Monday, August 11, 2008

Sixteen Steps of a Sex Scene Overview

Note: This is a mere overview of my full workshop on the Sixteen Steps. Please ask questions if you don't understand.

This class explains how detailed a love scene/sex scene can be. I urge you to use this form in its blank state for every sex scene you write. Not only will your word count go up, but you’ll write the hottest stuff to your personal limits and give your readers the full range of emotions and experiences. Keep in mind always that there are FIVE senses: Touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Use them. Mix and match. We are not just visual creatures.

Sixteen Steps of a Sex Scene

Participants: Name them all! Whose POV will you be using? Change the font color to remind yourself you’re in THAT person’s POV. If necessary, write the scene in first person, then change it later to third. You’ll get a very deep POV this way.

Location: Note the location(s) where the action will take place. If they change locations, note why

POV Character Conflict: Note the conflict of the POV Character. Think ahead, here. How can the POV character’s conflict impact this scene? How would s/he relate the sensations to his or her personal perspective? (Example: a construction worker might relate what’s happening to hammer blows, “nailing” her, and the satisfaction of seeing the final product done. His female companion may either resent such analogies or find it cute.)

Tension (repeat as necessary to ratchet up emotions)

After all, this is the beginning of the meeting, and foreplay. This ritual of meeting, sizing up one’s possible partners, picking one, and seducing them is as old as time and very important. These actions create tension between the characters for the readers if they understand the characters reluctances, conflicts, and attractions as a mix of emotions that must be dealt with.

Why should they bang one another? Why shouldn’t they? This applies to all characters involved, not just the POV character, though their conflict is the most important and obvious. They may have a different perspective on why they should and shouldn’t enjoy themselves with their chosen partner than what the partner actually feels is important.

A classic example blast from the past: He’s the Lord, and she’s the virgin. He wants her very badly, but is constrained by the social aspects as well as not wanting to hurt her. She, on the other hand, wants him badly enough to bear the pain and may wish to be deflowered for her own reasons. Still, she’s scared and telegraphs this fear. The Lord picks up on this fear, and this adds another layer of conflict on top of his conflicts.

How and when will you convey these layers to the reader without an information dump? Choose different points to subtly express these layers as they work through the courtship and foreplay dance. When the characters break these rules, why did they do so?

State conflicts: _________________________________________

Eye to body—Let the characters check each other out. Respectfully, most start at the head/face and work down the body, then back up. Those who do not respect their partners start lower, and work their way up.

Eye to eye – They catch one another’s eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul, and the reader’s window to their emotions. The POV character can read much in his prospective partner’s eyes.

Voice to voice – How they speak to each other can mean a great deal and add much depth. How would they speak to one another?

Hand to hand – This goes beyond just shaking hands or the ubiquitous hand kiss of historical fiction. It’s built into our psyche that the first touch contact will almost always be with our hands. Even holding hands while walking in public has significance. Think about it. How many times have you read where the heroine thinks the hero is being high-handed because he took her elbow and steered her toward something instead of more correct behavior?

Arm to shoulder – Think of the classic movie theater scene where he slips his arm around her to get a little closer. Does she accept this move or give him a filthy look? Does she feel trapped or is she scared? Is he attempting to protect her or is he making a move on her? Many a surprise change of pace can happen when he lovingly wraps his arm around her, and she anticipates further foreplay. Instead, he shoves her to the ground to avoid the villain! Is this a prelude to a full embrace? Go for it!

Arm to waist – Someone slides their hand around the other’s waist and perhaps pulls the embrace into full body contact. Or, do they keep to the socially neutral side-to-side move? Is it a snatch and grab or a tentative hug? Again, what are the emotions and conflicts?

Mouth to mouth --- A kiss is never “just a kiss.” The Kama Sutra lists many different kisses from the kiss you’d give a baby to the full-throated, “I’m going to eat your face and give you a tongue tonsillectomy” kiss. What is appropriate to each character, their emotions and conflicts?

Hand to head – Believe it or not, it is built into our psyche that touching the head is even more intimate than kissing. Letting someone touch your head (girls, allowing them to take down your hair) is very intimate and involves more trust than a mere kiss. After all, the head is where your brain case is if you’re human. At this point, full intimacy has been initiated by this display of trust.

****This is the point where non-erotic authors fade to black and let the readers’ imaginations provide the rest. However, many of us can go further. ****

(KINK _____________________) –Think about your kink. Mix them up a bit. Need a hint? Look up Limits List from the BDSM community detailing every kink those twisted folks ever thought of, even a few most won’t touch. Many publishers consider some, such as Infantilism, taboo. Don’t go there. If you don’t know what it means, research. My limits list has a link to a dictionary of terms.

Hand to body – Uh…you do have to get your characters undressed. If someone’s going to tie someone up, what do they use? Tying the heroine up to the banister rails with her own sleeves or did the hero somehow conveniently have a soft cotton rope? Get creative.

Mouth to breast – Men like it too, in some cases. They too have an erogenous zone on the breast. Remember there’s more than a nipple there! The areola, under the breast, and even the sides of the breast are fair game.

Hand to genitals (May include use of protections, toys, lubes). There are sensual ways to put on a condom. You can use toys! Yes, you can. There are more than just dildoes out there. Go research if you’re clueless or need something new. Think about the setting. A pussy willow makes a great toy, but even an ice cube or handful of snow is a toy. Use the setting and the characters’ backgrounds. Would she think of the honey in the kitchen? How about the candle for a little hot wax play?

Mouth to genitals Oral technique used: _______________________ (repeat as often as you wish)—Really, who gives what to whom? Do they switch off? 69? Think about it. Where are they? What’s around beyond the bed?

Genital to genital A. Position A: ________________ B. Position B:__________________ Again, get them out of the bedroom and be unique. Go at it over an overstuffed chair or convenient rock. How about the table? Need help? May I recommend the 52 sexual position card set from Slumber Parties?

Climax and Epiphany

DANGER!! Have you neglected to finish, or did you just have them scream and collapse! These next few steps are where most authors fail to tie it all up with a bow for the reader and leave them panting. This is the “satisfaction” for the reader and it should never be neglected.

Emotional change: __________________________ No one goes through a sexual experience without a change of emotion in a romance unless they’re an unfeeling monster. The POV character will have an emotional epiphany of some kind. Examples:

The Lord, having deflowered the virgin, now feels he must in honor marry her. This is Guilt.
The woman, having given her body to her lover, now recognizes it wasn’t just a happy roll in the hay with a good-looking man, but she’s in love. How does she feel about that?
During sex, he made a discovery about her and must now leave her. He may or may not want to do so.

14. 3- minute warning to climax (POVC will have an in-character/situation analogy) – A flying creature may have the analogy of flying to the sun. A space captain may relate the orgasm to that first time they hit a hyperspace wormhole. Relate their physical sensations to their personal situation.

15. Climax – This is the danger zone of purple prose. Be realistic. If necessary, go do a little research with your mate and try to put yourself in the head of your character.

16. Afterglow: (note afterglow technique)—This is romance. There should be an afterglow cuddle, maybe a little food or drink, or something more than falling asleep with exhaustion. If your characters fall asleep, so will your reader.

Move to next scene how?______________________ --Give the reader a reason to keep turning those pages. Give a clue as to the next challenge or how their emotional change will bring a plot twist. Where will they go? What will they do now? Leave ‘em hanging and twisting in the wind. Whatever!

ã Lena Austin 2007
Please do no reproduce or share without permission

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