by Suz deMello
From my writing treatise, Plotting and Planning, available November 1, 2014:
Scenes are the building blocks of your story, for acts are comprised of scenes. They’re nothing more than events, most often interactions between your characters. Scenes should fulfill at least one or two of the below purposes—best if you can include all four.
•Advance the plot
•Reveal or develop character
•Complicate or resolve conflict
•Express setting, mood, and/or theme
Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash.
How does this apply to the writing of erotica?
Too often, sex scenes are shoehorned into a story to increase the word count or the heat level, while those scenes don’t fulfill any other function. To quote from Plotting and Planning again: Everything in a story should contribute to it, from the biggest monster to the tiniest comma.
If a scene doesn’t contribute to the story, it doesn’t belong there. It doesn’t matter how well-written it is. It doesn’t matter how hot it is. It doesn’t matter how much you, the author, may love its beautiful prose or its scorching hot, kinky sex.
There’s a piece of writerly advice out there: Kill your darlings.
No one’s quite sure where this phrase originated, but it’s been repeated often, including by such notable authors as William Faulkner and Stephen King.
But it doesn’t matter who originated the phrase—it’s great advice. We often fall in love with our prose and are loath to cut it, especially when we may have slaved over a particularly well-turned clause or exhaustively researched, say, the eating habits of the lesser lemur of Madagascar.
But fiction is no place to be a smarty-pants. Leave that for term papers, book reports and theses.
In terms of writing sex scenes, what do we leave in and what to we cut?
We leave in those scenes that fulfill at least one of the purposes in the list above. Ideally, a well-written, thoughtfully planned encounter between our protagonists will fulfill more than one purpose.
Here’s a brief example, from a futuristic erotic romance I wrote called Queen’s Quest. The backstory is that the heroine is losing her virginity in a public ceremony that’s traditional on her planet for royals.
Tears in his eyes, my father squeezed my shoulders and murmured brokenly, “My little girl…” I hugged him, my heart full of love and gratitude.
“Blessings on you, my darling dear.” He turned to the front of the terrace and raised my hand, shouting, “Blessings on Princess Audryn!”
The crowd responded, “Blessings! Blessings!” This was the traditional call for a fertile union as well as an acknowledgment of my status as a royal.
My father wiped his damp eyes with a handkerchief and joined my mother on the Golden Throne.
Alone, I walked to the bed. I could feel the cool breeze flutter my chemise, which brushed against my breasts. My nipples firmed.
Frayn waited, already naked, already hard. He stroked his cock, and a cheer rose from the watching men and giggles from the females. He turned his head and winked at the crowd. I laughed.
Now at the bed, I took his hand. We smiled at each other and kissed.
A murmur rose from the crowd, a murmur that rose to moans as I took his face in my hands to kiss him more deeply. He reached for the front of my chemise and ripped it away, tearing it from my body. The crowd roared, as if they knew that real action was close. But Frayn had other ideas.
He eased me back onto the bed so I lay with my hips at its edge. He knelt before me and, reaching up, he parted my legs so my blond muff and pink quim were fully presented to the onlookers. Mutters of admiration filled the air, and to my surprise, I wasn’t frightened, anxious or shy. My pussy seemed to blossom open from the sounds of acceptance I heard from my people.
Lifting myself onto my elbows, I looked over the crowd, fixing my attention on the first row. Most were watching me, but all seemed to have very busy hands. Either they stroked themselves, or more often, caressed a partner. The fancy embroidered codpieces were open and feminine hands grasped a multitude of rods. Some ladies were already on their knees, while other women had exposed their breasts, tempting the males to taste their nipples.
Frayn leaned forward and fastened his mouth to my quim. Lightning shot through me and I wantonly pushed my pelvis forward, seeking completion. Already swollen from the attentions of the guards, my clit twitched between his lips as he sucked and licked. I drew a long, deep breath and allowed the pure joy of this day to flow through my being as Frayn’s talented tongue, the lovely scratch of his beard, took me higher.
He stood, his face shining with my pussy juices, and bent over me. “The important aspect of this ceremony is that the people see me enter you, see me take you thoroughly, again and again, and see the blood of your virginity spilt over my cock. How do you want to do it?”
I blinked, called out of my erotic cloud to do my duty. I managed a grin though I was annoyed. I was already aware of the event’s significance. “We should do it…visibly, I suppose.”
He caressed my pussy and fingered my slit. I took his tool in my hand. His cock had swelled thick and red with desire, and I wanted him inside me. “Lie down,” I said, pulling on him to enforce obedience.
“Yes, your royal highness.”
“Oh, hush up,” I said. “You’re as royal as I am.”
“Jealous?” Pushing him down, I straddled him and teased him with my body, bending my knees to dip low, letting my quim caress his cock-head. My breasts brushed his chest.
He gasped, his previous arrogance gone. “Audryn, please. I’m about to burst.”
So what do we learn from this passage? In regard to character, we see that the heroine, Audryn, is a princess beloved by her family and her people. She is fearless, aggressive, passionate and strong, stronger than her lover Frayn, who belittles her intelligence. She’s aware of her position and resents his arrogance, which foreshadows an external conflict.
In regard to the setting, we learn that public sex is not merely accepted but enjoyed. The references to clothing, particularly chemises and codpieces, tell the astute reader that perhaps this futuristic civilization partakes of some aspects of past human history. This allows the reader to visualize the setting and the garb as well as helping the reader to feel grounded in a very different society.
If you like what you read, you can find the book at Ellora’s Cave or Amazon.
I am a romance novelist and believe firmly that erotic scenes should never be gratuitous. If, while writing, an author bears in mind the purposes a scene must fulfill, the sex is never out of place; it is a seamless part of a well-written story.
* * *
About the Author:
Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, mystery and suspense, historical, and paranormal, as well as a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.
Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.
A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.
Check out Suzie’s site at suzdemello.com, and her blog at TheVelvetLair.com.