I’ll start this blog post with the warning that if you’re sensitive to sexual content, don’t read this post. I’ll also add in that I’m not separating heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, etc., etc.. Sex is sex, folks. We’re all humans here.
I’ll also mention that these are, as usual, my personal opinions. That doesn’t make me right or wrong or in between – it just makes me opinionated. Sound off with your opinions, too!
Good, now that that is out of the way…
Let’s talk writing & sex.
First, let me say that… for the sake of my post here… there are 3 kinds of sex in writing.
1. Erotic Sex
Think porn. Think hot and steamy. Think “forget teasing, I’m going to really give it all” and then do just that. There’s no sugar-coating, and you’re going to need details. Lots of them. If you have an erotica story, you have this… times ten.
2. Generic Sex
Usually happens in romance novels, and often happens in genres that have a sub-genre of romance in there somewhere — especially New Adult fiction. Think of this as a sort of toned down tease; I call it generic. That doesn’t mean it lacks passion. What it does mean, is that it isn’t as descriptive and sexually graphic as erotica sex. You might not even mention body parts by name at all, but rather use description and the senses to do the work for you. If you do mention the body parts/actions, they won’t be in sexually charged, sometimes raunchy ways.
3. Implied Sex
This can easily fit into #2, but I’m separating it out because it is implied and never detailed, and is often never considered sex at all. Think of this as vanilla. Think of this as mentioning characters smooching and then them waking up next to each other the next morning. Did they have sex? Probably. But that’s the only clue we’ll get. There’s no touching to describe or body parts to fit together. These scenes, FYI, can get quite beautiful and symbolic and sometimes I personally prefer beautifully written implied sex scenes to so-so written generic sex scenes.
Now, let me say that sex in novels isn’t bad. And, I certainly don’t think it should be shunned.
Today’s society is one that is hyper-active with a sexual charge. It’s a charge that I don’t think excludes books — nor should it. We write in the environments that created us and so, our writing is going to be more sexual than books in the past. I’ll also say that yes, there are some instances where sex has NO part in a book. I think those are obvious situations (children’s books and some religious books) and if you have to ask, you probably already know the answer.
As a writer, writing sex can be tricky and awkward.
For example, there’s that awkward moment when you have to decide if you’re going to include sex in a novel.
Most of the time, you’re thinking – I have to do this! But you really need to stop and think what your story and your characters need vs. what your brain thinks it needs or society thinks it wants.
I’m always 100% about the story/craft and so I feel that as writers, we have the moral obligation to our stories and characters to only include what is natural to our stories. Sometimes sex is natural. Sometimes it isn’t. Either way, I ask myself…
Is sex natural to the story line here, or am I forcing this?
There is, especially with current times, a natural flow of relationships to a culmination in sex. It’s natural, and if that’s the route your characters are going, great. It fits. But there are times when you can tell sex scenes were added to a book just to be sex — especially in a lot of YA fiction. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes the sex belongs there, but sometimes it’s just stuck in there willy nilly and it’s degrading your story, your writing voice, and your characters.
If you do decide that sex is a natural course for your characters, then comes the next question…
Which kind of sex? Erotic? Generic? or Implied?
I’ll say here that 8 times out of 10, it isn’t erotic. (Obviously, if you’re writing erotica, you’re the 2 out of 10).
Which leaves Generic or Implied — which makes it entirely your choice as a writer and leaves you a few more things to consider…
1. Which is more natural? Some details — a tease of sorts — and writing out the actual deed or just setting up the deed and coming into the scene right after?
2. Which is more fitting my characters?
3. Which am I most comfortable doing?
4. Does it belong in my novel or am I doing it for attention?
It’s #3 and #4 that are the hardest to answer honestly.
I think that a lot of people aren’t comfortable writing sex scenes until they’ve tried it a couple of times.
Asking for feedback is hard, but a must.
The last thing you want to do is feel it’s necessary to include a sex scene and then royally blow it because you’re too scared to ask for feedback. It took me a while to finally find someone I trust to read any sex scenes I’m writing. It doesn’t go to all my beta readers until it is past these two people. They’re honest and frank, and they get that this is sensitive stuff.
I’ll also note that it took me a LOT of practice to get good at it. My first few scenes were awful — though they probably would have made a really good two-bit porno…
It’s also extremely hard to know when implied sexual scenes are better than generic.
The only real way to tell which will work better, if you don’t have a gut instinct, is to try out both, ask for feedback, and then sleep on it.
In the end, the key is to remember not to force and/or rush anything sexual when it comes to your stories. The last thing you want is to destroy a wonderfully constructed story with too much or too little sex. And, in the end, only you, the author, can decide if sex is a necessary encounter for your characters and just how much of it needs to be shared with readers.
What do you think?
Are there some instances when sex is too much in a story?
What are they?
Is there a time when there’s too little sex?
What decides if sex is appropriate in the first place?
And, where do you draw the line?