Written by JJ Barnes
When you’re reading about a romance between two characters, assuming they’re adults, sex is a likely outcome. Letting your audience into that incredibly personal experience can be very rewarding. However, a badly written sex scene is just awkward and uncomfortable.
I’ll be writing about how to write a sex scene that connects your audiences to your characters, as well as being thrilling to experience.
Building Your Characters
Your audiences connection to your story depends on their connection to your characters. If your audience doesn’t care about your characters or their experiences, they won’t care about your story. This is true of everything you write, including sex.
If you are only looking to write erotica with no real consequences, then a connection to the people having sex isn’t important. But sex between characters you don’t care about will be meaningless and easily forgotten.
Before you arrive at a sex scene, take time to get to know the characters involved. What do they want, what does that sexual encounter mean to them? If your audience feels an emotional connection to the characters, the feelings, touches and emotions experienced whilst they have sex will be more real. It’ll feel personal and exciting and human.
Pick A POV Character For Your Sex Scene
When I wrote the sex scene in After The Mad Dog In The Fog, I wrote from the perspective of Emily.
When we have sex, it’s our own bodies we are connected to. We can enjoy the body and pleasure of our partner, but it’s our body and pleasure we are directly experiencing. Put your audience in the position of one POV Character. It’ll make your audience feel more connected to their experience.
Focus on that person’s interiority. What are they hoping for, what do they want, why do they want it? How does the touch of the other person feel, and how does it feel to touch them?
Explore the other person’s body through their experience of it; the sensations and touches of the other person by how it feels to them. If we try to actively experience everybody’s physical and emotional responses it’s too much and it’s unfocused. One person, one body, and you’re connected.
By grounding the sex scene in the perspective of one person, you can really explore everything they are going through. Your audience will feel a personal connection with that sexual encounter, it’ll feel more real, and they won’t be overloaded.
Show Don’t Tell In Your Sex Scene
A clinical description of what body part goes where might be accurate and easy to picture but it’s flat. If you don’t describe any of the technicalities, however, you’re left with just feelings. Feelings can be interesting, but they’re not erotic. You need a balance between accurate description, and emotional response. To do this, use the rule of show don’t tell.
Telling your audience what is happening is dull. Describing how what is happening feels is alive and exciting.
Using your POV Character, focus on how the touching feels. You can describe their partner running their fingers along your POV characters skin. Focus on how those finger tips feel rather than the action and it won’t feel clinical. The sensations, the tingles, those are what are exciting, and it’s still easy to picture what is happening. You’re showing the experience, not telling the action.
When you describe the other person’s mouth, describe how it tastes and the softness of their lips and tongue, and you can see in your mind they’re kissing. Describe the tickle and sensation of their tongue moving down your POV Character’s body.
When your POV character is pressed against a wall, describe the feeling of the impact. The exhilaration of the passion and the sensation of their body against them.
This is my own personal feelings on the subject, rather than technical advice, but it’s worth sharing. If you want your sex scene to feel intimate and romantic, make sure you cover the issue of consent.
If your sex scene isn’t about the intimate connection of two characters in a romance, you might want to skip this for various reasons. But for a romance and a connection, consent is essential.
Don’t feel like this means a formal conversation, but make it clear there is mutual enthusiasm and agreement that sex is wanted. If I read a sex scene where there is doubt that both characters are invested in that sex happening, I’m booted out. I feel uncomfortable. When I know that the sex is wanted and longed for and desired on both sides then I can relax into it and feel excited to experience what’s going to happen.
Not Being Awkward When Writing Your Sex Scene
A really important part about writing sex that doesn’t read as awkward is to not feel awkward when you write it. Try and be free, feel it yourself, picture yourself in that position. How does your skin feel, how fast is your heart beating, how dizzy does it make your head?
Live your own experiences of fantastic sex, the way their touch lingers on your skin, the desperation to taste them and feel them and touch them. Live that, feel it, and pour that onto the page. The more real and intense it feels in your body when you’re writing it, the more real and intense it will feel to your audience when they read it.
More From JJ Barnes:
I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.
You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk
Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books
Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose