3 Writing Mistakes You're Making With Sex Scenes

Saturday, March 3, 2018

To finish this February’s love theme, we’re going to talk about sex. Cue Salt-N-Pepa! “Let’s talk about sex baby, let’s talk about all the good thing and bad things that may be…” But on a serious note, writing sex scenes can be difficult. From trying to figure out to describe body parts to not making a mini porno, sex scenes are complex, to say the least. To help you out, today I’m going to tell you the 3 mistakes you’re making when writing sex scenes.

Mistake #1: You Use the Wrong Descriptions

Let’s lay it out real quick—no one ever wants to read the words, “penis” or “vagina” in the middle of a sex scene. It reminds you of doctors visit or your middle school health class, not a passionate moment with a lover. On the flip side, no one also wants to hear about nipples that look like cherries, or rainbows in their downstairs either. It’s important to strike a balance in your descriptions, or better yet let’s just avoid naming them at all.

Take this example from Christopher Bollen’s The Destroyers:

“The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.”

That’s just not sexy (which is probably why it won Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award).

To make it better, could we try:

“The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan. Her face and lower area are competing for my attention, so I glance down to look at the excitement she has caused.”

Not my best, but I feel like you get the idea. Descriptions are great when comes to everything else in a novel, but exact descriptions maybe should be avoided when it comes to love scenes.

Mistake #2: Your Characters are Rushing into Sex

It is perfectly okay not to force your characters to have sex. Sex isn’t always the sexiest thing for your characters to have in your writing. Instead, desire is what makes everything work. Nothing gets me (as a reader) more on edge than seeing the sexual tension between a couple for the majority of a novel. Most of the time, if your characters are “getting it on” within in the first few chapters, readers are thinking, “Wow. That was quick.” When in doubt, stretch the desire out. There is no need to rush.

Mistake #3: You’re Not Ready to Write Sex Scenes

Some writers aren’t ready to write sex scenes, and it’s okay to be one of those writers. I know I’m still uncomfortable with incorporating sex scenes in my own writing. However, if you aren’t comfortable writing about sex, then please don’t. Until you are ready to write about real sex without all of the uncomfortable descriptions, or flowery language, just avoid it. Create desire instead. Nothing is worse than a bad sex scene, so it may be better not to write on at all.

I do recommend to try and write a sex scene every so often to get yourself more comfortable with the descriptions. Once you are comfortable with the “act,” your writing will be 10x better.

I hope you enjoyed this quick overview on writing sex scenes. For more information, please check out this article by Steve Almond which I used as inspiration for this post. It has even more tips on things to watch out for and I think it's a great read.

Until next time, “Don't decoy, avoid, or make void the topic, Cuz that ain't gonna stop it. Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows, many will know anything goes. Let's tell it how it is, and how it could be.”

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