Fantasy and sex...

Thought you guys might like to read an article I've written on adding inter-species sex to your fantasy or paranormal novel. Enjoy!

On fantasy and sex…

So you’re writing a fantasy with a dragon -- a vampire -- a merman -- a werewolf -- a beast. The list goes on. And you want to spice it up with romantic tension, or even (gasp!) sex. It can be done. After all, fantasy is no long just for 13-year-old boys. There are some basic rules to follow so that your scene will not fall flat and cause laughter and eye-rolling. Here’s where you start – whatever species your character is, remember that the number one rule in writing fantasy is that you must suspend your reader’s disbelief in order to write successfully. This is particularly important when you consider adding sex to an already fantasy-filled plot. How do you do that? Basically, the same way you do it in any fiction writing – you make your character live and breathe. You make him or her so real to your readers that it doesn’t matter if he/she has wings, fins, fur or fangs – he/she is still real and is therefore able to evoke empathy in your audience.
To begin, you must know your character intimately. Where was he/she born? Or how was he/she created? What motivates your character? Construct a detailed past for him/her. Whether you actually end up using such a detailed past in the actual plot of your novel matters little. You must understand the creature’s history to build a believable present and future with him/her for your readers.
Then construct a sexual past for him/her, just as you would any human character. Does he/she prefer to be the aggressor in a sexual relationship? Or is he/she more passive? Why? Is he/she afraid of expressing his/her needs fully? Why? What is his/her secret fantasy? How many partners has he/she had? How was his/her last partner? Has he/she ever had an orgasm? Overall, what type of experience has he/she had in bed? You need to know the answers to these questions because your character’s sexual past (or lack thereof) influences how they will react in the present. By knowing your characters, you help the reader know them. You know the emotional risks your hero and heroine are taking by being together, and that, in turn, enhances sensuality, building tension and adding emotional risk, as well as believability. What is emotional risk? To answer that question you must first decide what your characters have to lose and/or gain. By creating a complex history for your alien/fantasy character, and the world in which he or she lives, you will be able to discover his/her conflicts and needs, and ultimately understand what’s at stake for him/her emotionally.
These questions keep the reader turning the pages, not the sex act itself. Like a well-written horror novel wherein it’s not the violence itself that is so intriguing, but the building of tension that leads to the eventual explosion. It is the same with a well-written fantasy sex scene. You build sexual tension and intimacy well before the act itself, and then because you have created characters with whom the readers identify, they naturally want to know what happens to them next. Remember that a love scene is not the story in itself. It is not used to pad plot holes or bolster weak stories. Sex has to be used naturally, as an authentic next step in the relationship development between your hero and heroine.
It is important in any love scene, but especially an interspecies or fantasy love scene, to utilize the five senses. Your alien character needs to have a reaction to the differences between himself and his lover. The same holds true for the human character. She must have a reaction to the differences between herself and the alien. What are their different smells? Their different skin textures? How would they taste? Speak? Do the intimate parts of their bodies look different? Let the characters notice these differences and respond. This helps the reader picture the scene and creates a web of believability.
Once that is done, you must consider the problems their differences create. In my novel, GODDESS OF THE SEA (Berkley, Oct 03), the hero is a merman and the heroine is a human. The first problem is that the heroine can’t stay underwater or she’ll drown. How, then, can she make love to the merman? The hero needs access to her body outside of the water. My solution was to create a magnificent underwater grotto that allows the hero to stay partially in the water, yet have full access to the heroine who is no longer in the water.
One of the wonderful things about writing inter-species sex is that you have an endless range of possibilities for the way you bring about the physical act of love between your characters. Use your imagination! In my fantasy novels set in the world of Partholon, I have centaurs and humans who sometimes become romantically involved. In the prequel to ELPHAME’S CHOICE (Luna, Dec 04), my hero is a centaur and the heroine is a human woman. My centaur is a High Shaman, and thus he can shapeshift so that the two can make love, but the act of changing forms leaves him physically drained, which limits their opportunities to make love. I solve this problem by having my centaur hero bring my human heroine to climax through discovering what pleases her human body without actually engaging in intercourse; thereby satisfying his lover, bringing the characters emotionally closer together, as well as enticing readers with the intimacy and sexual tension that has been built within the hero, but not yet released.
In ELPHAME’S CHOICE, my hero is a demon/human hybrid, and throughout the novel he struggles against his darker, more violent side – especially because it is awakened by the act of lovemaking. Instead of driving my hero and heroine apart, this problem draws them closer together, and when they finally join it is an ultimately intimate act that goes well beyond the physical. In the sequel to Elphame, BRIGHID’S QUEST (Luna, Dec 05), my hero is a human man who cannot shapeshift. My heroine is a centaur Huntress who also cannot shapeshift. But they fall in love and are put in a position where they must handfast (or marry) because it’s best for their two races. Naturally, part of Brighid’s actual quest is her journey to become a High Shaman so that she can shapeshift and physically mate with our hero, but that doesn’t happen until after they’ve already fallen in love and been pledged to one another…and after I’ve written in quite a bit of intimacy and sexual tension between the two of them. It works – but it works because of the details of the relationship, not because of the sex itself.
So remember – when writing inter-species sex the differences between your characters are of the utmost importance because they help ground the reader in reality. Ask yourself a barrage of physically based questions. Are the creature’s eyes sensitive to light? Does he prefer sweet or sour tastes? Does his hair curl at the end? Does he have hair on his body at all? If so, what does it feel like? Are his hands rough? Is his skin texture different than a human? Mix sensory details with an intimate knowledge of his past, and you will have a recipe that will create a being who will live and breathe, love and laugh, and, ultimately, entrance your readers.
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