How to Write a Good Fight/Sex Scene

[This blog was originally published in Night Owl Reviews]

Ladies, did you know I’m also a billionaire? It’s true! Sure, I inherited my billions from my father, who started with millions he inherited from his father and so on for several generations, but thanks to our system of tax breaks for the rich and rampant wealth distribution inequality, I grew those millions into billions! I am truly a self-made man. Have you seen my washboard abs? I mean, REALLY seen them?

Let’s be honest—the vast majority of fight/sex scenes in Hollywood and literature only exist to titillate. Most could be replaced by a sign or sentence that says “And then they have sex,” or “And then they fight.” I lump sex scenes and fight scenes together because the mechanics and purposes of both are very similar.

So how do you write a good one? Let’s pretend like I’m qualified to give advice on this, and no one has recognized my genius yet because I’ve been cursed by an evil witch who lives next door and is mad that I was rude to her cat one time. Here are my handy-dandy tips:

– Don’t be a prude.

Maybe it goes without saying, but don’t write a sex scene unless you’re willing to visualize every aspect of hot, steamy sex. Ditto for a fight scene—if you’re not willing to look into your dark heart and imagine really hurting someone, don’t bother. It’ll never sound genuine. Sex and fight scenes don’t need to be graphic, but you should start graphic and work your way back to whatever level is appropriate for your story. If your mind won’t let you go there… Well, maybe reassess whether you really want to be a writer, because being a writer involves a lot of discomfort.

Okay, Nicole Kidman, I’ll buy a ticket. JUST THIS ONCE.

– Make it critical to the story.

Ask yourself what would happen if you took the fight/sex scene out, or replaced the scene with the sentence, “And then they have sex/fight.” Would your story be significantly different? The best sex scenes have far-reaching consequences and give us insight into the characters; not just that they had sex, but how they had sex. Ditto for fight scenes. What might we learn about a man who rips a woman’s clothes off in the heat of passion while she just lays there? Does she like that he’s in charge? Is she barely tolerating him? Is it consensual? Or a fight scene where one woman bites another’s earring off. Does she usually fight dirty? Is she desperate? Did those used to be her earrings that her ex gave to his new fling? The best fight/sex scenes do more than excite; they add character depth and advance the plot.

– Focus on key, vivid details.

This is true throughout all writing, but especially true for fight and sex scenes. For sex scenes, writers are often tempted to go all metaphysical to describe what’s going on, like, “Their hearts merged as one and the heavens sang,” or some such ridiculousness. Or, “Her skin was like a rose.” How like a rose? Like touching a rose? Roses have thorns. Write the scenes so the reader can clearly imagine the sensations for themselves. Imagine this—the sound of skin slapping during sex. A very simple description most everyone can viscerally imagine. The taste of vodka on your partner’s lips. The crooked angle of a dislocated finger. The swollen feel of your numb face.

As with porn, fight scenes are all about getting the right angles.

Those are the biggies, as I understand them. As with everything, practice makes perfect. So get writing, pervs!


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