Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sex Scenes

Tom Schreck writes the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries and is the co-author with JA Konrath of the KIndle best seller PLANTER'S PUNCH
. He's a big freakin' deal.

First of all, cool your jets.

This blog isn’t going porno at least until I can set it up so I can accept credit cards, lose weight and do some ab work.

This is about writing sex scenes in non-erotic fiction.

BTW, have you read the stuff called “erotic romance”. These books are found in Barnes and Noble in the romance section and they have covers that are a tad more suggestive than the usual romance covers.

Inside they read like a Penthouse letter. (I would know this only from what I’ve read in clinical journals and trade magazines about pornography, having never opened a magazine of that ilk.)

I guess because they are marketed to women they aren’t sealed in plastic and put way high up on the shelf of shame next to the sign that says “STORE IS MONITORED BY SECURITY CAMERAS.”

I’ll leave the discussion of that inequity for another day (and wait for Jen Forbus’s reply.)

Anyway, what about the sex scenes in non-erotic books? Have your read Stuart Woods and seen how happy he gets writing embarrassingly explicit scenes? Apparently Stone Barrington got his nickname for good reason.

Then there’s authors who get so flowery I can’t even tell what the people are doing–which is probably fine. Great authors who can put you right in the middle the action suddenly forget how to write when it comes to the narrative about the beast with two backs.

There’s also the issue of realism. I guess if novels were focused on being real we wouldn’t want to read them. I mean we read to take us away from our boring drudgery. At the same time I get a little annoyed at sex partners who can do it 26 times in one evening, standing up, swinging from a trapeze and in a scuba suit. Twenty-six times? Really? That’s like twice what I can do! (I can write this because my wife never reads my blog.)

So what makes for a good bumpin’ uglies scene? Here’s what I think:

1. It shouldn’t be graphic but it shouldn’t be so obtuse you can’t tell what the hell is happening.

2. It helps if the people are ah…how do I say this.. built realistically.

3. Chill out with the extent of the bliss the two parties experience.

4. Don’t go crazy with the lovey-dovey stuff or the over-the-top gritty porn-like stuff.

5. Throw in some anxiety, apprehension and insecurity because I’ve read some people (though certainly not successful authors of dog-related mysteries) some times experience these emotions.

6. Make sure it has at least something tangentially related to the story line. Don’t throw in a sex scene every 112 pages to keep the reader’s attention.


Keith Raffel said...

Tom, how did you get that blonde to pose with you?

Darrell James said...

Good post, Tom. It is tricky I agree. Too much and you turn readers off; too little and you don't turn readers on.

For me it's the prelims that lead to sex that can be sexy and the human behavior after. I try to leave the mecahnics of the act out of it and stick to the seduction

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Great post, Tom! Sex scenes are tricky and should also match your book's target audience. It wasn't until I started writing about vampires that I could really write steamy sex scenes without my readers thinking I'd lost my mind.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

I agree with Darrell. The seduction is far sexier than the act.
Writing these scenes can get pretty tricky.
What's the story you're going with on the picture? lol

Tom Schreck said...


I told her should could have another basset hound.


Tom Schreck said...

That should read "I told her she could have another basset hound."


Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Tom,
In my (unpublished) futuristic romantic suspense, I wrote my share of sex scenes, but the primary goal was to "show" characters' emotions and motivations, not get into what I call the "plumbing details" overly much. In my mysteries, I describe a little kissing and feeling-up to show my characters' emotional involvement with each other, but once clothing starts coming off, the door closes. I much prefer not having to get too explicit.

G.M. Malliet said...

My books are of the "cut to crashing waves on the beach" or "cut to fireworks in sky" type. As Sue Ann says, you have to think about your target audience.

Lisa Bork said...

LOL, Tom.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Good points, Tom! I'm tweeting. :)

Angela Perry said...

Followed Elizabeth's tweet :)

See, I told my friend guys could comprehend it too! She said guys always write the worst sex scenes, because they only read bad porn. Glad to hear some guys don't "only" read bad porn!

Now, do the world a favor, and send this article to Richard K. Morgan. I love his Altered Carbon series, but...well...let's just say it's a great example of how NOT to write sex scenes...

allison tait said...

This is great. As someone who's worked on women's magazine 'sealed sections' and had a go at writing 'erotic romance', I well know the feeling of sitting in front of a computer, head turning this way and that, as you try to work out if what you're writing is, um, feasible. I'm with you on keeping the ecstasy factor somewhere in the realms of possibility. Waves don't really crash on the shore in starbursts and rainbows. Not really. Oh, and lose the velvet-sheathed love-swords. A rose by any other name and all that...

Tom Schreck said...

Hold it--there's such a thing as "bad" porn?

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