Behind Closed Doors: Sex & Your Story
I am going to assume that because you are reading this guide and this section that you want to write more than a Tab A into Slot B type of story. In this section, I am going to be honest and opinionated about what makes good sex and what doesn’t. If you are new to writing sex, this section will offer you a method to help get over any newbie apprehensions, and help you to write a great story.
A story does not have to have explicit sex to be romantically and emotionally satisfying. If you have not had sex, (and this is in no way an endorsement to run out and have it) it is ill advised to try and write a full blown sex scene based on what you have read on the Internet. There is an extraordinary amount of immature, badly written smut in the Fan Fiction community. Sex is a mature topic; do not attempt writing it if you cannot approach it in a respectful manner that befits the characters that you are writing about.
A lot of writers jump on the smut bandwagon because it’s popular. Stories with sex get lots of comments, but this is not a good reason to write a story if you are not comfortable with the subject matter. More than any other type of story, I highly recommend getting a beta reader for this type of story; never will their input be more valuable.
Do Your Homework
In order to write sex, you need to read it, and lots of it. I highly recommend reading a combination of both erotic Fan Fiction as well as mainstream erotic fiction. Fan Fiction can be extremely inconsistent when it comes to quality; there is a lot of inaccurate smut out there. By reading a mix of erotica, you will be able to figure out what you like, and what you don’t, as well as the level of explicitness you are comfortable with. More than any other area of fiction, any insecurity about what you are writing will be evident, so get comfortable with sex, both the idea and the language of it.
This is Not a Game of Twister
Your sex scene is not so much a record of who did what to whom; instead it is an exploration of how your characters feel about each other. This could be a myriad of feelings from love, to guilt, even contempt. Emotion is always going to be the focus of the scene, and the actual body parts play a secondary role. So don’t get caught up reporting on the location of every possible body part.
When you are writing sex, the best possible advice I could give would be to remember Action–>Reaction. If Adam slides his hand down the smooth skin of Sofia’s back, you can bet she’s going to react to that. Following the principles of Action->Reaction also helps you maintain the tension in your scene.
Utilizing Action–>Reaction will also help you avoid the Twister effect:
Evan brushed his left hand over Elspeth’s right shoulder. She shuddered, as he slid his right hand over her left buttock.
With all the rights and lefts going on in there, you reader will be tangled up in no time flat. Trust your reader to figure it out, even if you don’t tell them which hand is doing the action. Sex is about give and take and about how your characters feel, so leave the directions out of your story.
The amount of heat generated by your story is not dependent on how many ‘dirty’ words you can work into your story. Eroticism is based on how you use words to reflect the emotion between your characters. You can write a meltingly hot scene without a single ‘dirty’ word. Take a look at the following example:
She closed her eyes as she felt him part her legs, and slide into her. Her arms tightened around him as her hips came up to meet him, pulling him more deeply inside of her. She cried out as he moved inside of her, letting him fill her again and again, until all the empty places were gone.
He could feel the way his touch transformed her, the way that she was finding her way back to him; he heard it in her voice, the way she spoke his name like a prayer. It was all he ever wanted to be for her; the light that brought her home.
Her whole body tightened around him as she finally let go of everything, letting him wash the pain away on the strength of his love. He was flooding her, filling her, making her complete in all the ways she wasn’t without him.
Depending on the tone that you want to set for your scene, more explicit language may be the way to go. It’s important to let your characters dictate the kind of scene that you are writing, and not try to make it fit into a mold of what erotic fiction has to be.
I recommend leaving the thesaurus behind and writing with the words that come most naturally to you. Strung together, words paint beautiful pictures so use the ones that come to mind easily when you are writing a sex scene. Don’t worry about word repetition. It is actually more distracting if you try to come up with a different word for penis every single time. Call a spade a spade and leave it at that. The less complicated your word choice, the better.
One of the most common mistakes that I see in new smut writers is using inappropriate words in their attempt to amp up a scene. If you are writing a scene where two characters are expressing their love through sex, there should be no screaming or sawing. The images words like these conjure up are violent to say the least, and unless that is the tone you want to set for your scene, there are better choices out there.
Your characters’ histories and relationships to each other drive your sex scene. Understanding what has brought your two characters together is what is going to bring chemistry to your scene and allow your reader to identify with it. It will also help you keep your characters in-character during the scene. This can be a challenge on shows that rarely or do not show characters in intimate situations. This is where you must do your homework, and build on their relationship your characters have with each other and extend that into an intimate scene.
Your characters will be naked in more than one way, so be sure you know what you are doing before you attempt it. If you are going to do something that takes your characters out of context, you must do the work in the story to set it up. Do not just put an author’s note at the top stating your plan. That is lazy writing at its worst, and a surefire turn off.
Remember, anyone can write a story with your characters names in it, but your job is to capture the essence of their relationship on the page and take it to the next level. Sex is the ultimate vulnerability and the reasons that your characters are having sex fuels the fire in your scenes. And while it may not come directly into play in your story, considering your character’s history will help you add intensity to your scenes. Showing the evolution of your character throughout your scene also allows the reader to connect with what you are writing.
The Myth of the PWP
Just because your story has sex in it, that doesn’t mean it is going to be about love. People have sex for all different reasons, and that is certainly reflected in the array of Fan Fiction posted on the internet. A lot of stories are labeled PWP when they focus on sex. This can be misleading, even if you are writing about sex, your characters still need a reason to be having sex, even if that reason is no reason! You must ask yourself why your characters are having this experience together. Is it love? Loneliness? Frustration? Loss? Whatever the reasons, make sure you tie them into your scene. This is what will connect your reader to your story and to your characters.
This is the section where I cover what not to do in your story. Many of these things are common sense, but since badfic is so prevalent in our Fan Fiction communities, it can be hard to discern what is acceptable when you are a new or inexperienced writer.
Exclamation points are used one at a time. Do not use more than one at once to emphasize the pleasure your character is experiencing. It is my feeling that exclamation points do not belong in smut fics at all, but there is a time for everything, so I will advise you to use caution if you feel the urge to fill your scene with them. There are much better ways to communicate ecstasy. Instead of relying on punctuation, show how your character feels through their thoughts, actions and reactions.
Do not pepper your scenes with “Unngggg” or “Coooommmiiingggg.” She moaned or he moaned will do nicely, and show that your character is about to come versus telling us. If it fits your scene to have your character make an announcement that she is about to have an orgasm, then spell the word correctly.
Do not use epithets. An epithet is a descriptive word or words used in place of a name. An example would be “the brown eyed detective” instead of using your character’s name. This can be extremely distracting in a scene that generally has nothing to do with work. This can be particularly challenging in a slash/femslash fic when pronouns can get confusing; however, there are many ways to get around it. Be creative with beats of action, and if all else fails, use your character’s name over their profession in the bedroom.
I touched on this in the section on word choice, but it bears repeating. Do not use violent words when you are writing a sex scene unless you intend it to be violent. Words like screaming, sawing, shoved and pounding all carry a very heavy connotation. Use these words, and ones like them, with care.
Less is more. The simpler your descriptions, the more realistic your scene will be. Turgid members and undulating, molten cores do not belong in your story!
Avoid writing your scene from both character’s perspectives at once. If you catch yourself using the word “they,” alter the perspective to one character or the other. Use of “they” will almost always catch you in the act of summing up what is going on.