Friday, November 18, 2005

writing the dreaded S-Scene

Since this is a writer's blog and I write erotic romance, I thought I'd take some time and write something useful for new writers of erotic romance. (Or at least I'd try - you never know what can be useful as everyone has a different approach to writing.)
I was chatting on the msn yesterday with a really talented new writer and she made a confession - she has trouble writing sex scenes. And then today, while blog-hopping, I saw two other authors saying the same thing. One said she made them too jerky, and the other said she didn't know which words to choose without either offending readers or offending herself.
That got me thinking back to my beginnings at writing sex scenes. The thing that held me back was thinking "My mother is going to read this." That would be enough to paralyze anyone. And worse, "Maybe my father will read it!" (Well, extremely doubtful - men read books about World War One and car racing, not "The Argentine Lover". But if I wanted my books to sell, I had to get over that, so I did. And I did it by writing as sensually and quickly as possible to sketch out the scene, and then go back and add the details. I started to work like that, and because it worked so well for me, I have continued to use that technique.
It goes something like this - I'm writing the book, and I get to a place where there has to be a sex scene, so I'll write, (the names have been changed to protect the innocent)Zach shut the door behind him. Dora spun around at the sound. She hadn't expected him to follow her. She took a step back and hit the bed. Off-balance, she tripped and would have fallen but Zach caught her. (We'll skip the dialogue, although I usually go ahead and pen that in here too)
His touch sent waves of heat through her. (Now I'll speed things up and describe the physical things they have to do in order to get naked and get into bed - )
Her shirt had buttons and her fingers trembled as she undid them. (check to make sure your character is wearing the same clothes in the beginning, middle, and end of a scene - if that morning she pulls a sweater over her head, she better not unzip the sweater when she takes it off and then button it when she gets dressed again after the tryste! - and I've see male characters unzip their pants and then button them up after, which always intrigues me and makes me wonder if the characters haven't switched pants...)
Dora took off her clothes (I'll go back and fill that in later) Zach took off his clothes (idem - depending on what mood I want - did he tear them off? Slowly push his jeans off his hips? etc.) And then the physical act - Who's on top...etc.
She lay on the bed (alright, she's being a passive lover this time - Zach - get to work...) Zach looked at her (time for some visuals) and then knelt on the bed (you sort of have to do this as a movie scene, so you don't have her lying down, him kneeling over her, and then suddenly have her sitting up and running her hands over his chest - for one thing she'd smack him in the chin with her head, and if he's further down, with his head between her thighs, for example, her arms would have to be awfully long to touch his chest. (not to mention it would be awkward)
Anyhow - once the characters have moved in the way they have to, have pretty much finished what they are doing, then I move on to the next scene to keep the story moving forward.
Zach looked at his watch and swore (men always do that - it's not a cliché, honest, lol) Dora sat up and pulled her blouse back on, buttoning it up as quickly as she could. She didn't notice she'd buttoned it wrong...
Then, maybe a day or two later, I'll go back and polish the scene. I'll add the details that make the mood. You have to use the five senses, so there's touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste. Don't forget any of them. The lighting, the feel of the sheets, Dora's perfume,the taste of Zach's lips...And then I'll go back a third time and see what I can add to make it even more sensual or sizzling.
And that is one way to make a sex scene less intimidating and more technical. If you can look at it as a director looks at a scene through a camera, and then come back to it like an artist touching up a painting, then I think it will be easier to write the scenes that give you trouble.
At any rate, I hope this helps!


Karen Scott said...

Actually, if I ever have a problem expressing myself in written form, I more or less do what you've just suggested. Go with the basics, then pad it out later.

Good advice.

Sam said...

Yes, it works with just about anything - painting, music, (I'm just guessing here, but I bet Mozart added the instruments one at a time, lol.)
Dear John letters...
Thank you notes...
This is me after the kids get presents.
"Write a thank you note. You did already? OK, show it to me. No, you have to add more. You can't just say 'Thank you for the trumpet Aunt Jane.' You have to say why you like it. No, you can't tell her I wrapped it around your neck this morning at 5 a.m. when you decided to wake me up with it."

Yes, writing is a pleasure best learned young.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

This is great, solid advice, Sam. I also go back and add stuff in after I write the initial scenes. I used to edit myself to death while trying to write key erotic scenes, but then I’d lose the momentum and end up with lifeless so-so sex scenes. It’s very hard for me to turn off my internal editor, but I’ve learned that my work is best when I charge full speed ahead with the ideas and emotions that spill out and then go back and doctor things up later.

I always advise new writers to read, especially within their chosen genre/sub-genres. Too many don’t want to take the time and don’t understand that abundant reading is necessary to hone a writer’s skills. So, in their eagerness to be published, they end up penning mediocre stories full of the sort of errors and faults that will get their story rejected. Another good bit of advice is to write as much and as often as possible. The old adage that practice makes perfect has a sound basis. :-)

I’ve been writing non-erotic romance for years, so when I decided to try my hand at erotic romance, I followed my own advice and read like crazy, and then practiced writing sex scenes until it felt natural and comfortable. I learned so much from reading all sorts of erotic stories and it helped me over that awkward initial angst of writing my first few sex scenes.

Sam said...

Yes, reading is essential - so many people forget that, lol.
I actually signed on as a reviewer at three sites (Sime Gen, A Romance Review, and Midwest Reviews) in order to be able to read as much as I could. I encourage All aspiring writers to become reviewers for a while - it makes you look at books in a more critical manner and can help you spot potential trouble spots in your own writing.
There are lots of review sites and they often ask for reviewers to sign up. If you can write good copy it's a plus, and it certainly hones one's ability to write a synopsis of one's own work later.

Wynn Bexton said...

Well Sam, I write historical fiction and try to insert a bit of erotica when appropriate and actually find it vicariously enjoyable. Picture yourself in the scene and choreograph it step by step to the climax. Wow! It's really fun!

Cheyenne McCray said...

One thing I don't have problems with are the sex scenes. It's the darn intrigue and suspense that I freak out over!