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How to write a good sex scene

Have you ever read a sex scene that made you cringe? I have. Have you ever read a sex scene that months, or even years, later you think back on and it still makes you sweat? I have.

The first scene, the cringe-worthy one, was written by one of my favorite male authors. It was so bad, I felt embarrassed for him. The scene was full of thrusting and grunting and other horrible, clichéd descriptions of the physical act of sex.

The second scene, the one I still think about to this day, was less about sex and more about the surroundings and emotions of the characters. In her Fever series, Karen Marie Moning wrote a sex scene involving a pearl necklace (which is perfect considering pearls come from oysters and we all know what oysters do to a person). There was no actual sex in the scene, just lots of suggestion. The necklace was such a perfect detail and so unusual that I still think about it.

If you want to write a sex scene that readers will remember long after they put your book down, consider these tips:

  • Sex scenes are not about sex, they’re about emotion between characters.
  • Never write a gratuitous sex scene—don’t have sex just for the sake of sex, let it grow organically from your characters’ relationships.
  • Use specific, vivid details like Moning’s pearl necklace. Describe something in the setting or character that can set the mood or tone of your scene.
  • Less is more. Don’t clobber your reader with TMI (too much information).

Exercise: Use characters you’ve already developed or invent new characters. Develop a quick backstory for them and then write a sex scene. Use some of the tips above and see what you come up with. Be creative!

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