Writing Sex Scenes

Author Laurell Hamilton talks on her blog about the difficulties of writing sex scenes when you just aren’t in the mood.

I’m supposed to do a sex scene today. Usually it’s not a problem, but today was one of those rare days when I’m just not in the mood…

Most of the time the biggest problem with writing a sex scene for me is the fact that with real sex you have the actually sensations, the immediacy of your own bodies reactions. In a book you have only words, black and white, only words to try and convey so many amazing experiences. Words seem so inadequate for it sometimes. But on one of the rare days when I get up and sex just isn’t the first thing on my mind, then a sex scene becomes a different kind of challenge. How do you get in the mood when you aren’t? How do you capture that mind set when what you’re doing in real life is refinacing your house, or walking the dog. How do you stay in the mood when the mundane world is so busy you aren’t even thinking about your own sex life let alone a fictional character’s love life?

When she lived alone with just one small dog she had an unconventional solution to breaking that particular form of writer’s block.

I put on lingere, lit candles around the computer, and tried to treat it almost like a romantic evening with a real person. It actuallly did help. There’s something about slipping on the thigh highs and black satin and lace, with some unhealthy but kick-ass shoes, that just does it for me.

Oddly enough, that’s exactly how I dress when I write DIAGNOSIS MURDER.

I haven’t had to write a sex scene in some time, but when I do, I don’t try to be slick about it, or make an effort to get my readers excited. I try to make it real in the context of everyday life, not RED SHOES DIARY.

In the first draft of my first book, .357 VIGILANTE, my hero was impotent, unable to get it up because of all the violence in his life. When I turned the manuscript in to my editor, he was shocked.

"The hero can’t be impotent," he cried. "This is a men’s action adventure novel. Not only does he have sex, he has GREAT sex!"

So I rewrote the sex scenes. I made them utterly ridiculous. They defied logic. They defied gravity. All the hero had to do was glance at a woman and she’d collapse into multiple orgasms.  A few days after I turned the manuscript in, I got a call from my editor.

"I read the sex scenes," he said.

I figured what he was going to say next was that the book was rejected and my contract for two more was canceled. I was wrong.

"Not only were they hot," he said, " they were real."

I was relieved…and deeply depressed. If those scenes were real, than my love life was pathetic. Or, at least, more pathetic than I already thought it was.

The last time I wrote a sex scene for a book was for my novel THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE, which is coming out next fall. The sex is urgent, sloppy, awkward, and funny. Not the least bit erotic but, I hope, real.  Here’s a snippet from it:

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…

If you’re a writer, what is your approach to writing sex scenes… and if you’re a reader, how do you feel about reading them?

11 thoughts on “Writing Sex Scenes”

  1. The problem with sex in writing is that you want to convey emotion and sensation, which are always present in real sex. However, in real sex, you also have to deal with the reality of the mundane that’s ever present. When was the last time you heard the phone ring during a literary sex scene? And nobody ever writes that most common hazard couples with children deal with.
    “Oh, yes! Yes! YES! Oh, baby, take me to…”
    “Mommy? Daddy? Can I have a drink of water?”
    I don’t think even Cialis can help with that.

  2. Jim,
    This is why they invented hotels and such. Nothing ever gets done at home with kids around. I never noticed any married people in books have rip roaring sex…..
    …hey keep quiet, you’re gonna wakeup the kids….

  3. I tend toward the funny and awkward sex scenes also, life imitating art perhaps? I love the sex scene in my first book because I think it may be one of the first book where the PI loses his virginity (at 26 mind you) during the course of the story. And the girl keeps trying to seduce him but he wants a long term relationship with babies and a minivan. It’s very Dawson and Joey.

  4. As an erotic writer, I approach sex scenes enthusiastically! However, I tend to use words like “cock” and “pussy” and am currently trying to expand my sexual vocabulary to be more…poetic I guess. I want to be able to get my works published one day and the words I DON’T see in Harlequin or silouette are cock and pussy. But I don’t want to use stupid words either…any help would be appreciated!


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