1. nvoll
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    nvoll New Member

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    Scenes of a Sexual Nature

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by nvoll, Dec 13, 2009.

    So I've been trying for some time to work out how to write a sex scene, and I don't mean some smutty every last gory detail one either. What I want to achieve in effect is the old Hollywood principle of show they got into bed, fade to black, fade to morning after snuggling. The problem I'm facing is translating this to paper. I always have issues with time lapse in writing but this one in particular is proving to be quite difficult for me. So what would your suggestions be, is there any clever little trick I might be able to employ? And remember I want to keep it all implied, my book already has a smutty enough premise without adding full on smut on top of that.
     
  2. rikithasta
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    rikithasta Member

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    Thank you for realizing this! As someone who "betas" fanfiction, I see far too much unnecessary smut.

    I think the toughest trick is to keep it in the style of the rest of your narrative.

    What I usually do is to leave a little bit of what's going on. For established romance.
    "Come upstairs with me," he said [insert description of something].

    Except, you know, not awful.

    Then do the double line break, or the *** or a chapter break or whatever. And then just go right into the cuddle scene. Leave it up to the reader to fill in the blanks.

    Sometimes I won't even put in one scene or the other, plot permitting. Hope this helps.
     
  3. SilentShadow
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    SilentShadow New Member

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    I think that hardest part of anything of that nature is keeping it classy and not overdoing it. You can write the longest detailed description and still keep it classy. To held you achieve what you want to do is that you do a quick scene for example them getting into bed. Then you can start another scene. Just imply what they are doing upstairs, without being to horrible of course, and then go on to the next scene.
     
  4. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    I think something like this would work:
    ***
    Dianne kissed him passionately, pushing him back into the room. Their lips never broke their embrace as Dianne subtly kicked the door closed.

    (Some sort of break in here, either a line across the page or a few lines down)

    The sun broke through the window and washed over the sleeping lovers.
    ***

    I think this kind of scenario works because it still shows the passion(or whatever it is they have). Perhaps Dianne is sleeping with this man to get ahead. Maybe she throws him on the bed then sticks her head out and looks around before she closes it. That would give more of a suspicious vibe.
    I like where you're going with this. What happens in the bedroom typically isn't that important. It's the fact that the deed occured that counts in most cases.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a similar problem trying to write tasteful sex scenes, even though romance novels can be pretty graphic these days.

    The best advice I got was from a writing friend who's been published. She told me to write the scene with no holds barred, exactly as it happened. Then she told me to take out any reference to the 'bits' and change the verbs to more subtly suggestive verbs (but flowery nonsense should be a no-no here).

    Difficult to illustrate on this forum, but e.g. instead of: 'He touched her ****' you would have 'He touched her' or 'She reached for his *****' you would write 'She reached for him'. Coming in context, it's obvious what part.

    But cringe-making, cliched euphamisms are a turn off rather than being erotic. I'd say they are best avoided, if you or the publisher can't take the real thing.
     
  6. Delphinus
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    Delphinus Senior Member

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    What are you talking about? Surely nobody in their right mind would mind reading about 'love-poles', 'flowers', 'pleasure-nubbins', rods of any description, 'bean-poles', etc?

    Come to think of it, there seems to be a vaguely botanic theme 'coming' through here. Perhaps because the characters are 'spreading their seeds'?

    But seriously, what he said. Avoid such things unless you want to sound like an upper-class batchelor from the days of the old british empire, boasting about his 'conquests' of the native people.

    Wait - god dammit!

    Casanova's memoirs, History of my Life, are one of the best examples of keeping erotic writing classy but still realistic. Then again, his memoirs do tend to have a bit of a dream-like, superficial quality, so they might not quite suit a modern novel.
     
  7. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with what a lot of people have said here, under the pretense that your sex scene is irrelevant to the plot. However, I also believe that you can write a sex scene without resorting to a "fade into black" and at the same time avoid vulgarity.

    You use the example of "converting" a film like scene of fade into to black to paper. Make it easier and adapt something that avoids completely showing the physical part of the scene, but the emotional part of the act is still evident. Try for the finesse of the sex scene in the film The Big Easy with Dennis Quaid, far from the best script, but there is a sex scene that is extremely tense and very passionate. Both characters remain clothed, and the actual act takes place but in a classy way because you are more interested in the characters motivations and emotional state that build up to (and take place during) intercourse.

    To convert such a scene to paper, I'd concentrate on the passion and emotion and stray away from the physical. Be intentionally vague when it comes to the act, however use this like you would any other interaction. Shape your character, really use it to get inside their head, we are more vulnerable during sex than most every other aspect of our adult lives. Psychologically and physically.
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'd be surprised at how many romance writers resort to 'tunnel of love' 'pleasure dome' etc. And it's even worse when euphamisms are mixed in with biological terms--not that I peruse e.g. Nicole Jordan's 'novels' for anything other than research purposes...
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have never heard any of the upper-class batchelors from the days of the old British Empire that I know boast of their 'conquests' of the native people. As the daughter of a British army officer who spent most of her life in the colonies I should know. Such carryings-on were always considered very vulgar and certainly nothing to boast about.

    *hint*

    This was extremely offensive. Please mind your manners.
     
  10. Delphinus
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    Delphinus Senior Member

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    In real life, perhaps, Madhoca. In fiction, especially of the erotic variety, though...

    Oh, and Lord Byron was pretty much my frame of reference here, and we all know what he was like in such matters.

    And again, Casanova's memoirs are surprisingly lacking in pornography. Part of that is because it was written in the 18th century by a catholic, but the actual reasons are probably more related to the way he was permanently looking for love rather than pleasure. Sadly, Romantic society took a somewhat dim view of falling in love with other men's wives...
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Byron travelled in Albania, Portugal, Greece...not the colonies, and the heyday of the British Empire was after he was dead, so I fail to see why it should be a point of reference with you.

    Still, let's keep on topic, huh?

    I think it's better to keep to modern fiction for guidence, although if you are looking for a classic in Victorian erotica, Walter: 'My Secret Life' is THE one to read, and it's available online. It has a store of juicy historical detail for anyone writing historical romances, but it gets a bit too much after a while...
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, let's.


    I would suggest (as I always do) that you give a search on the net for web forums that are devoted to the art of the sex scene. They come in every flavor, from the shockingly hard core to the more Victorianly dainty.

    Outside the realm of such a community of people, the answers you are going to get (just have a look at what is already in this thread) are going to be focused on where the line is between the eros and porno.

    Notice that this does not answer you original question of how.
     
  13. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like all writing topics, a writer needs lots of valid research. Next time you're...uhhh...appropriately involved, take notes! After that subtle brush against your hand or lingering eye contact -- you know, the moment that confirms your potential lover is thinking the same as you -- just excuse yourself, grab your pen and jot down the elements of the interaction that will work for your story. Repeat the note-taking as needed for each stage of the seduction. Warning: this research technique could be hazardous to your love life.

    Seriously, most readers are far more invested in the seduction than in the actual act. A well written seduction scene does not require follow up details of physical intimacy to make it a smoking hot read. Just make the seduction steamy and lingering before ending the reader's voyeuristic pleasure. Then, in the next paragraph, continue the "mood" with some kind of afterglow. For example, as they awaken to the unfamiliar, yet pleasant touch of each other, playful touching leads to more passion and yet another spontaneous seduction that vanishes before it qualifies as porn. The reader will happily supply his or her own imagination. I would then pick up the story with them immersed in a post-coital embrace (or any other scene that fits the story) like she turns in his arms and happens to notice that she is due at work in fifteen minutes. The reader already knows from prior character development that she's been late before and is on probation. She bursts from his warm grasp, pausing for the briefest instant to contemplate what might be if she stays home. But, common sense prevails and she runs out of the house slipping back into last night's dress, brushing out wrinkles with her hand as she scrambles to get to work on time.

    Point is, there are unlimited possibilities both for building a great non-coital "sex" scene and to slip unnoticed into the continuing storyline. And, if all else fails, resort to research!
     
  14. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    I wrote a sex scene for a script I had wrote (the scene was needed to portray something ) and it was easily one of the most difficult things to do, (in a script especially difficult as you have to describe it, but not wanting a porn its hard to explain what’s going on, and as it was intercut with another scene, I had to keep returning to it, so “they make love” just wouldn’t cut it) Usually though I tend to avoid the act all together, rather than having the characters go to bed and then skip to the next morning, why not just skip to the next morning, allow the audience to work out what happened in between
     
  15. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your choice doesn't have to be between being descriptive or cutting to the next scene all of the sudden -- you could simply turn brief, also.

    For example, after several pages of narrating their flirting, describing their thoughts and each and every advance they make towards eachother, then round up the scene with something like "... then and there, James and Janine made love to each other for the first time."

    It won't seem like you evaded it, nor that you went too far.
     
  16. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I tend to put some descriptions in when it suits the context of the writing. But like NaCI said, if you don't want to show the actual act, then use the seduction to it's fullest advantage. The lead up scene is always the most exciting anyway, especially in a new encounter between to people, it can be coy and sweet (like two teenagers for the first time) it can be throw down hot and heavy like two thirty somethings getting caught up in the passion of their first embrace, or it can be loving and tender, like a wedding night.

    How you play it out and where you pick up from in the next paragraph, is what will make the reader keep reading. It has to fit the story. Let the story style dictate what you show and how much you show and then move on with the rest of the story.

    You don't have to worry about putting in anything between the paragraphs of the starting of the romance and the afterglow of the night. Just pick it up where it naturally would, as long as it is moving the story forward. Unless you want to end the chapter with that scene and pick up someplace else, I wouldn't advise ending the chapter with the sex scene, cutting the smutty details, then starting a new chapter showing the next morning. There isn't normally a need to do this. Time lapses happen within chapters and the paragraphs don't need to be spaced differently, or ***these things inserted for the reader to follow along. Don't underestimate the brain power of your reader.
     
  17. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always try to keep my sex scenes as brief as possible on the rare occasions when I do use them. I feel as long as the audience gets the message of the emotion, there is no need to go into details. Afterall, if the sex scene is important to the story in any way, the act itself isn't really what you'll want to focus on anyway. I find it a lot harder writing rape scenes or nude scenes of a non-sexual nature. Each to me presents different challenges of what is and what is not appropriate/necessary.(with rape, you want to show enough to capture the feeling of horror and violation but not too far, and with non-sexual nude scenes, it's difficult to know what is and isn't too much cause sex isn't really in the equation at all) But that's just me anyway.
     
  18. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    I would have some passionate start to the, ahem, deed, and then end the chapter and start the next chapter the next morning, or in reality, 30 seconds later. *chuckles* No, really, I think if possible, that would be a good way to go about it. Leave your reader intrigued, and then you can pick up after the fact.
     
  19. Nathan Edwards
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    I once had a friendly conversation with Sci-Fi/Fantasy author L.E. Modesitt Jr., and his opinion regarding sex in fiction seems mostly tantamount to the general consensus in this thread: don't tell the reader everything. I'm inclined to agree, but with some hindsight.

    When it comes down to literary sex, I'm reminded of a very basic rule of thumb I learned about writing a year or so back, that being the line which divides fiction and nonfiction. For fiction, we never want to give away the resolution right from the get-go; we want to offer buildup for the reader so that they'll feel validated when we give them a climax. For nonfiction, the reverse holds true. The reader of, say, a journal or a newspaper article, needs to know what's going on right away so that the facts will make more sense afterward.

    Writing a love scene that's both believable and in the realm of good taste takes a mixture of both these rules I think. They should know what's going to happen right away or early on, and yet still be baited towards the resolution by the whole seduction process. I've read several examples in the past that worked to tremendous effect (so to speak). In a David Bishop novel I read once, the female protagonist invites a soon-to-be lover into her home. She's still a virgin, nervous as hell, and pussyfoots around what it is she wants to do with him by offering him juice or giving him a tour of her house, but the reader can still intuit what is to happen even before it happens.

    To use an even better example, I submit the opening line of a chapter in John Darnton's novel 'Neanderthal', which went something like:

    A week later, on a warm summer afternoon, Susan and Matt made love.

    I'm paraphrasing this line somewhat, as I haven't read the book in over a decade. Still, it's a terrific opener. It's lures the reader in as if by a gilded lover, to see what it is that unfolds. Darnton even does a terrific job of the more sensual aspects of the scene. The actual 'deed' is never elaborated on in detail, but there's nonetheless great buildup - slow and agonizing. The gradual unfolding of sex is always the most fun, I find. ;)

    That, at least, would be the advice I'd impart to one who struggles with sensuality or hasn't had much practice with it. Me, I've written more than a couple 'love' scenes myself, but as a horror writer I've never pulled any punches with them. They're never what one would call outright pornography or anything (there's a very fine line between horror and erotica after all), but I've learned from such writers as Bentley Little that part of being a horror writer means never having to censor yourself.
     
  20. Sam R. Geraghty
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    Sam R. Geraghty Member

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    Two suggestions:

    Read Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, or at least the sex scene.

    Sorry if my second suggestion is a bit naughty but think about what turns you on. Why couldn't one half of the characters involved in your scene have elements of your own preferences? You have to be honest with yourself here and build a sex scene where you could be taking part.

    There are two sex scenes in my first novel, just completed - one is better than the other as an actual sex scene because I, as the developer of the characters involved want to show them respect and make it special. In the other scene it is smutty, distant, loveless sex explored because that is the murky situation that informs it.

    Sometimes the actual scene isn't as important as the build-up and the detail though - just like the real thing!
     
  21. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    You've acknowledged that your book is smutty. I dont know your book, but consider your readers and why they are reading it. Would they be reading a smutty book if they didnt want to read about sex?

    I have actually read erotica where the author has skipped over the actual sex. Pages and pages of foreplay, and the sex is over in a few sentences. It is incredibly irritating. People read erotica because it's erotic, it turns them on. Why any erotica author would skip the most sexual part of an erotic scene is beyond me.

    I know you're not writing erotica, but the principle still stands. Consider why you want to skip the sex scene. Is it just because you dont want to write it? Because there's enough smut already?

    People who read smutty books like smut. Don't deny it to them unless there's a good reason.
     
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  22. DiZ
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    DiZ Member

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    There could be many reasons for this. One can't say for sure why exactly, but my opinion si that if you write "pages and pages" as you put it, of foreplay, the sex part just drags along after it. If I read, let's say...3 pages of foreplay, then comes the sex in another 3 pages, I'd probably get bored of reading the same thing in different words. In another order of ideas, maybe the author just didn't want to write it and instead focused on the foreplay and let the reader imagine everything else.
    But a bit of sex never hurt anyone *grins*
     
  23. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    As an afterthought to this topic, as I've been thinking about it for a few days now... Sometimes sex or even having characters come to the point of a relationship can kill a story. Look at X-Files...I know not the greatest of examples as it was a TV show, but the sexual relationship is what finially killed the series, hence why they left it to the end of the series. The sexual tension can be what keep fans coming back, keep someone reading, and once that desire is satisfied what's the point of reading further? or watching in the case of X-files. I've noticed this same type of thing happening on the show Fringe, although it is just a show that took a page from X-files, but the female lead FBI agent and the male lead have that same sexual tension. The watcher wants to see them get busy, but then it would take away from the show in general, because the sexual tension is part of what makes it good.

    For me in some books, the sexual tension is the exciting part. That was probably the best part of the Twilight books, another reason why the climax (pun intended) was left for the last book. It's part of the longing, both the character's and the reader's. Sometimes it is good to satisfy that with a sex scene, other times it is better to keep it going, to abstain from ever letting the character's be satified, to keep the interest of the audience.

    Obviously, this won't work in many circumstances in the course of stories told. Many rely on the sex as a plot point, or a character development, so it is needed. But, much like character descriptions, most times less is more. Unless you are writing something in the erotic genre, like Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty series, the gory details can be left out and just a few things can be kept to give the reader a satisfying climax to the sexual tension.
     
  24. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    For me erotica and foreplay works because it's building up to something. Even before there's any sexual contact between the characters, it's creating anticipation. Having a few sentences on something that I've been anticipating for the whole story really makes me angry. The author spends the whole story building up a mood and describing what is going on and making us want to pull our pants down and join in, and then they just say 'And then he stuck it in me and I had the best orgasm ever' is so incredibly anti-climactic, I could punch someone! Sadly enough, there are many stories I have read which have just that kind of ending to the fun.

    I suppose there can be differences in writing depending on whether the foreplay is the main thing or whether it's just buildup to the main event, but I get so annoyed when I'm denied something that the author has built me up to expect and look forward to. This goes for pretty much anything in fiction really, not just sex scenes in erotica.
     
  25. love2listen
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    I would go with the woman pushing the man down on the bed and climbing on him, so there is no doubt in the reader's mind what happened. or y'know, whatever your characters would do but make it very clear
     

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