I don’t know about you, but I have yet to see a mainstream writing conference with a break-out session on this. Yet, sex is a basic human need. Characters eat, sleep, drink—and yes, characters have sex. I resist the idea that “good” or “serious” fiction only involves celibate characters or, at most, a one sentence summary of the act. So be kind to your characters (and your readers) and let them be fully human. I’m hoping to expand on these in upcoming posts, but here are a couple of basics:
- Don’t back down from a sex scene—let the character’s perspective shape what type of scene it will be. As an author, I believe you have an obligation to be true to your character. If your character wants a sex scene, by all means give it to her/him.
- A sex scene is a great chance for an unusual character detail or twist—take advantage of this.
- Stay in perspective. Pick one of the character’s perspective and write from it throughout the entire scene. You can always switch to the partner’s perspective in a different chapter.
- Watch the pronoun usage. This is especially true for same sex or multiple partner scenes. I find myself writing the first draft almost entirely with pronouns, but this creates a distance for the reader and stylistically deviates from the rest of my normal pronoun usage. Well-placed names in a sex scene can drive momentum, enhance the connection, or create a plot twist.
- Choose your words carefully. Remember, you have to use the words that your character would to describe male and female genitalia (side note: I have yet to have a a character use the word genitalia). The time period of your characters will also dictate your word choice. While dick is a more modern usage, cock—although more crude—is timeless; seriously, just ask Shakespeare. At all costs, try to avoid member. Similarly, some verbs have become cliche like throbbing, pulsating, gyrating, etc. Also, in general, beware of the gerund.