I’m guessing I’m never going to write erotica or be a hot romance writer. I’m not alone when I say that writing graphic sex scenes leaves me a bit, um, squishy inside (although oddly enough, I don’t have any problems with reading them). Urban Fantasy, as a genre, is pretty well known for exploring the lustier side of paranormal relationships.
But the definition of a sex scene spans a pretty broad spectrum, even in speculative fiction. In the shallow end of the pool, Young Adult (YA) stories don’t generally involve on-screen or direct intimacy (he put his hoho on my haha). At the other end of the spectrum, there is a famous Urban Fantasy series featuring a female character that can literally move the earth and raise the dead with her orgasms.
So when it came to my own work in progress, I needed to decide how to handle the romantic subplot. Although the relationship between the would-be lovers is not the focus of the story, it must have an arc nonetheless. If you’ll excuse the pun, a climax is pretty much expected.
To my mind, speculative fiction is all about exploring and bringing out the sense of wonder in the reader. And let’s face it, when it comes to relationships between supernatural characters, it’s pretty much been said and done already. So instead of dedicating one or more of my scenes to the hot and heavy between the two lovers, I made a conscious decision to use sensory elements to trigger memories in my protagonist and use those memories to fuel his desires for the object of his affection, even when she’s off stage.
For example, the smell of baking cookies might remind a man of home, but a trace of pink lipstick or a glimpse of skin can spark an entirely different set of memories (and perhaps best forgotten). Music, food, or even tactile sensations can be powerful triggers that can sabotage a character’s most carefully constructed good intentions. I’ve discovered that it’s a lot of fun (as a writer) to sprinkle my scenes with images and sensory experiences that remind my protagonist of what he’s missing and whet his appetite for that which he knows he should stay away from. It’s a good way to add characterization and depth to a character, too.