Friday, October 8, 2010
HOW SEX SCENES AND FIGHT SCENES ARE ALIKE
by Isabo Kelly
Bet you never considered that before, huh? Well they are. In fact, writing a sex scene and writing a fight scene is a lot alike. And getting either one wrong can ruin an otherwise good book. Each of these types of scenes is intense, action-packed, emotional, potentially dangerous, and should reveal a lot about who and what your characters are. They go beyond a simple conversation and reveal more about your characters than they often want revealed. A gratuitous fight scene, like a gratuitous sex scene, is just boring. They have to matter each and every time. They have to add to the plot and/or character development. And that’s the trick with writing erotic romance, to manage so much sex without it getting boring. (Tricky. Very tricky.)
Just as a fight scene will completely lose the reader if the movements are so physically impossible that it pulls us out of the fantasy of the book, a sex scene in which characters do things we absolutely know they can not do will make a reader throw the book against the wall or shut off her e-reader. If you’re not entirely sure if a position or set of movements is possible, consult books—the Kama Sutra is an excellent resource for sexual positions, and it will tell you how fit you need to be to achieve those positions! It also tells which positions are possible with various size combinations for men and women. If you’re writing erotic romance, and you’ve followed the bandwagon and given your hero an enormous penis, there are certain positions that just will not work if the woman happens to be small. If a reader clenches her knees together in sympathetic pain during a sex scene, the scene probably isn’t very romantic or erotic for that matter.
I also recommend watching movies for fight and sex scenes—yes, this is giving you permission to watch porn, but only for research purposes. If you just can’t bring yourself to get near porn (and I understand, the stuff can be quite boring), then in the privacy of your own home when no one is watching (except maybe your significant other—who might enjoy this experiment), attempt a given position or move. Okay, okay, your heroine and hero might be stronger, fitter, skinnier, taller, shorter, alien, or paranormally endowed so they can do things you can’t. Fair enough, but if you want your readers to believe in the scene you’re writing, they need to believe that what your characters are doing is possible. If you can’t even get close to something similar, it’s very possible your readers won’t believe in your scene.
Above all this, however, you must keep in mind the importance of each scene to your characters. In a good, well-written fight scene, characters reveal themselves—their sense of right and wrong, their strengths and weaknesses both physical and mental. They reveal how they feel about life itself by the way they conduct themselves in a battle. Someone who’s killed a lot and is no longer staggered by it will view a fight very differently from someone who’s never swatted a fly before. The same goes for a well-written sex scene. A lot of a person’s character is revealed when they have sex. Both a fight and sex make your characters vulnerable. In this vulnerability, they show the reader who they are and how they are growing.
Are they changed? Have they gone somewhere they never thought they would, or is this just the kind of place they’ve always wanted to be? Are they angry, hollow, excited, in love, desperate, scared, bored? How they feel is much more important than what they do—especially in character-driven books like romances.
Nothing will turn an erotic romance reader off more than sex scene after sex scene that doesn’t mean anything to the story. They might be reading erotic romances for the high sexual content, but they want story with their sex (even if the sex is the story). That’s the difference between erotica and porn, between an action-packed battle scene and a pointless succession of bloody fights—character. It’s all about the character.
You want your erotica to sizzle, remember to choreograph your scenes, make sure the movements of the characters are physically possible, and don’t forget to make each and every scene do more than just show sex. If you’re writing sex because you need to add more sex (or throwing in a fight to fill in space) DON’T. Your readers will stop reading. And there’s nothing worse than a reader putting down an erotic book because they’re bored or think there’s too much sex!
Keep your characters uniqueness in mind and you’ll be sure to create a book readers can’t put down.