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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sex scene should not read like Ikea instructions

Please welcome guest blogger Lila Dubois

Too often, especially in erotic romance and mainstream romance with erotic elements, the sex scenes are superfluous to the storyline. The sex could happen, or could not happen, and it wouldn’t change the arc of the story. That’s fine, maybe, if we’re talking about a plot arc for a romantic suspense or fantasy, where a complex plot is sweeping the characters along. It’s not okay when talking about a character arc. If there’s sex in your book it MUST INFLUENCE YOUR CHARACTERS.

Sex is big. Sex has an effect. Use it.

Tough as nails characters crumble during and after sex, meek characters can become unexpectedly strong when confronted with their partner’s naked vulnerability. A change in behavior is more believable during sex than at any other time in the book (okay, possibly not true in fantasy, due to magic, body swapping, etc, but you get the idea.)

The trick to making sex scenes work is the same as making every other scene work: what does you character WANT? The instant sex becomes a real possibility everything changes. The stakes go up, behavior gets either more primal or Machiavellian and your character will either strip off their armor or put it on, depending on who they are.

Let’s run through some examples:

The solider beds down next to the woman he’s rescued/kidnapped (whatever floats your boat).

The solider:

Tough, gruff, heavily armed

BUT, when the sex scene starts: gentle, uncertain (“his hands were rough, he didn’t want to hurt her”), gun/sword put aside. What does he WANT? Well, to have sex, but also, to feel like he deserves something good, which he doesn’t due to [insert tragic backstory]. He will remain convinced he doesn’t deserve this until she convinces him otherwise.

The girl:

TSTL for the most party, clumsy, cute but not sexy, unnecessarily argumentative (sorry, these characters drive me nuts)

BUT, when the sex scene starts: aggressive, reassuring the hero whereas before he’s been reassuring her, feels/acts powerful, graceful and sexual. What does she WANT? To prove that she’s a woman, not a girl, and she’ll do that by dominating the sex.

This is a simple example, and one that could take place without sex. This scene could culminate in a kiss, or just some heavy petting. But why lead your character to the edge of the cliff and not push them off?

The reality is sex is a freight train, past a certain point it’s hard to stop unless one party does something really obnoxious.

The best part about sex, as far as the character arc goes, is that the character can REVERT to their pre-sex self-knowledge the next morning. Marathon sex should yield enlightenment, but if it’s just one night and your characters wake up panicked don’t force them to realize they’re stronger than they think, or deserving of love (insert more sex scenes). Let them back peddle like unicyclists, but don’t, as the writer, forget what they learned, because the reader won’t. By the time the book is done what they WANTED in that moment when pants hit the floor needs to be theirs.

Lila is a multi-published, best-selling author of erotic, paranormal, and fantasy romance. Having spent extensive time in France, Egypt, Turkey, Ireland and England Lila speaks five languages, none of them (including English) fluently.

Red Ribbon

Running into an old friend isn’t a big deal, unless you’re attending a BDSM mixer. When Liz, a woman who has it all—except a sex life—sees college pal Mark in the parking lot, she brushes off her embarrassment and agrees to go out for coffee to catch up.

Mark assumes Liz is a Domme, but when she reveals her red ribbon—a ribbon identifying her as a sub—he has to have her. He makes her complete a sex checklist that lists every toy, kink, position and taboo he might do to her, on her or with her.

Though desperate for this relationship to work, Liz cannot fully accept her desires or bring herself to submit passively. She wants Mark to master her, to dominate her. Mark is delighted by the way she challenges him, and with one touch, he knows she’s his perfect sexual match.

Now they face their greatest challenge yet, that forbidden territory that lies outside the bedroom… Dating.


Jeannie G said...

Awesome blog, and so true. Now it looks like I need to re-visit a few chapters. LOL

Billi Jean said...

Sweet post. I like the pants on the floor! LOL. I mean, in my fiction, of course!


Billi Jean

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

I sure hope not because I can never understand IKEA instructions!

Kim said...

Fantatic blog Lila! I'll never read a sex scene the same way!

Anonymous said...

This was an awsome post..does the author do workshops?