Many factors affect how we, as writers, approach sex scenes. Of course, no matter our approach, there will always be readers who love the end result and readers who emphatically don’t. Just as people’s sexual preferences vary, so do their tastes in sex scenes. So, kill the idea of “perfect”. It doesn’t exist. You are never going to write a home-run sex scene across the board of readers. Instead, focus on writing “true”—true to life, true to your characters, and true to your story.
Here are a few, quick tips on how to accomplish this:
1. Comfort is Key
Sex scenes should inspire passion in your readers. They should excite, arouse, and satisfy. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by writing sex scenes that stay within your comfort zone.
Stick with content you are knowledgeable about or be sure to research the content you wish to incorporate. If you are uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or judgmental of your topic, it will often be glaringly obvious. The last place that you want your readers picking up on your discomfort or lack of knowledge is smack-dab in the middle of the hot and heavy.
2. Start and Stick
A line of dialogue pops into your head, and you love it, but it doesn’t seem like something your character would say. Don’t force it. Stay true to your characters, to the story they are in, and to their established dynamic.
People being different in the bedroom than they are elsewhere is something that does happen in reality, but it can be jarring when in written form. The same applies to tone and genre. Stick with what you start with.
3. The Magic of Mess
Sex is sexy because it is primal and eager and messy (yes, even lovemaking). Don’t get hung up on trying to write seamless sex scenes. The magic of it is in the mess (the stickiness, the clumsiness). It’s what gives it that raw, desperate, real quality.
One way to incorporate a little mess is with humor. Even if it is only a short slip, a moment where your characters trip over their clothes, eager to get out of them, or have a brief laughing fit from smacking their foreheads together, it can greatly enhance the scene. These moments are endearing and human and appeal to readers in a big way.
Of course, you don’t want to go too much into detail with these messy elements, but when you can acknowledge them in little bits and pieces, it marries the fantasy with reality. The more reality you inject into your fantasy, the more attainable the fantasy feels.
4. Watch What You Say
Spontaneous mid-sex monologues are a no-go. I think it is safe to say most people aren’t stopping mid-thrust for some long-winded discourse about how beautiful their lover’s eyes are. Quick, sharp lines are key—things that feel true to the moment and to the nature of sex.
Because sex is primal, you will often see the most effective sex scenes peppered with functional dialogue only, such as commands, questions, and acknowledgements (harder; do you like that?; right there) rather than pretty dialogue indicating love or attraction (you’re so beautiful; I’ve wanted this for so long). The latter is typically better suited to different scenes and different times, such as the before and after.
Exclamations, too, can be great additions, but hold them in check. One ‘oh god’ per scene is plenty.
5. Blend and Balance
As with dialogue, check your narrative at the door. Think bread (narrative) and butter (dialogue). You are bound to have more bread than butter, but you don’t want either to overwhelm. Try to find a suitable blend and balance of the two.
Break up your narrative with bits of dialogue or alternating sentence structure, and don’t be afraid of fragments. Sex is breathless and grammarless. Use narrative to show what is actually happening, and stay on track by not getting lost in character thoughts, feelings, or metaphor. Incorporate these elements, certainly, but avoid getting swept up. It’s about balance.
So, there you have it. Now, go. Write. Have fun. Make a mess!
KL Hughes is a full-time fiction author who lives in the US with her wife and their Dalmatian. When not writing, she enjoys theatre and film, travel, visits to old cemeteries and haunted houses, putting on one-woman musicals for her wife, long walks and hikes, and family time. Hughes published the best seller Popcorn Love with Ylva.