Yesterday, I wrote a sex scene in my novel The Bad Death and added a little to a preliminary scene where they’re lying in each other’s arms and he’s lost in her eyes. Sex scenes in a romantic storyline are harder to write than readers suspect (and people who don’t read romance would never suspect how hard it is to write a romance well).
You can’t use ‘penis’ or ‘vagina’ because that’s too clinical. But you have to choose euphemisms carefully because if you get too inventive it sounds ridiculous. A romance I read recently used ‘love muscle’ for ‘penis’ twice. I’m sorry, not only is ‘love muscle’ not romantic, I don’t think it’s even accurate! ‘Peachy globes’ for a woman’s ass is funny too. But I’m not against using the word ‘ass’ when the scene gets rockin’, especially for the guy, who can be a little objectified in this genre. The sex scene starts out small (no pun intended) and builds to orgasm, which can’t be described in porn-y terms. You can use the word ‘came’ after they’ve had sex a few times, but you usually can’t get away with using ‘orgasm’. Why not? I think it’s because intimacy, itself, is a fragile state. You can be in bed with someone you’re wildly attracted to and if it’s a new relationship, a word wrongly spoken by either person can bring the whole house o’ cards crashing down. So reading a sex scene in a romance; well, it’s a fantasy and a non-fantasy word punctures the illusion. To use a non-sex scene example, it’s like that episode in X-Files when Mulder was put in this hallucinatory state in which he’d been injured and Scully was nursing him very tenderly. Her attentiveness deepened the illusion because Mulder was secretly in love with Scully. But when she says something like (I dunno …), “I hope you feel better soon, Fox” he snapped out of it. He told her later he knew right then it wasn’t real because she would never call him by his first name, Fox. Like when I read ‘love muscle’, I giggled and the moment was lost.
Yesterday, I first set the mood for writing with music. In this scene, the mystery girl is very assertive so I created a Youtube playlist called ‘Seducing Julian’ with videos such as Chris Isaak’s Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing. Then, I started out with word salad. The English language has thousands of sexy words and I can’t keep them in mind all the time, so when I hear or read one I like I write it down. I then fold that piece of paper up and drop it in my salad bowl. To start a scene, I grab a folded slip from the bowl. Whatever that word is, I write a sentence using it. That gets me moving forward instead of sitting like a lump waiting for a stroke of genius. Write enough sentences with word salad words and pretty soon I’m thinking up words and sentences on my own. Then, I’m off! I know I’m onto something when I start getting turned on by what I’m writing.
Readers, what are your likes and dislikes about romantic sex scenes? Writers, what are your challenges and tricks? Has Fifty Shades of Grey changed the rules for sex in romance and paranormal romance genres?