Blessed be! As of this writing, I’m up to my navel in edits for my fantasy romance. In general, the edits are going about as smoothly as I’d anticipated. I’ve added a lot more new material than I’d intended, but the actual changes themselves are shaping up just as I wanted them to. However.
Several things occurred to me as I was going through a scene that I’d tagged to dial up the heat in a little. First: I’ve never actually written a proper sex scene. Second: the character I was writing had never had sex. And third: there might be some gold to mine in that thar revelation.
- Stick tightly to your viewpoint character. This is easier in first-person, but probably even more crucial in third. Limit your perspective to what one character is feeling, thinking, and experiencing. Movie-camera or omniscient narration for something so intimate creates distance, and jumping between bodies involved can be confusing. Unless you’re doing one of those two things intentionally–to create the illusion of bad sex, for example–probably best not to.
- Keep it realistic. Most people can’t have sex for seven hours straight without some pretty severe repercussions. They also can’t, as a general rule, have a quickie in the cab of a 19th-century carriage while in full Victorian dress without her being extremely uncomfortable; corsets and petticoats limit just how handsy a beau can get.
- Voice, voice, voice! What does your character call their erogenous zones? Would they use clinical terms like vagina, penis, or anus, or is it their twat, cock, or ass? This is a great way to communicate not only your character’s attitude toward sex or their partner but also to set the tone of the scene. Just one word can mean the difference between a romantic wedding night and a dirty one-night stand.
- Please, no euphemisms. This may be entirely personal preference, but if a character is too naive or uncomfortable with sex to use the proper words for what’s going on, I really don’t want to read it. Now, there are exceptions. Done deliberately, this can be used to evoke atmosphere, as in a historical novel, or to create an awkwardness between characters that can be endearing.
More often, though, it just makes it sound like the author isn’t entirely comfortable with what’s being written. And that will pluck me out of a story.
- Fade to black. Now, sometimes there just doesn’t need to be an actual scene. Whether it’s because you’re uncomfortable writing it or because the event itself isn’t that important to the story, you don’t always have to write out the actual sex. There’s nothing wrong with employing a tasteful fade-out if it suits the character or the story.