I have a confession to make. Every time I sit down to write a sex scene, I find myself wishing I’d left the bedroom door discretely closed in my first romance. Instead, I poured everything I had into writing steamy sex, setting a precedent for all subsequent books.
For me, sex scenes are the most challenging part of a book to write. I’ll take on a good fight sequence involving knives and machetes any day, or an attempted live cremation, or even a disappearing corpse, but please, please, not another sex scene.
Writing a sex scene is a balancing act. I must weave in sensuality and emotional intensity as well as a touch of humor, all the time staying true to my protagonists’ personalities and quirks. And let’s not forget that the act must be integral to the plot, and both characters must experience an emotional shift resulting from having sex. Not to mention the most critical component of all—the sex must be so stupendous, toe-curling, and earth shaking that it leaves the reader breathless.
Whew! I bet some of you didn’t think a sex scene was so complex.
To make my life easier, I always need a gimmick for those sex scenes. For example, in the scene I’m writing, my gimmick is that the bossy and academic Katarina, although inexperienced except for two unsatisfying episodes years earlier, has lots of book knowledge from reading The Joy of Sex, Kama Sutra, even the Fifty Shades Trilogy. The fun part, at least for me, is that she isn’t afraid to offer helpful suggestions based on her book learning.
This time, Katarina wants it done right. After analyzing the pros and cons, she sets her sights on the sexiest man in Atlantic City–Sam Jackson–a dedicated womanizer, drinker, and bar owner, whose motto is: If God intended man to live a lifestyle of sober monogamy, He wouldn’t have created fine corn whiskey and an abundance of tempting lovelies.
Given Sam’s extensive sexual exploits, aversion to commitment, and eagerness to jump her bones, she figures he’s the ideal candidate to re-introduce her to sexual pleasure. Also, she won’t him miss too much when he walks away. Or gets whacked by her godfather. She’ll have no trouble remaining detached, none at all. She’s much too clever to fall in love with a smooth-talking charmer like Sam. After he teaches her a thing or two about sex, she intends to walk away before he does. It’s a win-win.
Pretending a sophistication she doesn’t possess, she makes her move. There’s no way her plan can go awry—or so she believes.
To illustrate (without giving away too much), here is the lead-in to one of the sex scenes from my W.I.P., COLD FEET FEVER.
While Sam watched intently, his eyes heavy-lidded and sexy, Katarina reached behind her back as casually as possible and tried to locate the zipper. An invisible placket, held in place by approximately a zillion microscopic hooks, concealed the sucker.
After a few seconds of watching her contortions, Sam said, “Let me help.”
“It’s okay,” she said, groping around. Hopefully he didn’t notice the fact that she was sweating lightly. “These tiny fasteners are too tricky for a man’s fingers.”
“I have excellent fine motor skills. Turn around and relax.”
“I am relaxed, dammit.”
Embarrassed by her outburst, she turned around, presenting her back to him. She didn’t relax. Hey, one out of two was an achievement. While his fingers dealt with the hooks, she worked on regaining her detachment, not to mention sophistication. She was almost there when he said, “It’s okay, cupcake. I love it that you’re nervous.” His voice had roughened, deepened to a husky growl. “It gives what we’re about to do a special sort of kick.”
She craned her neck to assess whether or not he was mocking her, and found herself staring at his mouth. Her breath hitched in her chest. “I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you.”
The fingers on her back stilled. “Why on earth would you say that?”
“I … um … may not have the skill you expect in your dates.” She squeezed her eyes shut, wishing she could take the words back.
After a long pause, he said, “Excuse me?” The two soft words reverberated in the quiet kitchen.
She chewed her lip, then explained, “I’ve only done it twice, well two and a half times, to be precise, and it didn’t work out so well.” Catching herself before she blurted something about premature ejaculation, or the fact that Zio Luigi had whacked her nice Italian boyfriend, she clamped her mouth shut.
Katarina wished she could see Sam’s face, but didn’t dare turn around. When he remained quiet and utterly still, she rushed on. “No need to worry, though. I’m sure I can satisfy your needs. I’m quite the self-trained expert on sexual gratification.”
Sam’s breath stirred her hair. In a hoarse voice hinting of suppressed emotion, he said, “You’re self-trained, are you? That’s, uh, most enterprising.” After a moment, he started in on the hooks again. Maybe it was her imagination, but his fingers seemed to fumble.
Had she said something wrong? “I’m glad you think so,” she assured him, hoping the sincerity in her voice would put him at ease. “I’m a voracious reader. I’ve read many how-to books on sexual intercourse, everything from The Joy of Sex, to Kama Sutra. I also made a study of the Fifty Shades Trilogy—which, in my opinion, was amazingly repetitive—and dozens of other erotic novels. You wouldn’t believe how much help there is out there to educate people, so you have nothing to worry about.”
“That’s, uh, commendable and, uh, extremely proactive of you,” he said in a choked voice. “But don’t you go fretting. I’m ’bout as far from worried as a man can get.”