I’ve been chugging along on my WIP for a very long time. For a while, Life intervened. But even after I got Life wrassled to the ground and stomped on, that WIP just didn’t cooperate. No matter how I tried to gas it up and drive it someplace, it went nowhere. And as I don’t have to tell most of you, nothing is more depressing than writing 500 new words and deleting 600 old ones every day. A person starts to wonder if she’ll end up with an empty tank and no place to go.
But over the last few months, things have turned around. The book’s going okay. It isn’t there yet, but these days I’m writing 500 words and deleting 50. That’s what I call progress.
Until yesterday. Yesterday I looked at my blank page with fear and loathing. I’ve come to that spot in the book where my characters need to have sex.
I hate writing sex scenes. I know they’re supposed to be like any other scene, where things happen and characters grow or change, or the plot moves (or maybe that’s the earth) and so on.
But no matter how much I try to stick some kind of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict into my characters’ physical demonstrations, my sex scenes pretty much suck. And let me hasten to add, I’m in good company—I think the sex scenes of about 95% of other writers suck, too. Those are inevitably the pages I skip, the sections I find boring.
I want to do better in this story. My characters deserve better. Heaven knows, I’ve lived with them long enough. They deserve gold-plated, caviar-coated, champagne-drenched, Lamborghini-driving, high-quality, meaningful sex just for sticking with me for this long.
But how to get that high-quality sex on the page, that is the question.
Laurie Hutzler has a mechanism that she calls Fear, Want, and Need, which corresponds roughly to Michael Hauge’s Story Mastery/Identity to Essence concept. They’re both screenwriters, so it’s not really a surprise that they endorse the same kind of story development. It goes basically like this:
The Want is immediate, concrete, and urgent. The protagonist pursues The Want (usually something specific) so she can deal with the Fear (usually something universal). However, the Want doesn’t necessarily address the Fear—the Want is usually just a temporary solution.
Need to the rescue! The Need is the character’s higher self (what Hauge calls “essence”)—what our protagonist must embrace to move past her Fear. The character often isn’t aware of the Need. It’s buried, smothered by Fear. But as our protagonist moves through the story, she becomes aware of the Need.
So—can I translate this to a sex scene? Argh.
Using the Want, Fear, Need mantra, I think this is how the overall character arc for my heroine looks: My character Wants to be independent and debt-free, doing a job that confers a certain amount of professional respect. Her Fear is that she’ll turn out to be like her mother—no certain income, no certain relationships, life of chaos. Her Need is for stability—a regular job, one guy she can love and who loves her back.
In the bedroom, though: how does this translate? The conflict part I have: she doesn’t want to move in with the hero because she’s not certain he’ll stick, and she thinks they haven’t known each other long enough for that kind of commitment. They do have sex, though, so…how to put the Want/Fear/Need arc into that setup is escaping me at the moment.
What do you guys do? What are the best sex scenes you’ve read? (And can I copy those?) Any ideas on how to fix my character’s love life?