In my final draft of PRAETORIAN, I recently wrote, reviewed and rewrote a steamy scene between two characters that soon turned rather ironic and pivotal to the plot climax. Did I do it because I felt as though it were important for any possible sale of my book? No. I did it because my characters are just like that, and I found it stimulated a necessary amount of drama and character reflection-slash-growth.
So, if sexy-time is now an accepted technique for character and plot development, we need to get our sexy-time learning caps on, don't we? Surely, research-wise, we're all squared. You can't watch a comedy anymore without "sexual references" of a crude or not-so-subtle nature cropping up once or twice or...well, more. Quality television usually includes sexy-time, and some of our favourite movies do as well. We're familiar with, and probably have our favourite, scenes of a sexy-time nature. I mean, hell, think about the current regeneration of the Doctor in Doctor Who.
I'm certainly not saying that all YA should include sex. If it's irrelevant to the plot and doesn't help the story progress forward, then well, it's irrelevant. If its a part of characterisation, inference can a times elucidate a point better than you can graphically. But it's evident that the YA audience absolutely love the prospect of a steamy romance, even if it's only for a scene.
Just looking at what they're exposed to, your audience is going to have some idea of what is hot and what is not. I mean, Christ, I've never been kissed and I can string together enough of what I've been exposed to over the years through film, television and especially music videos to write a sufficiently steamy scene. Youth are youth. Kids will be kids. All that. The traditional means of allowing your couple to move about before the final, enormous kiss, is arguably a dying art. Sometimes, the audience can tell that your story was supposed to met this end. (And frankly, when I notice this, it irks me.) Steam is for steamy needs. If you have no steamy needs, use not the steam.
Steamy scenes are highly visual, they're highly sensual. You need to transport your readers into your viewpoint character's skin, you need to make them feel every touch, gasp at every "sexy" move, yearn to tug your romantic interest against their bodies. I'm totally serious (even if I am incredibly perplexed with myself on why I chose to write about this topic).
I'll use two of Cassandra Clare's teasers to stimulate excitement for her latest books. First, there is the Dirty Sexy Alley Scene in the recently released CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS, and then there is the Dirty Sexy Balcony Scene from the upcoming CLOCKWORK PRINCE. Both use the senses, limited description, and short fragments of dialogue which imply a desperation which the authors are attempting to transfer into the reader.
From CITY OF FALLEN ANGELS:
“Kiss me then,” she whispered, and he pressed his mouth against hers, their hearts slamming together through the thin layers of wet fabric that divided them. And she was drowining in it, in the sensation of him kissing her; of rain everywhere, running off her eyelashes; of letting his hands slide freely over the wet, crumpled fabric of her dress, made thin and clinging by the rain. It was almost like having his hands on her bare skin, her chest, her hips, her stomach; when he reached the hem of her dress, he gripped her legs, pressing her harder back against the wall while she wrapped them around his waist.
He made a noise of surprise, low in his throat, and dug his fingers into the thin fabric of her tights. Not unexpectedly, they ripped, and his wet fingers were suddenly on the bare skin of her legs.
And, from CLOCKWORK PRINCE:
He reached up and unlocked Tessa’s hands from around his neck. He drew her gloves off, and they joined her mask and the hairpins on the stone floor of the balcony. He pulled off his own mask next and cast it aside, running his hands through his sweat-dampened hair, pushing it back from his forehead. The lower edge of the mask had left marks across his high cheekbones, like light scars, but when she reached to touch them, he gently caught at her hands and pressed them down. “No,” he said. “Let me touch you first.”
Did you notice anything? Did you pick up on anything?
Well, for one, they are not lengthy. You need to enrapture your audience, not bore them with a continual teasing. Especially if you're only going to have the couple interrupted, or if you're going to fade to black.
They all have an object they focus on, or a motif of sorts. You could use a mask, or hair, or a wall, or tights. Something to make the scene memorable, or to help you orient yourself amongst the many terms such as kiss and bare and mouth/lips.
What I was talking about before, you know, about letting your reader assume your protagonist's role? Notice how both excerpts use very few instances of names and whole lot of he and she? Yeah, that's the assuming going on. It allows you to transition into the scene and is definitely something I recommend if you're writing in third-person.
It frightens me that I've only posted once during August, but I'm highly doubtful that the posts will be in abundance over the next month. Yearly exams. Shall be both tortuous and torturous.
I love to hear your comments guys, and all the emails I've been getting have been absolutely smashing, my dearest darlings. So, whack up a post below. How do you approach sexy-time in YA? What are your views on sexy-time, and do you have any particularly good examples?
Til next-time loves!