Now that you have decided that the scene is crucial to the story and not just fluff, exactly how does a writer pull off describing the sexual act without sounding crass or clichéd? That’s the tricky part, walking the fine line between good taste and bad writing without tripping over. I faced just such a dilemma penning Three Times Chosen, when Durgay and Najoli physically expressed their growing feelings for one another. Luckily, I was no longer a literary virgin thanks to the Thunderfoot mating scene concerning Bronte and Darved in The Chosen One. Life was certainly made easier for me having to describe a pairing between animals – albeit titanic dinosaurs. My first dip in the pool of romance was suitably tasteful for a wildlife show! Getting back to merfolk intimacy, in one way I was let off the hook by the fact that my couple weren’t strictly human, meaning the union between consenting Cetari was a plunge into uncharted waters. That said, they retained enough humanness that the unspoken rule of sensuality over sexuality still applied.
The old adage “Less is more” is apt. Consider the classic film Jaws. Were you frightened more by the shark actually appearing, that triangular fin slicing sinisterly through the water, or the mere hint of its presence preceded by John William’s superbly menacing score. Alfred Hitchcock was the unequivocal master of suspense, delivering scares which relied on gist more than gore. The shower scene in Psycho stills ranks highly as one of the most terrifying scenes in cinematic history.
A sex scene is therefore perfect material for exercising this type of creative restraint. Use your reader’s imagination to paint the picture without having to draw it for them line by (potentially embarrassing) line. Essentially a diluted form of voyeurism, you invite the reader to take a ringside seat, then set the scene and let their mind color the imagery. It’ll make for a more passionate read, leaving the booklover breathless and wanting more...story, that is, not sex!