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Bob Nailor




Is It Smut or Sex?

First — I will attempt to keep this on a professional level of discussion and not delve into a lot sexual words.

I was asked why I don't put sex into my stories. The answer? Simple. Most of my stories don't have sex because they are sexless tales where sex is not a character within the story. Yes, sex is a character. Why? Just like your lead character, sex needs to be touchable, realistic and believable.

To toss in a what is called the "gratuitous sex scene" is really to demean your tale. If the story doesn't need sex, why add it? One doesn't toss in a pirate just because the story takes place in place in the Caribbean.

Yes, if your characters are frolicking on the beach, kissing in the wet surf, the potential for a sex scene is plausible and it should occur. While a couple horseback riding in the surf more than likely won't have sex. It is the moment and the writer should know what is going to happen next.

My writer's critique group reviewed my one novel and one of the members was upset by my continual "teasing" during the story. She claimed she was expecting an intimate moment and I would write something to preclude that possibility and she found it extremely frustrating. Subconsciously, I never realized I was doing that until it was brought to my attention. I addressed the situation with my characters sneaking away for a tryst. Did I write a sex scene. Of course not! For the most part, I write what I like to call sexless tales. Although, in all honesty, not all of them are sexless, but I use more build-up and afterglow than actual details of the act.

My co-author in the novel, Ancient Blood: The Amazon, took a scene I'd written which alluded to sex and took it a step farther. At first, to be honest, I was prudish and wanted to write it out but decided the genre could handle the sex. I did have to reel him in a couple of times when he got a little heavy-handed in the sex scenes but there were some which needed to be explicit and I had to bite the bullet. It was a simple case of either taking it out and making the story totally void of sex or leave it in and live with a blush.

So how does one write a sex scene?

  1. Write what you know! If you've never had sex on a kitchen table or used an apple pie, don't attempt to detail it.
  2. Ask others about their experiences. Don't be afraid to discuss sex with your friends. Women: At that get-together luncheon, direct the conversation to the bedroom how-to's. And men: Playing 9 or 18 holes of golf is a great time to talk about more than the game's stroke and lost balls incidences.
  3. Talk to your other half (if not writing gay sex) to understand the emotion and sexual feelings of the moment. A good sex scene reveals the feelings of the characters during the act.
  4. Go beyond one dimension. There is more to sex than just the feeling of the moment. There are sounds. There are emotions. There are smells, looks and tastes involved.

Remember, the first time is much more different than the third time. Be sure to take that into account. Feelings of each individual will be different.

To see if your sex scene is real, I highly suggest you use one of my edit tricks. Write the scene. Go back and read the scene aloud — slowly, enunciating each word. Does it sound real or awkward? Is it plausible or comical?

Now, if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of writing a sex scene that makes your reader sweat — that which I call "porn" or "smut" — know what you're doing. What I mean is simple — read books written by others in the erotica field and see how the scenes are assembled. Tear the scenes apart and really study them. Learn how they use the terms and depict the act. In other words: Learn the art.

Writing a sex scene is about taking your reader by the hand and guiding them along the sexual route you've created. You will lose them quickly if it is a clinical path where human anatomy used medical terms. Of course, if you use "nicknames" it could become a comedy of errors for the anatomy and action. In other words, if it barks like a dog, pants like a dog and runs like a dog — it is a dog. It is not a doggie, a woofie, nor is it a canine. Point made?




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~ COMMENTS ~

Scott Bury
2015-04-20
Good points, as always, Bob. A lot of writers have a problem with writing about sex, but really, it's like writing about any activity. If you want to make it real for your readers, you have to engage all their senses and use the wording that is clear to your audience. But of course, the most important question is: does this add to the story? If not, there's little reason to put it in.
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Bob Nailor
2015-04-20
I agree, gratuitous sex is useless. If the scene is only written so there can be sex, unless it is a porn or erotica novel, delete the scene.
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Elyse Salpeter
2015-04-20
I was totally waiting for you to offer your amazing "examples" that you do in all your tips! The paragraphs that are teasingly scintillating without going over the line! Sex scenes are hard and so embarrassing - I blush when and if I do ever write them and reread them with my hands covering my face. What's with that???
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Bob Nailor
2015-04-20
Maybe I should write a followup column for next week with some "colorful" examples. I deliberately avoided examples to keep the writing tip "PG-13" but I could push the limit. Thoughts?
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Diane Rapp
2015-04-20
I'd only include a sex scene in my book if it was absolutely necessary for character development and then I'd keep it mild. I wrote one mild scene in the first mystery in my series and got one comment from a reviewer who disapproved. I still think it was necessary for the story but would not keep revealing private moments of that couple. I like the "teasing" quality of historical romance writers to portray a touch as something very sensual. In this age of "showing it all" in movies, we've lost something special.
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Bob Nailor
2015-04-20
Period pieces where a sensual portrayal is a simple touch I find much more exhilarating than the blunt "here it is" of today. It is amazing how the sounds of a sex act within your mind is sensual but listening to it in a movie is so crass and animalistic.
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Lisa Jey Davis
2015-04-20
Great tips Bob! Writing what you know is a challenge, if you're into fantasy writing, though. LOL Just kidding. I'm not. But hey - ya never know. Sometimes you have to make stuff up! LOL!!! But I'm with Scott. If it doesn't add to the story, there is little reason to put it in.
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Bob Nailor
2015-04-20
For some, fantasy is sexual, for others it is about unicorns, elves and ogres. LOL. Thanks for sharing.
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