The trick to writing good sex scenes is the words you choose to do it. The words you use to describe sex…and the body parts…has to be a reflection of the characters and their attitudes…and the overall tone of the book.
To me, writing a sex scene is less about the sex itself than what the scene is supposed to accomplish as far as revealing character or furthering the plot. It shouldn’t just be there to turn the reader on…even if you’re writing erotica. The sex act, in and of itself, will be mere coupling between two creatures…and certainly won’t be compelling, entertaining or arousing if the reader isn’t emotionally invested in the characters.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about, from my book WATCH ME DIE.
I guess something I learned from “Mannix” was true. Being a private eye really is an aphrodisiac to women. Carol had never attacked me like that before.
I’m afraid the surprise and excitement were too much, because I came in about three minutes. But I don’t think Carol minded; it calmed me down and allowed me to concentrate real hard on getting her off. And believe me, it took my complete attention. Pleasing a woman, especially Carol, isn’t easy and with me, at least, there’s a lot of potential for embarrassment and humiliation.
She rewarded me for all my hard work with a nice, squealing, writhing orgasm that nearly broke my nose on her pubic bone, but I didn’t mind. I even jumped in, literally, to enjoy the last few squeals of it with her.
It was so dark, and things happened so fast, she never saw my cuts and bruises, so she mistook my occasional groans of pain for pleasure.
Carol fell right to sleep afterwards.
Between the sex, the pain, and the things on my mind, I didn’t get as much sleep as I would have liked. But I get laid so rarely, I’m willing to sacrifice just about anything for it, especially sleep, when I usually dream about having sex anyway.
While the scene is explicit, more by implication than actual description, it’s not about the choreography or body parts. It’s about attitude and character — or, at least, I hope it is. To me, that’s how you get around the pitfalls of writing the sex scene.
I am so tired of sex scenes in thrillers where the lovers are confident and fantastic, erections last forever, the women are multi-orgasmic, and nobody leaves the scorched bed anything but extremely satisfied beyond their wildest, erotic dreams.
It was one of the sexual cliches I was trying to puncture with the sex scenes in WATCH ME DIE. My protagonist, Harvey Mapes, is anything but a perfect lover. In fact, most of the time, he comes way too soon and finds most aspects of sex, besides his own desire for lots of it, confusing and fraught with potential disappointment, humiliation and recrimination. It was so much easier, and so much more fun, to write that scene than the cliched, high-performance, sex that is the norm in the mysteries and thrillers that I read.
So the bottom line of writing great sex, in my opinion, is to give the scene an authentic, emotional or thematic foundation so that it’s about more than the sex itself — it’s telling a story by revealing character and reinforcing the novel’s core themes.