When authors write sex scenes it can be hard to avoid making some critical style errors. One of the most common… sentient body parts.
What is a sentient body part? A body part that is the subject of the action in the sentence.
Her hand grazed the soft stubble on the back of my neck.
His lips pressed mine.
Her hips ground into my pelvis.
My tongue teased against hers.
I’m sure you read sentences like this all the time, right? Why is this construction wrong?
Technically, writing body parts doing things is not “wrong.” But from a style perspective, avoiding sentient body parts leads to a more effective scene. If you are writing about lips and eyes and fingers, you’re not writing clearly and with precision about your character–the person (or, you know, whatever your character is, wolf-shifter, alien, etc.)
When eyes or lips or hands are doing the action, the sentence that results may be ambiguous or even improbable. If the words you use are not precise and distract the reader from the moment… well… let’s just say that if your words break the mood, that is not effective sex writing!
Let’s revise the examples above but avoid the sentient body parts.
Before: Her hand grazed the soft stubble on the back of my neck.
After: She grazed the soft stubble on the back of my neck with her fingertips.
Before: His lips pressed mine.
After: He pressed his lips against mine.
Before: Her hips ground against the buckle of my jeans.
After: She ground her hips against the buckle of my jeans.
Before: My tongue teased against hers.
After: She teased my tongue with hers.
Simple to revise, right?
The next time you’re reading an erotic scene, dissect it as a writer. What works for you? What distracts you? It’s always a great idea to study writing that you enjoy as a learning tool. See my post about storyboarding for how to dissect writing you love to read. Be mindful of good etiquette (avoid plagiarism) and don’t be afraid to push your writing with every draft. Just don’t let your fingers push your writing… make sure YOU, the author, are the one completing that action!