Sex Scenes That Work by Award-Winning Paranormal Author Jo Lynne Valerie
Recently, I’ve had to get good at a very particular writing specialty: sex scenes. In the process, I’ve discovered writing a sex scene is not quite the same as writing a sex scene that works. In my opinion, just about any writer with some knowledge of sex, can crank out a sex scene. Of course, there will be varying degrees of quality. What’s hard? (Okay, stop that! You know what I meant!) There are people (pick a number), there are parts (of various bodies) and there is action (ie. movement). But combinations of those things do not necessarily make a sex scene good, on film or in print.
A good sex scene contains all of the above, and a whole lot more. If a sex scene works, the reader feels as if they’re actually observing the sex or better yet, participating. There should be dialogue and perhaps articulations. Dialogue is verbal exchange between the consenting characters; articulations are written expletives or sounds. For me, a sex scene that works describes the way certain things smelled, tasted, looked or felt. This can be written with a lot left to the reader’s imagination, or very little.
I prefer to describe the sexual act – from prelude conversation through foreplay, to the finish – in detail. I know my readers don’t want to use their imaginations to fill in the spaces. People who read my books expect detail, and a lot of it. So for me, a sex scene that works describes in meticulous detail what is going down. (Ignore that pun. Again, you know what I meant. *winks*)
My new novel (title to be released in May) is a Contemporary Paranormal Gothic Novel. How’s that for a mouthful! (Um, pardon the pun – again.). Unlike my other books, this book contains a very high sexual element. The relationship between the heroine and hero is so intense that often, very few words are required. They understand one another intuitively and feel uniquely whole when they are together. Their relationship is sexually charged; I needed for the sex between them to read as organic (O-R-G-A-N-I-C not orgasmic; although there’s that, too). I needed the reader to see how much the heroine and hero truly love each other, even when they are having legs-on-shoulders, dirty-hot sex.
I drew upon my most passionate and erotic sexual experiences (and okay, fantasies) to write scenes that will make my readers squirm – literally. In February, I got to see for myself how effective my sex-scene writing was.
A group of friends and beta readers sat in my living room. One woman read two of my new novel’s most explicit sex passages aloud. I knew right away the sex scenes worked. Those listening were riveted. They got that glazed-over expression in their eyes, and one woman actually licked her lips and let her mouth hang open a little. A couple of people shifted in their seats. They were feeling it. I’d done my job.
How’d I do it? Yes, I drew from my own experiences and fantasies, but perhaps more importantly, I tapped into the psyche of the characters. You see, no matter how much some of us would like to believe sometimes it’s just sex, in reality, it’s never just sex. There will be a memory, and some degree of emotion will be attached to that memory. Our emotions are tied to the workings of the psyche. So in my opinion, a sex scene that works gets the reader in the room with the characters and into the minds of the characters.
I want my readers to know how the woman feels… and how the man feels, when they are having sex. I want readers to feel the hero’s touch… and taste his lips when the heroine kisses him. A sex scene that works makes the reader experience the longing right along with the characters, and the ache for satisfaction. If the reader also feels a slight “tingle” at some point during the sex passage, all the better. That means I’ve done my job well.
And if the reader lingers over the scene, reading it over again or thinking about the sex scene long after they’ve closed the book, then I’ve really done my job well. Sex scenes that work convey passion that literally rolls off the page and infuses the reader.
Jo Lynne Valerie is an Award-Winning author of Paranormal Fiction, magazine columnist and the former editor of print publications Nature’s Wisdom Magazine and Full Moon Rising Magazine. She was a writer for a PBS television show on holistic health, which she eventually co-hosted. Jo Lynne Valerie is known for the metaphysical classes she teaches both locally and online,including Numerology, Cosmology, Aromatherapy, Intuitive Development, Tarot and Shamanic Meditation.
Ms. Valerie is an avid social media enthusiast and can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. Her website is www.JoLynneValerie.com, and her highly interactive and personal blog can be seen at www.JoLynneValerie.blogspot.com.