Taking a break from the more structured lessons, let's explore one of the most popular questions people ask me: how do you write a sex scene?

Not quite, though this way would actually be trickier    Credit


It's very individual, but first let's explore a dirty litte trade secret. Dianne Warren, who has written most of the top love songs of the last 20 years, wrote them as a virgin who'd never been in love. I write inspirng romances and I'm so commitment phobic if I spend a night with a man I have panic attacks just from cuddling. I write sex scenes best when I'm celibate, and apparently the best love songs, poems, and fiction come from those of us not getting any.

Nowhere else in fiction do you find such strong evidence of what I call the dream effect. In the dream effect the less truth there is to fiction the more people believe it. There's hard science here. Think back on all the lies you've ever told, and come on, we all do it (social scientists say 80% of all we say are lies: black, white, exaggerations, and mis-recalling). Which ones did you get away with best? I can tell you now, they had four things in common:

1. Based on real possibilities
2. No connection to actual events
3. Thought-through to completion
4. Follow-up questions prevented

Let's use a common example: you're eight, have a test at school you're unprepared for or homework you didn't do, and you want to avoid going. Step one: concoct a plausible scenario (being sick). Step two: go the opposite of reality (fake illness where there is none to allow you to fully control your acting). Step three: think it through (tummy aches and nausea aren't specific, don't require medication, and can fool any doctor and parent). Step four: commit to the lie and prepare yourself to see a doctor when your parent suggests it, even if they don't end up doing so. it'll end their investigative questions.

Children...better at lying than socialized sociopaths    Credit


When trying to write fiction people will believe, the same four steps work. Looking to my own work when sex comes in you'll notice a couple of things: it's usually male domination (from light and sensual to harder-core) and it's almost always romantic. However in the real world none of those things apply to me. I'm strictly a vanilla or female-domination person. I get off on making men beg and plead, I love when they are bound, and I'm firmly convnced "making love" is a made-up term that doesn't exist. I'll only cuddle for a few minutes after sex, and only if my partner wants that, and only because I want to fuck them again. So why do I write the way I do? Why, for you, of course.

You see there's a reason why all romance novels with dominant women flop. Some of us like them, but we're few and far between. For whatever reason, biology or society, women are conditioned to like dominant men. More power to you! Take the alphas, and leave me those sweet, nurturing betas. You can go after the lawyers and doctors, and I'll take the school teachers and nurses. In fiction you want to write about the dominant types, because that's what people want.

I advocate only writing what genres you enjoy, and mysteries and adventures are the main plots are what I like. The romance and the eroticisim is for you all. As such, I have to lie. Every writer has to do this, if you write your own sexual fantasies it's often awkward, embrassing. We've covered before how writing your own fantasies comes out in present-tense narration naturally, and why we want to write in past-tense in fiction. No matter what you're going to have to change your sex scene until it's just another scene you write. If it truly turns you on...you're doing it wrong.

If you look like this when you begin, you're doing it right. By the end you should be smoking a cigarette, shoveling in M&M's and cursing like a sailor. Y'know, how we normally write   Credit


The very first step is to determine if you need a sex scene. Do you want to write one, or does it actually further the plot or character development arcs? If it does either, then go ahead, but f neither, forget it...unless you're writing erotica or romance, which have mandatory minimums for sex scenes. Hell, in true erotica there is no plot, just sex.

Writing the Great American Novel? No more than a single sex scene (unless describing rape or sexual abuse, that does NOT count as a sex scene except to sick fucks) and keep it brief and not too sensual. Writing for a female audience, non-erotica? No more than 3 per book. Writing pure erotica (as opposed to erotic romance or an erotic mystery)? Make that shit 80% sex. Erotic romance/mystery/sci-fi something with a plot separate from the sex? Try to average one highly sensual or sex scene per every 20 pages. If romance, no sex for the first 100 pages (or 1/3) and the more modern the story, the more frequent the sex (and sooner). If it's historical, every 50 ages after the first 100, if Victorian once every every 40 pages after the fist 100. If modern once every 20 pages after the first 50 or 1/6.
Now that you know how many sex scenes to write, it's a good idea to be turned on when you write them. The more sensual you feel, the more sensual the writing will be. So do what gets you in the mood alone. Candles, a bath, hardcore pornography, whatever it is, rock it. Enjoy, indulge, don't orgasm. It's that sense of wanting, desire, that needs to come through. Just remember you're not writing to turn yourself on, you're writing to turn someone else on. 

You're trying to turn on your target audience, so stick to the basic tropes as much as possible


So do that, then sit down to write the scene. Have your character bios handy. Remember that characters should be consistent. If your male protagonist has indulged in several borderline-misogynist thoughts the reader is privy to, there's no way he'll be submissive in bed. If he's a Type-A Alpha who has thoughts about an equally strong female partner, he could be. If your female protagonist is shy and introverted, normally finding it difficult to express herself, she isn't going to whip out the dirty talk. if she's highly experienced, she's not going to act like a cringing virgin waiting to be led by the nose. Keep it consistent.  

I would seriously recommend that when writing a novel you write the plot and skip the sex scenes at first. Leave a marker for later. I usually put INSERT SEX SCENE HERE INSERT SEX SCENE HERE  INSERT SEX SCENE HERE. Then I go back and write them all at once, getting as much out of that sensual mood as possible, writing them until I'm burned out.

This is a good strategy because you should always ask yourself if a sex scene benefits the story. Sadly in the editing process many a good sex scene has to be cut because it fucks up the pacing too much. Seriously, let's use an example from a movie. I was watching Underworld for the thousandth time with a friend last night who'd never seen it. In a fast-paced game of cat and mouse the vampire Selene and soon-to-be-werewolf Michael are hiding from both their clans. They have one little conversation about how she became a vampire and how he became a doctor/lost his wife (amusing because it implies, using logic, he was married at 17 or so) and of course they kiss. It made both my friend and I snicker, and we talked over the next few bits of dialogue.

Any story that is 90% of this shouldn't have much sex, unless it's hard, fast, quickie-fucking


You don't want to do that to your reader. Sure, maybe you think a sex scene in the middle third of the book should be slow, to express lovemaking, and show how more emotional a relationship is, but if the characters are running for their lives...nope, not happening. Adrenaline makes you want to fuck, and fuck hard and fast. Maybe a quickie against the wall when they reach a safe house works, but if you feel that shows emotional back-tracking for your characters, scrap the scene.

Sex is still really tricky for female authors, and sorry to say, laughable for male authors. For male authors I really, really hate reading their sex scenes, because they all seem to have no idea how to make a woman orgasm. It's called foreplay, and every man should know it backwards and forwards in real life and on the page, and if your make protagonist is a bit of a clod maybe he won't know it, but then don't write the woman cumming. Seriously, you're going to warp a young mind. For women it's generally thought no sex should be written outside of romance or erotica. Fuck that shit, I like sex, my characters like sex, and you do too. How could I write about complex adult relationships without noting sex? Just don't go the Laurel K. Hamilton route, and fight back against this sexist standard by turning otherwise decent books into shitty pornography.

Know your genre, know how often to include sex scenes, get yourself into the mood, and make sure the pacing of the scene matches the pacing of the story, and the characters actions are consistent. When you edit sincerely ask yourself if the sex scene helps or hurts the story. Always remember to not write your personal fantasies, and when in doubt, lie like a rug. What is fiction, after all, if not one, long, entertaining lie?


But of course all my characters are real, really have that kind of sex, I swear!