In Part I of this series, I explained how to lay (ha!) the groundwork for your sex scenes. Now that you have your reader’s buy-in from the tension, we’re going to dive into the anatomy of the sex scene. Writing a good sex scene can seem like sorcery because they’re so subjective, but the four key components you need to focus on in your prose are:
Action, Sensation, Emotion, and Setting (ASES)
Successful sex scenes will have each of these elements. If you remember nothing else from these posts, that is what I want you to burn into your brain. I’ll let you decide how you want to pronounce the acronym, but ASES is the sign of success!
- Action: The down and dirty details. Insert TAB A into SLOT B. Put LEFT HAND on RIGHT TIT. You can’t have action alone, though, because then it just sounds like an instruction manual.
- Sensation: What the action feels like physically. Is her touch overwhelming? Is she dizzy with lust? Is what he’s doing with his mouth setting her on fire? (In a good way, hopefully.) This adds intensity you build with the action.
- Emotion: How the characters feel about the action. Is this a delicious mistake? Are they relieved that they’re finally letting themselves do this? Is this break-up sex? Reunion sex? Why is the sex important to their relationship in this moment? How is the sex important to the protagonist?
- Setting: How their physical surroundings impact the sex. Are the characters tearing the sheets off the bed? Is it raining outside? Sprinkle in the setting for a little flavor.
The heat level of your story will determine your best ASES combination. Here is a clip-art representation of what I mean:
- If your story is explicit, you will have heavy helpings of action in addition to plenty of sensation and emotion.
- If your story is more chaste, go easy on action and instead focus on emotion and sensation.
- If the sex is purposefully unfulfilling (*stares at lit fic writers*), focus more on action and setting and less on sensation and emotion.
After you’ve written your sex scene, highlight each sentence using a different color for each category. Do you have a nice mélange of colors, or are you relying on one aspect too heavily? (Note: If you can’t do the highlight thing, assign each sentence a number (1-4) based on these categories and then see what the distribution of the numbers is.)
Finally, find sex scenes you like in other stories and internalize them. The sages say to read widely. Do the same for your sex scenes. A good sex scene can be very subjective, so model your work after a story that resonates with you. Also, ask yourself why it resonates with you. Take that with you to your story.
That’s it. This post is purposefully short because I want you to digest that properly. When you’re ready for more, let’s move on to the third and final post of this series, where we’ll discuss word choice and realism.