Today, my guest blogger is Jen Blood , author of All the Blue-Eyed Angels. Jen has been a professional freelance writer and editor for over a decade. She has an MFA in Creative Writing/Popular Fiction, and teaches seminars on writing, marketing, and social media for authors. She lives in Maine. These are her 3 Tips to Make Your Steamiest Scenes Even Steamier!
One of my first big gigs when I started working as an editor was for a little niche publishing house out of L.A. that specialized in “horrotica” – which, as you might expect from the name, is a hybrid of horror and erotica. I referred to it affectionately as “zombie porn,” since a lot of what I was editing were fairly horrific scenes involving the undead doing ungodly things to one another. I can totally get behind the whole vamp thing and even the occasional werewolf, but to this day I still don’t see the sexy in your average zombie.
While I may not get the appeal of zombie porn, I’m definitely a fan of romance and erotica. I’ve taken and taught seminars on writing sex, written articles about it, and penned a slew of steamy scenes myself. I remember how difficult it was for me when I first got started, but I’m still a little amazed when otherwise solid writers fall apart once the clothes come off and things get heated. So, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to make passion painless in your daily writing.
Be specific. Adjectives like “perfect,” “handsome,” “petite,” or “beautiful” tell readers virtually nothing about what they’re seeing. Check out this description from Stacey Kennedy’s paranormal romance, ‘Til We Meet Again:
By the red chaise, a man stood. A gorgeous man dressed in a long dark blue coat with gold buttons decorating the front. The same color cotton pants sat snug against his thick thighs with black boots on his feet. Around his waist a sword strapped to a wide belt that hung low on his hips. A navy cap sat atop his head with three rows of black braid and underneath it, Cassie saw his light brown curls.
She drew her gaze away from his hair and settled it on his face. Deep chocolate stared back at her. A twelve o’clock shadow caused the soft smoothness of his skin to appear darker. His nose angular, his chin square, and his lips not too thin, yet not full either.
Kennedy earns that final “Perfect” with her incredible description before she uses the dreaded blanket descriptor. When you’re going through your writing, be wary of general descriptors that give little real information to the reader, and challenge yourself to do better.
Bring character into the equation. You don’t stop being you just because you’re having sex, so why should your characters? My novel, All the Blue-Eyed Angels, isn’t strictly romance, but it has a lot of romantic elements, and there are a couple of sexy scenes in there involving the main character, Erin Solomon. In those scenes, my primary objective was always to retain her distinctive voice while still conveying the heat of the moment.
Here’s a scene between Erin and Jack Juarez, a mysterious FBI agent who’s been thrown into the middle of her investigation:
When we were on the mattress, he pulled my shirt up over my head and tossed it in a pile of the room with the rest of our clothes. Then, he just sat there – studying me. My hair was a mess and my heart was beating too fast and it was only by some miracle of fate that I was wearing Victoria’s Secret instead of my sports bra and a pair of Diggs’ boxer shorts.
“What?” I asked. I pulled the comforter up over my lap.
“You’re beautiful, you know.”
I rolled my eyes. “So are you.”
He was, actually. He had the calves of a distance runner and the ass of a Roman god. His dark hair was rumpled, an errant lock across his forehead and a cowlick in the back. His stomach was flat and his boxers were tented. My blood felt like warm honey slipping through my veins as I dropped my hand to his ankle, tracing light patterns up his leg.
Even with a hotter-than-hell Fed in her bed, Erin doesn’t lose her cynical edge. Charlaine Harris is a master at doing this with her Sookie Stackhouse novels. Even in the most raw, sexual encounters, Harris never loses sight of who Sookie is and how her character is experiencing the moment. Strive to do the same with your work.
Get out your Barbies. You read me right. When tongues and teeth and other unmentionables are flying all over the place, it can be tricky to keep track of which character is where at any given moment. Just as writers do with action sequences or fight scenes, take some time to choreograph. Get out Ken and Barbie – or Barbie and Barbie, if that’s what floats your boat – and go through the motions. I know, it sounds absurd, and you’ll undoubtedly feel ridiculous at first. But if you’ve got her leg wrapped around his waist and she’s nibbling his neck while he’s gazing into her eyes or sucking on her toes, your readers are eventually just gonna throw their hands up in frustration. Because I think this is such an important point that writers frequently get tangled up in, here’s an example from Dennis Lehane’s Darkness, Take My Hand:
I raised my head and kissed her. My right hand caught in the tangles of her hair, and as my mouth dropped back from hers, she followed it, closing her lips over it and burying her tongue inside. My hands dropped down her back, the fingers pressing either side of her spinal cord before they hooked under the elastic band of her underpants.
She raised an arm and gripped the headboard, her body rising up mine as my tongue found her throat and my hands turned her underpants into a silk coil that rolled tightly over her hips and the rise of her ass. Her breast sank into my mouth and she gasped slightly, pulled the headboard against the mattress. The heel of her hand ran roughly down my abdomen and into my groin and she kicked at the coil of underwear around her ankles as she lowered herself back down my body.
In that example, Lehane is very specific about what’s happening physically, but notice how he’s able to give those specifics without repeating himself; in that entire two paragraphs, he uses “kissed” only once, even though that’s pretty much all they’re doing that entire time. Take time to map out your scenes, think about the physicality of what’s happening, and then, once it’s visually clear in your head, it will be that much simpler for you to convey what’s happening to your readers.
These are just a few examples of ways to make your hottest scenes come to life for the reader while simultaneously making them just a little easier for you, the writer, to get them down on paper. Now, let’s hear from you: Who are the writers you emulate when it comes to writing The Sex? Do you have tricks or tips that have come in handy with your own novels or short stories? I’d love to hear what others have to say on the subject! (And one of the lucky folks commenting on this post will win a signed print copy of my novel, All the Blue-Eyed Angels, so comment away!)
You can find Jen Blood at the following links: http://jenniferblood.net/