What Makes a Good Sex Scene?
I can tell you that question occupies far too much of a romance writer’s mental space.
We all know the usual responses:
1.It has to be true and specific to the characters.
2. It should be a part of their emotional as well as physical attraction.
3. There should be a reason for the sex itself to be on the page.
But the deep dark secret is that we all want something we haven’t seen before. A tall order for a writer but since I want that as a reader too, I spend a lot of time thinking about that extra special thing I can add without losing the essentials of the emotional connection.
Some writers go with unusual sexual positions, added partners, added toys and not quite mainstream ways of having sex.
I’ve done some of these scenes.
Two of my books, Freya’s Gift (Samhain) and Dinah of Seneca (The Wild Rose Press), feature a fertility ritual with at least three participants. And maybe a little pagan-style historical drugs to get things rolling. I say this jokingly but I wanted those sex scenes to be earthy and intense. If they were hot to the readers too, great. My first priority was to convey the experience of what it was like for the participants because the rituals meant a great deal to them and were part of their emotional healing after great tragedy. The ancient world was not often a nice place.
But pagan rituals only work in pagan times.
Modern romances have modern ways of looking at sex. When I decided to write a superhero romance series, I admit that part of the attraction for me was coming up with unique ways to use those abilities during sex. Because, really, what’s the point of having a superpower if you can’t put it to good use?
In Phoenix Rising, the first book in the superhero series, the hero is a fire starter and a telekinetic. Now, telekinesis is very helpful during sex. It’s somewhat like having another hand. But since Alec Farley also had an explosive power and could control fire, I wanted the other big sex scene to also be literally explosive. One near-nuclear explosion and a little bit of flying and I had it. I think it worked pretty well for the characters and for the readers.
Luminous, the second book in the series, is a more down to earth story, The first tale is more like an X-Men story. Luminous is a Batman-inspired urban story with a heroine named Noir who hides her invisibility under layers of intimidating black leather. Emotionally, shedding those layers is big obstacle for her. Because at least when she’s wearing them, she can be seen. When naked, there’s nothing to see.
Her hero, Aloysius James, is a police detective with a sarcastic streak and a hidden idealism. He has no powers other than he’s unusually perceptive and he sees right through Noir’s tough shell. Still, he’s not sure how to approach a woman he can’t see, even if he does think she fills out the black leather in all the right ways.
Aha, I thought. Now there’s a challenge. Write a sex scene where one partner literally cannot *see* the other. No facial expression, no clues from physical movement. Touch alone.
We often overlook the importance of touch. For example, when I was walking in the woods with my son the other day, I closed my eyes. Instantly, the ground beneath my feet felt different. Before, it had seemed solid and flat. But now that I was paying attention to what my feet were experiencing, it felt like anything but a flat surface. All the slight rises and dips were there. I felt the twigs I stepped on through my sneakers.
It seemed to me that a sex scene by touch alone could offer an entirely different perspective. They’re both naked, only one is physically exposed while the other is emotionally naked. It’s tender and sweet and, I hope, hot. It suits both of them and the story. So I have high hopes that it will suit readers as well.
As for the next sex scene, in the third book, Phoenix Legacy (coming in November), I went in a completely opposite direction. Tender isn’t a word I’d use. At all. But when you’ve got a hero hopelessly addicted to pain because of the adrenaline that flows when he psychically heals his injuries, sex becomes an entirely different kind of challenge.
You can find Luminous either at the Samhain store or the major ebook retails like Amazon. Information and excerpts about the other books can be found on my website, www.corrina-lawson.com
Corrina is former newspaper reporter with a degree in journalism from Boston University. She turned to writing fiction after her twins were born (they were kids three and four) to save her sanity.
Corrina is currently a senior editor of GeekMom and a core contributor to its brother site, Geek Dad, both on Wired.com. She also writes for Sequential Tart, a webzine about comics and pop culture written solely by women. Often you can find her hanging out on comic book writer Gail Simone’s forum on Jinxworld.
She has been a finalist in the national Golden Heart contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America and is the winner of several regional RWA contests. Phoenix Rising, her first full-length novel with Samhain, was a Samhain bestseller.