It's been a busy week trying to wrap up the final chapter of Wild Instincts after my delays, but fingers crossed I can get it released by the weekend. In the meantime, though, I thought I'd whip up a quick post about one of the elements that can really sell a sex scene for me; the sizzling little details.
For me, I've always treated sex scenes as akin to action scenes in literature. Yes, hurr-hurr, they are quite literally about a lot of action happening, but similar to a fight or a chase or a struggle against danger of some sort, sex scenes are all about moving characters from point A to point B via the medium of an exciting, adrenaline-fuelled sequence that is designed to entertain through both the visceral and the emotional aspects of it. The emotional side (or the touchy-feely/plot related/character-driven stuff) follows pretty much the same rules as any scene in a good story, so that's a whole different topic (and probably one I've mentioned before), but when it comes down to the visceral element, a sex scene really needs something special in order to sizzle.
This is where things like word choice, pacing, sentence structure, and tone all come into play to create an experience that is just devilishly sexy from start to finish, and for me a big part of what makes a sex scene memorable is the small things the author mentions.
Sex, just like action, has the potential to get very dull very fast if it isn't done well. Even if you're emotionally invested in the characters, reading about Tab A being inserted into Slot B for the dozenth time can get pretty old if it isn't spiced up with something new. This can be varied (particularly in more exotic erotica) by introducing new positions, new acts, and even new partners, but even vanilla sex can be made thrilling all over again by the inclusion of a dozen sexy little details.
I love the minor moments that make a sex scene feel real. Things that not every author always mentions; things like the texture of a partner's clothing, the contrast between the fabric of a choker and the smoothness of warm skin, the tension of sharp nails scratching across flesh and the delicious shiver it elicits. I like the tightness of a partner's grip, the brush of stubble, the friction between two perspiring bodies, or the hot bite of the whip as it cracks against the heroine's back.
In general storytelling I'm usually against heavily intricate description like this, but it plays a core role in arousing your readers, and in the context of a sex scene it's a massive part of what makes the material engaging.
Interestingly enough, I also have a liking for sex scenes that do the exact opposite of this -- eschewing detail for the sake of painting a more long-term picture of the act. That's a topic for a whole other time, though.
In general terms, sex scenes are an intimate, action-packed, visceral experience on top of the emotional aspect that should be present in any dramatic scene (assuming you're not just going for one-off sexy shorts -- in that case the visceral element is much more important!).
Honing in on the sizzling little details and really making them your own is a fantastic way to make a sex scene stand out from the crowd, and it's what separates many of my favourite erotic scenes from those that are largely forgettable.