If you write romance, chances are you’ll find yourself pondering how best to describe genitalia and different sexual positions. After all, who wants to read about boring sex?
Having read romance for twenty years, I’ve seen the way sexual descriptions have changed. I still remember one novel where the hero and heroine made love on a parachute spread out on the ground (she was a firefighter who jumped from helicopters into burning forests; he was a rancher who owned a forest). It wasn’t the novelty of sex on a parachute that seared itself on my 14-year-old mind – it was the description of the hero peeling back the heroine’s petals.
Thank God sex scenes are less flowery and more earthy these days.
How can you find ways of making your sex scenes different, without traumatizing your readers?
1. Use interesting language.
I know I’m always banging on about this, but boring language = boring books. If we read the same words over and over, they start to lose their sparkle.
I recently bought The Bald-Headed Hermit and the Artichoke: An Erotic Thesaurus. Not only has it provided me and my husband with countless minutes of amusement, but it also helped me spice up some critical dialogue in a scene (weirdly, not a bedroom scene, but one set at a tee-ball game).
The thesaurus lists thousands of words – from the funny to the vulgar to the head-scratchers – and is a great tool for finding new ways of describing the dirty deed.
However, unless you want to leave your readers with a bad taste in their mouths, I suggest you avoid phrases like “She blew his skin whistle.”
Another word of advice – if your heroine refers to her partner’s bits as ‘Big Jim and the twins’, make sure her father isn’t actually called Jim. Apparently, mentioning a man’s father-in-law during an intimate moment is a real mood-killer. Let your heroine learn from my mistakes.
2. Look in sex books.
I bought Anne Hooper’s Kama Sutra, thinking it would help me come up with ideas for different positions – not weird ones, where you have to draw a diagram to figure out who’s on top, but unusual ones that could still be sexy.
Unfortunately, I’m too distracted by the looks of utter boredom on the faces of the two naked models as they press their privates against each other. And their hair – the feathering! the layers! the shellac!
Do you have any good book suggestions?
3. Watch videos.
Can’t say I’ve ever done this, myself. And since I don’t write erotic romance, I’m not sure I need so much graphic detail. But maybe this works for you.
4. Go with what you know.
I read on one forum about a woman who practices with her husband before writing a scene. Not all the way, she hastened to assure us. Just to figure out where the hero’s hand would be if the heroine were positioned like this, or how her leg could bend that way while she’s doing this to him.
Hey, if you’ve got a willing partner, go for it!
How do you find ways of keeping it spicy in the (fictional) bedroom?
Oh gosh Katrina, THIS WAS HALARIOUS! And yet so useful. I’m like you – I loathe the usual euphemisms. And you’re right – the language has changed over time. I remember a period when it was always referred to as the shaft, which just sounds plastic, unmoving and painful.
I usually infer rather than describe, and stick to the “less is more” rule. But I have to say that starting a chapter while they’re just in the middle of a romp can get a reader’s attention quick smart, mostly because it’s unexpected. (Surprise nookie with willing parties is always fun.) And sometimes, just calling a spade a spade (or a cock, a cock) works best.
I remember shaft!
Wait, that didn’t come out right.
When I’m reading, I usually like sex scenes to be pretty descriptive, but only if there’s loads of emotional tension leading up to it. I hate gratuitous sex scenes. But when I’m writing I tend to go for the ‘less is more’ rule, too. I still have my mom’s voice ringing in my head: “Don’t worry about me reading your sex scenes. Maybe I’ll learn something.”
Which is why it’s difficult for me to unleash my inner slut in my stories. But I’m working on it.
OMG. I’m still laughing at Big Jim and the Twins. Which is better, I guess, than Little Willy and the Brothers Grimm…or…oh, never mind. I recently finished a book that a (ahem) Beta reader fussed at me for leading up to my h/h getting all hot and heavy and then slamming the bedroom door because I didn’t want to deal with Big Jim and the Twins. So I finished it up and sent it to my agent, who said Big Jim and the Twins (can you tell I love that) simply HAD to be in there. So now they are. Sigh. And it still reads silly to me.
erm…I think *I* was that beta reader, Suz. And if so, then I’m thrilled Krys gets some time with Aidan’s meat and two veg.
(Which reminds me of another embarrassing true story – I thought my husband had coined that expression himself and I asked him to pass the meat and two veg at dinner one night…in front of his very proper British parents. *gulp* Just after I’d met them. What was I thinking? I’m a freakin’ vegetarian!)