How To Create Chemistry Between Your Characters
In most cases, your characters aren’t going to meet and then just fall into bed together. If they do, then you’re probably writing hard-core erotica or porn and that’s not what I’m discussing today.
Even if your characters don’t have sex, maybe there’s some heavy petting or flirtation that occurs and you’ll want to build up to that as well.
So how do you build chemistry and anticipation between your characters?
A sex scene is the culmination of everything your two characters have done, said, and been through together from the moment they meet.
Chemistry is that feeling of connection between two people. I like to call it the charged energy between two people. It’s a draw to someone else that makes you want more of them.
Have you ever read a sex scene in a novel and cringed?
You can find bad writing anywhere, in any genre. But, as author Diana Gabaldon says, “While bad writing about murderers, spies, elves, or young people with self-esteem issues is merely boring—bad writing about sex is hilarious. So, how do you ensure that readers are riveted to the page rather than rolling on the floor or running off to find a spouse or friend to read the most memorably horrible phrases aloud to?”
I don’t know about you, but when I read a bad sex scene, I’m either rolling on the floor laughing and/or feel embarrassed for the author. In fact, there’s a certain bestselling male author that I really enjoy reading, and then one day I read a sex scene he wrote. It was so awful and cringeworthy that I couldn’t read anything by him for a long while. You don’t want your readers to have a similar experience.
When some of my writer friends found out I was preparing a webinar on how to write sex scenes, most of them asked me the same question—what do you call “it?” Meaning, of course, what do you call the male sexual organ without making it sound too graphic or corny or pornographic? I love this question.
In my previous post, I wrote about the “Bad Sex Scene Award” and how NOT to get one.
In Elissa Wald’s article “The Do’s and Dont’s of Writing Erotic Fiction,” one “do” is to draw on all five senses when you write a sex scene.
One way to do this is to break down the scene as follows:
First, make a list of the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Then, think of the characters involved in the scene and your scene’s setting—where is the scene taking place? Bedroom? Living room? Tree house? Dining room table? Middle of the forest? Read more
London’s “Literary Review” has just announced its winners for the 2013 Bad Sex Award—Britain’s most dreaded literary prize.
The prize is meant to “draw attention to the crude, badly written, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel and to discourage it.”
This year the nominees included author Amy Tan’s, “The Valley of Amazement,” for this line: “He flayed against me, until our bodies were slapping, and he took me into the typhoon and geologic disaster.” Read more
“It is not sex that gives the pleasure, but the lover.” Marge Piercy
In The New Republic’s recent article, “The Smitten Word: The Awkward Art of Writing About Sex,“ author Sam Lipsyte writes about one of the most difficult subjects for writers to tackle–sex scenes.
He says the conventional wisdom that less is more is usually best, but it can also be a cop-out. He writes:
“Sometimes, though, you have to face the multi-spined beast head on. Be brave, and trust in your love of language and your love of sex. (Or lack of it.) Trust in the modern gods who guide your hand: Sad and Funny. Like it or not, these are the twin poles for most of our tiny thoughts and doings. Sad and Funny are both the world and how we withstand it.”
Read the rest of Lipsyte’s article for more do’s and don’ts of writing sex scenes.
You can also read my previous post “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. Read more