Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sex Can Be Hilarious

Did the title catch your attention? Me too! Which is why when I saw is as a title of an RT Booklovers Convention workshop, I just had to attend.

The wonderful hosts of this workshop were best selling author of contemporary romances Susan Donovan and historical romance author Celeste Bradley. The idea for the workshop came to them when they reviewed praise on their hot love scenes punctuated by laugh out loud moments. They examined where they’d done it, how they’d done it, and why it worked.

Thought the authors wrote in genres alien to my own writing, what they talked about applies to all genres. Especially Science fiction and fantasy settings where we get to create what the norms and standards are in our worlds.

Let’s take a novel with aliens, for example. Put a human in an alien environment and the opportunity for funny misunderstandings is endless. Not just for conversation, or action scenes, mind you, but also in the bedroom!

But be careful, Susan and Celeste warned, there is a time and place to insert humor during a love scene. Put in the wrong type of humor and you risk losing your reader at a critical stage.

Here are some guidelines they suggested:
     A. Funny can’t be mean spirited, but it can stem from the character’s inexperience or vulnerability, but not used as a put down. Ex. You can’t be in the guy’s head thinking, Her tummy resembles the Michelin Man’s. However, you can be in you female character’s point of view and think, Note to self, avoid waist control panty hose or you’ll end up looking like the Michelin Man.
     B. Humor should not interrupt the flow of sexual tension. Pick your spots judiciously. Sometimes humor just doesn’t fit.
     C. Make sure there’s the right balance of funny moments to sexy moments, as per your writing style.
     D. Remember, it’s only funny if the reader can relate to it or wishes she could have an experience like it. Humor can help deliver the fantasy, which is what romance is all about.

Our workshop authors also had some helful tools to bring humor into your writing. Here they are:
     A. POV—Be clear on your POV and how your character would experience the love scene. Are you in the right character’s head at the right time? Try writing it from both perspectives and see what works best.
     B. Inner dialogue—often contrasting what is said out loud.
     C. Narrative-use of descriptive adjectives, adverbs, and verbs, for the appropriate POV.
     D. Senses—use them all, mix them up!
     E. Personality quirks—what would your character be feeling or thinking during sex?
     F. Dialogue.

The last part of the workshop was entirely about dialogue. Funny dialogue. Silent sex is boring. So how do you use dialogue to put a funny twist on the action? Here are their suggestions on that:
     A. It has to be real; the words have to fit the character. The dialogue can reveal some hidden secrets or hidden feelings, but can’t come out of nowhere for the reader.
     B. It can be in exact contrast to inner dialogue
     C. It can reveal a character’s vulnerability or inexperience.
     D. Characters can play off each other—witty repartee is HOT!

Last but not least, humor can be added through action, whether as a cause of the setting, or secondary characters. Animals can also be a great way to add a funny moment. A jealous dog, a curious cat, a noisy parrot…there are endless possibilities!

Remember, the humor should build tension and endear the character to the reader further, and it should never be forced. If you are still chuckling at what you wrote after the fifth time you’ve edited the manuscript, then chances are you have a winner.


  1. Great post Laura S. I'm going to attempt to fix the html coding that came through on the post so it can be more easily read. I hope that's okay with you...

  2. Please do! If you can suggest how I can prepare it for next time, I'd also appreciate it. I'm having a hard time figuring that part out. Thanks!

  3. Okay Laura, your post is easier to read now. Thanks to Dee for her advice on how to fix it.

  4. Laura, I don't have trouble very often with posts. My friend Dee can probably answer that question better than I. Here's her email: improvwebdesigns @
    (no spaces)

    Also maybe others here can help as well. Does anyone know how to help Laura S. with her posts?

  5. Well, I didn't see the original before it was fixed, but Laura, if you're cutting and pasting it into the new post box, are you clicking the HTML tab rather than the COMPOSE tab? Pasting into the COMPOSE tab sometimes messes up the formatting. Once its pasted in, you can switch to the COMPOSE tab to tweak it.

    But, posting details aside, thanks for another great article with some good advice on writing humor in sex scenes. Good stuff!

  6. Oh yeah, thank you Kaye for your suggestion, too! I'll contact Dee :)

  7. Don't copy and paste from word. Blogger and word haven't proved compatible in my experience.

    I love the notes for the post. :o) Thanks!


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