Good Sex and How To Write It. (Hint: It’s Not All About Showing Everything)

7 December 2016 by , No Comments

No, I said, good sex and how to write it. Not have it. If you’re looking for that kind of information, go check out Dan Savage. This post is going to discuss how I use sex in my writing, followed by an example from Man & Beast, my latest novel.

sexsceneWriting a great sex scene is easy, right? Just describe all the right parts and use lots of active verbs like throbbing, thrusting, plus some metaphors describing hot members and voila! Awesome sex scene!

Yeah, no.

Personally, I don’t think any kind of writing is easy, but I’d say writing good sex is especially tricky precisely because there are so many pitfalls. Purple prose, extra clunky metaphors, overheated dialogue, too much detail like, “His blue-steel hard member pulsed like a battleship’s cannon, pumping volley after volley into his longing mouth with lips swollen like the cherries ripe for picking on a hot July day as steamy as the air enfolding their throbbing bodies.”

Bleah.

So how does one write good sex? It’s a lot like having good sex — it takes time, thought, and practice to learn how to do it right.

Here are my rules for writing a good sex scene.

1) The sex should mean something. I’m not saying it has to mean the characters are in love and declare their undying devotion to each other. But the sex should exist to communicate something about the characters and the plot of your book. Otherwise, it’s really just porn and you might as well have the hot deliveryman showing up at the door in the super tight pants.

I think a good sex scene should reveal something about your characters. For instance, rough sex could tell the reader that your characters are sexually attracted to each, but don’t want to be. They can’t keep their hands off of each other, something that pisses them off mightily, and it shows up in how they treat each other. Man & Beast has something a lot like this. It’s intense, but I think it’s also erotic as hell because it arouses the reader, but keeps them on edge as to just what it going to happen.

Another example could be furtive sex in a back alley showing how a character is ambivalent about their sexual desires, while spontaneous sex with a stranger could show your hero is impetuous or has bad judgment or just a really high sex drive he can’t control.

In each of these examples, the sex can and should be very hot, but hot for a reason, not just to titillate the reader. When sex illustrates character, we care more about the sex AND the character.

2) A fresh setting and situations can lead to more interesting sex. Coming up with fresh sex scenes for Man & Beast wasn’t terribly difficult in part because it has a pretty different location than most MM books: the American frontier in 1797.

That alone automatically created a lot of opportunities for me to create fresher sex scenes. Like deep in the wilderness in a remote blockhouse where the two main characters are wintering over together; on top of a rocky promontory under the stars; after my main character has learned how to butcher a moose. That last one doesn’t sound erotic, but trust me, that situation leads to a very erotic scene.

3) Fading to black can be pretty erotic. Some of the best sex scenes I’ve ever read show everything leading up to the actual sex — the first encounter, the seduction, even the foreplay — then fade to black at just the right moment, leaving some of what happens up to the reader’s imagination. Just like with horror, where a good writer or director might not actually show you the monster, a good sex scene can show everything right up to the climax (so to speak), then exit stage right. And that can be pretty powerful.

4) Don’t share every gory detail or pile on the cliches. Many new writers often think for a sex scene to be great, it has to show everything. In great detail. Repeatedly.

Listen, we’ve all got the same equipment and we (mostly) know how it works. The physical sensations that come with intercourse and so forth are pretty universal and a few details here and there are often enough to let the reader know what your characters are physically doing with each other. So instead of describing what it feels like, try describing how it makes the character feel. That’s often more interesting, more intense, and more erotic than endless descriptions of the physical act.

And really keep an eye out for the cliches. Rock hard abs, toe curling climaxes, and the previously mentioned throbbing members are boring.

5) Practice, practice, practice. Just like with having actual good sex, writing a good sex scene takes a lot of time and effort. Don’t feel bad if your first sex scenes remind you of the first time you had sex, what with all of the fumbling, confusion, and putting things in the wrong places. Over time, you’ll get better if you work at it. And just like working at getting better at sex can be a ton of fun, so can writing good sex scenes!

6) If it doesn’t turn you on, it probably won’t turn on the reader. This is true of any kind of writing you might do, but if you write a sex scene and find yourself yawning instead of reaching for your significant other (or Grindr, Tinder, etc.) then you’re probably doing something wrong. I’m not saying you should find yourself aroused during the copy-edit, but if at some point during the writing process your sex scene doesn’t at least turn you on a bit, you can bet it won’t your reader!

bggNow here is an excerpt from Man & Beast that hopefully puts these rules into action!

“I thought you were dead,” I said emotionlessly. “When you vanished, I thought that God must truly hate us.”

“Please forgive me.”

“You’re peeved with me, aren’t you?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re mad because I won’t ask you to stay with me. Why else would you make me think you’re dead?”

“I swear that isn’t true. Here.” He handed me a flask. “This will steady you.”

I took the flask, my hand trembling. “Maybe you’ve a right to be mad.” Cold whiskey burned my throat. I shivered. “I don’t know what to do. I never have. Running away was always the best I could manage.”

He ignored my lament. “You’re cold, aren’t you? Come here then. I’ll warm you up.”

I considered for a long moment, then went to his side. Silent, we sat facing east, our backs propped against a cold slab of granite, the blanket held tight around us. Vigorously he massaged my fingers and arms and legs.

Surprising myself, I pulled Palmer close. All I knew for certain was that I wanted to be with him, deny it as I might. We kissed softly once, then a second time. He was tender as he ran his fingers across my face. My lips gently brushed over his eyes, his cheeks, his mouth.

We kissed again. I slipped my tongue into his mouth, he leaned forward, kissing me eagerly. A glowing warmth spread throughout my body. At least it did until a pain shot through my groin.

“Ow!” I hollered, catching sight of Palmer’s hand in my crotch. “What are doing?” I said, then realized he’d been trying to fondle my balls.

“I’m sorry. Shit. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“You’re just a little too eager, that’s all,” I said, gingerly massaging myself.

Maybe Palmer wasn’t as knowledgeable about everything as I’d assumed.

“You’ve never been with a man before, have you?” I said uncomfortably. I’d never before openly discussed the subject with anyone. Doing so felt fraught with danger.

“No, but if you reckon that means I’m not old enough to know what I want, you’re wrong And if you try and—”

“I’m not your father or Caleb. Don’t attack me.”

He let out a sigh that seemed to carry away some of his anger. “Sorry.”

“Let’s try the kissing again. But for now, keep your hands above my waist.”

I slid my hand behind his neck, pulling him to me. An unbidden image of Zach forced itself upon me, but I focused my mind and told myself that was then and this was now. Palmer watched me intently, but in his face I only saw gentleness and patience and, sadly, a little fear.

First I kissed him on the forehead, his cheeks, and then several times on the lips. I felt him trembling.

“That was nice,” he said when I stopped.

“How’s this?” I said, again slipping my tongue into his mouth.

He shivered, then pressed his mouth back even harder against mine. His tongue, frenetic and eager, explored my mouth so roughly that I fell backward.

“Sorry.”

“No, no,” I said, breathless. “That was fine. Do you want to keep going?”

He nodded eagerly. I reached over and unbuttoned his shirt while he unbuttoned mine. In moments we were naked, each taking the other in. Finally, we lay down on the blanket, our hands exploring every nook and cranny of our bodies, our mouths tasting and savoring each other, our skin growing slick as we took our pleasure with each other deep into the night.

Despite everything, it felt right and pure.

It felt like forgiveness.

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