We’re in the home stretch! In the third and final part of this series, we’re going to talk about word choice and realism.
1. Don’t be lazy. Please God, don’t compare your characters to actors or other famous people at any time in your story, not just in your sex scenes. For one, you’re eschewing your responsibility as a writer to create a halfway decent description. Secondly, not everyone thinks Chris Hemsworth is hot (sorry).
2. Pick a character description strategy. If you’re trying to make your reader feel warm things, my general guidance for describing a character’s physical traits during a sex scene is to be brief. Why?
I mean…right? I kept that tweet on my computer for three years because I thought it was so perfect. The important thing here is not to describe in detail what you think as universally sexy but to evoke a mood.
A love interest could be waxed and chiseled, or he could have a Dad Bod. Doesn’t matter! A character’s dick could be solidly average, but your protagonist will be begging for it not because of the size, but because of the person attached to it. That’s ultimately what a sex scene is about— making your reader feel what your protagonist feels, regardless of traditional beauty values.
Having said that, if certain physical traits are absolutely essential to your characters and your story, then being vague isn’t appropriate. If you want to make a point to your reader about who and what is sexy, then describe, describe, describe—but don’t fetishize. When I say don’t fetishize, I mean don’t be a racist by using language like “big Arab gorilla” (real example from a real book unfortunately). There’s a difference between celebration and exploitation.
3. Skip euphemisms. Please. I don’t want to read about some dude emptying himself into a witch’s so-called cauldron. If you’re not a cock ‘n pussy person, there are less explicit terms: shaft, hard length, hardness, heat, core, or center, to name a few. Just use the word breasts or chest. Globes and such fall into risky territory. Remember, your level of detail is dependent on the tone of the rest of your story.
4. Use metaphors sparingly and with care. Keep your metaphors simple. Don’t go comparing anyone to a bobcat in heat. Applying metaphors to physical acts of sex is tricky, so I recommend starting out with using metaphors to describe your setting. When you’re comfortable with that, try using them with your character’s physical sensation and feelings.
5. Dialogue is optional. Dirty talk can be fun, but it might not work for your characters. However, this is opportunity to throw in some banter or a call-back to something you established earlier. Example: While having sex, character A from Part I of this series might say to character B: “Promise not to steal my chicken sandwich ever again?” Yes, that’s terrible, but you get the point.
1. If someone has a six-pack, they damn well better have a reason.
*Stares at Romancelandia*
If your characters have killer bodies, they shouldn’t be flirting over four-course meals or giant burgers all the time. Maintaining that shit is hard. You have to eat a certain way and exercise a lot. Just because a character works in construction doesn’t mean they’ll automatically have the body of Adonis.
If fitness is a huge part of your characters’ lives, great, but don’t pretend they’re innately blessed. And before you give me the argument that romance novels are just fantasy, think of it this way: Characters who are innately blessed physically is a common feature of romance. Make your writing stand out.
2. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Dissatisfying sex and depriving people of orgasms doesn’t make you artistic or insightful.
*Stares at lit fic writers*
At this point, it’s a cliché. Try something new. Orgasm denial is a kink, but I don’t think that’s what you’re referring to when you leave your characters wanting.
3. Your characters don’t need to be acrobats for it to be hot.
4. Affirmative consent is awesome, and it doesn’t have to be robotic. A simple way to handle it is to have one character tease the other until they beg for it. Telling someone how much you want them will not kill the mood.
5. Characters are allowed and encouraged to show each other what they like in bed.
6. It’s OK if the sex doesn’t go perfectly. It’s OK if they laugh about it.
Now, go on and write some good sex!