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.
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