Monday, February 09, 2009

S-E-X Scenes 101

image courtesy of artix on stock xchg

I just entered a "Five Sexy Scenes" contest, and the instructions contained a line I felt really made a point. It said, "sexy isn't necessarily the act of intercourse. It's a feeling, an emotion provoked by a skilled storyteller, something that gives me a tiny, or not so tiny, rush and makes my eyes widen, my breath catch, my heart race..."

Especially when crafting encounters for more erotic tales, it's easy to slip into The Act without truly giving ones' self over to the sexual experience. I'm talking the full 3-D, Dolby Digital Surround Sound ultra-sensory experience; the ones in fiction that make our mouths water and pulses pound long before hero and heroine (or however you slice it!) hit the sheets.

So what is it that allows a combination of words to pass through the eyes and knot directly in our libidos? I find it's a one-two punch of Torturous Buildup and Sensory Layering.

1. Turturous Buildup

Anticipationnn, it's makin' me wait... Even an erotic tale that opens with a sex scene can possess delicious anticipatory torment, if the author engages in literary foreplay. Let's take the opener to my upcoming Suite Seduction, for example. The first line reads,

The blindfold was a bit over the top, perhaps, considering the room was already pitch black as Julietta lay naked and waiting under the sheets.

Pretty obvious she ain't at the church quilter's meeting. But there's built-in anticipation by having her naked and WAITING under the sheets, further enhanced by her visual deprivation. I could have mentioned the blindfold and gotten right to it, but I extend the torture by making the character (and reader) wait for the reward.

Another technique I love to be teased with during Torturous Buildup is the Push-Me-Pull-You factor. That Come Here, No Wait tap dance that characters engage in because of their conflicting desires. In my first novel, VISIONS, there's a moment where the heroine has just been thrust into a limousine with an unsettlingly desirable film star:

As large as the limousine appeared from the outside, the interior closed around Glory, sending a quiver through her stomach. Though she’d scooted across the seat and glued herself to the far window, she felt pressed to Trenton’s side as if some giant magnet drew them inexorably together. The dim lighting, provided by a string of tiny white bulbs concealed behind strips of plastic along the upper edge of the compartment, only added to the air of forced intimacy.

I use conflicting cues, like Glory gluing herself to the far door while feeling magnetized, and combining opposing ideas of "forced" and "intimacy" to accentuate her battling desire. Makes the Big Payoff that much sweeter when one or both characters have been resisting it...and as a reader keeps me page-turning to get to that Surrender!

2. Sensory Layering

It's not hard to fall into a rote Insert Tab A In Slot B description when writing physical interactions. To avoid having these scenes read more like a chilly clinical manual than a hot interlude, pile on the layers. Include smells, sounds, and taste in addition to the common sight-and-feel depictions in many sex scenes. Even the bed or setting itself can become a character that lends dimensionality to the moment.

My couple's first (full) sexual encounter in ISLAND SEDUCTION starts here:

Pulling the door open with a grunt, he shoved her into the darkened room and closed the door. With a tug and a profanity—not necessarily in that order—she freed her arm and tried to glare Steve down in the darkness. She blinked hard, part against the inky black and part in shock at finding herself half-naked in a closet—with a man who was also half-naked.

"Are you insane?"

I might be, but nonetheless the characters are about to release pent-up Push-Me-Pull-You in a hotel housekeeping closet. The room and situation itself becomes a key player in helping me ratchet up tension and the urgency of their need.

What titillates YOUR literary libido? The setting? Slick descriptions of the hot Alpha Hunk in action? Paranormal situations? The Kiss-and-Make-Up scenario? Which techniques make your reading glasses melt? And as a writer, how do you turn up the heat until that keyboard sizzles?

Today's Favorite Line Written:“He did something to me that night.” To Dorianne's raised brow Justine blushed, her hand slipping to her belly. “I mean besides the obvious. He cast a spell on me while we the act.”

Her mentor's cautious gaze now glittered with interest. “A spell? What kind of spell?”
--From The Wiccaning


Jacques Gerard said...

Hi Lisa,

When I write I like subtle teasing that builds into slow sensual foreplay. I also like to include the senses,the enchanting scent of a lady's perfume,the softness of her skin, and even to the color of polish on her toenails. I make the shade acent her outfit that makes her overpower her lover with her femininity. All that gets me going and makes me enjoy writing erotica.

Lisa Logan said...

Excellent points, definitely not to be overlooked!