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  • Anouchka Harris

How to Write a Sex Scene: The Definitive Guide

With Valentine's Day coming up, this seemed appropriate. Enjoy!

1. Get creative with the words you use for body parts! And make sure to vary your terms. If you used ‘secret cavern’, or perhaps ‘pleasure sceptre’, in the first sentence, make sure you don’t use it again.

2. Don’t limit your euphemisms to genitals! Be creative with your terms for all body parts. That’s how you’ll make your sex scene stand out, and it’s how you’ll make sure it sounds literary rather than like erotica. Why write ‘feet’ when you can write ‘floor-hands’ instead?

3. Don’t forget about the small details. Your reader needs to know what your characters’ pubic hair is like. They also need to know about the bodily fluids and, ideally, the smells.

4. Make sure your sex scene has a deeper meaning. Is it a metaphor for your character’s complicated relationship with a parent? It helps to conjure up some engaging imagery, preferably at the point of your character’s orgasm. But you only have to mention orgasm if your character is male. Nobody really expects to read about female orgasms, so it won’t feel like anything is missing if you skip that bit altogether.

5. Alliterate. Do it as much as possible. It’s the sexiest linguistic device.

6. But don’t try to make your sex scene sexy. In fact, it’s best to try and make it as un-sexy as possible. That way your reader will be totally focussed on your writing rather than what’s actually happening. And that is what you want.

7. To distract your reader from the sex a bit more, why not use words that they’ll need to look up in a dictionary? This way they’ll have to really focus on your choice of word and just why that word is so important. They’re your words and if you’re going to put effort into choosing the right ones, you want your reader to really scrutinize them.

8. If you want to add more description, try mentioning the body parts that are less expected in sexual encounters. This will add a fresh perspective to your writing and make your sex scene feel less run-of-the-mill. Try describing your character’s nose, their ankles, shoulder-blades or obliques.

9. To build the intensity of your passage, try repeatedly mentioning specific body parts, actions, or sensations. Describe the same features, but in a variety of slightly different ways. Especially if you are writing in the first person, this will add an extra boost of intensity as it will give the impression that your narrator is fixated on this one detail.

10. And finally... use evocative words. You don’t want your sex scene to last for pages and pages. You want to keep it reasonably concise, so that means every word you use is very important. Make sure that each word is carefully chosen to produce the greatest impact. And we can all agree that ‘moist’ tends to have quite an impact.

Or, if all that sounds too hard, just fade to black and let your readers imagine the rest. Like in horror fiction, leaving certain details blank leaves the reader to imagine the worst. But that would of course mean missing out on prestigious prizes such as this one.

If you want more excellent euphemisms, here's an excellent list from Bustle.


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