Well, the title pretty much says it, but the topic of this panel, which took place late on the Friday night, is mostly about writing sex scenes. I found it amusing and informative, and even though I don't currently write anything that calls for scenes of an overly-detailed nature, it still contained a wealth of useful points.
As always, these are my notes of what the speakers had to say, mostly in the order they were taken and sometimes reworded for clarity.* * *
Writing Sex Scenes
Authors: Mason Lavin, Jana Oliver, Barbara Friend Ish
For Starters ...
- There has to be a lead up, a purpose for the scene.
- Structure: build-up, climax, aftermath, the scene before and the scene after
- Without a plot and characters you care about, it's porn.
Things to consider:
- Word choice should be sexy, romantic, sweet. (E.g. don't use "dribble" - neither sexy nor romantic)
- Sex can be the riskiest thing you can do. Sex can ruin characters' lives, change or complicate the plot, show character growth
- Very like writing a battle scene
- It has to *fit* with the story.
- Sex has consequences for the characters and plot.
- Sex scenes are action scenes. You have to be aware of where the bodies are.
- Body parts do not act on their own. Don't use "her hips thrusted"; she thrusted her hips. Don't use "his eyes roamed over her body", either.
- If what you write turns you on, it will likely turn on your readers, but that doesn't mean you have to write from specific experience.
- Be careful not to repeat the same sex scene twice
- Like fight scenes, they should escalate
- Things don't always go well in sex scenes; things can go wrong
- Sex scenes are an opportunity to explore character
- Historical sex scenes: research what they wear because clothing (and its removal) are important (e.g. a corset? chainmail bikinis? hoop skirts?) ; research locations for plausibility (e.g. in a moving carriage?)
- Level of explicity - determine what specifically are you writing. (e.g. there are different Harlequin imprints for different levels of explicity.)
Things to Avoid:
- Avoid harsh, crass words for body parts / actions; find other words parts (though "core" is overused!)
- Avoid "ing" words like throbbing, heaving, etc.
- Avoid being clinical with descriptions. People don't want literal/clinical. They want romance. Readers have to be invested in the character.
SF and Fantasy Applications:
- In science fiction and fantasy: the bodies have to work.
- Writing paranormal, alien, etc characters: the story has to be consistent in voice. Nonhuman or alien best written in longer pieces, to show the differences.
- Writing a really good sex scene can be really difficult.
- It is like a battle scene: character may be thinking, "I'm dead, time to live, nothing to lose"
- Try not to rush the scene just because you're uncomfortable. Even if it bothers you, that's the way it should be.
- Sex can be horrible, healing, used to show vulnerability and character development
- If it's not working for you, it's probabl not working.
- If it is uncomforable, you've left something on the table.
- If writing erotica, you may want to separate this type of fiction from your author persona with a pen name.
- Understand where something crosses the line.
- You *really* have to show and not tell here - it's an action scene!
- People judge you less harshly than you judge yourself.
- Erotica should not be writen in second person or present tense.
- Know where everyone is, what state of undress they're in, and what's going on.
- Vulgarity works less well than you might think.