I Can Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Sex Scenes With One Word

People have sex for lots of different reasons: love, desire, revenge, boredom, habit, blackmail… The list can go on and on. But for now, let’s just talk about the fun reason: passion. And let’s talk about scenes of passion that aren’t in a romance or erotica novel. There are much better experts on those types of sex scenes than me. For now, let’s just talk about sex with your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, love of a character’s life. That’s simple right?

THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING was my training wheels novel, the novel I wrote while I was learning how to write a novel. I knew I wanted it to be a novel of passion and that meant sex for someone at some time. I wanted my sex scenes to be memorable, so I went back to the sex scenes in novels that I remembered as being the hottest of the hot. From these pages frothy with passion, I would learn my trade in writing sex scenes.

So here’s the thing. In the sex scenes that I remembered as being incredibly passion actually had very little sex in them. One of these scenes was the library scene in Atonement.

So check out the movie version above. Because movies are visual, there’s more detail here about who put what part where. And there is that in the novel as well, but it’s mostly beautiful prose about what this moment means to these characters.

They were beyond the present, outside time, with no memories and no future. 

But why is that important? No memories? No future? Well, no memories because these two characters have been circling each other for most of their lives. And now they are young adults, but she is “of the manor born” and he is the housekeeper’s son. They have worlds between them, and it doesn’t stop them.

And this brings me to the one word, the only thing you ever need to know about writing a good sex scene.

While I was on this quest for understanding sex scenes, I read an article by Mick LaSalle, the movie critic for the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. Occasionally, he answers readers questions in an article. This appeared in one of these Q&A articles:

READER: What makes a good sex scene?

MICK LASALLE: One word: longing.

It’s so true!

They were beyond the present, outside time, with no memories and no future. 

These two have been building up to this moment forever, or at least a hundred pages or so. We are as ready for this as they are. It’s time, for us and for them. Longing. A great sex scene doesn’t start with the sex. It starts chapters before the sex. It starts with the longing.

And it’s the longing that makes the no future part of the book gut-wrenching. (No spoilers, you’ve just got to read it.)

So that’s it, kids. Longing. If you’ve got longing in your build-up, you’ve got all you need for a great and memorable sex scene.



Author: Shelly King

Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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