Writing Sex ScenesbyWFEATHER©
This is Literotica, meaning that virtually all of the stories here will include at least one sex scene. However, there are probably quite a few people who wish to submit a tale or two to Literotica, but feel that writing a sex scene is a daunting task.
To be honest, it is, even for those of us with a large number of submissions on Literotica. Sex is not a cookie-cutter activity, and writing a convincing sex scene is far from being a formulaic task. Further, those who participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and its many unofficial spin-off contests may want to add a few sex scenes to their novels if for no other reason than to add precious word count, but even then, a sex scene still needs to be somewhat convincing in order to make sense within the larger work.
Although I have been writing erotica for more than seven years, I certainly cannot say that I am perfect in writing sex scenes, but I believe I have gained some insight which may be of benefit for those who want to make their first attempt at writing erotica. Specifically, there are seven elements which I have internalized and consider as I write a sex scene.
First, sex is an activity in which people can discover a lot about each other. Taking that into consideration, there are a number of questions to ask oneself about the characters involved in the scene:
Is this the first time the characters have had sex together? If yes, then there is almost certainly a lot of discovery taking place, at least on a subconscious level, even if all the participants are very sexually experienced. For example, does a woman in the scene prefer penetration or clitoral stimulation, or perhaps both, to achieve orgasm? Does a man have a particular erogenous zone which will instantly put him in the mood (and perhaps work as a catalyst for the scene)?
How do the characters know each other? If they just met and are simply enjoying a one-night stand, that will probably guide the sex scene in a particular direction. If they are longtime lovers, they probably know seemingly everything about each other, in which case the sex scene may really be a way for them to focus on their intimate bond. If the characters are related by blood or are of vastly different ages or are at different levels of a hierarchy, that can absolutely cast a shadow over their intimate activities, which in its own way can lead to various discoveries.
Are the characters trying something new or different? If the scene marks the first sexual experience for one of the participants, that will be the predominant factor determining the progression of the scene. If a roleplay scenario is being explored, that can put some interesting twists on things, even if the participants are longtime sexual partners. The addition of new toys or implements, such as a wider-than-average dildo or a homemade sex machine or the use of a blindfold or the testing of a whip, can potentially add a lot of variety to their sexual interactions and thus provide some spice for the sex scene itself.
To borrow a BDSM term, what are the characters' limits, both soft limits and hard limits? In other words, what do they not like to do sexually and what will they absolutely not do sexually? If a scene involved approaching or especially transgressing one or more limits, there are a number of discoveries which can be made, especially on the psychological level.
Equally important is location. Any particular grouping of characters can be placed in different locations for their sexual activities, and they will likely behave differently. For example, a foursome might take place in the living room of a frat house during a major party, surrounded by dozens (or more) students cheering them on, commenting to each other, and recording the spectacle (perhaps to be uploaded to a Web site later, either for blackmail or to legitimately make some extra money). The same foursome snowed in during a blizzard may have other issues at hand, such as more intimate lighting (with the scene taking place in front of a glowing fireplace), availability of scented massage oils, or the possibility of couples watching each other more closely.
In addition to behavior, each location has its own inherent characteristics which could be exploited in a sex scene. These characteristics could be physical objects, or they may be simply how the characters behave in each location. A professor and a student having sex at the professor's second home far away from the university will almost certainly feel more "free" to truly take their time and indulge in each other, whereas the same couple having sex in the professor's small campus office may be forced to have just a quickie while strategically positioned so that no one can look in the window and see them. Objects in each location may play a role in the sex scene: hiding behind large trees along a hiking trail, sharper-than-usual blades of grass pricking the skin when having sex in a field, accidentally knocking a book off a shelf while having sex in a library... and, of course, sex on a spacecraft could be nicely complicated by a lack of gravity.
Location can also impact whether and how the "outside world" intrudes on the characters. For an incest tale in which a brother and sister are in the basement engaging in foreplay, they might hear their parents walking around upstairs in preparation for a dinner party, for example. A sex scene in a hotel might include a siren from passing emergency vehicles. A scene focusing on joining The Mile High Club could include the pilot making an announcement about upcoming turbulence.
The relationship of the characters involved in a sex scene can be critical. If it is a duo, are they of the same or opposite sex? If there are multiple people involved, are they all of one sex or are both sexes represented?
Beyond the physical mechanics of sex between/amongst the characters involved, the overall situation can dictate mechanics of how sexual activity will occur. Is one character restrained, and how is that character restrained?
There may be other mechanics to consider beyond merely "insert Anatomy A into Orifice B." If a character is being whipped, for example, the type of whip and the type of restraint used (if any) can impact how the whipping itself occurs. For example, a man tied face-down to a bed or a table may be relatively easier to whip than a woman strung between two thick pillars. Certain whips have different types of pain, such as "sting" versus "bite," and those types of pain will likely affect the reactions of the person being whipped. The weight and length of the tail(s) may also require varying mechanical tactics, both to prevent wearing out the arm of the person conducting the whipping and to ensure adequate space if long tail(s) are being used (such as with the stereotypical bullwhip).
Mechanics are also a consideration when there are multiple characters involved in the sex scene. For a male-female-male scene, for example, double penetration might be employed. For a female-male-female scene, however, the man may be thrusting into one of the women, but what is the second woman doing?
Where mechanics can really become quite interesting, both for the reader and the writer, is when non-humans are involved. Perhaps the most obvious example is the tentacle sex scenario common in a number of Japanese animated and live-action videos. An alien's form of mating is encumbered only by the writher's imagination, so pairing one or more aliens with one or more humans can provide some interesting challenges (ideally with inventive solutions!) for sexual mechanics. A shape-shifter can present other interesting mechanical issues, as potentially could a powerful mage or a playful deity.
The mood of a sex scene can be impacted by a number of factors. The first is the overall story itself, especially if it is a long tale such as a NaNoWriMo project. The second is the grouping of characters and their location and their level/amount of discovery - again, a foursome having sex at a frat party will likely experience a different mood than a foursome trapped in a cabin by a blizzard.
There is no reason why the mood of a sex scene must remain the same from beginning to end. If the tale is from the point of view of a woman is having sex for the first time, for example, the scene may begin with a nervous or even fearful mood, but then become happier and more romantic after her blood has been spilled; the moods in this scenario could be heightened by the characters' culture(s). In a tale featuring a rapist, the sex scene may begin with consensual sex, but then become violent and fearful when the rapist decides "it is time." A playboy might be having good, fun sex with his latest partner, and the mood may suddenly change because he inadvertently calls her "Jenni" instead of "Tabitha."
Mood need not be solely dependent upon the characters. Their surroundings can also set or enhance the mood: a small campfire, soft jazz music playing on the radio, the sound of a pounding bass line piercing the wall of a dorm room... Their location might also set the mood: a candlelight dinner, a themed room at a bondage club, an elevator in an office building... The relationship between the characters can also impact the mood: a professor's natural instinct to teach might impact how he shows his student his preferred masturbation technique, sisterly love may add an extra element of calm and peacefulness as two young women have sex, a corrupt police officer may purposely abuse her position to "enjoy" the body of a frightened suspect...
Dialogue & Writings
One mistake which many new erotica writers make is not using enough dialogue, or perhaps not using any dialogue. Whether during a sex scene or during a breakfast scene, dialogue can provide great insight into a character's mindset at that moment. Over the course of an entire scene or certainly an entire story, a character's vocabulary can also give the reader a better understanding of that character, and often, this is revealed through dialogue. A gang member may act tough and talk trash a lot when with other gang members, but during sex with the one person who matters most, the same character may instead talk calmly and sweetly, helping to underscore the shift of personality between those two situations. If nothing else, having the characters use "sweet nothings" during their sexual interlude provides some variety, some short visual breaks, from block after block of multi-sentence paragraphs. Similarly, onomatopoeic utterances, such as "Nnngh!" when attempting to hold back an orgasm or pleas of "Harder!" during sex, can help to highlight that character's reactions to the sexual experience.
Another way to reveal a character's mindset is to make use of the character's writings. These could be in the form of a love letter, or perhaps a note hidden where another character will find it. Making use of modern technology, other sources of writings include text messages, e-mails, status updates on Facebook and MySpace, and blog posts. The most important thing, of course, is to use forms of writing appropriate to the story's time period - unless part of the point of the story is a mixing of time periods.
Thoughts & Emotions
Especially important when the story is told in first-person viewpoint from the position of one of the characters, the use of characters' thoughts and emotions can add significant impact to a sex scene, and to a story in general. How this manifests itself may depend on the relationship between the characters, the events leading up to or potentially following the sex scene, and countless other factors.
By making use of thoughts and emotions, the writer can really help the reader to identify with the character (when told in first-person viewpoint) or characters (when writing from an omnipotent narrator viewpoint). A stereotypical scientist character, for example, will typically think of things logically and be rather analytical; in a sex scene, such a character may be constantly analyzing what is happening and almost literally be calculating what should happen when and how it should occur.
Emotions and thoughts can also be quite impactful for a scene. Even if the characters have been sexual partners for a long time, their emotions are quite likely to be happy and loving on their wedding night. Thoughts and emotions can help highlight the trauma of the victim in a rape scene, or the weirdness of a character being ensnared and penetrated by a semi-sentient vine. Yet emotions and thoughts can also show counterpoints, such as a Master's calmness and enjoyment as he hurts his willing submissive and revels in her physical torment; similarly, if written from the submissive's point of view, emotions and thoughts can be used to demonstrate that while her body is being tortured, she craves the pain and/or the attention administered by her Master.
Whether in a sex scene or a "mundane" scene, one pitfall many writing newcomers make when writing in first-person viewpoint is to have that character somehow "know" what another character is thinking or feeling when there has been no logical means to obtain that knowledge. The best real-world example I can give comes from personal experience having run multiple traditional (pencil-and-paper) role-playing games. As the Game Master, I can set the overall scene of a battle from an omnipotent point of view, and the players' characters may scatter, taking cover behind various objects which prevent them from seeing each other. If Player A's character makes a particular move, Players B and C may erroneously react to that move, and as the Game Master, it is my job to challenge them ("Is that you reacting or your character reacting?").
The same situation applies in writing from the first-person viewpoint. Character A can see and hear what Character B is doing, but unless Character B says something or makes a significant gesture or facial expression, Character A cannot know what is actually going through the mind of Character B. If that is difficult to follow, try this:
I stood behind her, my hands on her shoulders as we both looked up at the third-floor window with the open curtains, watching as an exhibitionist couple made love in plain view of anyone at the intersection who happened to be looking up at them. Amanda was shocked, having never seen such a thing before, and I smiled to myself, making a mental note that she and I should do the exact same thing once we returned to the hotel.
I stood behind her, my hands on her shoulders as we both looked up at the third-floor window with the open curtains, watching as an exhibitionist couple made love in plain view of anyone at the intersection who happened to be looking up at them. Amanda gasped aloud, then muttered something which was just barely audible over the noise of the traffic whizzing past us; I heard her say, "How can they...!" and "I've never seen...!" I smiled to myself, making a mental note that she and I should do the exact same thing once we returned to the hotel.
In the first example, the main character is clearly assuming to know what Amanda thinks when she sees the exhibitionists, but in the second example, the main character at least has her gasp and her mutterings as guides to what she is thinking upon seeing the exhibitionists.
This potential first-person pitfall is critical to keep in mind when creating a convincing sex scene, and a convincing story overall. For the reader who simply wants a short wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am tale, a first-person "assumption" such as in Example 1 is not likely to be an issue, but for many readers, even if they do not immediately recognize exactly what is amiss, they will simply feel that Example 1 is somehow flawed, and that may be enough to turn off those readers.
...and ultimately, a reader should not be turned off by erotica, right?
Hopefully these concepts can provide the beginning erotica writer with things to consider when crafting a sex scene. Of course, there is no "right" way to write a sex scene, and not all of the topics addressed here will be valid in every such scene. Still, after more than seven years of writing erotica, these are the issues I consider as I write, and I believe that over time, they have helped me in creating better sex scenes... and better erotica overall.