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Yet another side of writing a sex scene

September 10, 2013

Over the years, we’ve written a number of posts about how to write sex scenes. For the most part, they reference the basics:

  • A sex scene is like any other scene. Unless you’re writing one of those “I never thought this would happen to me”, uhhh, essays, the act isn’t the key to the scene. How the act affects the characters and the plot is far more important than who put what, where.
  • Don’t forget the context. Why are these characters about to throw down? Where are they throwing down? And, depending on what type of literature you write, what appliances are including in the act of throwing down?
  • What happens immediately before and after? A scene in which one party immediately becomes disgusted with the other after the act is far different than a scene in which loving and cuddling occurs.

But there’s another way to use a sex scene, or other types of scenes–and that’s the build on a theme you’re hitting in the book. In Robert B. Parker’s The Judas Goat, Spenser is reading a book called Regeneration Through Violence. At the end of the book, he and Hawk fight an Olympian in a particularly violent conflict. Later, Susan figures out that the fight at the end was Spenser’s way of dealing with the amount of death that happened in the case he was working. The fight was Spenser’s regeneration.

You could use a sex scene the same way–and this time you might want to deal with some of the mechanics–and you might want to use certain words.

Let’s say you have two protagonists in a particularly stressful situation. They’re attracted to each other and that attraction is sealed through the bond of what they’ve jointly endured. In the eye of the storm, let’s say things happen.

The verbs you use–particularly in a first-person narrative–can add that same type of context. As the characters undress each other, they could struggle with the clothing imprisoning them (okay, maybe a little over the top there). In the throes of passion, there could be a struggle for the top as one person, then the other, claims that position. Perhaps a constant battle throughout the process, with an ultimate surrender by both parties at the end.

In a situation in which both parties appear beaten, and are maybe enjoying one last moment of passion before oblivion, the verbs and images could be the opposite. They could be about giving in and surrendering, and allows things to happen until the inevitable end.

No doubt these tools need to be used subtly. They shouldn’t be used in a way where the reader feels beaten over the head by symbolism. But the tools are there if you want to use them.

Of course, you can also use the tools for things other than sex.

But what fun is that. (Feel free, if you must, to quote the last two lines out of context.)

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