Study Up: on Sex
There is no author I look up to more then Diana Gabaldon. Her books have everything, fantasy, history, adventure, fighting, deep plots and deeper characters, and steamy, steamy romance. That is why, if you’re going to include the more *ahem* physical aspects of romance into your own writing, I urge you to give her book ‘I give you my body’ a serious read. It’s typically $2.99 digitally on Amazon and other ebook outlets, and it’s the best couple of bucks you’ll ever spend.
So what does she have to say? Quite a lot actually. There is a ton of content crammed into this small book, and that’s because she has a way of writing that is very clear to understand. It doesn’t have some long winded lectures, instead she just tells you how it is and then supplies you with the all important examples!
“A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids.” – Diana Gabaldon
Diana gives it to us bluntly, good sex isn’t about squishy splashes. It’s about what you feel, and again not a poking feeling, but the emotional one. She also goes on quickly to add, lust is not an emotion. Lust for the sake of lust alone is too one-dimensional, a hormonal response and therefore much too small a box to stuff your writing into. In her words, “Ergo, while you can mention lust in a sex-scene, describing it at any great length is like going on about the pattern of the wall-paper in the bedroom. Worth a quick glance, maybe, but essentially boring.”
So what exactly do you want to do if you’re not tying to spend three pages on describing a throbbing member and its effects on a blushing hole? You go back to the emotions and the best way to actually show them, is with dialogue, expression, or action. Three choices, but they are more powerful then a buck-wild thrust, and more flexible then that stiffy stud that stole focus before.
Here’s one of the example’s she provides on the subject.
To setup here, Jamie and Claire have just been married. The ‘deed’ has, a little awkwardly, been completed on a quick first go.
“I know once is enough to make it legal, but…” He paused shyly.
“You want to do it again?”
“Would ye mind verra much?”
I didn’t laugh this time, either, but I felt my ribs creak under the strain.
“No,” I said gravely. “I wouldn’t mind.”
The Rule of Three is the best trick in a writer’s toolbox. It means, if you use three of the fives senses in a scene, you will immediately create a three-dimensional experience for a reader. Diana says, “You have an important advantage when dealing with sex, insofar as you can reasonably expect that most of your audience knows how it’s done. Ergo, you can rely on this commonality of experience, and don’t need more than brief references to create a mental picture.” If you romance scene is like waves in an ocean, then physical details are your anchor. In this case, you want a three-pronged anchor. Often, writers fall into the trap of only using sight and sound, don’t forget the other options, smell, taste, and the all-important sensation- touch.
If I had to break it all down into one line from this book it would be, “In essence, a good sex scene is usually a dialogue scene with physical details.” She goes on to give us some great examples of this from her own Outlander books. Then moves onto the ‘more advanced stuff’ with using metaphor and lyricism to address the emotional atmosphere of the scene.
Again, I can’t express enough how much I recommend both her book series Outlander, or this one where we get a unique and insightful look at the craft from a behind the scenes prospective. With that being said, I’ll let the author conclude this in her own words, which should convince you better then I can, that you should study up on sex.
“Just read any scene that involves a man licking a woman’s nipples and you’ll see what I mean. Either the writer goes into ghastly contortions to avoid using the word “nipples”—“tender pink crests” comes vividly to mind—or does it in blunt and hideous detail, so that you can all but hear the slurping. This is Distracting. Don’t Do That.”
your friends at the Henlo Press