Smut University—Match the Tone of the Scene by @AmeryMarie

Making Your Words Match the Tone of the Scene You’ve Set by AmeryMarie
(Or It’s Not Making Love if There Are Slapping Sounds)

My boyfriend’s cousin–a man of few words, almost none of them “appropriate”–once said (in his own endearingly succinct way):

It’s not making love, if there are slapping sounds.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I know what you’re all thinking . . .

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So, let me explain . . .

Nothing is worse than being caught up in a story, the two main characters are finally about to consummate their relationship, they whisper words of love as they join together . . . and then one of the characters says, “Yeah, you like that, you little slut?”

What the fuck? Seriously?

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It’s like a wrong note in the middle of a beautiful sonata, Odette breakdancing in the middle of Swan Lake, a wolf amongst the sheep . . . you get the picture. It’s out of place, and doesn’t work. The discordance takes the reader out of the story and, sometimes, you never get them back.

Unlike in a movie or real life, where dozens of elements combine to set the scene and mood (music, lighting, camera angles, what is visible, etc.), a writer must convey all of that while relying solely on the written word. It’s a fragile web to weave, and one wrong word can destroy it.

The Devil’s in the Details

I wish I could give you step-by-step instructions on how to make your sex scene flow, but there is no such thing Smut-By-Numbers. If there were . . . well, I wouldn’t be writing this. (Note to self: patent idea for Smut-By-Numbers writing kit.) Now, I’m not an expert by any means–I’m sure I strike out just as often I hit them out of the park–but I’m here to offer what help I can based on my own experiences.

My first bit of advice is to just write. Don’t limit yourself by demanding perfection right out of the gate. A wise person once told me that me that you have to first get shit get shit on paper, before you can go about making it pretty. Don’t edit/censor yourself or pull any punches! Just go with it. It doesn’t even have to make sense yet, the important thing is to get something on paper.

Exercise #1:

Take ten minutes or so to write a lemon for something you are either already working on or have previously written. Don’t just jump into the humping. You need to set the scene by writing a lead in.

For those who need a writing prompt, feel free to use one or more of the randomly chosen prompts below.

Writing Prompts:

Seeking Solace
Innocence
Drive
Breathe
Again
Memory
Insanity
Smile
Silence
Questioning
Blood
Fortitude
Vacation
Trouble
Tears
Happiness
Expectations
Hold My Hand
Precious Treasure
Abandoned
Dreams
Breaking the Rules
Teamwork

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Why aren’t you writing?

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Get back to work.

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Don’t even think about reading ahead.

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Okay I’m bored. Are you finished yet?

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Hustle and Flow

Assuming you actually did the exercise, we’re now ready for the next step: making your words match the tone of the scene you’ve set or, to phrase it another way, making it flow.

Trying to outline the various steps that I go through when I edit my writing, specifically the smutty bits, to insure that it flows, has proven to be more challenging than I anticipated. There are two reasons for this. One is because, it’s something I do inherently both while writing and editing, and the other is because they are all so intrinsically linked to the others that separating them is almost like trying to sort out the family trees in Deliverance. Not the easiest task, that.

So . . . after toiling over this for weeks upon weeks (most of it spent stymied and/or procrastinating), I have come up with the following (rough) guide, in no particular order, for improving the flow of your lemons. Please forgive me if I seem to repeat something or leave anything out. I’m sure I could have broken this down even more, but that would bore both you and me. Besides, as I’ve said before, it’s subjective; the minutiae of my methods might not work for you. Everyone has to figure out what works for them, but, hopefully, this will help get you started.

PG-13 or NC-17, That is the Real Question

Is your lemon too graphic? Well, what’s “graphic”? For our purposes here, “graphic” is going to encompass both the definitive–vivid and explicit detail–as well as coarseness of language. The reason for this is because it is entirely possible to write a very physically descriptive lemon without it feeling “graphic” if the language used isn’t coarse and expletive filled. Bear in mind, innuendo, depending on the crassness of it–and no matter how witty–counts as coarse.

Every transition you write should be smooth, but when transitioning into a lemon, you can really fuck it up if it doesn’t flow. Launching into a raunchy lemon after a sweet moment, does anything but. So, how do you decide if your lemon is too graphic for what preceded it?

My rule of thumb (to which there are always exceptions) is that the deeper the emotional connection of the scene leading up to it, the sweeter and the less graphic the lemon. If it’s lusty and carnal, or angry, etcetera, it can be more graphic. Remember though, as implied above, less graphic doesn’t necessarily mean gloss over it–although in some cases, that may be right. Inversely, it also doesn’t mean that it should be so sterilized that it becomes clinical. It’s all about balance.

One of the ways in which you can still be descriptive without being too graphic, is by focusing on the emotional aspects of the physical action. In other words, write about how it feels rather than what is being done.

I Know What I Am, So Just Let Me Be

Characters behaving in an out of character way whilst copulating? Has your shy, virginal Bella unexpectedly developed a fetish for pegging her man? Is your kind-hearted, nurturing Carlisle suddenly a sick, sadomasochist fuck? Then you need . . . to try again. Don’t turn your characters into something that they aren’t simply because they’re getting it on; your characters lose creditability and it’s a minor breach of trust.

I’m not saying that the shy, wallflower can’t turn into a tiger/ess in the sack, or that the cocksure, captain of industry can’t enjoy being dominated–by all means, do it. Just make it believable. No one likes taking an unexpected left turn . . . unless there is a damn good reason.

I Can Feel It Coming in the Air

So far, our focus has primarily been on the characters. Right now, we are going to shift our focus just a little over to plot . . . because you can’t have one without the other. Remember when I told you that all of these considerations were incestuous? Here’s where I prove it as we’ve already touched on an aspect of it in relation to your characters.

This isn’t really one specific thing. It’s more of a group of items that are so closely related, that it’s best to put them all under the same umbrella . . . ella . . . ella . . . so bear with me. I will likely leave something out, but these are, in my humble opinion, the biggies.

The part of your story that has the most noticeable affect on your lemon is what takes place immediately prior between the characters involved, and the reasons are fairly obvious. Not only does it effect their emotions, it is the driving factor behind their coupling . . . or grouping, as the case may be. Were they fighting, breaking up, reconnecting, resolving sexual tension, etcetera? Are they having sex in reaction to each other or in reaction to something that occurred? That’s where the next consideration comes into play.

Although more subtle, what is going on in the story as a whole–i.e. their lives, both as individuals and together (in whatever capacity that is, i.e. friends, lovers, etc.)–shouldn’t be overlooked. It is a source of external stressors which affect their overall frame of mind, which, in turn, affects how they relate to each other and interact with one another.

Ignoring these factors in your lemon is a little bit like, “What the fuck . . . did that just happen?” You can’t expect anyone to trust you when you effectively negate or nullify what they’ve already read.

It’s not as cut and dry as what events took place, though. Conditions and location are both factors, not to mention an easy and frequent source of problems. The solution is simple – make sure that it’s even possible to perform/partake in the sex you wrote in the location you choose, and that the conditions (i.e. the weather, privacy or lack of, state of dress, physical condition of participants, etcetera) are conducive.

Finally, your lemon needs to reflect the relationship of the participating characters, the depth of their emotional connection, and their chemistry. You could almost think of it as the love versus lust factor. Sex between two strangers having a one night stand may not be the same as the sex between best friends, acquaintances, etcetera, and no one wants to read the words, “Pound my pussy with your hard cock, baby!” when reading about a character losing their virginity to his/her first love. Actually, I don’t know that I ever want to read those exact words under any condition, but you get my point.

These seemingly inconsequential things, actually have a profound impact on the quality and success of your lemons.

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The very last thing I want to discuss is the story’s genre. Is it romance, comedy, drama? In my opinion, this is one of the least important factors. However, that doesn’t mean you can overlook it entirely. No one wants to read about rape in a comedy. Just saying.

Exercise #2:

Keeping what you’ve just read in mind, copy and paste the lemon you wrote for exercise #1 into a new document. Now, read it over and edit it. When you’ve finished, compare your unedited version from exercise one with your edited version from exercise two. If you’re feeling brave, post the two versions on the forum. I’d love to see the results.

Final Thoughts

I wish I could say for certain that what I’ve just shared with you will be helpful, but I can’t because, it’s all subjective. Despite all of the pieces of advice I’ve given you, it ultimately comes down to a feeling and you have to find your own way. Just go with your gut, and when it’s right, you’ll know it. Have fun with it, and don’t pull any punches out of fear of judgment because it’s the worst thing you can do. It’s like an actor not giving everything to his performance. The resulting performance is a watered down mockery of what should have been.

With practice and a little confidence, you’ll develop your own gauge for whether something works or not. The best lemons I’ve ever written have been the ones that left me blushing, slightly nervous about it’s reception, and–possibly–a little hot under the collar. t left me blushing, slightly nervous about it’s reception, and–possibly–a little hot under the collar.

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