Some writers hate to write sex scenes, and others can’t wait to get to the naughty scenes. As for me, I’m firmly in the second camp. I love writing sex scenes, not just because sex is awesome in and of itself, but because I believe showing how your characters approach sex can truly deepen and enrich a book.
When it comes to planning (because I’m nothing if not a plotter), I approach sex scenes as I would any other conversation between the characters. What are they trying to express to one another? Is it something they might never be able to say aloud, or just a reaffirmation of what the other person already knows? It can be something simple and straightforward: “I want you.” “I care about you.” Or more complex: “I’m afraid you’ll leave me.” “Nothing in my life feels real except this.” “You’re mine and I won’t share you with anyone else.”
There’s a complicated language which develops organically between each couple, and everything from what sort of sex they choose to have (frottage, oral, anal), to which partner is giving or receiving (if applicable) expresses something specific.
Similarly, it’s worth noting when a character can’t sustain the mood and ends up not having sex. Rare in the romance genre, I know! But it can be a powerful way of showing a character’s sorrow, or how neurotically freaked out he is over being compared to an ex, or whatever other emotion needs to be conveyed.
The amount of realism in sex scenes is an ongoing debate among fiction writers (and readers). Given I’m writing about zombies, ghosts, vampires, and other assorted fantastic beasties, should I feel compelled to include condoms, for instance?
I think the answer to this varies from writer to writer. As with so much, there is no “right” answer here. For me, I’m already asking the reader to suspend their disbelief with the paranormal aspects. Therefore, I feel I need to make an effort not to jar them out of the story with the ordinary aspects. Not to mention, how conscientious a character is (or isn’t) about condoms can say something about him. Not to mention it gives me an excuse to turn up the heat if they both test safe and are now free to do it bareback. ;)
On the other hand, when it comes to stories set in historic eras, like Widdershins and Threshold, I’m more than content to just assume Griffin got extremely lucky. I’ve yet to have anyone write me and complain he isn’t riddled with syphilis or other (at the time) incurable STDs. It might not be realistic, but that’s simply not what the story is about.
As for realism in other aspects, well, you may have gathered I’m very sex-positive, so more than anything what I want to do is show the characters having a good time in a way that will satisfy the reader. I figure I put my poor characters through hell, so I can at least give them a great time in bed to balance everything out.
So what’s your opinion on sex scenes, readers? Writers, how do you approach them in your work?
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