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 fanfiction.net 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.