Monday, August 25, 2014

A Writer's Guide to Getting Your Sexy Back

by +J. Lea Lopez 

To clarify, the sexy you're getting is for your writing. Sorry, I can’t help you with the real thing. Or maybe I can. But that's not a discussion for this space. Ahem. Focus, please.

Whether you’re writing hardcore erotica, sizzling romance, or just a single scene requiring some Tab A into Slot B action, I’m here to help you put your sexiest foot forward. We're going to focus on the language of the scene.

Let’s face it: it’s very easy to write a bad sex scene. You run the risk of clinically sterile language, or the opposite – coarsely pornographic language. There’s also the potential for unintended comedy. I don’t want that to happen to any of you, so I’ve compiled a few guidelines. Note that I didn’t say rules. It’s up to you to decide if/when to use each of these tips. And fergawdsakes, don’t overdo it with any of them!

More descriptors more sexy

Breasts are not made any more appealing when described as amazingly perky, round, brown sugar-colored globes of desire. Really? Would you say that to your partner, or want it said to you in a moment of passion? ‘Course not. You/they would likely burst into a fit of laughter. It's also important to find the right descriptions. For instance, wet is always preferable to moist. Stick to one, maybe two good descriptors, or let the image stand on its own. This also ties into my next point:

Euphemisms are your enemy

If everyone calls it a cock, there’s probably a good reason. Don’t go trudging through the thesaurus looking for other names for human anatomy. Abandon the aforementioned globes and just call them breasts. Or maybe your character would say tits. Titties and boobies are giggle-worthy and should be avoided at all times, in my opinion.

When in doubt, revert to the standard slang, or DON’T NAME BODY PARTS at all. Yeah, you heard me. She let go a breathy moan as he pushed into her. No need to say what pushed where – we already know.
Here are some tried-and-true anatomical words to use (try not to blush):
  • cock
  • tits
  • ass
  • breasts
  • dick
  • pussy
  • clit
  • nipples (not nips – please don't say nips)
  • cunt
Cunt has become much more mainstream of late, but it's not my personal favorite and I don't think I've ever used it. I rarely even write it because it doesn't hold positive connotations for me. Pussy is weird for me too, but I'll take that over cunt. It takes a very skilled writer to use that word in an erotic context and not make me flinch. That doesn't mean you shouldn't use it, though, if you like it. It's just not for me. I think it even sounds awful. Go ahead, say it out loud (preferably when you’re alone – not on the bus or at work). It’s guttural – all hard consonant sounds. Doesn’t scream sexy to me. Which brings me to my last point for today:

Pay attention to sound

No, not those sounds. Yuck. I’ll leave that for another post. I mean, pay attention to how the words you choose for your scene sound to the ear. I don’t know about you, but even when reading silently to myself, I still hear the words in my head, and, to a lesser extent, feel them in my mouth (oh boy, you’re gonna have a field day with that phrase, I’m sure.)

Never underestimate the sexiness of well-placed alliteration. His thumb slid over the sliver of skin peeking out above the waistband of her jeans. That s sound is just sensual, both to hear and to say, isn’t it?
To me, open, round vowel sounds as well as softer consonant sounds like f, h, and l (to name a few) can be the sexiest. The heat of his breath sends a slow shiver from the nape of her neck to her toes. Mmm, sounds yummy, right?

To contrast, clipped vowels and hard consonant sounds often are less sexy. You’d do well to notice that most of your standard curse words have this characteristic – fuck, shit, bitch, etc. I’m not saying there’ll never be a place for an urgently whispered Fuck me! in your manuscript – there is certainly occasion for something like that. Short, hard-sounding words can convey urgency. But an entire scene, or even just a few sentences, full of those types of words can really kill the mood.

Especially use this guideline any time you’re thinking of some anatomical euphemism. As I mentioned, cunt sounds harsh to me. Words like rod and pole don’t sound particularly sexy either, and even invoke painful images at times. Unless you’re writing some sort of BDSM scene, these are not the images you want to paint in your reader’s mind.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you write a sex scene, and I promise you’ll have something that gets the heat level rising.

Do you have any favorite words that you find super sexy, or words that make you cringe?

J. Lea López is an author who strives to make you laugh at, fall in love with, cry over, and lust after the characters she writes. She welcomes online stalkers as long as they're witty and/or adulatory. Kidding. Maybe. Check for yourself: Twitter, Facebook, Blog. Get help with your sexy scene writing here.


darkeconteur said...

I. Love. This! Listing the words up there reminded me of George Carlin's twelve words you can't say on television.

You hit the nail on the head, so to speak *cough*. Excellent post!

J. Lea Lopez said...

Thanks, Darke!

Richard Pieters said...

Yes, yes. You know what you're talking about, and all the points are spot on. Too often writers rely on euphemisms, maybe because they're embarrassed to write the more direct words in you list. Too bad.

One I've seen way too many times (and no, it's not because I'm defensive about it, ;-) ) is referring to "his length." WTF? We all know what the person is touching/stroking/whatever, but "his length?" Spare me. Pulls me out (eye roll) every time.

Oh, yeah? How long was it? (rim shot)

Good post.

J. Lea Lopez said...

Oh, Rick!!! I'm totally guilty of "his length" hahaha. I much prefer that to something like "velvet manroot." And there are times where you either don't want to be too explicit (maybe it's a genre or audience thing) or you're just tired of saying "cock" all the time. But like everything there's a delicate game of balance and trying not to make people laugh or cringe unintentionally.

I'm going to think of you the next time I see that phrase, though. I mean, not... you know what I mean! Ha.

Cynthia Batten said...

Great post! J Lea, I use length sometimes, too. I try to use different words to convey the same thing or don't use the word at all. Us writers have to get creative, ha ha. I also use girth. Is that bad? lol.

Cynthia Batten said...

Oh yeah and I meant to mention that I hate when writers use the word "sex" for vagina, cunt, pussy, etc. That's weird to me.

J. Lea Lopez said...

Cynthia, I'm with you "sex" haha. Although I suppose there's a place for it in something more historical (maybe?) along with some other vocab that I'd never use regularly.

"Girth" is... hmmm. I'm not sure about that. It would depend on context and how often you use it, I think. Seldom, hopefully. ;-)

Dany Rae Miller said...

Since I write in first person present, I use the words that specific characters would use.

One of the guys in Soft Shatter would, and does, say "cunt". And Shavone, the heroine, says "my sex".