I write the prawns (with apologies to Barry Manilow)


Actually, I’m not gonna apologize to Barry, because I’m still bitter about the whole Copa Cabana earworm fiasco of Summer 2010. Damn all that. Anyway…
This is about writing the smut, the sexxoring, the prawns, whatever you want to call it. The mindset that goes into it, at least from my end, and the ways I prep for it and get it onto the page.
In romance writing (in both regular fiction and fanfic), a lot of what goes on in the story leads up to the BIG moments: the first look, the first touch, the first kiss, the first horizontal mambo. The thing is, though, that as you become invested in the characters you’re reading, if the author botches one of those (especially the last two), you can hang it up as a reader (at least for me, as an avid consumer of both regular romance fiction and fanfiction). As an author, with my own predilections in mind in this regard, I want to make sure that when I get to those milestones, that I leave an indelible mark on the reader’s mind, and hopefully their libido.
When preparing to throw down on the page, there are a couple of things that must happen in my real life in order for my characters to be fulfilled. The first is the music. There is kind of a divide among writers with regards to music, some who write with it, and some who do not, but I am firmly entrenched in the ‘with music’ camp. The music follows the mood of the scene I’m trying to create, which in turn informs my mindset, which finally yields the choreography of the kiss/touch/tryst. Is the disposition of the characters slow and sensual, rough and urgent, eccentric and playful leading to either of the previous states? All of that goes into the musical selections. Nothing brings me out of my writing mind faster than the wrong tempo/tone/key/words of a song. If I’m going for slow and sensual, I’m usually doing Sade, not Theory of a Deadman, which is on my playlist for when the characters want to get a bit more ‘hands on’ with their affections.
The second is the actual frame of mind itself. I don’t outline the sex scenes, because the idea of hitting certain set points or stage marks when the characters are at their most vulnerable just kinda creeps me out. I do, however, like to have a certain level of organic flow and choreography in the scenes. I describe it as having a dirty movie house in my head, only the floors are remarkably cleaner. Where the hands are, the mouths, the various parts and appendages, all flows together to create an overall image that hopefully moves the reader as much as it does the plot.
My big concern when writing the scenes is that I get so wrapped up in the dance, that I overlook the emotion that goes into it as well. It is very possible, in real life as well as fiction, to have extraordinarily hot sexual encounters without having any sort of real emotional attachment to them at all. That said, that is definitely not the point of romantic fiction and should be avoided at all costs. If, when reading over your stuff, you feel a certain level of emotional disconnect in your work, you might want to put it down and come back to it fresh a bit later, if for no other reason than you don’t want to give your reader less than your best.