Word Count: 12,298/35,000
Sanity Level: 6 (The book’s coming along, I guess. Meh.)
What I Love: Writing Nick. I can’t help it; I love crafting his charming douchebaggery.
What I Loathe: Trying (and failing) to build a dynamic between two of my characters.
It is WAY too early in Camp NaNoWriMo for me to be all Paul Sheldon with my attitude but ’tis the nature of a writing challenge. At some point during these NaNo events, the literary roof seems to cave in: characters stop talking to you, the narrative seems blah, and your inner critic starts nagging you.
You need something – ANYTHING – to reignite your writing spark, to pull you back into beast mode. For me, that’s crafting a love scene.
And not just any love scene – THE scene that changes the trajectory of the story. The scene that makes sure your readers never stop turning pages and/or swiping the Kindle.
One of my favorite pivotal sex scenes was between my MC CeeCee and her high school sweetheart Jim’Lee in Cougarette in the Country. What made the scene pop wasn’t the act of sex itself, but the imagery: the smell of the Georgia strawberries burning in the sun, the sweat trailing off of their bodies, his rough hands on her soft body. I wanted the reader to have a visceral reaction when they read that scene because that interaction tilted the rest of the story. I wanted the reader to be okay with CeeCee doing something illicit by making the scene so sensual that they wouldn’t remember how wrong it was until it was over.
As any romance author will tell you, scribing sex is difficult. I typically include an average of three such scenes in my books and they have all gone through a rewrite at varying degrees. When I wrote the alley scene in BrewGirl during the first draft, I hated it. HAAAAAATED IT. It was too careful, too mechanical, and it definitely didn’t turn me on. And if the writer doesn’t get a tingle, neither will the readers.
During the rewrite, I stepped into the skin of Zoe. I thought about all of her inhibitions and flaws, weaving some of them into the scene. That approach, along with a few others I list below, helped me bring both the character and myself out of our shells and deliver a solid sex scene.
Here are some other keys I use to bring out the ‘x’ in my sex scenes:
- Incorporate all Five Senses: Without touch, there ain’t no lovin’. Everyone knows that – but what about the smell of the candle burning in the room? The taste of the MC’s lover’s skin? The sound of the fireplace crackling at the foot of the bed? Using all five sense creates a complete scene for your readers to salivate over. (And yes, the sight of shiny saliva on specific body parts counts. Giggity.)
- Less Talk, More Motion: Now, this one’s up for debate among my fellow naughty writers. It’s been talked to death (no pun intended). Look, I’ve read good romance and erotica (the crazy-talented Victoria Ashley comes to mind) that contained full conversations while the two (or three!) did the do. It’s an acquired taste and it’s definitely a gift to write it without losing the passion of the scene. For me, however, I believe less is more in that department. I prefer to write about the graceful (or, in some sexy cases, tumbling) lines of motion that occur between two people. I wrote an ‘up against the wall’ scene for The Cougarette’s Secret (shoutout to one of my favorite movies in the world for that inspiration) that used very little talking because the horny couple was in a five-star restaurant. There was no conversation, just two people bumpin’ uglies in very expensive clothes.
- What’s On Your Mind: Like pillow talk, there’s a fine line here but, when used well, can bring another layer to the lovemaking scene. When CeeCee sleeps with Jay for the first time in The Cougarette, I wrote about her inner thoughts as he undressed her because it was important to the scene. This woman was fresh off of a divorce and was on her first date in over two decades. It was important for the reader to understand that CeeCee was nervous about having sex. Your love scenes don’t always have to be about hungry passion; anxiety, regret, and other ambivalences can come into play. Inner dialogue can help convey these feelings – as long as it’s not used with a heavy hand.
So, tonight, I am plotting my love scene to write tomorrow. Let’s hope I keep these rules of thumb in mind!