Apparently not me.
In truth, I’ve been working on my sex scenes in my WIP and felt like I was missing something. So I picked up the book at the suggestion of my amazing critique partner, Jennifer Windrow. She writes snarky, sexy paranormals and does a great job (IMHO) writing sex, foreplay, and all that stuff.
Then this week, Jeanne, one of the Eight Ladies, posted on our private blog a New Yorker article by Richard Brody on the “Fifty Shades” movie in which he discusses the importance of foreplay in movies to show, among other things, “the stages of erotic progress, from the restaurant to the car to the door, from the first kiss and the aroused gropes to the subtleties of tender empathy and intimate knowledge that make the difference in any encounter.” Brody goes on to suppose that the reason these foreplay scenes aren’t filmed is because it reveals what the writer and/or director is fantasizing about or imagining in relation to the script, scene, story, characters — and themselves. In other words, it shows their vulnerabilities.
The same could be said for writers. In the sex scenes we write, we are putting ourselves on the line, so to speak, taking little bits of our lives, our experiences, our fantasies, and our imagination to create something magical between our characters.
Miss Kane hits on this point in her book. She also talks about the purpose of sex in a story. She insists (as did Jenny Crusie when we did the McDaniel program) that sex should not be there for the sake of having sex; rather, it should move the story forward. Sometimes, it will be a big shift. Other times, it’s more subtle. But in either case, it advances either character development, plot, or both.
I wish some writers/directors would take that advice. Nothing irks me more than sex for sex’s sake. The last “super hero” movie I watched with my husband had that. The hero saves the girl and is trying to get her away from the bad guys. They hole up in a little hut in her old hometown (which also happens to be where he was a POW more than 70 years ago), and they have sex. Nevermind that she barely knows the guy. Nevermind that they don’t end up as a couple. Nevermind that there’s not much foreplay. It’s just sex. (Bonus points to those who can guess the movie!)
Same goes for some romances I’ve read (not counting erotica – that’s a slightly different flavor of lollipop), where you expect the H/H to have sex…only after the first time, which is indeed momentous and a “move the story forward” moment, they keep having sex, but nothing between them changes (or if it does, the changes are so small that I don’t notice and end up skipping the sex scenes because really…who needs to read about the mechanical aspects of sex a dozen times?).
This is where I feel Brody’s column on foreplay becomes relevant. Think about what foreplay is…it’s an unfolding. A reveal. An invitation into intimacy with someone else important to you. It’s a great way to reveal character. It can show the developing trust and tenderness between your H/H. Or how your H/H are learning what each other likes/turns them on/enjoys. Or what they learn about each other — the freckle on her backside, the pattern of hairs on his leg, feeling for the first time a man’s hot skin in contact with her own (remember, I write historicals, so for my Heroine, that’s a Big Deal). It’s an opportunity for role changes…perhaps your Heroine becomes the instigator, signaling a shift in the relationship. She’s an active part of the relationship now, rather than a more passive participant.
As I delve into my WIP and look at the intimate scenes I have between my H/H, I’m going to be conscious of what develops or changes between them in each scene. Of how their intimacy moves the story or their character arc forward. I’m going to think a lot about foreplay and what it can reveal and see if I can’t work some of that unfolding and discovery into my characters words, thoughts, and actions.
What are your thoughts on sex/love scenes? What irks you about them? What do you like about them? How do you address them in your own work?