Consummation 1, 2, 3

tiger.love

Sex scenes used to scare me. I wrote kisses &  desire & closed the door. When my editor called me on it, I read my contract closely and sure enough there was the word: “consummation.”

 1. The Way In

I love a challenge and every once in awhile, I’d read a really well done love scene and wished I could do that.  I say love scene instead of sex scene because my characters who engage in sexual activities are falling in love, so for me it’s an emotional journey as well as a physical one.

That was my first way in. I thought about intercourse as not just about sex, but also about falling in love and discovering every inch of another person, inside and out.

2. What words?

So yeah, that word. Intercourse. Making love. Doing it. Scoring. Screwing. Fucking. Copulating. Having sex. Getting some.

Not just the act, but every body part has many name choices, from ridiculous to sublime. The proper biological designations are a bit sterile for my taste. Other words can seem sleazy or silly, depending on the readers’ moral compass. And metaphors can backfire or explode with unintended puns. Silly lily and sunken treasure will never measure up to the beast with two backs.

I solved this dilemma by figuring out that word choice in love scenes is deeply personal. I go with what works for me and my characters. I don’t want to offend readers (I think this stops so many of us) but those offended by my words are not my readers. Or won’t be for long.

3. Surrender

This one came late to me. I had to learn to slow down and enjoy the ride. That’s not a metaphor. I had to get comfortable enough in my own skin to enter into the mind and body of my POV character in those moments, to be her, to feel what she was feeling. I’m not a prude, and I’m not sure what took me so long to fully give myself over to love scenes, but once I did, I began to enjoy writing them.

How about you? Do you enjoy reading love scenes or are you someone who skims those pages?

*Photo courtesy of Flickr: chadh-flickr / Creative Commons

21 Comments on “Consummation 1, 2, 3

  1. I’ve written a few. Some got glossed over; i.e. “As it turned out, third time was the charm. And fourth. They were worn out by the fifth, and fell asleep in the middle of things.” (if it sounds like a couple of horny teenagers… well, they were) It was the things they said to each other in the lead-up that I thought was most important at the time. In another scene (same couple), it went much faster but was a lot more explicit. A different couple got an in-between scene, detail-wise. Oddly enough, a good make-out scene works just as well as “consummation” for me.

    As a writer, I think sexual tension is more fun to write, and can keep reader interest better. Remember that show “Moonlighting?” It was the sexual tension between the two MCs that made it fun to watch; when they finally got together, the show fizzled and died. So what is it that’s keeping them apart? Pride? Fear? Dad’s clairvoyant, and checks in on them on occasion?

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  2. I like to wait for it. I’ll have some sexual tension, the a kiss, then an “almost” and finally the pay off. Page 100 at least:)

    And I only show consummation when there’s a turning point in relationship, like, they are at the next level. It’s a commitment. I gloss the rest, too. There has to be a very good reason for me to write that wide open door scene. Not just sex for sex’s sake.

    Some television couples are cute now that they’re together. Castle and Beckett. Engaged. Meredith and Derrick. Married. Now if only Sherlock and Watson (in Elementary, Watson is a woman) would take off the blinders. They say it won’t happen, but it better. They’re perfect for each other.

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  3. Powerful post, Cynthia! Writing love scenes (note, I call them love scenes) for me has always been dictated by the characters. From the time I started reading romance, I always read books with consummation, so the consummation aspect of the story for me was always a given. One thing I’ve discovered on my writing path, is that the language, the frequency, etc. is dictated by the characters. Book three in the Brothers of Audubon Springs series has more moments of physical intimacy than the other two…100% dictated by the hero and heroine. At first, I was shocked by this because I didn’t realize I’d done that in the draft, but after thinking on it, and discussing with my editor, it made sense. 15 years ago they had been sweethearts and one another’s firsts. When they get back together, they are teenagers all over again. Great thought provoking post. I’m glad you opened the door. You are a beautiful writer. You write with much integrity, and I believe our characters deserve the utmost care during these moments.

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  4. Thanks, RoseAnn. I’m glad to know you (and Larry!) think of consummation as normal. I really worried about being judged when I first started to get my characters naked:)

    Feels like you are right on with the new book–I’ve got a first love in the one I’m writing now too. Actually two couples, one in their 20s and the other after re-meeting at 20 year reunion. So, for the younger people it’s more appropriate as we used to fuck like bunnies back then. Pardon my swear.

    I must reread your books to see what words you use. That still,throws me sometimes.

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  5. Great post! I have to admit I do skim if the details are a little too…Umm…Detail-y. However, like many women, I’m all about the foreplay. The lead up. And I like a story that’s driven by love, so if the romance is there and believable, I will take the time to read the love scenes, just to see if they’re as good as promised. 😉

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    • That’s what I always do too Melinda, if it feels like stereo instructions or plumbing parts. Too much thrusting and plunging, oh my! You know who had the most compelling love scenes was Eloise James Madame X. And DJ Hendrikson’s were pretty damn hot, too.

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  6. I used to hate writing sex scenes, not because I’m a prude, but as an ex-RN I couldn’t understand why it all had to be explained. I mean, it’s human nature. There are only so many ways you can describe making love. I admit I skipped a lot of scenes in a lot of books.
    A few years ago, I spoke with my then 85 year old mother, about my difficulties, being a romance writer and not even dating. Ha ha. Talk about being out of the loop. She said, “What’s wrong with you? You’ve got an active imagination and a good memory.”
    So, I started including sex scenes/love scenes in my stories but making certain they came from character, not gratuitous sex scenes, and I learned (and remembered) that a person is dramatically changed after having sex with someone for the first time. There’s a ton of conflict there. I love conflict, so I guess I’m keeping my sex scenes. : )

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    • Oh Robena, your mom sounds very wise! Mine said “sex scenes, oh no. And you dedicated that to me?!” I just roll my eyes. You’re right about the conflict, too. In the sexual situations, not between my mother and me, lol.

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      • I think it also needs to be said…I don’t enjoy reading a book that is sex for sex’s sake. Meaning….I CANNOT read a book where the character’s mistake good sex for falling in love. I think the falling in love has to come first. The attraction, the yearning, and then the emotional connection that comes with making love. Otherwise it is gratuitous and I put the book down.

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      • That’s fine for some, but I’m with you RoseAnn. Erotica is a means to an end and makes no apologies, but we need to know the difference:)

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  7. Great post, Cindy. I’m on the same journey, opening the door more and more. I want to go even further and write erotic. I think it will help me break through with the regular love scenes. I ordered a book for more research, too, one recommended by a friend who writes erotic romance. Love scenes are very difficult to write for me. But I think it really is about slowing down and writing the senses. Then again, I think I need to do that in more places than just the love scene. The sensory detail is important and that’s what I mainly try to focus on, describing the sensory experience. What the characters are doing to each other is very relevant to their unfolding love and also the reader wants to be in the heroine’s and hero’s heads, and there’s no way those characters are going to skip over the love scene! It must be written (unless it’s a sweet).

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    • I used to love the sweet Regencies and Anne Tyler (who always shits the door) is still a favorite author:) I wanted to do that, but like you, was intrigued once I was in the romance game. I just had one early reader tell me my love scene in the upcoming Natalia bordered on erotica:) I took it as a compliment.

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  8. Thanks, I’ll use a couple of your suggestions. Perhaps writing all that sloppy, chaotic emotion is where the problems come in. I just spoke with a friend that won’t , underline won’t , read sex. Okay, but as has been said , story rules and love is part. Of the journey. My love scenes need to be boosted from behind the door, without slot A tab B, it’s all about the emotion.

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    • It is all about the emotion DeNise. I so agree. Body part words and where characters are in physical space still is most difficult part of it for me. I got inspiration from a friend and early reader, who read latest very raw draft. Gave me a few ideas to try. I think I need to read the how-to-write-sex book Nia’s friend recommended.

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  9. I still recall reading Toni Morrison’s “Bluest Eye” in college and a discussion of a character recalling a sex scene (the character is really recalling the feeling/orgasm). It’s incredibly poetic/lovely, even as the larger relationship is not. Not a big surprise, though, since we are talking Toni Morrison.

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  10. I’ve only written one novel so far and remember waking very, very early one morning in a cold sweat as I realised I was going to have to write a sex scene. I wrote that one early, got it out of the way but had to keep revisiting and revising as the book and its characters developed, the whole book becoming much more emotional than I was expecting. There is a lot of sexual tension leading up to it and it takes my characters a long time to reach that point because of the stuff they are dealing with. I wondered if readers would get bored waiting for them to get it together but no complaints so far. One commented the scene was ‘tasteful, not crude or explicit. Just very racy’ so I was pretty happy and felt I’d judged it right. I didn’t think I could dodge the issue, that would have seemed a bit weird.

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    • Been there, Georgia! So happy it’s worked out for you. From the way you describe your process, it seems like you did it just the way I like to read them. The build up is (almost) everything!

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  11. Couple of months ago, I wrote my first ever sex scene. Convinced that my experience was unique, I couldn’t wait to tell my writing group. After describing my experience to my seventeen writing friends of how my heart started palpitating and sweat glands sped to 90 mph, I looked at their faces for expressions of awe or and wonder. Not to be found. They knew.

    Loved, loved, loved romances as a teen. Then my interests shifted to suspense, then biographies, and now historical fiction. It would be funny to see if this was a common trend. For sure, I will not ask my writing buddies. If they kept the sex writing away from me, it’s not unlikely they preserved this little nugget as well.

    This discovery took me by surprise. Writing my seventeenth century historical fiction novel, I’m thinking that my protagonist has some surprises in store for her. Before I write those scenes, I’m treating myself to a glass of white wine before and chocolate after.

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  12. Edith, can you save me some chocolate? I felt like you did at your critique group just before I published this post. I almost didn’t. And here I was in such good company all along:)

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