Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writing Sexy Time: How to Go About it and When to Use it

Okay, kids. Let's talk about a subject that a lot of people I think have a hard time talking about and even a harder time writing about: sex scenes. First I should say that I do not pretend to be the authority on writing them, and there is certainly not a definitive right or wrong way to do it so a lot of this may just be my opinion, but a lot of it will also be things I've learned from other writers since I started doing this.

I've got your attention now, right? Let's face it: sex sells. Raise your hand out there if you've ever gone specifically looking for a Han and Leia story with an adult warning on it. Does anyone out there not have their hand up? I'd find that hard to believe. For those of you who do not write fan fiction, when you post stories on you can see what kind of page hits your stories are getting, overall, by story and even by chapter. Any story that is rated M gets more hits than those that aren't, excluding any brand new postings that may be a bit milder in content. Sometimes by quite a bit. I can even tell when you skip ahead to the one chapter that has sex in it. Don't worry, I don't know which of you is doing it, just that it is an overall trend.

So, as a reader I'm sure you notice that you will often seek out these stories so when you decide to start writing you might automatically assume that you should include some sex. There are others who are way too scared to try and write a sex scene and that's fine, but let me start with people who may feel the need to include one of these scenes. You shouldn't write sex in there just for the sake of it. I'm not saying you can't allude to the fact that they did it, just that maybe you don't always need to write the details of exactly how they did it.

I don't want to discourage anyone from writing these types of scenes, because like any Han and Leia fan, I like reading them, too! But I bet we've all come across stories where a scene is in there that just holds no real relevance to the plot and sort of sticks out as fairly gratuitous. These scenes don't even have to be poorly written, they just don't seem to have a real purpose.

The idea is that the scene should be about more than just the sex. How you choose to define that "more" is up to you. I mean, I can use my own stories as examples of this. In "Careless Wager" the sex is, not trying to be funny here, but literally the climax of the story. It is the resolution and the culmination of the tension that built up throughout. It is literally the ultimate goal of the story, so that one is easy. Can't really leave that out. In "All You Ever Wanted" early on is the conception of the twins, and I wanted it to be a more meaningful encounter that ultimately resulted in their first children. Then showing how good things were between them before they are separated and then a very meaningful reunion after being apart for so long.

I'll be the first to admit there are certainly arguments against writing any of those scenes probably just as much as including them. So it is certainly subjective and you just have to use some common sense. And like I said, just don't put a scene in for the sake of having a sex scene in a story. But don't avoid it, either. On the other side of things there are times where it actually seems more jarring to skip it than to write it. I've made Push add it to a couple of her stories (you're welcome) and I've come across a few stories where an author skipped the actual sex and it really felt like we had missed out on a very important moment for them. A glaring example of this is one story that included their first time... except it jumped from when they were kissing to afterward. To me, that is far too important a moment in their relationship to simply glaze over it. No matter how intimidating the prospect of writing that first time may be. Lastly, if you're still not sure, just ask someone. Have them read it and let them tell you whether it seems gratuitous or if you need to add something in or if it works just as it is.

So now we've covered when, let's talk about how. Again, so much of this is subjective so just take it for what it is and use it or don't use it and feel free to disagree or even better, comment here so we can discuss. First and foremost, the descriptions of the sex should be more than just who is doing what to whom and what goes where and when. If that is all there is to say, then chances are the scene does not need to be included. Not that as a reader we maybe shouldn't have at least some idea of what they're doing, but there should be more to it than just the physical sex itself. How are they feeling about each other? What are they seeing? What kinds of emotions are involved? It doesn't necessarily mean that the only encounters worth writing about have to be incredibly deep and meaningful. In some stories the whole purpose really is the build up of the tension to that moment and a lot of it is simply the physical release, and that's okay, too.

A good way to figure out if you're doing this right is to read a scene and think about whether or not what you are reading is about Han and Leia specifically or if you could probably throw in just about any other couple and it wouldn't make much of a difference as long as it's a man and a woman. The scene should be about them and not just the sex. Is any of this confusing? It's all right if it is, because for almost everything I'm writing here I can come up with exceptions to the "rules" so don't take these as laws set in stone.

So beyond just who is doing what and how you have to figure out a good way to sort of tastefully write it without it coming across as just outright porn. Everyone's definition of this might be different. So I'd say go read a few sex scenes that you've enjoyed (a tough homework assignment, I know) and try and think about why you enjoy that particular scene. You know, aside from the fact that they're getting it on. Similarly, take a look at some stories where you don't think the sex was handled well and try and pinpoint exactly why it didn't work for you. Sometimes maybe you might be turned off by especially explicit language or words, or sometimes the people in the scene are not acting like the Han and Leia you perceive would act. Maybe the person uses language that is way too flowery and overdone or they overuse euphemisms. Whatever it is, use what you like and leave out what you don't. Just try and figure out how you want to write it.

And different circumstances need to be written differently as well. I don't think I'd write a scene where they were making love for the first time in the same style I'd write a scene where they were, say, having a quickie in a coat closet at a party. So the style has to set the tone of the scene. For example, in the first instance there you might mention their undying love for one another where as in the second one, that probably would seem a bit out of place. Undying lust in the second scene? Maybe.

Be careful when you are writing it that things make sense and that whatever they're doing is possible by two humans who didn't grow up as contortionists in a circus. I'm sure we've all read a few stories where you were thinking to yourself, "Wait, is that even physically possible?" Forgetting to notice these small details can take your reader completely out of the story while they try and picture what you're writing and it just looks painful!

These scenes are not easy to write. When I first started writing I felt obligated to include them and I did an absolutely terrible job of it. It was mostly clinical, just who was putting what where. The scenes didn't serve much purpose aside from just the sex. Now, years later, I guess I'm a little bit better but that doesn't tend to make it that much easier to write these scenes. I have a better understanding of how not to construct those sorts of scenes, but I still struggle with trying to get them exactly right. I might send it to Push four or five times and I still might not be completely happy with how it turned out but you have to just settle for it at some point.

I think these scenes are the most difficult because they feel the most personal. I'm not sure why we treat them this way, as you probably shouldn't be basically describing an experience of your own. Not to say you can't use elements of your own experiences for really any kind of scene, but I think a lot of us just feel more vulnerable putting a scene like that out there. It feels more personal so if people don't like it, it feels like a more personal attack. Funny how we can feel that way as the writer but I know I certainly don't think of the author personally when reading a scene like that - or any scene - which they've written. I'm just thinking of Han and Leia in the story.

Also, I'd encourage you if you are one of those people who has never written one of these scenes but you think you might want to at some point, just try it. There is no reason you have to share it with anyone or even tell anyone you wrote it. There aren't sexy fanfic writing police, your friends or your mother are not likely to break into your computer and read your Word documents. Just try it and see how it goes. If you hate it, fine. Forget about it and move on. But maybe you'll be surprised. And even consider sharing it with a trusted friend. I think - and I believe Push feels the same way - that the scariest feeling is hitting the send button on one of those scenes and waiting for the reaction. This goes both for when it is published and even when I first send a scene for her to read. And we're used to each other and not really afraid to say anything and it's still scary, so I understand. But usually once you just start treating it like another piece of writing that is important to the story, it gets easier and your face might not be as red. Although we have had some discussions about such scenes that out of context might seem pretty funny because we're talking about it all so seriously as if it was any other piece of writing.

All that said, there are stories out there that pretty much the entire point is the sex. That's okay, too, as long as you let people know up front. You should also make sure when writing these scenes just like any other one that it is specifically about Han and Leia and not just two random people having sex. I don't think two people like Han and Leia, or anyone else, really, needs any major reason to want to have sex with each other. So there's no reason it always has to be particularly meaningful.

Once again, I'll reiterate that I am certainly not the authority on this. Some of you may not agree with some of this or don't enjoy my writing of these sorts of scenes. Again, it's just some things I've read and picked up over the past few years of writing fanfic that made sense to me and I personally feel improved my writing. If you want to write fanfic about Han and Leia you don't have to write sex scenes. A few of my all time favorite fanfic authors have dozens of great stories and not once is there an actual sex scene. Allusions to it? Absolutely, but never is the actual act depicted. But I don't think you should be afraid to write them. I am a bit of a hypocrite there as for years I said I would never try and write their first time and then, well, I went and finally just decided to write it anyway. And a lot of it is subjective and sometimes just personal preference. You might come across a story with a scene like that which really turns you off, but it has a lot of comments saying how great it is. We're all entitled to our opinions, just try and write scenes the way you would want to read them from others.

So get writing. And feel free to chime in with some discussion on this.


  1. You've made some very good points here.
    I just have to point out that there are a LOT of young Han & Leia writers on who really shouldn't be writing sex scenes (myself included.)

    Personally, I don't think I could/should write things like that. I've never had sex, I've never seen anyone have sex and I'm not really ready to go there any time soon.
    I know, I know, what kind of teen these days hasn't had sex by now? ME! I'm the wait till marriage type, and proud of it, but anyways...

    If a younger writer wants to do a sex scene, it's probably going to cut off before the actual sex. Like a pre-sex scene. Sort of like in PG movies, you'll get a hint that they're about to do it, but you don't see it and the kids are oblivious.
    Basically, If you're looking for a good adult themed fanfic, (and trust me, you're not alone there) don't click on it if it's only rated "T". That's probably a sign that it's pretty mild.

    Sorry, I just had to defend my age group. No offence. I hope no one minds: I can get very opinionated sometimes. : ) I could have just made a post out of this it's so long. Again, sorry. Sometimes you've just gotta get it out there, you know? I'm not saying sex scenes are bad; I love them too. ; )

  2. emma, no need to cut yourself short if you have more to say. like we said before, we love comments! Just maybe copy the text before you hit post because sometimes it's too long and then you have to type it over and that's no fun. And it's great to get this sort of perspective too.

    I would have to agree that there appear to be some people writing these scenes who shouldn't be, but I don't want to start getting into specifics because I don't want to single anyone out. I swear sometimes though I really WANT to say something to people but I'm afraid of how they'll take it. I truly just want to HELP but sometimes I think people would get more discouraged and mad. So that's why we have the blog, to get the ideas out there in general without picking on anyone in particular.

    And like you say, it's sometimes all you need like in a PG movie to sort of "fade to black." It doesn't even need to be obvious. Look at Raiders of the Lost Ark. When Marion kisses Indy and he falls asleep, initially we are left assuming that things didn't go well that night. But in the morning when Indy is getting dressed Marion is not wearing her nightgown anymore and it seems pretty obvious that they had a good time somewhere in there. But like you said, as a kid that totally goes over your head, you just don't draw those conclusions. I love it when I see something as an adult I hadn't seen when I was younger and find several things that I get now that I had no clue what they meant then.

    It's nice to get an intelligent response from the younger crowd, so thanks for chiming in. And no shame in not having sex, either. Maybe this is weird to share because Push "knows" me but I was a virgin throughout my teens and hearing stories of my friends losing their virginities was definitely not much of an endorsement. There is no shame in waiting until you find someone you really care about or in your case marry. I can't stand it when people think you're crazy if you're like 17 and you haven't had sex. What is the rush? From what I'd heard, most of the guys didn't know what they were doing anyway ;)

  3. It's good to hear that coming from someone besides my parents and pastor. ; ) I honestly think it's sad when kids go around having sex like it's nothing. There was this one girl who actually wanted to get pregnant and she was like 15! Yuck.

    Speaking of movies, have you ever seen Shrek? The first time I saw it with my family, my parents would laugh at things I didn't understand, and now when I watch to movies, I'm like "ohhhh," and I get the humor. It's really fun when you start noticing the adult humor in seemingly harmless movies.

    Now, back to the topic at hand...
    Someday, I hope to write a sex scene. I don't know if I can really write one based off of what I've read. Does one have to have had or seen people having sex to write it? Fanfics are the only things I have to go by, so we'll see.
    If I did write one, it would be fairly mild and not just for the sake of doing it, but for exploring an intimate part of Han and Leia's relationship. I would describe it without really getting scientific. Am I making any sense?

    One other thing holding me back is my beta reader. She doesn't beta anything with an "M" rating. Guess I'm kinda stuck. Plus, my sister and mom know where to anything I write and post. Oh well.

    What do you (anyone) think I should do? I need a bit of advice from "sex scene veterans" out there.

  4. YAY!! I'm not the only young, smart one left in the world!! That really makes me feel good. Maybe it's just a writer thing or something, but it seems I can only find my kind of people... Well, anywhere besides where I currently live. Anyways, that's getting sort of off topic.

    Any who, I totally agree with everything being said here ^_^ although, I know for a fact that I definitely should NOT attempt to write a sex scene. For any fan fiction, not just Han/Leia o_O....(not that I've even attempted a SW ff for the LONGEST time. In fact, the only thing you'll find on my ff.n profile is.... Coughcoughtwilightfanfictionscoughcough. *looks down in shame* I will fix that soon though!!) But that goes for pretty much every kid my age, though, I guess. Especially us weird virgins. What does being a virgin have anything to do with being weird? Just because I happen to be both, that doesn't mean they have any correlation...

    But at least I realize it, unlike many, many people who try to write something they have no idea about. That's why I'm in an stupider English class.

    ....wait. Not because I tried to write a sex scene for my English paper o_O God, I sounded like an idiot right there O_o

    Haha, sorry. I get sidetracked pretty easily :")

  5. Well, I don't know about you, but when I was 16 several of my close friends "lost it" and I vividly remember them telling me about it the next day at school. I was like, "Oh, on his bedroom floor? For like three minutes? Um, congratulations?" Some of my friends did it but didn't go around talking about it, and some I'm sure weren't doing it at all. But it really didn't sound that appealing based on what my friends had been sharing (that I wished they'd keep to themselves) And in all fairness, as an incredibly tall woman, at that age, you are not exactly lusted after by teenage boys. They're more afraid that you will snap them in half.

    Of course I've seen Shrek, although I was already an adult when I first watched it. The Muppet Movie though has some stuff in it that I'd never have gotten as a kid, and I'm sure plenty of others.

    I don't think you necessarily have to have had sex in order to write about it. I'm saying that because if all we were allowed to write about were things that we had experienced personally, then especially in the Star Wars universe, there wouldn't be much left to write about. It might be trickier to get into the details - although if you've read enough on the internet, you probably basically have it figured out, but I don't think having had sex is a prerequisite.

    I like the way you put that, exploring the intimate part of their relationship. You do make sense. I feel like Push has written at least one scene in which it really almost doesn't even get into any of the physical actions, but really only the emotions and what they're feeling. You can even just focus on looking into each other's eyes during or kissing or whatever. We get what is going on down below. We don't necessarily need a detailed description.

    So your sister and mom know your pen name? Is that what you are saying? You can sometimes just save stuff on an e-mail address, so you can always find it anywhere but nobody would really look for it. Either in a folder as an attachment or Yahoo has a notepad feature and you can write stuff and leave it there. I'd be happy to take a look at anything you wrote that your other beta reader wouldn't. I promise I'm of age ;)

  6. Wow, a lot of good comments. Thought I'd throw my two cents in.

    Back when I wrote fanfic as a teen (not even sure it was called fanfic back then), I didn't write sex scenes either. It was that fade to black kind of thing. Not sure why, but that's just how it was. No shame in it really. I wouldn't shy away from it though now. But I'm a lot older than I was then. And yeah, I like perusing the adult fanfic section. I like a good piece of "sexy time". Is that bad? =)

    It really is about exploring the intimate part of their relationship. And it should only be included if it's crucial or fits in the story. It doesn't need to be blow by blow either. I agree with Zyra that there is so much going on that can be described. The one romance novelist I really enjoy is Nora Roberts. I highly recommend her. Her sex scenes actually are pretty vague and more about how the characters are feeling and getting lost in one another. I've noticed that fanfic tends to be a little more graphic.

    There is place for both PG and M rated stories. I enjoy a really good kissing scene too. It can be just as good. At least to me.

    I don't think you need to have had sex to write about it. And it's nice to hear that some young adults are waiting and making the choice for themselves.

    I'd be up for beta reading something more mature too. Not as experienced of a writer, but I usually have a pretty good eye for things.

    And there's no shame in liking Twilight. =) I enjoyed the first book.

  7. Forgot to ask...could you write the scene you mentioned -"quickie in a coat closet at a party?" I'm sure you could fit it into the joint story somewhere. =) Or if someone else is interested in taking up the challenge.

  8. You know, I guess you bring up a good point, Zyra. I've always found myself avoiding writing any situations where they might actually have sex due to my own lack of experience. Yet, here I am writing about warfare and spaceships--things I sure as hell haven't experienced firsthand. Hmm.

    By the way, I'm in my 20's. More power to the younger ones who have decided to take a seat on the virgin bench for a while. ;P

  9. Elivagar, I was thinking that exactly. I've never fired a blaster, used a lightsaber, murdered anybody or flown a spaceship and I've written about all of those!

    Of course, sexy time is a lot more personal (or feels that way to write). But, as was said before, you really don't need to describe every single physical movement. Some of my favorite sexy time scenes are pure emotion and not graphic at all.

    And lastly, I'm married and have kids so I can't join the virgin movement but you guys are awesome. I have a next door neighbor who is a beautiful, sweet teenage girl and I advised her to not even DATE in High School. There is so much time for all of that later!

    My favorite line on the subject is Alicia Silverstone in Clueless when speaking of losing her virginity in High School: "You see how picky I am about my shoes - and they only go on my feet!"

  10. Push, you mean your kids are not the result of immaculate conception? Although I'm sure your husband is happy about that. And based on some of this discussion I'm sure much of the time you are also glad that they're not girls. Glad you took the time to help out your neighbor. And of course that is the perfect Clueless line!

    Elivagar, I don't think you have to avoid situations where they might have sex, and it doesn't mean you have to write it, either. I think there is room in almost all of my stories where there could've been a sex scene but only a couple where there are. You can lead up to it without actually depicting it. Or give it a try if you want. Like I said, you don't have to post it.

    I've never read a romance novel, actually. I have no idea how regular authors handle writing sex because I don't think I've ever read a book that was more than a PG rating as far as what happened in that regard. Although I'd be willing to bet that there are authors out there who make a lot of money almost solely because they write a lot of graphic sex scenes.

    And the quickie scene I just made up as an example. I don't know about actually writing it. I can tell you I've definitely never tried THAT. We'll see.

  11. I mostly stick with reading Nora. Probably because she isn't too graphic and most of the book is about the couple falling in love. I like that part.

    Love the Clueless quote.

    Well, couldn't hurt to ask about the quickie. I read a fanfic kind of like that. Will have to track it down. Now I have visions of quickies dancing in my head. =)

  12. Yeah, if you skip the fact that there is something more to their relationship then it doesn't really matter if you're reading about Han and Leia or whoever and it just doesn't seem to mean very much or have any other purpose.

    I think I know the fic you're talking about and I think it's on Nerf Herder's playground.

  13. Man, I was gone all day and missed a great "conversation!" I need a smart phone so I can do this stuff outside of my house!

    Glad to hear I'm not the only young adult who's more picky about guys than shoes! Honestly, as long as they're comfy, I don't care what goes on my feet, but that's beside the point.

    Wow, there has been some great feedback on this topic. I can't help but take a little bit of credit for being the first to reply. :)

    I'd be up to reading that quickie you guys are imagining. (like that'd be a hard task) And don't worry about being judged, because we're all "friends" here! Right? So, if anybody is up to the task, I hear by challenge you! No pressure of anything. ;)

    I've never read a romance novel either, unless you count Twilight.(Yes, I've read it as well.) Given the fact that I still live with my parents, I don't think anything "trashy" as my mom would call it, is going to end up my possession. Thank goodness for

    Push, I haven't even dated yet either. I'm probably older than your neighbor, but I'm still not in any rush. Boys are just obnoxious...still. When do they grow up by the way? I don't have any brothers, so I have zero experience with the opposite sex.

  14. Um, let's see. My brother is 42 and my husband is 41 and I'm still waiting for both of them to grow up! Haha! Really, men never grow up but some are worth dealing with...

    The trick is to set your expectations HIGH - you deserve it and if you set 'em low, boy will they meet 'em!

  15. Haha, Push beat me to it with them just never growing up. But they do at least seem to grow out of some of the horribly immature things that make them so unappealing when they're 15. Or at least they know how to hide it. I grew up with a brother and a lot of male cousins and male friends and spent a good deal of time being the only girl in situations, or at least one of few. So I'm at least comfortable around them. And I'm also a pretty good judge of character, so while none of them grow up, I can at least pretty quickly tell the ones worth dealing with.

    But now Push you're contradicting yourself with the high standards. Push likes to tell me that if I'm waiting for Han Solo I had better change my expectations. Maybe they're not THAT high, but still...

    I'll see maybe what I can do about this story request. I'm working on a couple of other things right now, but it might prove to be a fun distraction.

  16. Well now you know how to get people to comment.

    I particularly like your observation that if you could trade out any two people instead of your charcters (Han and Leia in our case) and the scene still works, it's not needed.

    a friend of mine is into romance novels and that comment hits the nail right on the head as to why I don't like most of them. it's like the same sex scenes are in every book word for word, with the names changed. never mind why they might want to be doing this. never mmind the actual STORY.

    Like Push I'm a married woman and a mom so my only comment on the virgin discussion is that I absolutely hope my almost-teen daughter is as backward in this area as I was.

  17. About guys growing up...there's a reason I sometimes call my husband my third kid. =) And my brother was 30 before he settled down. It does eventually happen.

    A challenge, Emma? Sounds interesting. Zyra, you mind if I try my hand at it too?

  18. julz, yep, I actually wrote this post about a week ago and was saving it and I said to Push I knew this one was going to get a lot of attention!

    We probably shouldn't be giving guys that hard of a time. I haven't really grown up either :)

    And amara, I definitely don't see why the challenge must be limited to just one person, so get writing!

  19. Challenge sounds like fun and don't forget u can still fade to black even on a quickie. After all, getting them INTO the closet could be just as fun to read about (well, mostly)...

  20. I honestly don't have the attention span to read all the comments, but I did read Emma and Zyra's up top. Just want to reassure Emma: 17 and a virgin, waiting til marriage. A lot of my friends haven't had sex yet either. So no worries, you're not alone :)

  21. Zyra, cool. And thanks for the reminder to get writing.

    I'm wondering if the challenge should be for that specific quickie (coat closet during party) or any kind of quickie. I'm tossing around some ideas.

    Push, lol. I'd like to see what's going on inside the closet too.

  22. I'm never one to question or stunt the creative process... I say any old quickie will do...

  23. As a side note, for further evidence that sex sells, please note the most popular posts on the right. See #5. Enough said.

    Ditto to what Push said, I don't see that we have to constrict ourselves to rigid guidelines, do you?

  24. y'all crack me up, are we going to have to define what is a quickie now? :-)

  25. No rules, just write. Wait, is that Burger King's slogan? Seriously, though, whatever you decide to define it as is fine.

  26. You ladies are hilarious. I just saw the call for quickie submissions. I've been working on something else, but will see if I can squeeze a quickie in.

  27. Well, it should be easy to squeeze it in...I mean, it is a quickie after all...

  28. That sounded far worse than I intended...

  29. Lol, Push. I said the same thing to the hubby.

  30. And it just dawned on me how bad that sounded. Yikes.

  31. LOL about squeezing in the quickie.

    I have actually been writing an entire story that takes place at a party they're trying to get away from to be alone but no one will let them get away. I might have to write an alternate version where the don't bother waiting and just head for the coat closet. :-)

  32. You guys are hilarious.

    And julz, maybe an alternate version of what could have been ;)

  33. Julz, that sounds like a cute idea. I like it.

    I'm working on something. Hopefully won't suck. Now if could just stop over thinking it. =) what can I say? I'm a planner.

  34. Be like Han and just get her in the closet...