Archive for July, 2008

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What Stace had to say on Thursday, July 31st, 2008
I’ve been interviewed!

Just a quickie! Especially since I’m so looonely. Half my pals are away in SF and, sigh, I’m not.

Anyway. Remember when I asked for a question for an interview I was doing? The interview is now live. It’s here on FantasyLiterature.net, so go check it out and find out what question the diabolical Mr. Henry convinced me to ask myself. The interviewer, Beth, is a very cool chica–she’s the one who originally reviewed the book, too.

Since I know you’re all dying for more more more about me, lol.

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 30th, 2008
Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 9

***insert generic disclaimer***

Character: Who’s on top?

Of course, who’s on top isn’t the only way to illustrate character through your sex scenes. It’s just one of the most obvious, one of the easiest to use. And honestly, it’s one of very few “writer’s tricks” that work, that are there for a real reason, and never become cliché. Somebody has to be on top, after all—at least some of the time, heh heh—so you have a distinct advantage there.

I don’t only mean who’s on top in the literal physical sense, either. I mean who initiates, who takes charge? Who’s doing the seducing, who’s making the other work for it, who wants who more? (Yes, I know that second “who” should be “whom”. I just don’t care.)

I don’t think I’ve made any real secret of my preference for dominant men in romance, and those men do tend to be in the driver’s seat, so to speak—at least on the surface. But while it’s easy to look at the man making all the moves and see him as the one in charge, to me it’s a lot subtler than that; he’s the one brave enough to put himself out there; he’s the one taking the risk and admitting he has, if not feelings, physical desires, yes. But the woman is in charge. She’s the one who says yes or no.

But it’s for just that reason that when the woman takes charge it can really deepen the relationship, the conflict, and the story.

For me, the moment when the woman takes charge, even if it’s as simple as being on top, is the moment the relationship makes a subtle change. In Blood Will Tell Cecelia walked directly into a planned seduction; she was prey, plain and simple, for Julian—a man who knew how to seduce and was used to being in control. But when, two days later, she takes the initiative, it’s a signal, and she means it to be. She’s going to be an active partner in this budding relationship; she’s going to show him what she’s made of. And by doing that she moves herself even further out of the “position” Julian originally placed her in.

Likewise, Aleeza in Demon’s Triad is the active seducer with her first partner, Dorand. Not so with Ferrin, who is much more of a sexual threat to her. He’s the seducer from the start; it isn’t until she realizes she has deep feelings for him that she becomes aggressive—Dorand is more immediately trustworthy, so Aleeza doesn’t feel the emotional vulnerability with him she feels with Ferrin.

As I said back in the “Do you need a sex scene post”, everyone in the world who has sex does it in a slightly different way. Obviously not the direct physical act, but everything around it. A lot of this will be covered in foreplay in a couple of weeks, and a lot of it involves dialogue which we’ll do on Friday. But the way your characters touch, when they look at each other and what they look at, what they’re thinking, what they like—it’s all different for everyone.

Here’s an easy example. Do your characters look at each other? Do they look into each others’s eyes? They don’t have to; honestly, they shouldn’t always, because that can be just as hackneyed and boring as any other stereotypically “romantic” moment. But for a character who hides? A character who doesn’t reveal a lot about themselves? The moment when s/he finally locks gazes with their partner can be a big moment. You don’t have to emphasize it in any particular way, you don’t have to make it a Big Moment. But the reader will see it, and sense it, because we’ve all felt the difference it makes when we really look at our partners. (Did you know that young babies are awakened and stimulated by direct eye contact? The best way to rouse a sleepy baby is to look directly into its eyes. Really. Think about that for a minute, and how you can use it.)

What might be the response of someone who’s always in control to having that control stripped from them in bed? What might be the response of someone who is always the submissive partner suddenly being the dominant one? Would s/he be scared, tentative? Triumphant? What about a woman who’s always been very open about her needs in bed? How would she react to a man who clearly expected to be in the driver’s seat?

What about a couple who laughs a lot, whose main form of communication is joking? What happens when they stop laughing? What are their favorite parts of each others’s bodies, and how much attention do they pay to those parts (and I mean things like the small of her back, the curve of a shoulder, a scar on a chest, not the obvious)?

How about a woman who is self-conscious about her body? Wouldn’t she be a little more apt to try and hide bits of it or to avoid certain positions? Does the hero know or sense her feelings and go out of his way to reinforce them? Perhaps the hero is the self-conscious one. What does the heroine do?

Why is the one in control the one in control? Did the other person willingly give up control, or did they never take it? How does that coincide with what we already know about them, or does it?

In As the Lady Wishes, Anna J. Evans and I created Lila, a woman who’d been abused by her husband and had finally escaped from him and his iron rule. One of the first things she did was buy herself a vibrator—because her husband had found her normal needs and desires repugnant. The vibrator (and the junk food in her cabinets) was a symbol of independence to Lila, and a way to show she was going to live for herself for once.

But when Arthur, an ancient Druid who’d been imprisoned in a painting for thousands of years and forced to grant wishes when set free, seduces her (thus fulfilling her wish), Lila still insists he get some pleasure from the act as well. This not only sets Lila up as someone who is still a caring and giving person despite her horrific past, but gives Arthur a reason to see her as more than Yet Another Master. For me, despite the fact that this scene takes place twenty pages into the book (and we’ve already set up Lila’s personality and past), the moment when she refuses to allow Arthur to have anything less than his own pleasure (yes, we’re talking blowjobs here, folks) is the moment when Lila really becomes a fully rounded character, strong and even more likeable than she was before (and I really liked Lila.) After everything she’d been through, after Arthur informs her he’s there specifically for her pleasure, she still refuses to be solely The Taker.

My heroes—most romance or romantic heroes, really—tend to be pretty masterful when it comes to the old sexing. They know what they’re doing, and they do it well. But to a man, they don’t orgasm until the heroine has done so at least once. Why? Because they’re not selfish in bed, and because they get pleasure from giving it to their partners. To me this is a huge character point. A man can be as selfish, snide, or tricky as he wants to be in life—let’s take Greyson Dante as an example, as he never does anything without first figuring out what’s in it for him—but it would be absolutely unthinkable to him to ignore Megan’s needs in bed. More than that, he offers to wear a condom even though he knows and has explained how it’s unnecessary. To me that was an important moment, and not just because that bit of dialogue enabled me to dispense with the stupid condoms (which I loathe writing, by the way. There is nothing sexy about condoms and all the damn she-put-the-condom-on-with-her-teeth scenes in the world will never convince me that there is.) It showed Megan, and more importantly the reader, several things: how very much he wanted Megan, how he understood she might not trust or believe him and accepted it, how he was willing to put himself out to set her mind at ease, the mere fact that he brought it up at all. What does this say about his character?

What does it say about a man’s character if he isn’t concerned about such things, and is it always that he’s selfish? It might not be; maybe he was with a woman who told him not to bother. Maybe he was with a woman who faked it, and so is doing what he’s always been told is mind-shatteringly faboo but leaves the heroine cold. How can you twist a situation like that and show the readers something really, deeply important about the character, not just that he’s selfish and/or doesn’t care?

The great thing about sex scenes is, they enable you to literally and figuratively strip your characters bare and see what happens. You get to examine them at their most open level, their most unconscious waking level. When we have sex we’re not thinking as much; what we do is instinctive. It’s a golden opportunity to give the reader some real insight into the character themselves, if they’re selfish or giving, bored or carried away by passion, scared or triumphant or desperate or cold.

Your character’s sex scenes should be a barometer of who and where they are; it’s themselves at their most basic.

Here’s a little assignment: again, look at some of your sex scenes. Do you see the characters as individuals in them? What do their actions tell you about themselves—not the relationship, but them themselves? Do they meet problems and fears head-on, and so make love the same way—boldly, and without looking back? Or are they more tentative, nervous? How does this reinforce their character development throughout the story?

Write a paragraph of tell about one character having sex. Like, “Jack has a very naturalistic approach to sex, and isn’t ashamed of it. He loves women and everything about them. To him sex is like an amusement park ride. He’s very open about his needs and rarely lets them be ignored. He doesn’t ignore his partner either, and he doesn’t understand people who are shy in bed.”

How would that character have sex? He’d probably take the heroine’s hand and show her what to do. He’d probably try a lot of different things with her, and depending on what sort of woman she is, would be either thrilled with her openness or confused or even frustrated with her reticence. Maybe he would work to thaw her out a bit? Maybe he would go too far, or maybe not? Surely he’d watch her pretty closely to gauge her reactions, right?

Now read one of your scenes, or a scene from a book, or whatever, and write a paragraph of tell about those characters. What did the sex scene teach you about them?

***Did you enjoy this series/find it helpful? You can now purchase it in print ($4.99 at Createspace) or ebook ($2.99 in numerous formats)! And if you feel moved to leave a review or something that’s great too, though of course not remotely necessary.***

BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET

What Stace had to say on Monday, July 28th, 2008
Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 8

***Insert Generic Disclaimer***

Mechanics: Illustrating/Advancing Relationship

The following are two snippets from sex scenes in my upcoming (Date TBA) EC release Accustomed to His Fangs, a vampire My Fair Lady spoof. I chose an unpublished work so everyone gets to play along.

One is from the beginning of the story. One is from the end. You tell me which:

She reached for him, longing to feel that skin under her fingertips again, and he leaned forward to allow it. His cock touched her thigh, its hard thickness hot enough to scorch her skin. An answering heat flowed through her body, although she thought she might not be ready to take that length inside her after what she’d just experienced.
She was wrong. In one swift movement, Sebastian leaned forward, cupping her face in one hand and using the other to guide himself into her body, impaling her, stretching her as he drove himself balls-deep into her slick heat.
“Vadushkia,” he whispered. A shiver ran through his body and transferred itself to her as he started moving, slow, steady thrusts that built the pressure in her body again.
Her exhaustion left her. Her hands wandered over his strong back, down the heavy muscles of his arms that shook as he kept up his rhythm. His lips found hers, more tenderly than before.. As if a circuit had been completed with his kiss, Becky felt his pleasure run through her in a rush, felt it leave and go back to him, only to come back. Again she left her body and found herself in his. Again she was back in hers with him. If she’d thought she was floating before, when his masterful tongue coaxed multiple orgasms from her trembling frame, she knew it now. This was unreal, unbelievable and she prayed it wouldn’t stop.

***

Her hand stole down his stomach to his cock, squeezing him, pulling him forward. The need to be inside her overwhelmed him and sweat broke out on his skin as he pressed her back further into the pale silk sheets. Around them, candles flickered and wavered. The whispers of his ancestors, of the Gods of the rotagosja, echoed in his ears. His muscles screamed, tightening as he fought to accept her change for her. He positioned himself at her entrance and slid inside.
She was so tight, so wet. He squeezed his eyes shut as her muscles squeezed his cock. Her back arched, pressing her breasts up to his chest, exposing her throat. Her canines were already lengthening. The sight excited him more than he’d ever dreamed.
“Rebecca,” he whispered, driving himself deeper into her. She responded with a moan and wrapped her legs around his waist, rocking her hips up toward him. Even her body felt different, warmer, more alive. The scent of her skin, that perfect Rebecca-scent that always made something inside him feel both cheerful and feral at the same time, had changed. It did not lessen his reaction. Instead it called to that feral part, called to the barely tamed wildness of his race, and let him know she was one of them.
The ache in his body, the burning of his bones as he carried her pain, started to lessen. The transition had almost ended. His muscles shook as tension grew in his pelvis, in his stomach. For the first time, he thought of the chance that their love could create a new life. The idea sent his hips thrusting faster, harder, as the woman he loved matched his every move with delirious speed.

Ha! I can hear you now: “No fair! It’s obvious which one is from later in the story!”

And my response to that is…Damn right. It should be.

Now, in an erotic romance, there are a lot of sex scenes. It’s possible to take a snippet from a scene near the beginning, and trade it with a snippet near the end, and perhaps find them interchangeable. But that’s a snippet. Not a whole scene.

Remember, if the sex isn’t advancing story, character, or relationship, it shouldn’t be there. Which means something should be different between the characters in every scene, no matter how small. Even if it’s simply something about the new ease they’ve found, or how he nibbled her neck in the spot her knew she loved, or something. (Ideally it should be more, but it also depends on what the scene is most heavily focused on.)

So let’s look at these two snippets—and a little more at Friday’s Black Dragon snippets, as well. Remember how I mentioned the one other big difference between those two Dragon scenes?

The difference was, in the first scene, the two are fighting—it’s literally sex as a weapon, and they’re using sex as a substitute for emotion. In the second, sex is an adjunct to their emotion. Rather than Gruffydd taking Isabelle, they’re taking each other—Isabelle is a more active participant in this scene, or rather, her actions are described more specifically, which makes her seem more active. Their movements are slower—they’re taking their time, looking at each other, being with each other.

We have the same with the two Accustomed scenes. Yes, there’s the obvious stuff—Becky’s change, Sebastian thinking about babies (he’s such a sap), the candles and ancestors which indicate this is no ordinary sex scene.

But in the first the focus is on Becky’s sensations. There is—or at least I hope there is—a feeling of discovery in Becky’s hoping it doesn’t stop. There’s a sense of impersonal-ness (is that a word?) in the first scene. Becky knows it’s Sebastian with her, she’s thinking of him by name, but she’s not making love with him. All he is to her in that scene is broad shoulders, a talented mouth, a hard cock. She’s not looking into his eyes, or really at him at all. She’s not wondering what he’s thinking or feeling, beyond the physical. She is totally focused on herself.

In the second we have more of a sense of people doing this together. Sebastian isn’t just thinking of himself, and neither—in the bits from her POV—is Becky. It isn’t simply a matter of moving more slowly or being more tender, because that isn’t always the case. It’s a lot of little things: focus on the other person, need for them and not just their various body parts, thoughts and feelings. It’s the difference between Hero wanting to be inside Heroine’s hot cunt, or wanting to be inside her.

Now, not every scene is going to be quite as obvious as the snippets above. For example, the bathroom scene in Blood Will Tell or the up-against-the-lightpost scene in Eighth Wand are both pretty violent, really. But the reasoning behind them and what they’re meant to show are different as well—both are more story-advancing than character-advancing, although they of course do their share of both. The reckless passion of the bathroom scene, for example, stems directly from Julian’s frustration at being unable to tell Cecelia how he feels and from his sense of having failed her. This is obvious from the dialogue and his thoughts before the scene, and through his thoughts during about seeking redemption, trying to forget, etc.

Everything counts. What your characters are thinking while they’re having sex is at least as important as what they’re doing, and you can show the way their relationship advances simply by changing their focus, or the course of their thoughts, just as much as you can add a little staring-into-each-others’-eyes or sweet dialogue. It all adds up to give the reader a much more complete picture of these people an their relationship.

(Oh, and conversely, you can use this change in focus to show a sexual relationship that isn’t going anywhere. If your characters never think of each other, or think of each other only in the most base physical terms, you’re subtly signalling the reader that this is a relationship without a future, no matter how pleasurable or hot the sex may be.)

So. Here’s an assignment. Grab any book (with sex in it!) from your shelf. Read the sex scene, but focus on how much the characters think of each other, and what they think. What does that tell you about their relationship? Now look at one of your own scenes. Have you used the POV character’s thoughts and what they see and feel to illustrate their feelings?

Try writing some new scenes, from the viewpoint of a character totally in love. Now try one with a couple who’s been having some problems, and is having sex more out of duty than anything else. It can still be good sex, but how does it change the course of their thoughts? Are they able to lose themselves in the physical as easily?

***Did you enjoy this series/find it helpful? You can now purchase it in print ($4.99 at Createspace) or ebook ($2.99 in numerous formats)! And if you feel moved to leave a review or something that’s great too, though of course not remotely necessary.***

BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET

What Stace had to say on Friday, July 25th, 2008
Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 7

***Insert Generic Disclaimer***

Mechanics: Odds and Ends about Language

(Note: All of these topics will be covered more throughout—well, except adverbs. This is just a bit of a language-specific overview.)

A while ago I saw a piece of writing advice concerning adverbs and sex scenes that I didn’t really agree with. The advice was to use as many adverbs as you like, that a sex scene was one place where you don’t need to look for other words or be careful about their use (and no, I don’t think you should never ever use adverbs, but you do want to be careful. Why? Because adverbs are telling, nine times out of ten. Anyway.)

No, you shouldn’t pepper your sex scene liberally with adverbs and pull every purple word you own out of the box. But you may find yourself using adverbs in sex scenes more often than in regular prose, and that’s okay.

There are, quite simply, some words that need modification in a sex scene. When you say the hero pinches or rolls the heroine’s nipples, the reader can be imagining all sorts of things—the kinds of things that may pull them out of the scene—unless you add that “gently”. Or you may need to add “tenderly” to a look or a touch. Someone’s eyes may close involuntarily; someone might suck greedily; or—one of my favorites, I admit—someone might do something desperately.

Not to mention, you may have already used all the straight action verbs you have, and so need to resort to modifying less intense verbs.

You also might find that an adverb fits the rhythm of your scene. Rhythm is very important in sex (heh heh) and so it’s very important when writing a sex scene. I think rhythm is one of those things that can’t really be taught—you pick it up as you go—but to fill that rhythm out, to make your sentences flow, sometimes you need longer words. The point is, use whatever word you need, but don’t feel like you have to modify every noun or verb, because you don’t. You’ll feel when you get it right, if not in the actual writing, than in the editing.

Now. Just as there are specific words for body parts, and hot-button words to evoke reactions, so there are words we use specifically for action. Some of them are on the hot-button list, some aren’t. But one thing you’re doing with those words is capturing a specific mood, whether it’s romantic or passionate (not that you can’t have both together of course) or angry or whatever. For example, if your characters are having a huge argument that explodes into passion—as Gruffydd and Isabelle do in my non-erotic medieval romance Black Dragon—you wouldn’t use words like “eased” or adverbs like “gently”. Instead you have something like this (I’m editing some stuff out so it may read a bit choppy—just focus on the active verbs here [we’re going to look at part of this scene again later]):

But he pulled her closer, making escape from the heat of his skin and the strength of his hands impossible…his mouth fell on hers, devouring her lips as his grip threatened to squeeze the life from her body.
Instantly she was alight with desire, her breath coming in gasps as she clutched him.
His body was hot and slick with sweat and it felt better than anything she had ever experienced as she ran her hands feverishly across the hard muscles of his back and twisted his hair between her fingers.
With a growl, he swung her around and together they tumbled onto the thin straw mat. His hands ran up her legs, pushing the fabric of her dress up to her waist, caressing her thighs and delving into the most secret parts of her body.
She writhed against his questing fingers. She was faint; the air seemed to have left her lungs as she yanked at the cords that held up his clothing. He swatted her clumsy hands out of the way and undid them himself, his lips hot and demanding as he freed his turgid cock and drove it into her without elegance, his hands gripping her hips as if his life depended on keeping her steady for him.
Again and again he pounded into her while his fingers dug into her skin and her legs wrapped around his waist and squeezed. Their eyes locked, held, the anger on their faces turning into feverish need without losing intensity. Again they kissed, their mouths wrestling for dominance.
He bit her throat, her shoulders, holding her in place while she bucked and moaned beneath him. He punished her with his body and she retaliated with hers and he had no idea which of them would win or if there was even victory to be had as they battled with each other, locked together in terrible pleasure on the mat.
He felt her start to lose control, but did not let up his feverish pace. His ears were filled with the roaring of his blood. Dimly he heard her screaming his name, felt the exquisite pain of her fingernails slicing into his back as she arched herself almost off the mat, her body throbbing around his.
And then he exploded, his body shaking with madness and ecstasy and he threw his head back and howled his pain and pleasure into the air, knowing that he was lost.

So, just like in a regular action scene, we’re using very active words: writhed, gripping, roaring, yanked, bucked, punished, battled.

Now let’s look at a romantic scene from the same book (again, edited so we can focus on language):

His tongue was a weapon of pleasure in her mouth as she spread her legs to accommodate him, already desperate to feel their bodies become one. She cradled his body over hers, his lean hips between her thighs. The hair on his legs was both strange and familiar to her, the scent of his skin overwhelming. She could drown in him, sink into him, and she lifted her hips, encouraging him to take her. To make their union complete.
He slid into her, agonizingly slowly so she could feel every inch of him. Her muscles tightened, gripping him, urging him deeper.
He lifted his hands to the sides of her face, gently forcing her to look him in the eyes, forcing her to give him this last piece of herself. She did, and was rewarded with his secrets, with his soul. There would be no more hiding between them, not any more.
The movements of his body grew more urgent. He swelled inside her, stretching her walls, the heat and friction of their bodies together building to heights she’d never experienced before. The play of his muscles beneath her hands was precious, beautiful. The look in his eyes was even more so. She wrapped her legs around his thighs, moving with him, their breaths mingling. His right hand found her left and clasped it, pressing it into the soft whiteness of the bed, their fingers interlocked as their bodies entwined.
He spoke softly, words of love in French and Welsh, his voice adding another layer of sweetness to what was already perfect, and as they moved together and neared the pinnacle of pleasure, he claimed her mouth again in a final searing kiss.
She exploded beneath him, her body arching upwards, her free hand clutching at his back, pulling his hair, her legs squeezing him as she gasped his name, barely hearing hers on his lips as they both burst apart with terrifying, glorious intensity.
He was hers and that was all that mattered now.

Now, that’s not my favorite sex scene I’ve ever written, and it’s not particularly explicit, but do you see the differences? The rhythm itself is different; the second scene uses more flowing sentences, more commas, instead of the breathlessness of the first. And we’re still using some of the same words, but the feeling isn’t at all the same. We have Gruffydd “gently forcing” her to look into his eyes. In the first scene he drove himself into her; in this one he slides, slowly. She encourages him; she urges him deeper. They clasp hands. She drowns in him (although be careful of water imagery as it can be very cliché; we’re going to do that later too.)

(There’s another big difference between those two scenes, and it will be the subject of its own post at some point in the next two weeks. Does anyone know what it is? [It’s not the POV switch, although we’ll do that too.])

So apologies for this post being a little weaker than the others. But I think it’s a good overview, some things to keep in mind as we move on. Rhythm, for example, probably won’t get its own post as it’s both too intrinsic and not complex enough for a long discussion. But now that you have examples in front of you it’s something you can keep in mind and look for in later posts and in your own work.

So that’s your little weekend exercises for those who are playing along. You can do all or none or a combination:

Write two sex scenes using the same basic action words, but varying the rhythm and length of the sentences. See how that changes the mood.

Take one of your current scenes. Combine two sentences into one throughout. Or divide longer sentences. See what that does.

Replace action verbs with basic verbs and adverbs. Is that stronger or weaker?

***Did you enjoy this series/find it helpful? You can now purchase it in print ($4.99 at Createspace) or ebook ($2.99 in numerous formats)! And if you feel moved to leave a review or something that’s great too, though of course not remotely necessary.***

BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 6

***Insert generic disclaimer***

Mechanics: Foreshadowing your sexual language

So now we have some word ideas in mind. Maybe we’ve started thinking a bit more about what kind of hot-button (no pun intended) words we can use, what sort of tone we want to give our scenes? And how do we make sure that tone fits in with the rest of the book?

In some cases, your genre will assist you. I don’t have to worry quite so much about this when I’m writing for Ellora’s Cave simply because EC only publishes explicit, linguistically graphic sex. So if you’re specifically writing erotic romance you have a bit more leeway (although having said that, I’ve been disappointed a few times by “erotic” romances that really were no more graphic than “regular” romances. In one case the only difference I could find was the use of the word “pussy” [a word I dislike, btw. I use it, because there aren’t a lot of alternatives, but I avoid it whenever possible. There’s just something about it—the hissy s, the stupid shape your mouth makes when you say it—that bugs me. I actually much prefer “cunt”, but I know I’m weird in that respect. However, that brings up a very good point about reader tastes and expectations, which we will go into more at another time. I’m sure you know pretty much what I would say there anyway]. And believe me, just the word pussy does not eroticism make, at least not in my opinion.)

As we discussed on Friday, your hero and heroine need to react to and interact with each other. This is where the work of writing the sex scene begins, and this is where you start making language choices that will determine what sort of scene you’re going to write.

For example. Here is a snippet from the second chapter of Blood Will Tell, where Cecelia, already having noticed that Julian is sexy and attractive etc. etc., first has a real physical response to him:

Julian opened his mouth as if to speak, then shut it again. His gaze was making her nervous.
Or was that nerves? It was more like…restless. Something in his eyes had changed as he looked at her, and without knowing why, her body suddenly ached for movement, her stomach filled with butterflies.
Not to mention the distinct damp sensation in her pants as her pussy came to life under his dark scrutiny. She squirmed slightly, uncomfortably certain that he knew he was turning her on. Certain too that infuriating as he was, she wanted him.
She never could resist a dare.

Here is the same moment—or the same type of moment anyway—from Personal Demons (this, by the way, is in Chapter Six—another important point):

Megan bit her lip and laid her fingertip on one of the little spikes. It was as dull as it looked. Without realizing it, she’d been expecting the spikes to feel slimy, alien. They did not. They felt like skin, no different from hers than anyone else’s.
Goosebumps appeared on his back. She ignored them. Ignored, too, the way her heartbeat quickened as she ran her fingertip all the way up his spine and back down. She repeated the motion with her palm. His skin was soft. The firm muscles beneath it seemed to ripple as she touched them. Heat gathered between her legs.
Drawing in a long, shaky breath, Megan forced herself back to earth. This was not a seduction. The very idea was laughable—to her, at least. She had no doubt Greyson would be willing. She suspected Greyson would somehow manage to put off the apocalypse if doing so would get him laid.

So here we see something of the difference. In Blood Will Tell, we’re thinking about sex less than two full chapters in—actually, she’s already thought of it a few times, I believe the first mention is on page four—and we’re thinking of it in graphic terms. Fun things are starting to happen in Cecelia’s pussy; whereas Megan feels hot between her legs.

There’s a few other differences as well, can you spot them? Cecelia is aching and squirming; she wants Julian and isn’t afraid to admit it to herself. Megan is more conflicted. She’s admitted earlier that she finds Greyson attractive but isn’t willing to make the final step into saying she wants him; she’s too guarded, and is convinced Greyson is simply a man-whore.

Now part of this is the women’s characters. But part of it is deliberate choices to let the reader know what’s coming. Someone finding Cecelia’s pussy in chapter two (yes, I know, just giggle and move on) knows that we will probably get to the sex fairly soon—male and female funparts are like guns; you shouldn’t take them out if you don’t intend to use them—and that it will be linguistically at least somewhat frank. Whereas the reader who’s made it to Chapter Six of Personal Demons knows that while there probably will be sex—even calling it “between her legs”, I have still metaphorically flashed Megan’s ladyparts at the readers—the language will probably not be as graphic.

This spreads to your whole book. The example I used previously was if the worst word in the book is “ass”, you can’t suddenly start throwing cunts and tits etc. around. Nor can you have two characters who have hot and graphic conversations or thoughts suddenly clam up or become flowery when it comes to actual sex. You need to keep the sexual tone consistent, right from the beginning (again, there are some exceptions; if your book is about a character’s sexual awakening you can get away with this sort of modest-to-open change, but in general, you can’t).

When your characters react to/interact with each other, their sexual thoughts and feelings must foreshadow the sex to come. If you use “pussy” (or whatever word) that first time, feel free to use it again; but if you never use it and suddenly do, your readers will be jarred by it, and the scene won’t work as well as it should.

It just doesn’t feel right, because whether you’re in first person or third the fact is that a narrator who thinks/says “Gosh golly” when she’s mad isn’t likely to become Annie Sprinkle when it’s time for sex. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with that sort of incongruity; you can, and to great effect (although I can’t help but think that would probably be a more humorous than erotic scene).

But your sex scene should not jar the reader; you’re trying to pull them in, to make them feel what the characters are feeling, and you can’t do that if your language choices are throwing them out.

Any questions? Or has that made it clear enough?

I’ve got a tad bit of space left in this post (I’m trying to keep them at around 1500 words each) so this seems like a good place to slip in discussion about terms for bodily fluids.

My personal feelings are as follows:

I dislike any phrase that begins with the name of the body part from which the fluid in question emerges. “Pussy/cunt cream” or “Cock cream”…ech. No thank you. I find them distasteful. Likewise jokey terms like “baby batter” (who thought that was sexy, seriously?) I’m not crazy about “cum” either as a noun or as a verb—it reminds me too much of ads in the back of Hustler magazine, with some empty-eyed barely-legal being triple-teamed and the words “I’ll make you cum” or something equally tacky above it. (Oh, the Google will be loving this post, sigh.) I don’t have a problem with “come”; I just don’t like the misspelling (frankly, any deliberate misspelling feels tacky to me.)(Oh, and btw. In most erotic works “cum” is the noun; “come” is the verb: “I’m going to come!” shouted Hero, and his cum spilled from him.)

So here’s what I use:
For women: Arousal cream fluids wetness “evidence/proof of her arousal/pleasure/orgasm”. I’ve seen “honey” used, and like it fine, but I’ve not used it myself.
For men: I have occasionally used “fluid”—for example, when describing pre-ejaculate—but generally I use “seed”. It has a touch of old-world feeling I like. It’s concise. It doesn’t make me feel like I need to wash my hands afterward.

Of course, these are simply my preferences. But this is, I believe, another slightly touchy area (much like cunt. No pun intended). Just as “cunt” can get you in trouble, so too can too-explicit descriptions of semen or too much graphic accuracy. Perhaps because pornography is so focused on getting that Money Shot? So that just “feels” porny, and thus turns some women off? Hmm. That’s a really interesting question, actually, but I digress. The point is, this is one area where I am very conservative because I feel it has the potential to really turn readers off. You are of course free to disagree and use whatever terms you like, but I personally would only go into ejaculatory details if the scene—and the other scenes in the book—were particularly graphic.

And really, I don’t have a problem having only one word to describe semen (I think I might have used “semen” once or twice, now that I think of it.) Because I just don’t need to describe it very often. Even romance heroes don’t usually come more than once per session, after all, and I don’t need to describe the semen or explicitly mention it every time—that would be rather redundant.

So. Your assignment now is to (pick whichever applies):

Go back in your WIP and see what words you use when describing your characters’s physical reactions to each other. Is that the level of terminology you want in your sex scene? Try heating it up by adding some more explicit words, and see what difference it makes, or lowering it down. Do that in the sex scene as well, using the word list I provided and/or your own words that you wrote down or thought of. See how the scene changes, and whether it blends into the rest of the book better or worse than before.

Write a scene out of the blue, one either considerably more graphic than you’re used to or considerably less. How does that feel? Comfortable? Uncomfortable?

***Did you enjoy this series/find it helpful? You can now purchase it in print ($4.99 at Createspace) or ebook ($2.99 in numerous formats)! And if you feel moved to leave a review or something that’s great too, though of course not remotely necessary.***

BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET

What Stace had to say on Monday, July 21st, 2008
Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 5

***Insert generic disclaimer***

Mechanics: The Language of Sex

I’ve been debating exactly where the series should go next. On the one hand I think perhaps we should get right into heavy examples and illustrations of how to bring more heat, emotion, character, etc. into your sex scenes. On the other…you have to learn to walk first, right?

All of you write. I’m sure most of you are excellent writers. I know several of you reading this series are writers whose books I’ve read, and been completely blown away by them, which makes me feel a little silly even doing this at all.

But as I mentioned before, we’ll start heavy work next week (I think) so I decided this was as good a time as any.

Sex scenes have a rhythm and mood all their own, and as we all know, the way to create rhythm and mood is through word choices. The way to make your sex scene both fit into the rest of the book and stand out from it is through word choice.

Sexy scenes should use sexy words.

How sexy they are—how graphic they are—is entirely up to you, because you’re the one writing the book. But they must fit the rest of the story. There’s nothing more jarring than reading a book where the most offensive word used is “ass” and then coming to the sex scene to discover cunts and cocks flying everywhere. It doesn’t fit; it feels like the sex scene has been imported from an issue of Penthouse.

This doesn’t mean you have to go the other direction, though, and start in with the overwrought euphemisms. Nobody needs to read about purple-headed warriors and oleaginous tunnels of love. (Which, ew.) So here is a list, by level of graphic-ness (and there’s some overlap there, so I’m starting with the most and working down to the least; your opinion may vary by a few places one way or the other):

Female Body Parts:

Cunt clit tits slit pussy tunnel channel cleft sex nipples breasts peaks mounds mound (not breasty mounds; the Mounds of Venus) crevice secret place secret folds secret flesh loins entrance treasure “between her legs/thighs” “bundle of nerves” (for clitoris; I also use “her most sensitive spot” on occasion and feel just fine about it) (I deliberately left out “vulva” because I think it is one of the least sexy words ever.)

We also have some historical variations, like cunny, quim, slash, that sort of thing. And of course the more vulgar euphemisms like “hair pie” or “fish taco” or something, which, if you want to use phrases like those in your sex scenes you’re reading the wrong series.

Male Body Parts:

Prick balls dick shaft sac penis stalk column sex thickness erection hardness hard length manhood “himself” (as in “he worked himself” or “he shoved himself into her”) “between his legs/thighs” ”sword” (can be used in a historical, but only in dialogue, I think)

In a class of its own:

Cock

I’m sure there are more; leave whatever you’ve got in the comments. But these are the ones I use most often, the ones I’m most comfortable with and the ones I think most readers will be the same with.
There’s a reason why I put “cock” in a class of its own; once a no-no, it’s become commonplace enough, I think, that it can be used in almost any sex scene, from the brief and euphemistic to the intense, long, and graphic. Cock doesn’t surprise me anywhere I see it; much like a black v-necked top, cock seems to work anywhere. Cock is the new black.

But the thing is, all those Body Part Words, while fun (and while I knew if I didn’t list them y’all would be sorely disappointed in me) are only a small part of the scene, and only a very small part of the language choices you’ll make.

I call the words I tend to use in sex scenes “trigger” words. While obviously every word we use in writing is carefully chosen and designed to mean exactly what it must and add to mood and feeling etc. etc., in a sex scene you want visceral words. You want words that evoke…well, that evoke SEX.

Words like desperate. Aching. Need. Thrust. Caught. Throb. Trembling. Eased. Stroke. Forceful. Powerful. Burn. Fill. Radiated. Pooled. Grip. Bite. Rammed. Velvet. Iron. Tease. Taste. Slip. Flesh. Slid. Ruthless. Bathed. Wet. Slick. Exposed. Glistening. Enflamed. Delicate. Rough. Turgid. Swollen. Feast. Suck. Hard. Swirl. Curve. Round. Engulfed. Exploded. Hungry. Starved. Dancing. Shaking. Thundered. Raw. Pounding. Bruising. Gasping. Tumescent. Friction. Quivering. Penetrate.

Let’s make up an example (actually, you could look at my potato peeler or couch bits from Wednesday—did you see the evocative words? Flesh. Exposed. Ridged. Etc.) This is a deliberately bland and lame example, but we’re just illustrating one point with it:

Bob set Jane onto the bed and lay down on top of her. Without a word he put his cock into her.

Yuck, right? It sounds like…well, I don’t even know what’s that bad. But let’s take exactly the same lines, without changing anything more than a few words (we’re not adding the important emotional physical etc. stuff yet) and read it again:

Bob threw Jane onto the bed and lunged on top of her. Without a word he thrust his aching cock into her.

It’s still not great, of course, because it was awful to begin with. I’m particularly bothered by the way both sentences end with “her”. I itch to fix it, and to add some sense stuff so the action doesn’t exist in such a terrible vacuum. But you see here how the use of trigger words changes this from really bland and awful to something with at least a frisson of heat. Thanks to “threw” and “lunged” Bob doesn’t seem like some sort of drunken rutting asshole but instead is perhaps more of a desperate Alpha. He’s not “putting” his cock into her, like a peg into a board under the watchful eyes of a dozen clipboard-wielding scientists; he’s thrusting into her, thrusting with his aching, needy cock. (Yeah, I didn’t add needy before, because I think aching makes it obvious there, or would in the context of an entire scene.)

None of this is new to you, because you’re writers. So you’re familiar with the need for active verbs and forceful words. But where a regular scene might be able to get away with the occasional bland or basic sentence, every word in a sex scene must contribute to the eroticism of the scene. Use the sexiest words you can.

The thing is, in any other part of your book, embellishment is frowned on. You don’t need two or three adjectives to describe, say, somebody’s cell phone, or their hands or their eyes. You don’t need several adjectives to describe someone aiming their gun or pulling the trigger, or running. It would sound overwritten and a bit silly to string words upon words in a regular action scene.

But a sex scene isn’t just any action scene. Your words need to evoke a physical and emotional reaction in the reader; it’s less about what the characters are doing than about making your reader FEEL what they’re doing.

As this week goes on we’ll cover adverbs and keeping scenes in tone with the rest of the story, and a little about what to call the, ah, products of orgasm and arousal. Next week I think we’ll start adding emotion etc., including dialogue. The week after will be foreplay, and the last week of the month we’ll do the scene critiques. In there we’ll also have Emily’s post on submissive men and one or two other bits, here and there.

So your assignment now, should you choose to accept it, is to make a list of, or at least think about, your own trigger words. What words feel/sound sexy to you? What words do you like to use for body parts? What words evoke certain emotions or feelings appropriate for some sex scenes but not others, and what words work in regular action scenes but wouldn’t work in a sex scene (I can think of one off the top of my head: clipped)? Put them in the comments, or write them down at home, or whatever.

***Did you enjoy this series/find it helpful? You can now purchase it in print ($4.99 at Createspace) or ebook ($2.99 in numerous formats)! And if you feel moved to leave a review or something that’s great too, though of course not remotely necessary.***

BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET

What Stace had to say on Friday, July 18th, 2008
Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 4

***Insert generic adult content disclaimer***

When should you write a sex scene?

Q. When is the right time to put a sex scene into your ms?

A. When your characters need to have sex.

Notice I said “need”. Now, they can need to have sex for any number of reasons. In Blood Will Tell, Julian needed to seduce Cecelia so he could drink her blood and find out if she was a spy, and sex was the easiest way to do that. In Eighth Wand, Royd needed to seduce Prudence because she had the wand he’d been sent to earth to retrieve, and he’d struck up a bargain with her: a night of pleasure in exchange for the wand.

Conversely, Cecelia needed to have sex with Julian, Prudence needed to have sex with Royd, Santos and Yelina, and Greyson and Megan, and any number of other couples I’ve written over the years, needed to have sex with each other because they really, really wanted to. Because for whatever reason, and whatever their circumstances were, they wanted each other. Bad. (This is, incidentally, another problem I have with the “magic hoo-ha”; it gives the heroine an “excuse” to have sex with the hero, thus removing responsibility from her decision. If she can’t slip off her big-girl panties and say “Yeah, you know what, I really want to fuck this guy,” then I’m not that interested in her.)

Notice also I said “need” for other reasons. Perhaps you need your characters to have sex because they’re going to discover something about each other during the act that will have major implications on the story and/or plot. If, for example, Heroine has been searching for the man she thinks killed her father, and all she knows about him is that he has a birthmark in the shape of an elephant on his thigh, and our hero just happens to have a birthmark like that… Well, sure, she could catch him in his underwear, or wearing a pair of short shorts, or something, but let’s not lose focus on the rest of the work we’re doing when writing a story, which is ratcheting up tension. You tell me which is more likely to involve the reader emotionally: When the Heroine sees Dumbo grinning at her from the thigh of a guy she thinks is kind of hot, or when she sees Dumbo grinning at her from the thigh of the man sleeping next to her on well-used sheets, just when she thinks she may have gotten everything she ever wanted? Yeah. I thought so.

All of these are valid reasons for a sex scene. ANY reason can be a valid reason for a sex scene, as long as you’ve done your job and made me as a reader believe it. In Demon’s Triad, Aleeza is willing to have sex with a total stranger in the middle of the woods. Kind of crazy, right? But (hopefully) you believe it, because you’ve learned enough about the poor girl by then to know that she’s been under a celibacy curse since birth and is so sexually frustrated she’s risked her life—almost literally—just to have one orgasm.

But whatever the reason, and whatever the situation, your sex scene will not fly if your characters have no chemistry. If your readers aren’t at least half as desperate to see these characters have sex as the characters themselves are to have it, your scene will fall flat, no matter how well-written it is. (or rather, it might not fall flat, but it won’t be everything it could be.)

At this point you might want to go back and reread this post from my Heroes series, which outlines a few ways to create chemistry between your leads. It’s more hero-oriented, but it’s a good basis for what I’m about to elaborate on. (And no one has yet identified the source of the “Brock Landers” joke. Come on, people!)

So how do you make it clear—through SHOWING, not telling—that your characters are dying to hop into bed? How do you make the reader desperate to see it?

In the Heroes post I mention the importance of knowledge about each other. You want to show the reader, beneath the dialogue, beneath the clandestine looks and casual touches, that these people have a connection. Knowing something about the other person is a good way to do this—it’s one of my favorite “tricks” to use, because, honestly, it’s very important to me in real life and is something I firmly believe is the basis of a real, strong relationship.

The following are all suggestions, nothing more. You can use all of them, or some of them, or come up with your own, or whatever (and please, add any you have in comments!) I don’t mean to even come close to suggesting that there’s some sort of paint-by-numbers way to create chemistry, not at all. Just that these are ideas. They’re merely here to help you begin thinking about how your characters interact, and to help you begin, with the very first meeting of these characters, to build up your sex scene. You didn’t think a sex scene was just about that one scene, did you? Nooo.

A sex scene is the culmination of everything the hero/heroine have done, said, and been through together from the moment they meet (or the moment the reader meets them)

So here you go. Mix, match, or ignore as you will—but I bet you’ll find at least a few of these in every romance or romantic subplot you’ve ever read. They’re in no particular order; some are obvious, some less so. These moments can be as subtle or important as you like; it’s your book and your characters, after all. This is just to get you thinking. This series isn’t about how to write sex exactly the way I do, with the exact level of heat and graphic-ness. It’s about how to find the place where you’re comfortable, how to best serve your story and characters within the confines of your own voice and your own vision.

*H/h notice something special about each other, and comment on it, with uncomfortable or pleasing results depending on who they are/where in the relationship they are/etc.
*H/h touch casually. Maybe they feel sparks, or warmth, or comfort? Maybe the hand in theirs or the arm beside theirs is surprisingly strong? Maybe skin is rough or smooth or soft or hard?
*H/h notice how each other smell. Smell is extremely important in human sexual response, thanks to pheromones. This is quite literally chemistry. It’s one reason why we take an instant liking or disliking to some people; it’s why that handsome hunk doesn’t really turn you on but the slightly nerdy guy beside you does. Do NOT neglect smell. You don’t have to be obvious about it. You can slip it in anywhere. But letting the reader know these people like the way each other smells is, in my mind, a necessity.
*H/h find themselves in close quarters; one or both feels awkward. Or aroused. Or both.
*H/h open up to each other, sharing stories or secrets they don’t usually share. Maybe they don’t know why they’re telling each other this? Maybe it’s because they have to, for whatever reason. Maybe they’re afraid of how the secret will be received, and find it’s received with exactly the sort of reaction they were subconsciously/secretly/not-so-secretly hoping for.
*H/h think about sex with each other. Yeah, it’s pretty basic, and for that reason I dislike it intensely when this one is overused. The level of use that equals overuse varies with every story, of course, but there are so many more subtle ways to show attraction. While this one shouldn’t or needn’t be ignored, it’s not—absolutely NOT—a substitute for any other kinds of interaction.
*H/h think of each other in a non-sexual way; perhaps they do it without knowing why? Why would you wish for the company of someone you don’t trust, for example? Because there’s chemistry, that’s why.
*H/h flirt. Oh, yes. Flirt away. Let them joke and laugh together. Let them make subtle comments to each other, it doesn’t have to be obvious. It doesn’t have to be all the time. But this is another extremely important one.
*H/h are unaccountable nervous around each other. Or unaccountably calm.
*One of the two makes a move. How it’s received is up to you, but there’s nothing wrong with having one character make it clear they want the other (just be careful about sliding into stalkery or crude territory, which is one of the most common if not the most common beginner errors) or both characters make clear they want the other.
*They kiss. Yeah, it’s an obvious one. It’s also a great one. There’s a reason why they call those little bits of food they give you before the main meal “appetizers”; it’s because they get you wanting more.
*They find they have a similar hobby/interest/whatever.
*There’s jealousy when another person with some claim to the other shows up.
*They have dreams/fantasies about the other. This is an oldie, so old it now borders on lame and obvious. Be careful with it, but it is still possible to find a way to use it if it fits the story and/or characters.
*They have extreme—or what feels extreme to them—physical reactions to being around each other/touching each other.
*They make each other feel good. Doesn’t have to be all the time. Doesn’t have to be “weeping with joy” good. But they lighten each others’ moods. They make each other smile. They don’t have to understand it. They can be annoyed by it or scared by it or whatever. They don’t even have to realize why they feel so good. But it should be there.
*They care about each other. Again, this can be as subtle or as obvious as you like. And it depends on what sort of scene you’re writing and what the relationship between the characters is. But it’s one to think about.

Now that’s a long list. And it’s by no means exhaustive (feel free to make other suggestions in the comments!) But what it boils down to, what it all ultimately means, is this:

Your Hero/heroine should react to and interact with each other.

If they don’t do that, nobody’s going to be interested in seeing them have sex.

I think we’re all done with theory; next week we’ll start getting into practical application, on MONDAY. I’ll have to slip any personal blogging in around the edges; there’s too much to do.

***Did you enjoy this series/find it helpful? You can now purchase it in print ($4.99 at Createspace) or ebook ($2.99 in numerous formats)! And if you feel moved to leave a review or something that’s great too, though of course not remotely necessary.***

BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET

What Stace had to say on Wednesday, July 16th, 2008
Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 3

***Insert generic disclaimer here***

***Additional disclaimer: This post contains some minor discussion about, um, my own actual sex life. So if you are a member of my family—I know you guys read here once in a while—I think we’ll all feel better if you go ahead and skip this post***

Oh! I have some great news about the series. Since I tend to write dominant men, I’ve asked uberblogger and multi-published m/m and femdomme erotic writer Emily Veinglory to contribute a piece about submissive males. It’ll be later in the series and you won’t want to miss it! Emily is a fantastic girl and runs the EREC site and blog, an invaluable resource for erotic romance/erotica writers.

Writing sex without embarrassment

I wasn’t going to post this today. I planned to do more on what a sex scene is actually about, as part of the move into what lies behind a sex scene, after which we begin really working. BUT. It occurred to me I hadn’t really left a spot for this subject, and I think it’s an important one.

Because embarrassment seems to be one of the main reasons people are uncomfortable with writing sex, or dislike writing sex. Because if someone is comfortable writing sex embarrassment seems to be a reason why they aren’t comfortable taking their sex scenes beyond a certain point. And because I just think it’s a good one to discuss, and this is my series dammit.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with modesty or discomfort. Those of you who are regular readers know that I generally keep things on the blog at a certain level (I think of it as “one-cocktail adult”, actually—a little looser than normal but not throwing-panties-at-chandeliers), and that there are some things I simply won’t write about in my actual work because for one reason or another I find them overly crude or unappealing. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with those who do, just that I have a certain line in my head that I don’t cross—or haven’t yet, anyway. (And later on I’ll be talking more about writing hot sex scenes without being graphic at all.)

But this is the biggest thing to remember, and it’s easy to remember it when you’re writing, say, a werewolf with cynophobia but seems much harder when it comes to sex, as sex is literally much closer to home; it’s writing what you know in the most intimate sense.

Your characters are not you.

I know, I know. Again, it seems very basic. But I have honestly stopped and reminded myself of this on several occasions, when a scene is moving in a direction I’m not particularly comfortable with.

For example, let’s take anal (Please! Ba-dum-bum). The vast majority of my heroines—the vast majority of heroines in erotic romance, really—take great pleasure in all things rear-end. If it’s not actual anal sex (which I’ve only written in three books, two of which were ménages), it’s various fingers and other implements. Because it can be arousing to read and because I know a lot of readers find it so. But in real life? Eh. I have on occasion in the past been with men who enjoyed doing such things to me and I have on occasion permitted them to do so. Most men who enjoy doing those things to me enjoy having those things done to them and I have obliged them (within reason; if you’re picturing strap-ons you’ve gone way too far in your head. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not me.) I can take it or leave it, to be honest, but I think if you read my work (particularly Eighth Wand, which has far more anal play than any of my other books) you might imagine me as some sort of anal goddess, complete with an array of toys. I’m not. Nor have I ever been in any sort of ménage. I have never been sexually involved with another woman. I’ve never had sex in the middle of the day in a public park; I’ve never, tame as it may sound, engaged in mutual masturbation with a partner. Sex in the shower makes me too hot and I have to go lie down in a cool room for half an hour to keep from passing out (I’m very sensitive to heat), so it’s not something I enjoy. But I’ve written all of those things and more (we’re going to look particularly at the mutual masturbation scene from Eighth Wand later in the series, as I’m quite proud of it), and found them arousing to write and arousing to read later (although reading my own work never has the same effect on me as reading others’s does, because I’m always trying to edit it).

It seems rather silly, doesn’t it? Nobody looks at me or reads one of my books and pictures me at home being bitten by vampires or having sex with resurrected Druids or tattooed Fae warriors. But for some reason they do think that I try and like everything I write. So I have to keep in mind at all times that the scene is not about me, it’s about my characters; and that to pull them back from where they want to go because of my own modesty or whatever is wrong. It doesn’t serve the story. It doesn’t serve the characters. And that’s not good.

So how do you get beyond that embarrassment? How do you get those words on the page even if you’re blushing, or picturing your mom (or worse, your dad) or great-uncle Edwin or your kid’s teachers reading it, and imagining you at home in a leather peek-a-boob corset watching porn and, I don’t know, smearing whipped cream all over your body?

Here’s some ideas (and please, if you have others add them in the comments!).

1. Remember, your characters are not you. Their fantasies are not necessarily yours; you aren’t entirely responsible for their kinks (or lack thereof. And yes, of course we’ll cover sex as expansion of characterization.)
2. Plan ahead. Before I’ve even started the book, before the chemistry between my characters starts simmering, I’m already beginning to see the sex scene in my head. And I think this really helps. We’re going to do more on chemistry on Friday, but if I’m picturing them having sex in my head from the very first moment they meet, I firmly believe it helps add that frisson of heat to every interaction. Plus, if you’re nervous, it gives you lots of time to work out the bugs, as it were.
3. Make everybody wait. Now in an erotic romance you don’t have as much time to do this, as you want to get to the sex much earlier. But in a straight romance or another genre with romantic elements… There’s a reason why most sex scenes take place about 2/3 of the way through the book, and it’s because you want everybody eagerly anticipating. Especially you.
4. Write a good kissing scene and interrupt it. Good sex doesn’t appear out of nowhere. You don’t have to use the scene, but you should write it. Write a few of them. Anything to get you and the characters amped up enough that none of you want to wait any longer.
5. Watch a sexy movie. Really. Give it a try.
6. Have a drink. See above. If you need a little loosening up, that’s fine. Remember, you can edit everything later. Funnily enough, while I think sex scenes are among the hardest to write I find them the easiest by far to edit. Sex scenes develop their own rhythm; it’s easy to remove stuff that misses the beat and easy to add things in where a beat is needed.
7. Play some music. I’ve never really done this; I have on occasion listened to my ipod while writing but I’ve never, say, put on some Barry White albums before writing sex. Some people swear by such things, though, and I do admit I have a few songs on my ipod that make me think of sex (Nine Inch Nails’s cover of “Get Down Make Love” is one; The Stooges’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is another, along with some Bill Withers. Hey, I think they’re very sexy.)
8. Think about sex. Think about good sex or bad sex or funny sex or sad sex or whatever, about sex you’ve had and sex your friends have told you about. What? It may sound odd, sure, but just the act of thinking about it—reminding yourself that just about every adult on the plenty either does it regularly or has in the past—might help to reassure you that you’re not about to embark on some bizarre and creepy dark journey of the soul. You’re writing about something you’ve experienced in more ways than one; you’re writing about something universal.
9. Write about something that isn’t sex. Make it as sexy as you possibly can. Again, yes, I’m serious. For example, let’s see what sort of sexy things I can say about my couch.

The tawny fabric makes my hand tingle when I rub it, letting the velvety fibers scrape the delicate skin of my palm. Tiny furrows hold cool air, release it like a whisper at my finger’s tender command. I rub a little faster, a little harder, the desperate friction between my hand and the glorious softness beneath it growing, until I can’t take anymore. I stop, my breast heaving with excitement, my heart pumping, arm and palm aching from the frantic movements.

Okay, it’s not a love poem. It’s not great; as you all know 1st person isn’t my thing and I literally wrote this in a minute. But you get the point, which is to look for sexy words and use them (yes, of course, we’ll be doing that too). To think of what each movement is and describe it by feeling as much as by actual act.

Trust me, once you’ve written a sexy paragraph about your potato peeler (oh! The shiny curved handle so hard and heavy in your hand, its swollen ridges digging into your soft palm, the sharp, cruel slicing blade—merciless in its assault, ruthless against the delicate skin of the potato, exposing the pale flesh beneath!), it’ll seem much easier to make actual sex sound sexy.

10. Read some sexy scenes. It will inspire you. Read lots of sexy scenes. Find a few you really like and read them before you write any sex scenes. You don’t want to copy them, no, but seeing how other people handle them might help relax you. You admire those writers, right? And they can do it, so you can too.

11. Have your characters discuss their feelings. Be as cheesy as you like, but no action. Just a dialogue. Now, take all those things they’ve just discussed and write the sex scene with those things in mind; instead of saying these things they’ll be expressing them physically. Instead of saying “I’m afraid you won’t be around in the morning,” your heroine is hesitant when she lets her fingers play up the hero’s chest. Instead of saying “I’m not sure I’m good enough for you,” the hero is reverent when he removes the heroine’s shirt, or when he dips his head to her breasts, or whatever. Your dialogue is just there to remind you what this scene is really about (and this will be covered extensively later.)

Remember, a sex scene is just a scene, only with naughtyparts. Think about what you want this scene to say about your characters and get it on the page.

You’re telling their story, after all. Not your own.

***Did you enjoy this series/find it helpful? You can now purchase it in print ($4.99 at Createspace) or ebook ($2.99 in numerous formats)! And if you feel moved to leave a review or something that’s great too, though of course not remotely necessary.***

BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET

What Stace had to say on Monday, July 14th, 2008
Oh, whatever. I don’t owe you a title.

So the hubs pulled out all the CDs from the car this weekend, as they’re hopelessly jumbled. Everything in the wrong cases, some not in cases, blah blah blah. And he offered to burn several of my CDs into itunes for me, the Supersuckers’s “La Mano Cornuda” in particular.

I think my “eh” reaction surprised him. But the thing is, I use my ipod for individual songs. Like, a CD that I only like one or two songs from, I’ll put those on the ipod. But something like La Mano Cornuda, I listen to the whole album. Because it’s all good. So why put it on the ipod, when I can just put in the CD itself?

He thought that was weird. I don’t. What do you think?

Other little bits:

The Faerie and I were in the parking lot at Tesco the other day and, of course, the person in front of me was inching along at about three miles an hour, stopping and starting, semi-weaving all over the road. I, being the type of red-blooded American girl that I am, went ahead with my loud little litany (say that three times fast) of “What are you doing? What is the matter with you? Get the hell out of my way!” etc. etc.

To which Faerie said, “That’s right, Mommy. We’re very angry at those fucking people, aren’t we?”

Oops. Looks like Mommy needs to be more careful with her language. Sigh. And of course, the best part was, after I managed to swallow my laughter and explain to Faerie that that was not a nice word for a little girl to use, I got to explain to her school when I dropped her off what happened, so just in case she said it there they’d know we were aware of it and it wasn’t something we encouraged or anything of that nature. Being the sweet and wonderful people they are (seriously, I adore Faerie’s teachers. They are the sweetest girls on the planet, they hug and cuddle the children if the kids need it, they pay so much attention to them. I want to bring them all home with me and bake them cakes) they laughed and said it was no problem and she certainly wasn’t the first child to say words like that in school. And to my knowledge she didn’t say it again. But, you know, oops.

Also, I saw a woman at Tesco this morning who looked just like my ex-stepmother (until I got closer, anyway). I wish it had been her. I was right by the eggs and I would have happily paid for several dozen to throw at her.

And Wednesday is the hubs’s birthday. He’ll be 36, and, of course, seems to think that’s old, no matter how many times I try to explain to him that 35-55 are a man’s sexiest and most powerful years, whereas for a woman (like me) who is about to turn 35 next month (like me)…sigh. I don’t think of other women my age as over the hill, but I definitely think of myself that way.

Anyway. Wednesday we will be discussing writing sex without embarrassment, and Friday creating chemistry. I believe those will be the last two “theory” posts before we start getting into actually crafting and writing the scene, so don’t forget to come back for them! (If I’m thinking correctly, we’ll have a big foreplay workshop-type thing in the beginning of August, and I also anticipate at some point in the next few weeks I’m going to have to do away with personal posts altogether because there’s just too much to cover.)

What Stace had to say on Friday, July 11th, 2008
Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 2

***Insert generic disclaimer: This is about SEX***

Do you need a sex scene?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of writing a sex scene that will arouse, educate, and (heh heh) inspire your readers, and will advance so many things in your book itself, we should contemplate whether or not we need a sex scene at all. Not in the “Should they have sex here” sense (that will be covered in part on Wednesday when we start talking about chemistry), but in the sense of “Do I actually need to write sex? Couldn’t I just fade out from a kiss?”

Well. My feelings on this are strong, and perhaps not popular in all circles. And I’m well aware that there are some subgenres in romantic fiction that frown on sex scenes—Inspirational, for example. Of course if you and/or your readers believe strongly that premarital sex is wrong, and your book ends before the wedding, you wouldn’t even contemplate writing a sex scene. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Mostly. (Really.) But if you’re writing Inspirationals, you’re probably not hanging around my potty-mouthed corner of the internet, right?

I don’t particularly care for those who get loud and nasty about it, and denigrate myself and other erotic writers as filthy smut-peddlers (I enjoy being called a filthy smut-peddler, but not in a mean way). I get irritated and angry when it’s time for the bi-yearly “Romance with sex in it isn’t REAL romance” debate, courtesy of some RWA letter or writer’s blog or whatever. (Because there is apparently nothing remotely romantic about the joining of two bodies into one, especially not in the most literal sense when the act creates another human being; when people call it “making love” they do so in the spirit of bitterest irony. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t have to be romantic—I kind of like it best when it’s not, actually—but the idea that it never can be is ridiculous.)

And I admit, any variation of the sentiment or phrase “Writing sex is for people who can’t write WELL” or “Writing sex is a cop-out and takes no skill and is catering to the lowest common denominator” or “Writing sex is easy” or “If you have to resort to writing sex to sell your work then there’s a weakness in your writing skills” (yes, I’ve heard all of those, once to my face, even) absolutely infuriates me. I wouldn’t be doing this little series/workshop/whatever if sex was easy to write, guys. I wouldn’t have already heard from several well-published, very good, successful professional writers that they’re glad I’m doing this because they have difficulty writing sex scenes. Sex is NOT easy to write. I truly believe writing a good sex scene is a challenge, no matter how many you’ve written. It’s disrespectful beyond measure to dismiss the work of another writer in that fashion; it’s extremely rude and it’s just a nasty, mean thing to say.

Okay, rant over, sorry. Let’s move on. The question here is whether the sex scene is actually necessary, and whether you can do without it, and here’s my take on that:

If you can find another way to illuminate the most private acts of your characters, to demonstrate their connection, their trust, the depth of their feelings (or lack thereof; we’ll cover that later too), their desire for each other, the moment their relationship deepens and changes beyond anything they’ve been through before, while also strengthening the story, increasing tension, and adding complications, and also—let’s be honest here—giving the reader what they’ve been waiting for, and you can do all of that in one scene, then no, you don’t need the sex scene.

But since the sex scene must do all of those things, and since in order to be effective the sex scene should be the only thing that does all of those things…well, we start to go in circles now, don’t we?

I am a firm believer in putting sex in books. I’m for it; there’s really no other way to put it. I love writing sex scenes. I like reading sex scenes. I wait for sex scenes. And yeah, I get rather unhappy when the door is closed in my face.

Because you can tell me the characters had sex all you want. You can show me how they smile at each other, or how they touch hands at breakfast, or whatever. But the fact is, if you haven’t given me the sex scene, it feels like telling. You’ve deliberately excluded me from something, something I as a reader feel entitled to. I’ve waited two hundred fifty pages or whatever for these characters to act on their feelings, and you’re going to show me a couple of kisses then fade to black? But…but what did they do? What did they say? How did they look at each other, what did they feel, how did they touch each other? How did their feelings change? How do you plan to show me all that stuff without the sex scene?

As writers we pick and choose what our readers see, of course. It’s boring otherwise; we don’t need to write every minute of their every day. I personally don’t care to read about or write about the toilet habits and experiences of characters—but you can bet your ass that if it was important to the story, I would, whether I liked it or not.

And far more than that, there’s an implication I really dislike when the bedroom door is closed. I’ve mentioned before my distaste for people who run around making films or writing books to “illuminate” the concept that sex is a profound human experience and that while having it we are vulnerable or we are our true selves or whatever. My distaste isn’t for that idea; it’s for the idea that in saying sex is a profound human experience blah-blah-blah we’re somehow saying something clever and original. Um, duh.

BUT. Sex is a profound human experience—or at least, it damn well should be, especially in romantic fiction. The mere act itself should change us, shake us, make us see ourselves and/or our partner differently. So I strongly, strongly resent the subtle (or not-so-subtle) implications of those sex-scene naysayers, which are: that sex isn’t about people and relationships but is merely a distasteful biological imperative; that it doesn’t involve hearts or minds or souls but only sticky engorged naughty parts; that sex really isn’t important; that every couple in the world has sex the exact same way; that it shows us nothing of importance about ourselves or each other and therefore does not need to be part of the story.

The dirty underside of that stick is a sort of contempt for readers, in the idea that they don’t deserve to see the characters’s private moments, that such times are either too good and special for the likes of them—as if our characters are real people who will look up from their bed of sin and shriek and pull the covers over themselves, and the reader is nothing but a nosy, interfering houseguest who doesn’t know when to leave the room—or worse, that the reader is a perverted busybody for daring to even be interested in such things, that wanting to know the characters and their relationship as thoroughly as possible is somehow wrong of us. We’re filthy voyeuristic beasts, you see, those of us who expect to be treated like adults instead of like Pittypat Hamilton or something. Good thing we have the author there to keep our dirty little minds out of the gutter, where presumably all manner of revolting deeds are occurring, too distasteful and gross for the writer to detail for us. Oh, they’ll let us know it happened, but the event itself is simply too icky to detail. And that’s crap. We should be seeing it, because it’s important to see it.

**Um, at least most of the time. There is a small exception, and that is when the characters in question are involved in a steady sexual relationship and this is not an erotic romance. I mentioned Friday how, although Greyson and Megan spend a good chunk of the time period covered by Demon Insidedoing delightful things in bed with each other, only two of those scenes are detailed. The first because it gives the reader a good look into where their relationship is at the start of the book, and the second because, IMO, it jumps both relationship and story forward by a huge bound (and is hopefully scorching hot too.) So I will give you a pass for later books in series or second, third, fourth, etc. encounters that don’t significantly expand or change the relationship or affect the story.

But dammit… If you can honestly tell me that your characters having sex isn’t an important enough moment for the reader to share, then your characters shouldn’t be having sex at all.

Wednesday we’re going to start looking at chemistry and building anticipation, and then we’ll begin with the real mechanics.

I still have room for a few more scenes, so don’t be shy! Oh, and if you’ve already submitted one and would like to increase your word limit to 1250 instead of 750, that’s fine–go ahead and resend it. I decided to do the crits as two posts per scene, so that gives us more space for length. Heh heh.

***Did you enjoy this series/find it helpful? You can now purchase it in print ($4.99 at Createspace) or ebook ($2.99 in numerous formats)! And if you feel moved to leave a review or something that’s great too, though of course not remotely necessary.***

BE A SEX-WRITING STRUMPET



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