Saturday, August 21, 2010

An Erotic Juggling Act

By Vonna Harper (Guest Blogger)

A few minutes before sitting down to write this blog, I finished the rough draft of a sex scene. Bet you think I'm fanning myself and eager to get back to the editing.

Think again. Psst, don't tell anyone but writing erotica is damn hard work, especially the sex part. As someone who has written well over 30 books, novellas, and shorties since jumping onboard the erotica bandwagon, I know what I'm up against as soon as my characters walk into the bedroom. (A correction: my characters are more likely to be in the woods than a bedroom but you get the idea) Because I strive to make each sex scene representative of my characters, there's no plugging in a scene I wrote in the past. Each one has to stand on its own and satisfy my readers.

Does writing about intercourse satisfy me? I'm shaking my head as I write this because not long ago I was much too modest to reveal all, but since I started this subject, I have no choice but to finish. Of course I become emotionally and physically involved in what my characters are doing—why do you think I keep that fan nearby? But no way is the experience of writing a sex scene the same as reading one.

First and maybe foremost, I have to keep body parts straight. Because I only write m/f, at least I don't need to track more than four arms and four legs. Just thinking about a crowd scene makes my head spin. I need to keep track of what clothes are where, (years ago I wrote a lovemaking scene for a category romance publisher. If not for my critique partners' eagle eyes, my heroine would have removed her bra three times) what the lighting's like, the temperature, whether I packed a blanket so even though my characters are in the wilderness, they aren't going to wind up with a rash or bug bites.

How do I go from point A which is the moment of setting eyes on each other to point Z where man and woman can't do anything but pant? Here's where I have to orchestrate the dance that's foreplay. Who takes the dominant role, who the more submissive one or are they equals? Who makes the first move, who the second, and how are they carried out? (The scene I just finished included a first for me—a recliner) When or if is the condom pulled out and put on? Are clothes slowly peeled off or ripped? Whose hands are doing what to who? Where are the legs?

That's just the physical aspect. Equally important is the emotional component. Where are my characters in terms of their relationship? Is this act a quickie or the ultimate in commitment? Because I can't develop characters without burdening them with emotional baggage, I have to keep that baggage in mind. If the hero is afraid he's going to shape-shift, that's going to impact his performance. Maybe (I write a lot of capture and bondage) he has to take his captive/lover back to his war chief. Can he shove that responsibility to the back of his mind while getting it on? As a captive, can my heroine forget her lot in life and embrace pleasure? Is she hung up on wanting back her freedom or surrendering to her submissive nature and will that dilemma cool her libido?

As if those considerations aren't enough, I have to keep an eye on word choice and sentence structure. I don't want to pound a word or words into the ground until readers become sick of them. Sentences need to be shaken up and turned around for variety. I write for Kensington Aphrodisia, Ellora's Cave, Samhain, and Loose-Id and they have slightly different requirements and ways of handling edits. One publisher is fine with certain descriptions and terms, another not so much. Yep, there's another layer to the juggling act.

Hmm. It sounds if I'm complaining when I'm not. After all, there's nothing I'd rather be doing to pay the bills. I love writing, love writing erotica. At the same time, like every career, writing is a profession. No publisher will have anything to do with me if I don't bring my job skills to the table. It's quite a juggling act.

Right now I have two releases hot off the presses so to speak. Available in print is Falcon's Captive with Aphrodisia. Whitewater Hunter is an ebook with Ellora's Cave. In addition, I've just released my first Kindle only novella called Wilderness Night. (A great price BTW if you have a Kindle)

I'd tell you what's in the pipeline and about the novella I sold last week and the hot, hot, hot cover I just got a sneak peak of, but I can't keep all that straight. That's why I'm obsessive about keeping my web site up to date. It has become my cheat-sheet.

Before I wander off to tackle some writing contest submissions I've agreed to judge, does anyone want to comment on my confession?

~ Vonna Harper


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Vonna,

Welcome to Beyond Romance! Excellent post! Some people think, "Oh, sex, anyone can write about that!" Little do they realize how tough it is. It's particularly difficult when the protagonists happen to be the same gender!


Cynnara Tregarth said...


You're one of my favourite authors and hearing that writing a sex scene isn't just hot fun but also work is fantastic! I've struggled the last year on writing those scenes when in the past they were so easy. I think it's because, as you said, you don't want to do the same as you did before. You want to make sure what the characters need come through. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Kayelle Allen said...

Lisabet, thanks for letting Vonna come over to play. This was a great read!

Vonna, first... LOL on keeping body parts straight! That is one of the things I fight with hardest. I recently changed a scene in the middle so that characters were sitting up facing one another, when moments before they'd been snuggled together laying down, one with head on the other's shoulder. My beta reader pointed that out. Because I had been working on it for three days by that time, I had completely forgotten where they'd just been. You are soooo right -- sex scenes are not easy to write. They are a lot of work. Before my two lovers start panting, I'm the one who has to sweat. =^_^=

Nina Pierce said...

LOL! I "see" them having wonderful sex, but there's only so many times you can use the same word for a body part. Making each scene new and unique to my characters is definitely a challenge. Great post Vonna. (waves to Lisabet)

Nichelle Gregory said...

Hello, Vonna,

First let me say, I love your work! I read His Voice, His Command and became an instant fan! That was one hot little story! ;)

I also enjoyed reading your post and I agree with you and everyone else that writing sex scenes is soooo tricky. You really must keep track of how many times you've used the same position, foreplay, words...ect. For me, these scenes take the longest. It never occurred to me before I started writing just how much talent and effort it takes to evoke emotion from a reader!

Lisabet, you always have the most insightful blog posts! :)

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, all,

Thanks for visiting.

Kayelle, I think we should make a bumper sticker that says:

Before my two lovers start panting, I'm the one who has to sweat.

We can sell them at romance writers conferences and make a bundle!


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