I think the rules for sex in fiction should be the same as the rules for everything else you’re considering having in your book.
X is for x-rated
Sin #23: Poor sex scenes
SEX!! No need to shy away, we all know what it is…and most of us have done it. Dirty, unadulterated, no holds barred, teeth bared, scream out loud shagging! Well the lucky ones anyway!
(If you’re already cringing then you’re going to have a hard time (giggedy) reading the rest of this article.)
Sex in novels has always been a bit of a grey area (if it’s a grey area in real life then consult a doctor immediately!), with most people assuming it only has a home in erotic fiction or cheesy romances – but I beg to differ.
Sex is as much as a part of our lives than eating, drinking, going to work and sleeping. Granted it’s not the be all and end all of our existing…oh wait a minute, it would be the end of our existence if we all stopped…but, for whatever personal reason, it is a very important part of us. So why hold out from putting it in your novel?
The most important thing to consider is “is it needed?”
This applies to all scenes in a book. If the action doesn’t further your novel or act as a useful plot device then is there really any need to include it in the first place? That’s completely up to you, but…
Try and think of a sex scene as a different type of scene if it helps. Would you have a four page scene showing your character driving to work, admiring the trees and tapping the steering wheel in time to the radio each time they stop at a red light?
It all depends on your novel, the characters and what’s important to them. If boredom on the way to work is an important factor then it may be useful to have the above scene in your novel. However, you must be careful not to annoy the reader into giving up on your book. While it might be important later on, all the reader can see is a boring/annoying/cheesy off-putting scene. One that might make them put the book down and reach for a different author.
After you’ve established whether the sex scene is needed, the next step is to write it. This can be quite awkward for some writers. I’d like to point out that feeling awkward, or having trouble writing a sex scene, is not a reflection on your own love life! I’d like to point this out because I had a very hard time writing a sex scene in my current novel. It felt as uncomfortable as watching an erotic scene pop up (giggedy) in a film when you’re sat watching the Saturday night movie with your parents *gulp*
A trap most writers fall into is trying to describe every single action that takes place. I don’t think that needs to be done. Yeah, sure clothes are coming off, getting stuck on the ceiling fan if your characters are excited enough, but I don’t really need to know HOW she took his belt off , then his trousers, then his pants, then he went and folded his shirt because he had to wear to work the next day and made sure his socks were paired together because he really likes this pair and doesn’t want to lose one…zzzzz.
Get to the sex already!
Just try and think about sex in real life….
Sorry, I drifted away to a happy place there for a moment.
In real life when you’re about to do the dirty deed how much do you really think about your clothes? As with any other section of your novel, character emotions should drive the scene.
What is Jeff thinking as he tries to bite through Barbara’s bra strap?
What’s Barbara thinking when Jeff gets undressed in the wrong order and ends up naked apart from his socks?
BARBARA: I wish I was boinking Fred in this imaginary scene.
What’s poor Fred thinking as he sits downstairs listening to the bangs from above?
FRED: I wish I was doing the squishy with Barbara.
The next thing to consider is whether the sex scene is any good! A lot of writers seem to have trouble with sex…in their novels and lots of man rods and shafts keep getting yanked and grabbed. It all sounds a bit painful to me!
Just try and avoid words and phrases such as:
– Trouser snake
– Love shaft
– Mountainous regions
– Vaginal canal
Take a look at some of these scenes so you know what to avoid!!
A good sex scene shows the love, or lust, between two characters (or three) and can be used to really show how they feel about each other, or even how they feel about people that aren’t involved in the scene…such as their actual spouse.
If in doubt, try a bit of research.
Ahh, the pains we suffer as writers…