Sex on the Page: Why Write Sex Scenes?

If you’re just joining us, this post is the second in a collaborative blog series by historical fiction author Carol Buchanan and myself. The first post was Tuesday on her blog , so if you haven’t read that, you might want to do that now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

All caught up? Great! Moving right along…

What is a Sex Scene?

For purposes of clarity, I feel like we should define what Carol and I mean by “sex scene”. A sex scene is any scene in which the characters are engaging in sexual intercourse, whether the action is narrated in direct (graphic) or indirect language. We’ll be discussing the “temperature” of sex scenes as well in the coming weeks.

Why Write Sex Scenes?

I write in three genres – romantic suspense, erotica and thrillers. My reasons for writing sex scenes no matter the genre are similar to Carol’s:

  • To move the plot forward

  • Create/show internal conflict

  • To explore character motivations and/or insecurities

  • To foreshadow events

  • To give characters closure

The last one is arguable, but one I have used before, and may well use again. I feel that consummating a hard-won relationship at the end of a book is perfectly acceptable, and often gives the characters an avenue through which they can open up to each other and finally be transparent with the emotions that have been building throughout the book. Obviously I’d use this more in romance/erotica, and very rarely in a thriller novel (never say never…).

Is it possible to skip the sex scenes all together? In some genres or sub-genres, absolutely. “Sweet” and “Inspirational” romance novels contain no sex whatsoever by preference of the readers/writers. Genres that are more plot-driven (such as thrillers) often contain no sex, or “fade to black” scenes because relationships aren’t the main focus of the story – the focus is achieving whatever goal the plot has laid out. That’s not to say sex scenes can’t be included, but they normally aren’t, because in that situation they often don’t meet any of the criteria above.

Needless to say, for me the list above is also a guideline for when not to include a sex scene. If it doesn’t meet at least one of the above criteria, it doesn’t belong in the book.

What’s Coming Up? (so to speak)

Here’s the schedule for the next seven weeks:

– Feb. 24 : Porn vs. Erotica

– March 1 & 3: Sample Scenes

– March 8 & 10: Instructions not Included

– March 15 & 17: Sex as Comedy

– March 22 & 24: The Sexual Temperature

– March 29 & 31: Foreplay

– April 5 & 7: The Dirty Details

Carol will be posting on Tuesdays at her blog, and I’ll be posting on the same subject here on Thursdays (with the exception of the “Porn vs. Erotica” post, which will be a single post here next week). We’ll both be hosting comments, so I hope you’ll join us each week for what I think will be a rather stimulating discussion.

I’d ask forgiveness for the puns, but really, would you expect anything less from me?

Let’s get the discussion rolling – if you write sex scenes, how do you decide when to include one, and when to leave it out? If you don’t write sex scenes, why not? No pressure or judgments one way or the other, please – play nice.

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3 comments on “Sex on the Page: Why Write Sex Scenes?

  1. Brooklyn Ann

    LOL, “Fade to Black” makes me think of the Metallica song. The Dragonlance authors always called it a “Boot Scene” They got it from Star Trek when Capt. Kirk would embrace the hot alien chick and the next scene he’s be putting his boots back on. 🙂
    The schedule you posted IS very stimulating. 🙂

  2. Carol

    I usually let the story and the characters dictate if and when there’s going to be a sex scene. Added to your excellent reasons is the motivation of bringing the characters closer together so that it’s all that much worse when one or both of them end up in danger. 😉

  3. India Drummond

    I tend to just go with my instincts on sex scenes. I have toned some down and spiced some up on a second or third pass, but the voice of the story tends to dictate whether its appropriate for me.