Wednesday Words – Writing Sex Scenes with Suz deMello

Please welcome my guest blogger today, Suz deMello. She’s got some words of wisdom about writing sex scenes and other tips. 😀 Take it away, Suz!

Plotting and PlanningA few words about writing sex scenes (#NaNoWriMo #iamwriting #writingcraft @MFRW_ORG) from my writing treatise, Plotting and Planning, available at HERE and my first writing treatise, Write This, Not That! is free through 2014 at KOBO and GOOGLE.

Scenes are the building blocks of your story, for acts are comprised of scenes. They’re nothing more than events, most often interactions between your characters. Scenes should fulfill at least one or two of the below purposes—best if you can include all four.
•Advance plot
•Reveal or develop character
•Complicate or resolve conflict
•Express setting, mood, theme
Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash.

How does this apply to the writing of erotica?

Too often, sex scenes are shoehorned into a story to increase the word count or the heat level, while those scenes don’t fulfill any other function. To quote from Plotting and Planning again, Everything in a story should contribute to it, from the biggest monster to the tiniest comma.

If a scene doesn’t contribute to the story, it doesn’t belong there. It doesn’t matter how well-written it is. It doesn’t matter how hot it is. It doesn’t matter how much you, the author, may love the beautiful prose or the scorching hot, kinky sex.

There’s a piece of writerly advice out there: Kill your darlings.

No one’s quite sure where this phrase originated, but it’s been repeated often, by such notable authors as William Faulkner and Stephen King. (Find the article HERE.)

But it doesn’t matter who originated the phrase–it’s great advice. We often fall in love with our prose and are loath to cut it, especially when we may have slaved over a particularly well-turned clause or exhaustively researched, say, the eating habits of the lesser lemur of Madagascar.

But fiction is no place to be a smarty-pants. Leave that for term papers, book reports and theses.

In terms of writing sex scenes, what do we leave in and what to we cut?

We leave in those scenes that fulfill at least one of the above purposes. Ideally, a well-written, thoughtfully planned encounter will fulfill more than one purpose.

Suz deMello EC Gypsy WitchHere’s a brief example, from a story I wrote called Gypsy Witch. The backstory is that the heroine is dating a cop.

Ben propped himself up on his elbows to better see the naked woman beneath him. Sheened with sweat, Elena’s lush curves glowed in the reddish half-light of her bedroom, curtained in exotically patterned swaths of gauze and silk. A curl of smoke from a lit incense stick scented the air with sandalwood. Otherworldly New Age music flowed out of a boombox in the corner, irritating the hell out of him.

Though the paragraph is very sensual, there’s quite a bit of characterization and even a little conflict—and this is only the first paragraph of the story. We see that Ben is very “feet-on-the-ground” while Elena, his lover, is exotic and New-Agey. So character is described, setting is related and the romantic conflict is shown.

If you like what you read, find the story HERE.

As a romance novelist, I believe firmly that erotic scenes should never be gratuitous. If a writer keeps the purposes a scene must fulfill in mind while writing, the sex is never out of place but is a seamless part of a well-written story.

suz w name venice maskAbout the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Check out Suzie’s WEBSITE
And her BLOG

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About Silver James

I like walks on the wild side and coffee. Lots of coffee. Warning: My Muse runs with scissors. Author of two award-winning series--Moonstruck and The Penumbra Papers, Red Dirt Royalty (Harlequin Desire) & other books! Purveyor of magic, mystery, mayhem and romance. Lots and lots of romance.
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3 Responses to Wednesday Words – Writing Sex Scenes with Suz deMello

  1. Ashlynn says:

    Suz, I have been telling my friends this for SO long! My worse pet peeve is reading a book that has sex scenes just to have sex scenes. And I can always tell when that is, because I will skim it and and think…. another one, UGH. Reading a book right now just like that. I don’t think I can finish it and she’s a NYT bestseller! This is my first read of hers, and I’m just UGH. I’d throw the book but its on my iPad. 😛

    Glad you could stop by Silver’s! She’s great and it was nice to meet you!

    • Silver James says:

      Okay–now I’m curious. We’ll have to talk privately, Ash! LOLOL And Suz has some great advice, not to mention she quoted me in her latest writing book, PLOTTING AND PLANNING. 😉

  2. Suz DeMello says:

    Thanks, SIlver, for hosting me, and thanks, Ashlynn, for your comment. Readers often notice that my books are short and move along rapidly, and that’s because there’s little or nothing in them that doesn’t belong there, that doesn’t fulfill at least one or two of the four stated purposes , above. I like my writing to be very clean and spare, even elegant, like the clean lines of modern furniture or a well-designed sheath dress. Probably makes me a little out of step with the rest of the romance world, with the emphasis on sensual, flowery writing.

    But I’ve seen a trend toward more direct phraseology, such as calling a woman’s privates what they are as opposed to, say, “her curly parsley bed, ” which I found in The Pearl, a volume of Victorian erotica. I do use flowery phraseology when writing historicals, because it’s appropriate for that style, but I’d never do that in a contemporary or a futuristic. So an author should choose her words according to kind of book s/he’s writing.

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