SO I’M FINISHING up an erotica novella, which is new for me, but I figured since my sex scenes (oh okay, love scenes-love
scenes) get so much email, I could go the whole book as an extended sex (er, love) scene, and along came The Leopard Prince–a story about a shapeshifting jaguar and the fey woman who changes his life forever.
So, how do you write a good love scene?
A lot of it has to do with word choice.
There’s a big difference between:
“A dark growl rumbled inside him and she was one with him, felt the fire flash deep in his belly . . .”
“He growled and she was with him, felt fire in his gut…”
Gut is just not a terribly sexy word–of course, you could argue that belly isn’t either, but the soft sound of the double “L,” the way the word rolls off your tongue, it’s very sexy.
Is there every any one perfect word?
Probably not. And if you spend all day looking for it you won’t get anything done.
Here’s why word choice matters–because both writing and storytelling comprise, at the most basic level, a series of word choices. According to Pen Monkey Chuck Wendig, words are the building blocks of what we do. They are the atoms of our elements. They are the eggs in our omelets. They are the shots of liquor in our cocktails. Get it right? Serendipity. Get it wrong? The air turns to arsenic, that cocktail makes you puke, this omelet tastes like ass.
Words are like LEGO bricks: the more we add, the more we define the reality of our playset. “The dog fucked the chicken” tells us something. “The Great Dane fucked the chicken” tells us more. “The Great Dane fucked the bucket of fried chicken on the roof of Old Man Dongweather’s barn, barking with every thrust” goes the distance and defines reality in a host of ways (most of them rather unpleasant). You can over-define. Too many words spoil the soup. Find the balance between clarity, elegance, and evocation.
You know that game — “Oh, you’re cold, colder, colder — oh! Now you’re getting hot! Hotter! Hotter still! Sizzling! Yay, you found the blueberry muffin I hid under the radiator two weeks ago!” –? Word choice is like a textual version of that game where you try to bring the reader closer to understanding the story you’re trying to tell. Strong, solid word choice allows us to strive for clarity (hotter) and avoid confusion (colder).
Think of it like a different game, perhaps: you’re trying to say as much as possible with as few words as you can muster. Big ideas put as briefly as you are able. Maximum clarity with minimum words.
Finding the perfect word is as likely as finding a downy-soft unicorn with a pearlescent horn riding a skateboard made from the bones of your many enemies. Get shut of this notion. The perfect is the enemy of the good. For every sentence and every story you have a plethora of right words. Find a good word. Seek astrong word. But the hunt for a perfect word will drive you into a wide-eyed froth. Though, according to scholars, “nipplecookie” is in fact the perfect word. That’s why Chaucer used it so often.