Now I am no means a pro at writing a sex scene, but I wanted to give you some insight into how much trouble those little buggers can be – for me.
In my first m/m novel Loving Jay, the first sex scene we got to, took me about two days to write. It was extremely embarrassing – for me. These two characters were chattering away in my head and I knew everything about them. I knew what they looked like, what they wore, how they walked, what they sounded like when they talked, their fears, their hopes.
But oh-man, writing that first sex scene was like walking in on your parents doing it.
I wanted to whitewash the whole scene and “close the bedroom door,” but as a reader, I knew how much it sometimes annoyed me when writers did that. Because often in a relationship, what happens in the bedroom is pivotal to the storyline. I don’t like the sex scene “for sex’s sake,” but there’s no doubt that feelings and emotions happen between the characters that the reader needs to know about.
As I’ve become more experienced at writing gay sex (cheeky grin), it has become easier – easier to relax into and easier to write without setting the fire alarms off – but they are still a huge emotional drainer on me. Get them right and they sizzle. Get them wrong and you turn the reader off.
So, here is my mental checklist when writing a sex scene.
Does it contribute to the story?
As previously said, a scene that is just for titillation is not always needed. In some of my storylines, the sex part of the relationship is one of the problems the characters must work through. So the sex scene needed to be described in detail, while keeping the pace of the storyline.
Tip – describe how the character is feeling, and not just “yes, baby, yes.” We get that he loves to have sex, but a reader needs more.
Does it keep true to the character?
Words and actions need to keep true to the character. Sure, in Real Life, how we are in the bedroom is not reflective of how we act in public, but I am conscious of making the bedrooms scenes an extension of the story. The character’s actions need to also remain accurate to his upbringing and experiences.
Tip – men use the word cock regularly. I must get over my need to call it a penis.
What is another word for “cock”?
Having a thesaurus is often essential! J Oh, what to describe those body parts as? As an author this is painful! I found myself googling other words for “thrust” as well. Working, and reworking the scene and changing the words is a torture I go through every single time. Sometimes I wish I could just write “And they got it on.” But I guess sacrifices must be made by artists for their work, and having a well-thumbed and well-used reference for “penis” is the sacrifice I make.
Tip – hanging out in gay chat rooms is a great source of words!
Does that actually work?
Porn helps. LOL. I found myself writing a scene the other day where I was actually unsure if the characters could contort themselves in this position in order for it all to work the way I was describing it.
Tip – clear your browsing history regularly.
Often having a gay friend who you are comfortable with helps too. You can always ask them and watch as they fall in hysterics on the floor for five minutes before answering your seriously asked question. The flip side of this, is I often need to shout “TMI! TMI!” as they provide details.
Keeping it real – safety and fun.
We’ve all seen it – the use of condoms and lube in m/m romance. Actually, it’s pretty good at being the norm these days, which I like. But is it real? It is something every author must find their own path on. Sometimes safety will fling a reader out of the scene. But other times it can be fun. And if you’ve ever read one of my books, I love to have fun!
My sheltered upbringing meant my sex education came from Cleo magazines and Mills and Boon. I try to keep this in mind, and keep it realistic for anyone who feels they need to use my book as a “how-to” guide.
Tip – do not try the table scene in The Shearing Gun without a good health plan that includes physiotherapy.
The thin line between emotional and physical.
I was discussing the old argument of “women writing gay romance” with a gay friend the other day. He said (I would like to say complained, but I won’t) to me, in his experience, men have sex first. It is only after they’ve had sex that they think about relationships and the emotional.
In my opinion, this is fiction we are reading/writing, and all sex scenes need to cater for the emotional part of the story as well as the physical. A sex scene at the beginning of a relationship could possibly be more along the lines of wham-bam-fuck-you-man, whereas toward the climax of the story more a celebration of love. If the scene only describes the mechanics of the act, then it is for titillation only (see above).
Tip – put the reader in the bed beside the characters without making it a ménage. The reader wants to know what is going on inside their heads, as well as all the action.
So after I have all of the above straight, writing the scene should be easy, right? Ha!
As a reader, have you ever felt you couldn’t stop reading at a certain point of the book and leave your characters cold/wet/hungry/scared? As an author it is doubly so. Often I come back and my guys have been at it for hours while I hung the washing on the line and did the vacuuming. I apologise for leaving them in that awkward position (they often talk to me about blue balls!) and quickly try to finish off the scene.
Or sometimes I want a character to do one thing, and he ends up doing another (usually they smirk in my direction as they go off script.)
At other times I have to yell “Cut!” and have a word to them about putting more emotion into the act. (This often requires me telling them, “Okay. Again. From the beginning!” as I rewrite and add to the scene.)
They take a lot out of me, these sex scenes. To me, a good writer doesn’t just plonk a scene into a book. If it feels “plonked,” then I got it wrong. It needs to be right.
Last month I remember sitting down in front of a manuscript and growling, “Right. I need to get this scene finished today. I’ve been at it for two days!” My mother phoned and asked me if I was busy and what was I up to? I couldn’t really say, “Well, Paul and Andrew are going for it like bunnies. Man! Andrew is kinky! I've had to do a lot of research on these things! Paul is totally unprepared for it, but as willing as all fuck to go along with it, but really? How many times can two guys do it in the 2 hours they have? Do you think that starting in the shower is a good thing? No, I think Andrew will jump Paul the minute he walks through that hotel door.”
Perhaps you have a different type of relationship with your mother. But me? Telling my mother I’ve spent two days writing about two men having sex…? Just no.
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