even better, go shag someone. Your wife, your husband, your neighbor. Tell ’em you’re doing research. Seriously. Most writing homework tends to be tedious. Not this kind.
5. Have a woman (preferably several) read through it. Odds are, if they’re not creeped out, the guys won’t be either. But if the ladies are all like, “Ick!” maybe it’s time to rethink the robot gang-bang scene. Actually, I just had an idea…
6. Have a cigarette afterwards. What I mean is; don’t forget about what just happened. If two characters got it on for the first time, things will change. It’s just like in real life. Nothing is the same after the moment. If it’s meaningless to the characters, odds are it’ll be meaningless to the reader.
You can probably tell. I’ve leapt back into reading lately. A lot. Most of the novels I’m shredding through contain their share of oh baby, and most of them do it well. I won’t name names (GOT) but a few otherwise excellent works have contained creep-tastic rape fantasy sex or dry-as-bones got-nothing-better-to-write-about sex. Meh. We can do better. As readers, I think we all reserve the right to demand a little more out of our sex scenes. Give us a little more bang for our buck. And yes, I meant that exactly how you wanted me to mean it.
There’s my two cents. What’re you still doing here? Go get some!
J Edward Neill
So…now that you’re in the mood for sex, go here.