Birds and the Bees

Illustration by Hoang Nguyen from Diana Gabaldon’s The Exile

In the life of a writer you will sometimes, and more often in love stories, be called upon to write a sex scene. Now before you wet your panties thinking that it must be the easiest thing that a writer can do, let me let you down slowly. It’s not. It’s the most voyeuristiclly difficult thing you’ll ever do… with one caveat: only if you’re any good at it.

Now. The first thing to remember in writing is that as a writer you are a facilitator, this only applies obviously about stories that aren’t about you. Being a facilitator means that your characters speak and show you their story and it’s your job to write it down and this applies to sex. Sex for every human being is different, it still gets done in the same general way of one goes in the other, but there is much much much more to it than that.

For example, take two people named John and Sally. John and Sally have had an entire book devoted to telling of their story and now is the time when their relationship comes to the next level – no pun intended. If they are in the grocery store line as the facilitator you know that they don’t just throw down their produce and start going at it. No, they buy their produce and take it back to Sally or John’s apartment (let’s say that they aren’t’ so horny that they can actually do that). Let’s say it’s Sally’s apartment (she’s much cleaner) and they get back there and finish putting away the groceries. It still isn’t time as the facilitator to have them suddenly be without clothes and mechanically start jirating on each other. There needs to be build up, because two people don’t just start having sex without a buildup. Even if the story is about a whore and a client, they don’t just start having sex, money is exchanged first then they get down to it. Coming back around to my point is that when you have two characters who have arrived at the point in the story where the next step in their relationship is the ultimate and final piece of joining together, you have to know your characters well. You need to know them intimately. You need to know if she’s clawer, if he’s a talker, if she makes weird sounds or if he enjoys the soft skin at the nape of her neck. Because you don’t write sex from your perspective you write it from theirs.

I am finishing the second completion (rewrite) of the end of my most recent novel and it means that I needed to re write the sex scene. And no, as some might think you cannot recycle sex scenes. There are little nuances that change with every rewrite, the small links in the character that break or become stronger in the characters persona that will change the way they have sex. For example in the original the main character enjoyed a heady foreplay that involved heads in dark places. Though this go round it’s not that way, it’s softer, more sweet and straightforward but still explosive in the finale.

I found that when I attempted to write the scene this last time that I had separated myself from my characters and was writing what I thought would be thrilling for readers. I’m surprised my characters didn’t just stand up and walk away in frustration. Instead I had to scrap it three times before I started a fresh and said, “show me.” And they did, surprisingly it was much softer more poignant than I had originally written it. So, while you may think that sex is as easy to write as it is to do, think again. It is instead a labor of love.
Pun intended. :0)


  • Toby Neal

    No. Not easy. What's easy is to be cliched, even laughable "Pulsing manhood" etc.

    I have gone ahead and left my sex scene in my novel against the advice of my hired editor (build tension, leave em hanging, she said) but I hate that coyness in a book. THey were working up to it and by golly they DID it!

    So I'm fighting for my sex scene in this latest rewrite. It's all about healing. Sexual healing. *wink* and thus, important.

    The characters told me so, so it can't be wrong.

    "The kiss was a conversation: a greeting, an acknowledgment, a statement of intent."

  • Becky Banks

    Ugh! The "build tension, leave em hanging" thing drives me nuts. I agree, that after all the build up between the characters there has to be release. If you made a petition to keep your sex scene, I'd sign it.

    Btw LOVE the quote… when's your release date? Ahem, book release date? ;0)

  • Toby Neal

    LOL! on the release thing 🙂

    Oh ye of great faith! I am sendign my first book back to the agent after EXTENSIVE rewrties to see if she'll sign me now. Sometime this week. Then, she has to sell the book. So who knows? But I'm hopeful.

    Ever hopeful. Like a dog that way.

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