Currently working on: The big bad
Mood: Teeth gritting
Happy almost Valentine’s Day!
What better time of the year to talk about writing sex scenes than Valentine’s Day? Er, not that Valentine’s Day is all about sex, but it does tend to go there, doesn’t it? If it’s done right, of course
I’ll be honest here (and honesty is a useful tool for Valentine’s Day AND writing sex scenes); I often skim sex scenes when I’m reading. Not because I’m a vaguely repressed romance writer working out her problems in cheap self-therapy on the page, but because – like a long-term comfortable relationship where maybe the fires have dimmed a little – sex scenes can sometimes feel rote and perfunctory. We’ve all heard the tease about romance novels where you crack the spine at the halfway point and, whoopsie, fell into bed and had sex.
Even with whips and whipping cream – even with prehensile tentacles if you read the farther-out-there stuff – the sex has to MEAN something. I want my sex scenes to work harder, to get down and dirty, and go deeper…
Okay, I can see this posting has the potential to get me into trouble. But that’s exactly what I want from my sex scenes. The potential for trouble. I want to know that this scene is important – just like all the rest of the story. That clues and pitfalls and moments of truth are hidden in the otherwise eons-old insertion of tab into slot.
So how do you create a special Valentine’s Day – and a special sex scene?
Engage all the senses: The archetypical Valentine’s Day includes chocolate, champagne, roses, and a candle-lit bubble bath. So too on the physical level, a good sex scene should play with every nerve ending – the thick creaminess of the dark chocolate, the gleam of flame-light on slick wet skin, the rich sweet scent of the roses as the petals float across the water only to sink under a surging splash as he raises himself over her… But Valentine’s and sex scenes aren’t just about the physical.
Reveal more: Hey, we’ve all bought Valentine’s Day panties. And let’s just say the price does not reflect the square footage. I like a sex scene that uncovers something about our heroine. It’s a dangerous moment, that unveiling. In opening herself to the hero, she risks more than the twenty bucks spent at Victoria’s Secret. Our hero faces the same moment, but please don’t picture him in Valentine’s Day panties. I mean, unless that’s your thing. Although I’d go more Abercrombie & Fitch.
Find the core: No, you naughty-minded reader, not THAT core. Well, actually yes, that core too. But I was thinking of that defining moment that is the reason you cannot skim a good sex scene – it’s the moment the hero metaphorically pulls out the velvet Valentine’s Day jeweler’s box. Locked in that dark, protective box is a shining jewel that he will hand to the heroine for safekeeping. Will she accept? Whatever comes next (and you know there’s more to come), that bond will mark them forever.
A spontaneous sexual romp on a sunny Sunday afternoon is wonderful too – in real life and in a book – but the ritual that is Valentine’s Day and the crafting of a meaningful sex scene can be as sharp-edged and delicate as scissors wielded on a construction paper heart, with as many mixes messages as a box of candy hearts. The story that doesn’t miss a beat here can win my heart.
What was your most memorable experience of Valentine’s Day? The passing of those cheap little postcards in grade school? An impromptu game of spin the bottle? A proposal from your hero?
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