There are valid reasons for writing terrible sex scenes. To show that characters aren’t right for one another, or because it’s funny. Or you could take these tips for writing bad sex as a DON’T list for good sex scenes.
Top 5 Ways to Write Bad Sex
1. Lots of thinking. Whether it’s about unpaid bills, cellulite, or what this sex means for the future; if the sex was good, they wouldn’t be thinking anything but “yeah, right there,” or “don’t stop.”
2. Describe the scene at length. Descriptions of the surroundings, architecture, mattress firmness, sheet threadcount are not sexy. Don’t care if it’s Shangri-la: set the scene before the clothes come off. If your hero is in the zone, he’s not going to notice the iridescent wings of a hummingbird on the windowsill.
3. Use juvenile metaphors. Stuff like ‘throbbing manhood’ and “flower” throw cold water on the scene. If “ding-dong” and “hoo-hoo” get you hot, you should probably be locked up. Use the real words, acceptably adult nicknames, or don’t mention organs at all. We all know which parts go where.
4. Add dialog. It’s distracting and usually cheeseball. Whether it’s talking dirty or declarations of love, unless you’re actually having sex, that sort of shit is unwelcome. And if you’re reading a book, you’re probably not having sex at that moment. Your mileage may vary.
5. Put in all the details. Unless you’re writing straight-up erotica, most people don’t want to read a step-by-step list of what’s happening, and almost everyone knows what an orgasm feels like. Weird descriptions of waves building and crashing are the kind of thing that get you on the worst sex writing list.
And there you have it: an easy-to-follow guide for writing bad, unsexy, boring, or laughable sex scenes.
Want to write a good sex scene?
Whether you approve of my heroine Lexy Cooper’s appetites or not (many, many people do not), no one’s ever claimed my sex scenes ain’t sexy. Here’s the trick that works for me: Don’t write a sex scene like you write a murder scene or some conversational exposition. You gotta be in the mood. It’s gotta turn you on if you’re gonna turn your readers on. And really, no one reads sex scenes with clinical disinterest do they? I have a go-to playlist I listen to (because I’m a nerd it’s called “Teh Sexay“), and it helps if you’re a little pent-up. Let’s be clear–I’m not advocating that you write with one hand, but if that helps, go for it.
What makes sex scenes interesting are the particulars. If you’re writing a scene between a man and a woman, you don’t need to tell your readers what goes where. People understand the mechanics of sex, and they’re familiar with the standard progression through the “bases.” If your characters are just gonna do that then why bother writing a scene for them. Just do a movie fade like “She took his hand and led him to the bedroom.” or, “Later, they lay side-by-side, satisfied and tired.” Whatever. (And unless people were promised hot sex scenes, most readers will be okay with that. They might shrug and say, “Oh okay, it’s not that kind of book” or they might breathe a sigh of relief that they don’t have to suffer the sweaty details.
But if you’re gonna write it, write what makes the sex between these two particular characters unique. Maybe they like to take risks and get busy in semi-public places. Or she likes to make him wear a football helmet. Maybe he insists there be no kissing. Obstacles can be very hot. How do you work around prying eyes, or cramped spaces, or clothing?
Also, you don’t need a complete blow by blow (heh). You don’t have to show every thing from the first kiss to the removal of clothes to penetration. Yeah, I said it, Grandma.
Mix it up like a build your own breakfast at Denny’s. Choose something from column A (kissing), something else from column B (obstacles) and bring it home with column C (penetration, or whatever). Make up your own columns. I like to throw in sensory stuff too. The salt on his skin, a trickle of sweat between her shoulderblades, a low moan. Tip: Heat is always good. Even if your couple is knocking boots in an igloo, they’re gonna get warm. Heat is hot, right?
Pacing. Start slow and speed up. How? Long sentences transistion to short sentences, so the reader goes faster as your characters get closer to the end.
Try to avoid distractions. Don’t have your characters do a lot of internal monologuing. Let him ponder how he feels about her later. She can overthink where the relationship is going later. Definitely don’t interrupt the action for a flashback scene. Unless you’re going for humor. Then by all means write about how your hero was just about to insert tab A into slot B when a glint of iridescent wings caught his eye. Which reminded him of the time he was in Morocco looking for letters of transit which reminded him of the war, which made his ding-dong go limp. Then of course segue into your heroine’s thoughts as she ponders whether it’s the inferior threadcount or her cellulite that have made him lose interest.