When it comes to writing my M/M Romance series “Shatterproof Bond” I am a devil for the details. I love writing story details and helping the reader immerse themselves in my characters’ world, but the extra details in my writing aren’t only about locations, clothing, and décor. I love writing the sex.
Some authors have big issues about writing sex scenes. I get it. They can be embarrassing and awkward, and, honestly, a bit like masturbating in public. Authors become insecure and worry that their nearest and dearest or even their children or employer may read their work one day and know that their sweet and innocent looking friend/parent/employee’s mind is actually a sewer. Sex scenes are very telling of the author. They let EVERYONE who picked up the book(s) know that the writer has either a very vivid imagination, a very experimental sex life or has researched a myriad of sexual activity and plumbed beneath the ball sack of the internet to get the information needed to suit their characters kinks… or all of the above.
As a reader, I have always been very frustrated when authors lead me on with a delightful romance and then when the couple has finally declared their feelings to each other they fade to black. And on the flip side of the coin, there are writers who throw in pages and pages of gratuitous sex that adds nothing to the plot and in turn, doesn’t push the story along.
If I invest my time in reading about a couple I want to know just about everything about their connection, but there is always a fine line between sizzling M/M romance sex, and Erotica. I have no problem with Erotica, and if you want to read and write books with little plot and lots of sex then, I say go for it. There is a huge, hungry market for Erotica. However, for my own writing, I really have to strive to find a balance between the intricate plot and the sexy times. Sex has to make sense in the narrative. The sex must enhance the plot and enrich the connection between my men, and I’m so adamant about keeping these standards that this actually led me to edit 5,000 words of sex scenes from “Illuminate the Shadows”. (But don’t worry, I still have them in my special ’sex scenes file’ for use somewhere else)
When it comes to the nitty-gritty of writing sex, the act in itself is biological and mechanical. In its basest terms it’s just “Insert object A into hole B, move back and forth until ejaculation”. What each writer strives to do is to take this repetitive action and make it into something else — to take the nuances of the personalities of each participant, add layers of emotion and meaning, and transform something that can be dull and monotonous in real life, into a shared experience that can be many things –rough or playful, pedestrian or intense, disappointing or mind-blowing, life changing and life affirming.
The emotional aspect of sex — showing the connection between the characters is vital, as is POV. The reader needs to know whose head they are in and whose ‘head’ is in whom! The type of sex the characters indulge in is dependent on the sub genre, plot, and the arc of each character’s story. But no matter what, the language choices for each scene are very important. The adjectives and adverbs used to create sex scenes can make the difference between capturing the reader and pulling them into the passion of the moment or pulling them out of the story, leaving them unsatisfied, laughing or even dry heaving.
For a start, a writer has to decide on how graphic and descriptive the sex will be, and what words they will use for the genitals. Romance novels have a language of their own, and the sub genre one writes in will determine what words are appropriate. Penis, cock, dick, throbbing member, rigid pole, pork sword, turgid shaft, or my favorite comic description, supposedly from a 1980s bodice ripper “leathery sac of man jewels” are just a few of the many words used for male genitals. Each of these conjures up a different image (and if a writer wants their reader to be aroused and enthralled by the scene, its best to avoid the man jewels!)
Writing sex scenes is very much like describing a game of Twister. I have to know what the characters are wearing, and have the clothing removed in a sexy fashion, and then, as the dance continues, work out where all of the arms, legs, and cocks joining-in with the proceedings are positioned, and who is doing what to whom. I write in dual perspective and enjoy the ping-pong of character points of view. It helps if the writer treats the sexual interaction as a “call and response” between the participants. For example
“Declan moved to his knees and turned to present his backside to Sam’s waiting mouth. His hands gripped the muscled globes of his own pale ass and he pulled his cheeks apart so Sam could get better access to his hole. A rumbling groan escaped and he pushed back against Sam’s mischievous tongue and Sam lapped, kissed, and sucked at his puckered sensitive skin”
This paragraph shows Declan is placing his body in a position to be pleasured, and Sam is responding, fulfilling his needs. It may sound really simple, but characters need to be anchored in each others arms. I have read sex scenes in stories where the couple behave like they aren’t even in the same location.
The emotional weight of a scene can also be made or broken by the choice of words. Old tried and tested lines come up time and time again. I’m sure as readers we have all read the unoriginal lines of “one finger, then two fingers, then three fingers” to prep before sex, and on orgasm, men are always “seeing stars”. Some descriptions add to the enjoyment of a book, for instance in Dericka Snake’s Vampire book “Cake” she describes the asshole as ‘the portal’ as if sticking a cock in it would take the top to another world- which always made me giggle. And, with Jordan L. Hawk’s delightful “Whybourne and Griffin” historical series, the author speaks of penetrating the fundament- a charming old English word for the anus.
What every writer needs to remember though is that whatever happens after sex is just as important as the sex itself. What happens after sex can tell the reader a lot about the relationship and the connection between the couple. If the couple “does it”, and then both roll over in opposite directions and fall asleep, it could show that the couple is all about getting laid and not about a relationship. Does sex make the characters feel closer, safe, and secure, or did the sex just scratch an itch and the couple are stuck in avoidance behaviors and an awkward lack of eye contact? And what about if one partner snuggles and the other lies there staring blankly at the ceiling, having not achieved orgasm? Again, it can take your story on alternative roads. Sex could be a one off, or lead to more pronounced sexual tension. But whatever your story arc, sub genre, and coupling, the aftermath of sex will bleed into the rest of your story. So when you are crafting a sex scene, take your time, work out the dynamic, the act, and the aftermath. And let’s hope we all get a happy ending.
© Isobel Starling 2016