Anyway, I’m straying off point here. The thing that annoys me most is the complete lack of purpose in the sex scenes I’m reading—other than the need to titillate. (Titillate! Funny word. Moving on…) It seems to me that a lot of writers are shoving sex scenes into their books just for the hell of it. Sure sex sells, but unless you’re writing straight erotica, where the intention is to titillate then there should be a reason for putting the scene in your novel.
So here are my thoughts on the matter. A sex scene in a good romance novel should do at least one, preferably more than one, of the following:
1. Move the plot forwardThe scene isn’t there just for the sake of cramming some sex into the book, it’s there to build the story. If you can take the scene away and the story isn’t affected in the slightest, then you don’t need the scene. In that case, either you need to rewrite to get some plot into the scene or get rid of the scene.
2. Develop the charactersThe scene should reveal something about the characters—and not just what they look like naked! It should give them emotional depth. It should reveal a little of what motivates them, or what they believe to be true about themselves. A sex scene is a good place to reveal a character's weakness or need. It’s also a good place to make them vulnerable, not necessarily to the other character in the scene, but definitely to the reader. If by the end of the scene you don’t feel you know the character better than you did at the start, then you don’t need the scene.
3. Deepen the relationship between the charactersIf two characters have sex, it should change them in some way. Whether the scene causes a positive or a negative affect in the characters depends on what kind of book you're writing. Sex scenes are a good way to deepen the conflict in your story, or to deepen the emotional content of the relationship the characters have already established. We should see the impact they have on each other, and the affect that has on the story overall.
4. Enhance the loveUnless you’re writing erotica, romance novels are about love and happy endings. Every action in a sex scene should be constructed in such a way that it tells the reader that these two people are either falling in love or are already in love. Their passion should have depth and meaning.
5. Be character and story appropriateI’m not against graphic descriptions or down and dirty language—if it fits the overall story and character development. If you have a Disney princess for a heroine and she suddenly starts behaving and talking like a porn queen then you have a sex scene that doesn’t fit your characters or your book. Put yourself inside the character’s head. Make the whole experience unique to them and don’t worry about squeezing in the language and description you’ve seen other writers use. Write to suit your story, not to suit what’s hot in the market right now.
6. Concentrate on emotion not descriptionYour reader knows that tab A fits into slot B. They know what nipples look like. And for the love of all thing chocolate please stop using the phrase ‘velvet over steel’ for anything to do with a penis!!! You aren’t writing a sex manual. You’re writing a love scene, an experience between two people that’s charged with hidden meaning, vulnerability and raw emotion. What’s more important? That the reader knows how big the hero’s dick is—in graphic detail—or that the reader knows how vulnerable he feels when he’s holding the woman who means more to him than any other?
7. Be uniqueAnd I don't mean that you've to opt for descriptions of whacky situations or more extreme kinks. Having the hero and heroine get it on while flying on trapezes without a net isn’t going to make your scene stand out. (Well not in a good way anyway!) It isn’t the logistics that need to be unique; it’s the experience as seen through the eyes of those particular characters. Writing a sex scene isn’t one size fits all. Each character will react differently to each situation. What one person thinks while being intimate is different to another person’s thoughts. You need to make the experience unique to the characters. And in doing so you’ll give even the most boring missionary sex depth and sparkle.
Okay, that’s my thoughts on sex scenes.