The Dreaded Sex Scene

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Jan74

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Especially because those girls were hitting puberty rather earlier than girls in hunter/gather societies tend to, and they were "deflowered" shortly thereafter, not waiting for 2-3 years for full physical maturity after, so they were often just 12-13.

To be fair to Auel, her sex scenes were never just about penis/vagina. Still, ow. I never saw the point of having Jondalar being so big and having Ayla be the one woman who could truly handle him. Surely there's more to being soul mates than having your parts fit just so.
I'm a little late responding...but better late than never :) I would have to add that other women of his group would have been able to handle him, it was stupid to say only she could take him, big eye roll on that one...but when I read it at 13 it never bothered me. Now at 43 I'm rolling my eyes....sorry but most women can handle most men, even the well endowed.

Before registering yesterday, I skimmed through various threads under the Romance/Women's Fiction header to see if it might feel like a good fit. I've been looking for a place to talk with others who write women's fiction and haven't had much luck finding a place with like-minded women. I didn't skim through this thread, I read every word. I wish I'd been here a few months ago when y'all were actively having the conversation! If I quoted everything I'd like to comment on, this would be a five-page reply.

Just a few days ago, I was talking with the man in my life about my manuscript.

The man: I'll help you write your sex scenes.
Me: Thank you, but I'm not writing this to submit it to Hustler.
The man: But if you wrote hot sex scenes, men might buy it.
Me: I don't care if men buy it. It's for women.
The man: Women don't like sex scenes? You like sex scenes, why do you think other's don't?
Me: I didn't say we don't like sex scenes, I do like them, but that's not the focus of the book. The sex scenes are more like nachos at the movie theater.
The man: Like cheerleaders during football?
Me: <sigh> Yeah, like that ...
The man: Okay, well, if you need help, let me know. We could watch porn together and you could take notes.
Me: I'll be in my office.

But you've all given great advice here. I'm not a shy or modest person but I've been putting off writing it. Shea's husband has been sleeping on a buddy's couch for a few weeks while they work through a rough patch in their marriage. They still see each other and talk daily and they're close to getting things resolved, but the I've been able to put off sex so far because this is a subplot and she has bigger issues going on. But it's going to need to happen soon. I'll be going back through this thread within the next few days and using your thoughts and suggestions to figure it out. Thank you!

The other thing that concerns me was touched on a couple times - worrying about who might eventually read it. Clients? The man's female friends? My daughter? The man's daughter? My best friend's husband? Aaaggh. Don't mind me while I crawl under my desk and hide.

Regardless, I really enjoyed your comments, attitudes, experiences and suggestions. All of YOU are the women I hoping to find in a writing forum!

Ha...love this...how very nice of him :) And you're response "I'll be in my office." made me howl. It should read, "I'll be in my office. Watching porn." lol.
If you're worried about people seeing it, just publish under a false name. That's my plan. I have my name and logo picked out. Cart before the horse but I find it helps when I'm stuck to go on the creative side and start doing artsy stuff. And Welcome :)
 

yoghurtelf

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Yes, I think I'll need to choose a pen name someday too, because it would be easier to put my work out there if I do that. ;)
 

Mrs.Smith

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Couldn't you publish under a pseudonym, if you're worried about people reading it?

And Jan74 and Yoghurtelf suggested same.
I have thought about that. Have one all picked out too! But what about platform? A. E. Kasper has no platform, but I kind of do. Not with fiction, but with my nonfiction stuff and a respectable percentage of those readers would likely buy my fiction, too. Does that matter to agents and publishers? Or does it matter a lot?

Or, I could just put on my big girl panties, look anyone who gives me snark directly in the eye and say, "What of it? It's fiction. Move along."

Also, Marian, I want to read the female sea captain novel. Link?
I wrote a historical fiction novel about Anne Bonny, a female pirate who was active around 1720 in the Caribbean. I'll do something with it one of these days, but that's the only historical fiction piece I have in me - I prefer writing modern women's fiction, so I'd rather make a name for myself in that genre before throwing out a one-off. It sounds like your sea captain has the same sort of appetites and sensibilities as Anne. ;)


Thank you for the welcomes, Ladies! I can't tell you how happy I am to find you! Was smiling yesterday and the man asked what was up. Told him I'd found a group of women to talk writing with. "Oh thank God," was his response.

And Jan - If I'd said I'd be in my office watching porn he'd have followed me. Girl's gotta keep some things to herself! lmao
 
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blackcat777

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If you're worried about "other" people seeing your work, but you still want to take advantage of the platform you've established, you could use two similar sounding pen names: A. B. Author and Another Brave Author. Then disclose how they are connected through back matter, website, whatever you choose (or not).

Sex scenes also get easier to write with time. I remember my heart beating at 400bpm while sweat rolled off my forehead and I typed up something totally sweet and vanilla.

Now there's a menage romance in my WIP and I'm like 95% whatever about it. There's ONE thing I haven't written about before and it gave me the OMGs for about a week, but I think I've made my peace. (I can change the name of that folder on my computer to "research." ;) )

I just read the other day a book called "Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet" by Stacia Kane because I saw it recommended in multiple threads all over these forums. There is some valuable discussion about all the ways it's useful for sex to serve characterization and the plot, which you might find helpful. She also draws on a wide variety of samples relevant to level of heat and detail.

Another thing that is helpful is choosing the "level" of language that you're comfortable with (though you might want to consider if it fits your POV character, too). You can write emotional content without being too explicit.

Anyway: have fun. Seriously. :)

Edited to add: I wasn't planning on writing menage, either, but it occurred to me that having both a male and female lover for my MC would allow me to deconstruct his psyche in different ways. And the whole point of the book is deconstructing this guy's train-wreck psyche. So sex is a beautiful tool to pare characters down to their essence and explore. That's what I love about writing it.
 
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Mrs.Smith

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There's ONE thing I haven't written about before and it gave me the OMGs for about a week, but I think I've made my peace. (I can change the name of that folder on my computer to "research." ;) )

I just read the other day a book called "Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet" by Stacia Kane because I saw it recommended in multiple threads all over these forums. There is some valuable discussion about all the ways it's useful for sex to serve characterization and the plot, which you might find helpful. She also draws on a wide variety of samples relevant to level of heat and detail.

Another thing that is helpful is choosing the "level" of language that you're comfortable with (though you might want to consider if it fits your POV character, too). You can write emotional content without being too explicit.

Okay, so now I want to know what that ONE thing is! :D

After all the suggestions here to read the Strumpet book, I just bought it. Thank you!
 

The Otter

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I've never been self-conscious about writing sex scenes. Having other people read them, on the other hand...

I wrote a lot of erotica when I was younger, and in retrospect I do wish I'd done it under a pen name. Especially after, at one of my day jobs, I made the mistake of mentioning to my coworkers that I was a writer, and they Googled my name and then decided to tease me relentlessly about what they found, with the guys making remarks like "ha ha you must be pretty wild huh?" Fun times. /sarcasm
 

yoghurtelf

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Thank you for the welcomes, Ladies! I can't tell you how happy I am to find you! Was smiling yesterday and the man asked what was up. Told him I'd found a group of women to talk writing with. "Oh thank God," was his response.

It's so great when you find people who are as excited about writing as you are (e.g. on these forums!) and you can talk about every little detail, where you know your friends or SOs would look at you blankly when you say the same things. When non-writers ask me about my writing I've learned to kind of gloss over things and speak in general terms and avoid going into too much detail as I know they don't REALLY want to hear all that, even if they claim to be interested.

I've never been self-conscious about writing sex scenes. Having other people read them, on the other hand...

I wrote a lot of erotica when I was younger, and in retrospect I do wish I'd done it under a pen name. Especially after, at one of my day jobs, I made the mistake of mentioning to my coworkers that I was a writer, and they Googled my name and then decided to tease me relentlessly about what they found, with the guys making remarks like "ha ha you must be pretty wild huh?" Fun times. /sarcasm

Oh, that would have been very awkward! I've written mostly vanilla sex scenes and there are some characters I just can't imagine talking dirty so I don't know if I can make them to do that. haha. But I need to get more into practice with writing sex scenes in general. I think the 'foreplay' part of sex scenes is the part I like to focus on most anyway, but obviously you need the fireworks at the end too, at least if you're writing romance ;)

I recently read a series of four rock star romance books which I quite liked, but every book was about a different couple, and almost every sex scene in every book went through the same motions. I felt like I was reading the same scene over and over, and the girls seemed to get off VERY quickly with not much effort from the guy. For me that didn't work because it just wasn't realistic for ALL women. Maybe some women have that experience but definitely all don't. I like to be able to believe the sex scenes I'm reading, or else they become less interesting to me.
 

blackcat777

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the 'foreplay' part of sex scenes is the part I like to focus on most

This is so important!

the girls seemed to get off VERY quickly with not much effort from the guy

I appreciate realism in sex scenes, too.

@Mrs.Smith - Morgan Hawke has a book about writing sex scenes, too. Her style is very similar to Stacia Kane's. I was OBSESSED with Morgan Hawke when I started trying my hand at erotica. I found Angela Knight helpful, too.

in retrospect I do wish I'd done it under a pen name

Part me of wishes I could use my real name for this project and just own it. I am old enough where I don't care. It wouldn't jeopardize my career in any way, though.
 
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JJ Litke

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Thanks for the book recc, guys (I bought it, too), and for all the other advice in the thread. Really valuable stuff!
 

Mrs.Smith

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It's so great when you find people who are as excited about writing as you are (e.g. on these forums!) and you can talk about every little detail, where you know your friends or SOs would look at you blankly when you say the same things. When non-writers ask me about my writing I've learned to kind of gloss over things and speak in general terms and avoid going into too much detail as I know they don't REALLY want to hear all that, even if they claim to be interested.

Exactly! Or, they have ideas that are utterly ridiculous. I have to give Todd credit for taking an interest in the fact that I'm working on a novel, and he is good about answering questions that give me a male perspective, but holy crap, I have to reign him in, or ignore him outright. Last night he suggested that maybe the MC's husband should just beat the crap out of the guy pretending to be her father and be done with it. "I'm just sayin', that's what Rangers do, we protect our women."
"Yeah, okay, ease up on the knuckle-dragging and try to comprehend that this book is for women, which means the male character's far nicer and, you know, more house-trained than you."
But, on the other hand, it did make me give a little more thought to the husband and I do need to rough up his edges a little. Not to THAT degree, but a bit!

Oh, that would have been very awkward! I've written mostly vanilla sex scenes and there are some characters I just can't imagine talking dirty so I don't know if I can make them to do that. haha. But I need to get more into practice with writing sex scenes in general. I think the 'foreplay' part of sex scenes is the part I like to focus on most anyway, but obviously you need the fireworks at the end too, at least if you're writing romance ;)

I recently read a series of four rock star romance books which I quite liked, but every book was about a different couple, and almost every sex scene in every book went through the same motions. I felt like I was reading the same scene over and over, and the girls seemed to get off VERY quickly with not much effort from the guy. For me that didn't work because it just wasn't realistic for ALL women. Maybe some women have that experience but definitely all don't. I like to be able to believe the sex scenes I'm reading, or else they become less interesting to me.

I'm starting to think that maybe vanilla sex is really the way to go with this. Their relationship is just a subplot - another thing she sees as fucked up in her life that she has to work to overcome. Kind of piling on the crap, if you will. The main plot is about finding her biological father. I'm not sure a heated sex scene, even with her husband, is going to propel the story forward without seeming gratuitous. I'm not avoiding, I promise. They have to have sex. I just think it needs to be more about the intimacy and demonstrating that they're still very much a couple even though he's sleeping on a buddy's couch to give her space. (This is another example how the dialogue here helps me develop my story better! Thank you all!)

I hear ya', Yoghurtelf. Nothing more boring than multiple sex scenes, even with different people, that all sound exactly the same. And yeah, it does seem like in MOST books, the men do little work and orgasms are easy and require little stimulation. I read one recently where the woman helped things along with her hand. My first thought was, "Well it's about damn time!!"
You have to wonder how many women out there think they're doing it wrong or they're flawed in some way because they don't get off with intercourse alone, when in reality most of us don't. We need to fix that. (Edited to clarify, fix the perception, though if anyone has any thoughts on how we can fix not having more vaginal orgasms, I'm all ears!!)

Otter - around here, we have a way of dealing with boys like him. A boat, cement blocks, let the blue crabs do the job for ya! I'm kidding of course, but wow, the ability of men to be juvenile ...

Blackcat - I'll add Hawke and Knight to my Amazon wish list. Even if this particular story needs to be vanilla sex, there are others in the pipeline that won't! Thanks!
 
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Maryn

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(You know, anyone struggling to write a sex scene, no matter how sweet and not-especially-graphic it needs to be, can find help at the Erotica board. Just a reminder.)
 

Mrs.Smith

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I'm a little late responding...but better late than never :) I would have to add that other women of his group would have been able to handle him, it was stupid to say only she could take him, big eye roll on that one...but when I read it at 13 it never bothered me. Now at 43 I'm rolling my eyes....sorry but most women can handle most men, even the well endowed.



Ha...love this...how very nice of him :) And you're response "I'll be in my office." made me howl. It should read, "I'll be in my office. Watching porn." lol.
If you're worried about people seeing it, just publish under a false name. That's my plan. I have my name and logo picked out. Cart before the horse but I find it helps when I'm stuck to go on the creative side and start doing artsy stuff. And Welcome :)

(You know, anyone struggling to write a sex scene, no matter how sweet and not-especially-graphic it needs to be, can find help at the Erotica board. Just a reminder.)

Hadn't visited that board because I don't write erotica, but just went and scanned the thread titles. If I don't log out right this minute and go finish my Christmas shopping, I'm apt to spend all day reading through those pages! I'll definitely go lurk a bit, but NOT until I finish shopping and get at least another thousand words written!
 

ElaineA

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(You know, anyone struggling to write a sex scene, no matter how sweet and not-especially-graphic it needs to be, can find help at the Erotica board. Just a reminder.)

Hopping on Maryn's suggestion here with a testimonial. I started my "writing life" from the lit-fic side, & slid into historical romance via the Outlander series. Anyone who has read the first few DG books knows the sex scenes are mostly metaphorical, so that's what I stuck with at first. But I needed to spice up a book I was writing, and some other people here on AW were looking to get more comfortable writing more explicit sex, so we did this OTT group thing where we would all take turns writing the next scene of an ongoing story. It was ridiculous, but it did allow for some wiggle room in the "give yourself permission" area.

I highly recommend going into the Erotica SYW subforum and using the prompts in the Practice Threads sticky (You won't be able to follow the link all the way to the forum until you get the password from a mod--Legal Age restriction, etc.) There is no active practice being led now so it would just be For Your Eyes Only, which is often more comfortable at first, anyway. My personal experience was, taking the leap into these waters was hugely beneficial for learning how to integrate emotion with the physical acts.

If you go over there and you'd like to see some of the practice scenes other people have done, look for threads with "2015 Practice [date]" on pages 2-4.

Of course, it's important to keep in mind what's needed for erotica is not the same as romance or WF. What's over there is definitely geared toward the explicit, but I still say the focus on emotion makes it worth taking a look. :)
 

Maryn

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For the record, there are going to be prompts for writing erotica in 2018. You heard it here first.
 

Jan74

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I've seen women's lit with fantastic explicit sex scenes and it was fine, graphic sex isn't only for erotica. I think sex is a huge part of life/relationships it can really bond a couple, of course its not the only thing but for the most part its a vital part to most marriages/relationships so I don't think a writer should feel ashamed for writing descriptive sex scenes. I'm using a pen name because I have two young kids, my daughter is 26 and I would be fine with her reading it, but my boys and the web and they know I'm writing, I would not be comfortable having them read it. Plus we live in a small town. So a pen name absolutely for their privacy and mine.
 

Mrs.Smith

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Alright Ladies, I'm waffling here.
I've written the sex scene - it's a bit explicit, but realistic, but now I'm in the first round of revisions on the first draft and I'm just not sure it fits. They have sex twice in the entire story and the second one I just kind of vanilla-ed it over because I was running down my word count and didn't want to "waste" it on gratuitous sex.
I've looked back over all the women's fic novels I've read recently (holy crap I spend too much time reading!) and not one of them go into that much detail in the sex scenes.
Maybe I need to tone it back?
They couple are married, have been for eight years, but have been going through a short separation - he's sleeping on a friend's couch across town. But he comes home because they've started working through things and there's a hurricane coming. The sex scene is during bad weather when they're hunkered down from the storm, having decided not to evacuate. There's a lot of dialogue as they argue, then resolves issues, all with the storm raging in the background. I just don't know if graphic details really moves the story along, and according to Knight, that's the first and most important thing about sex scenes.
I promise I'm not trying to get out of it! Just not sure it fits.
Thoughts?
 

blackcat777

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First of all - you can ALWAYS go back and edit, so don't get too hung up in one spot. The answer might be clearer once you've finished the draft.

Is the explicitness for the sake of itself, or does the detailed language show bonding, emotional release, characterization, advance the plot? How are the characters internally struggling? How does the sex explore the conflict? How would the scene work if you removed the graphic content?

From what you've described, it sounds like there's something there to work with, combining storm/danger/release/intense emotions.

Have you ever read The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass?

Are you striking the core of the internal conflict? I've rewritten scenes that felt off because, while the sex was great ;) I didn't have enough happening with the inner conflict. That's my secret ingredient, anyway. Another thing I like to do these days is write JUST the internal monologue for a sex scene with no sex first, so I establish that focal point in my mind. Then I write the whole thing (and sprinkle in those tasty insights dredged by the warm up exercise).
 

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I've looked back over all the women's fic novels I've read recently (holy crap I spend too much time reading!) and not one of them go into that much detail in the sex scenes.

It depends on the tone of the rest of the book. Graphic scenes don't surprise me when there's proper build up to them, and often I'm disappointed if the author skimps on the details after giving crumbs the whole book. If you've built a lot of sexual tension, the reader wants the conclusion to it as much as the characters! If you're worried about length, that's when it's helpful to ask beta readers, or consider what each paragraph's purpose is--even if it's just to build tension. Go with what you feel fits the story for now. :)
 

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Blackcat777 - That's what I did. Wrote the scene, finished the rest of the manuscript and am now doing the first read-through. What you said about internal conflict and the scene - my first inclination was to say no, but reading through it again it does to a degree and it would only take a few more words to increase that.
Yes, the graphic content could be removed and wouldn't have a negative impact on the scene or the forward movement of the story - which in itself answers the question. Then again, your comment about storm/release/danger/emotions - I'm going to have to look at it again in that light.

I've read so many Donald Haas articles over the years I honestly don't remember, but I'll go find it and read it again. Thank you.

The scene is mostly her internal monologue - it's written in first person and there's some dialogue, but it's mostly her thoughts and feelings as it's happening. I know that sounds like telling, not showing, but a lot of the story is told through her thoughts. The scene is kind of hard, hot and fast as it's the first time they've had sex in almost two months and is more about the release and re-connection on that basic level than lovemaking, per se. I'm sorry if I'm not explaining this well. I'm realizing how frustrating the revision process is and I'm getting a fever which is screwing with my ability to express myself. lol.

Zombolly - maybe leaving this in the hands of my beta readers is the way to go. That could just be my frustration and exhuastion, but it still makes sense. Fix the typos and tone, then leave it to them to decide if it fits.

Thanks Ladies!
 

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To me, writing sex scenes is comparable to having a baby. When you go into labor with your first, you're uncomfortable with every stranger in the place putting their hands in your hoo-ha. But after some pain and suffering, once you get that epidural you just don't care anymore. And then, by the time you have that second or third kid, you *really* don't care anymore and are on the verge of charging admission just to offset the hospital costs. :D

That's the coolest metaphor I've heard in relation to sex xD

I agree with all that's been said above. I haven't written any sex scenes -- I'm not really planning on it either (I write YA romance, usually with another genre mixed in) -- but I've read some good ones. I think the main thing is that if you're feeling uncomfortable writing it, most readers will also feel something off when reading it. So maybe use other characters (don't have to be from the manuscript in question) and practice writing it over and over. You'll get the hang of it. We believe in you! ;)
 

BonafideDreamer

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My short romance that I uploaded to a fanfiction site was a sex scene from start to finish. But it was less about the act and more about the emotional release of the heroine. I didn't make it too graphic and I focused on her psychological response to it if that makes sense.
 

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