Or, how run-ons, repetition, and spotty punctuation can help you pace your sex scene
When I turn in a book to my editor, I often add this note to the stylesheet she forwards to the copyediting department:
Please leave pacing in sex scenes alone, i.e., leave the punctuation there as I wrote it. The flow is carefully planned.
I’m thinking of the reader’s experience as I write my sex scene. In a way, I’m making love to the reader. (Yes, yes, I said that, you can go tell all your friends now.)
I don’t want the reader to get pulled up short by the sudden intrusion of a semicolon, or trip over excess commagery.
I want to keep the reader sliding down this waterslide of fun.
Their eyes are open because they have to read, but on some level their eyes are shut, or turned inward on the ImaxTM screen in their heads, with full SensurroundTM and OdoramaTM. Too many commas, too many periods—that’s coitus inerruptus—“talk to the hand!”
A run-on sentence brings a breathless quality to the sex, the reader has no time to regroup, to pull out, to tell me, “not tonight, darling,” all they can do is slide and slide down the waterslide I’ve set up for them, splishing splashing sploshing into those feelings sounds tastes touches smells…. For a terrific example of the run-on sex scene sentence done right, read the sex scene, which is all one single sentence that runs for pages, from Toni Morrison’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Or maybe it comes in Beloved. I can’t remember. Rats, now I’ll have to go reread them. In bed.
I also repeat words in sex scenes. This, I am telling my copyeditor, is done on purpose. Really. Sex is all about rhythm, and repetition done right creates a rhythm that’s almost as good as giving my dear reader a squeeze right where it’ll do the most good, over, and over, and over—are you sweating yet? Excellent! My work here is done.
So my suggestion is that if you’re writing a sex scene, unplug your inner editor and uncap your inner lube. And go easy on the punctuation.
For samples of my latest badly punctuated run-ons, read Dancing With Cupid, a sweet and (eventually) extremely spicy re-mythology of the Hindu god of love and his virgin amnesiac runaway bride. I’m thinking here of the scene with the mangos.