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Friday, March 31, 2006

ELOISA ON WRITING SEX ...AFTER THE ELEVENTH BOOK

Taming of the Duke is actually my 10th book but (some of you may be glad to know) Pleasure for Pleasure (coming out November 28th) is merrily making its way through copy-editing and proofing.

So I thought I'd blog today on writing sex. After all, this is at once, often the favorite part of a reader's experience of a given book -- and the hardest part of a writer's experience of that same book. In fact, in my years in publishing, I've heard plenty of multi-published authors explain their change of genre by noting that they were tired of describing Tab A's exquisite, incredible, screamingly appropriate fit into Tab B. And -- make no mistake about this -- virgins are hard to write about. Every time you read a good virgin-sex-scene, make me two promises: 1) remember your own experience, and if yours was screamingly wonderful, ask your best friend about hers, and 2) send silent applause in the direction of the author. The truth is that writing variations of "What is that? Oh me! It will never fit!" takes a special skill that is akin to rocket science and should never be underestimated.


Even without the virgin issue, sex scenes do dwindle into a question of tabs and moans unless (to my mind) the scene itself is integral to one of the characters' development. In Taming of the Duke, I had it easy. Imogen is a widow, so no "Oh that's too big for me!" business was necessary. But she was feeling her way into life after Draven, and realizing that she wanted to engage with men in a very different way than she had with her husband. That fact had to become part of any intimacies, or (to my mind) I had lost a brilliant possibility. On the other hand, you can't simply freeze the picture and have a lot of interior monologue in which the heroine suddenly realizes that...whatever. A sex scene has to sweep the reader up and carry her along with feverish excitement -- it can't stop for ruminations!

Here's how I did it in Taming:

"How would a bird of paradise behave?" Imogen asked.

"An old-fashioned term for one as sophisticated as you," he said, sounding amused. "A bird of paradise would do precisely what would make her partner the happiest: and that would likely include a lively show of enthusiasm."

"Oh." It wasn't very specific.

"But perhaps you're more interested in a baggage than a bawd? Because a bold girl, a naughty girl, a woman who was in this bed for the pleasure not the profit, would make absolutely certain that she did precisely what she wanted to in order to increase her own pleasure."
"Oh..."

"She wouldn't give a damn about her partner. Let the man take care of himself."

That's the crucial bit of dialogue-- for the effect, you have to read the scene yourself *grin*

That little conversation (and Imogen's thought process) changed the whole complexion of her whole participation in the evening... and made it quite delicious in my point of view!

Tell me a sex scene you remember in which characters learned something -- about themselves, about the process, about their partner. Let's talk great sex!

Eloisa James, 6:53 AM
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