To have sex or not to have sex, that is the question. In writing fiction, especially my kind, Escape Fiction, the question of writing about sex is both always on my mind and a source of anxiousness. How much is too much sex? How much is nothing more than a tease? And, how far in the details do you go?
Consider this. To develop a good sex scene you have to describe the act of touching, feeling and sensing sex. Really. Think about it. How do you actually describe something that in the end (if it’s really good) leaves you speechless and numb?
Also, consider that you don’t want to lose your overall storyline. You’re writing adventure or espionage, or good historical fiction or the classic someone-gets-a do-over-in-life: is sex a part of the story or thrown in just ‘because?’ Does the scene actually fit the characters, and if so … then what. Real life here – what does sex do for the relationship and the story.
I had a great, juicy, vivid sex scene in a story that was as erotic and explicit as they come (no pun intended). The characters are well liked and readers would certainly want their HEA, Happily Ever After. But in one of the many edits I had to stand back and take the scene for what it was. It was the fantasy that readers would have in their minds but all that detail was unnecessary. The reader could infer or expand on less and yet still have satisfaction the two characters finally got together. I cut the scene drastically and the storyline was infinitely better.
Oh, another thing? Juicy, vivid sex scenes will turn off a variety of readers for differing reasons. Some would call it porn, some erotica and some just ‘ew’ and not read further. Always keep the audience in mind. If vivid detail is your thing you may lose part of the audience.
So, what do you have left? Quiet innuendo or a kiss? Not quite – then again if you have a difficult time writing about sex perhaps that kiss and quick change of scene is it. Again, depending on the storyline it could be appropriate.
In fact, it can be a great tease, like the competing men for Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. Plum has two men interested in her, Joe Morrelli – a cop and a handsome, randy one at that; and Ranger – a security expert steeped in mystery. Evanovich never writes more than to set up the where they are and maybe where the hands go – then ends with nothing more than a ‘yahoo’ or toes curling. The lead up and scenes allow you, the reader, to make up the scene yourself and saves the writier from having to find different ways to describe a penis, breasts and ‘how it feels.’
Now, J.R. Ward is another story. Ward’s characters have good sex. She writes sex scenes without being vile, but are vivid and erotic. You want to know what these characters are like, you want them to get a HEA and you hope what you read is the beginning of that. Ward writes much more detail, but it isn’t gratuitous and it ‘fits’ the plot, characters and story. Ward also has no problem finding different ways to describe penis, breasts and ‘how it feels.’
Oh, and another catch? How are you going to feel when your friends and family reads your sex scenes? It doesn’t bother me; in fact a few people have said they look at me a whole new way, which makes me laugh. But that’s just me. If you don’t know or feel timid about people knowing the inner sex kitten you are – go the Evanovich way or get a pseudonym.