I had to write this post after a certain PitchWars mentor said that he was good at editing fight scenes, but would not edit a scene with sexy times. I stopped at that point to indulge in a little evil laugh, because I happen to know you use exactly the same techniques to write battles as orgies, and you run into some of the same barriers. So let’s look at what tips your suspense scenes can lend to your more intimate moments.
***XXX warning for adult content. Duh.***
Choreography- The Goldilocks method
Everybody knows for a proper fight scene, you have to balance clarity with brevity. Pacing is the golden rule, because if you have a fight or a f*ck without urgency, it’s going to be laaaaaaame. So, if you can’t describe the positioning in a sentence, simplify it until you can.
You need enough description to clearly picture what’s happening, and not too much to slow down your pacing. If you’re getting into “his left hand grasped my neck while his right slid down my back, and his left…” Stop with the left and right already. It’s not the Hokey Pokey.
One bestselling YA author has fight scenes that go something like this: “legs flew in a flurry of kicks.” This is not interesting, because in my head, all I can picture is some kind of Rockette tornado.
You want quick, clean, and easy to picture. Like this: “I grab his hands, pinning them low behind his back. Securing the belt around his wrists, I pull it tight and hook through the metal clasp.” Bonus points for this one because it also sets a cute little dominatrix mood.
The Old Married Couple
Are you tired of doing it the same old way? Well, you shouldn’t be, because in a book, you should be doing it differently EVERY TIME. You don’t get two hammer vs. machete scenes, and you don’t get two doggy-style-in-the-pantry scenes. New setup, every time, period.
Keep it to the layman level
Does that mean you always have to go stomp kicks not roundhouses and missionary with the lights off? No. But it does mean that any Kama Sutra position or fighting technique that could double as the name of a band is out. Keep your Triple Lotus Loop to yourself. Which brings us to our next tip, which is…
Choose your accessories
All the SFF writers out there know that fight scenes are better with fun weaponry. Does it always have to be a fist and a gun, or can you sub in a broken-off kitchen faucet, brass knuckles, or a drawer ripped out of a dresser?
Similarly, you can give yourself more options in a sex scene with some variety, as long as you keep it character appropriate. Your mild-mannered insurance salesman isn’t going to just have nunchucks lying around, and your sex kitten political advisor isn’t going to own anything without a stimulator attachment and at least three seismic levels of vibration.
Remember, writing is 90% foreplay. There’s a reason nobody gets what they want until the last few pages of a book. If they get it too early, you lose your tension. So don’t break out the rocket launcher until the enemy army has already smashed its way into the fortress. Let the fingers whisper up the thighs instead of heading straight for the home run. Give your reader a little time to anticipate what is coming.
You only get one moment of fulfillment, but if you know how to draw out the tension, you get infinite moments of anticipation.
Use your words
This is one of my favorites. First, decide what kind of scene it is. Is it urgent and rushed, more playful and jovial, slow and indulgent, or killer intense? Are you listening to the Matrix soundtrack or Adele when you write? Okay, now match your language to that mood—both the definition of the words and their sound.
Slide, smooth and whisper all create a mood. Perform, suckle, and squished also create a mood, albeit not the one you might want.
Similarly: thrust, hammered, impaled…all good fight scene words. You don’t want anything slow or boring or clinical sounding. You don’t want to “place” a kick or “offer” a punch. And for God’s sake, don’t “administer” a hand job.
Mirror your character’s state of mind in your sentence structure. As you build to the climax of the scene, your sentences should get shorter. Faster. Smacking onto the page like bullets.
If they’re having long, complex, philosophical thoughts, you haven’t done your job. They should be focused on one thing and one thing alone.
Dude, what’s the point? If your hero is fighting off his thirteenth dragon, and your H/h have banged in 47 bathrooms since page 1, even the most ardent dragon-slaying aficionado and exhibitionist reader are going to be yawning. Each scene needs to move the plot forward and change your character. Even when there’s sword fighting involved.
Is your heroine having her ass singed by a dragon for the first time, or is she coming into her own and teaching dragon-thumping technique to a group of second graders? Does the sex bring your characters closer together or further apart? Does the physical intimacy underscore their painful lack of emotional connection, or does it start to heal that problem?
Turn off the ticking clock
Look, if you’re writing battles or trysts, they should be urgent. There’s no better way to kill your pacing than to summarize the passage of time.
“He battled for minutes that seemed like hours, fighting one opponent after another.” Nope. If I can’t SEE every slash of the sword coming at my face, I’m not going to be afraid it might rip off my nose and forever doom me to Tyrion-themed jokes about my height and visage. I’m going to put down the book and watch Game of Thrones.
“He licked me for a few more minutes and–” Is he a Saint Bernard? Nobody wants the kind of licking that goes on so long it has to be summarized.
Action scenes should be IMMEDIATE. If you think you need to summarize, you’re probably being boring and you need to wrap it up before anyone pulls out a Harry Met Sally to prompt you to finish.
The first fight scene I ever wrote was pronoun soup. He punched and he took it to the jaw and he fell down and he ran after his victim and generally, he was having a pretty schizo kind of day. This is why, when you have your MC fighting strangers, you need to pick nicknames super quick and stick to them. Preferably one word or two word nicknames, like Mole or Muskrat Face or Fatty Ears.
Nicknames aren’t as heavily used in erotic writing unless your MC is an adventurous type, but in third person, pronouns can still be a righteous b*tch, especially if you’re writing M/M, F/F or ménage. Just pay really close attention to how often you need to re-identify people by name and err on the side of clarity.
So, to summarize: choose your words to set your mood. Make it VISUAL, make it FAST and for God sake, make it fun or I’d rather you fade to black.