A recent lead story in the evening news was about a local deputy who is accused of taking sexual liberties with female prisoners. As news stories go, this one was pretty salacious. Of course, there was no actual recounting of the sex. Given the same factual scenario in a work of fiction, the setting was great for writing some serious “Prison Sex" encounters.
As a fiction writer, I have a luxury that news reporters don’t have (or at least shouldn't have). My characters can do anything I want them to, any time, any place, any way. But as any Spiderman fan knows, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It isn’t enough to place a sex scene in an unusual setting. There is more to a sex scene than merely making the female and male parts fit together. The scene still has to be believable within the context of the work.
When it comes to writing a sex scene, I have a basic checklist:
A) Set up: is there enough background to support the scene?
Tom dropped the letters into the mailbox slot. He flipped the door several times to make sure that all of the letters fell into the box. Mary, a tall, buxom business woman waiting to deposit her letter tapped her foot impatiently. He turned to her, “Is there a problem?” Their eyes met, the untamed fire in hers immediately lighting a fire in his groin. He ripped open her blouse as she unfastened his belt.
This scenario doesn’t seem likely even for a hand-held camera, 8mm black and white porno. There needs to be a believable build up, however unlikely the setting. Part, or even a substantial portion, of the build up can occur offstage in indirect action. But the buildup is still necessary. The more improbable the setting, the greater the need for a solid foundation for a sex scene. Even if the scene is just casual sex for the sake of having sex, the characters still need to connect in a believable manner. If the reader remains skeptical that the characters are about to have sex in the scene, then the scene will fail.
B) Foreplay: is there enough?
Bill hit “play”, and set the remote on the arm of the black, leather couch. He put his arm around Suzy, who snuggled closer. She turned her head, and opened her mouth for a kiss. His tongue met hers as he rucked up her skirt. He drove into her powerfully, as relentless as a force of nature.
This is a bit thin on details. The reader is probably going to need a bit more information on their feelings and reactions to tactile stimulation before reaching the “force of nature” bit.
C) Temporal consistency and mechanics: does the sex scene work from technical point of view?
One problem that I’ve found in sex scenes that I’ve edited is that the mechanics of the scene are off. In one memorable scene, the couple is coupling fiercely. Two paragraphs later, she unzips his slacks and takes his cock out. Being old fashioned, I suggested that the paragraphs needed to be reversed. In another scene, the man held her breast in one hand and fingered her dripping pussy with the other. She moaned as he pulled her hair. My question as the editor was, pulled her hair with what? His teeth?
D) Originality: 1) what makes this scene different from the other sex scenes in the book?
Chapter Three: Mary slowly did a scissors split, impaling herself, as she slid down Tom’s long, thick rod until she was filled.
Chapter Seven: Suzy swung her legs out of the pike position, and flipped one leg over each of the parallel bars. She spread her legs until they were straight out at her sides in a perfect split. Bill reached around her and grabbed her breasts as he slid his long, hard shaft into her until she was filled.
Been there, done that. Yes, Mary was in the bedroom, and Suzy was in the gym. But the novelty of a woman doing the splits wore off after the first time. One of the splits has to go. If the reader really likes the splits scene, then s(he) can reread Chapter Three. Chapter Seven needs to give the reader something new.
2) Word choices?
How many times do the same words or variations on a root word repeat? Using “throb”or “throbbed” in every sex scene will bore the reader at best, or at worst, produce a throbbing headache. Find some new adjectives. If in Chapter Three, Mary “slid” until “she was filled”, then in Chapter Seven, Tom’s actions need to be something other than “slid” until “she was filled”. I would need to find a new verb for “slid”, and a new adjective for “filled”.
In Earth Angel, there was a brief stand alone sex scene that my editor wanted to cut because she didn’t think it added anything. I disagreed because I wanted to change the pace at that point, and work on character development rather than plot development. The scene stayed after we discussed its purpose. But to make sure the scene added something, I still had to make sure that it fit within the internal logic of the overall story, and didn’t merely rehash stock footage from a prior sex scene.
CK Copyright 11/7/11; Moral rights to be identified as the author of the foregoing article asserted worldwide (including in Great Britain in accordance with Sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act of 1988) (See prior blog on Moral Rights).