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Writing Sex Scenes


There comes an awkward moment while writing a story when a writer must decide how to handle a sex scene. These scenes are always difficult to write and there are a few ways to handle them. I bring up this topic because a member of my critique group has been adamant that my latest story needs a sex scene.

Having two characters engage in sex in the middle of a story brings with it a number of questions. First, do you write the actual sex scene? How graphic do you get with the scene? What terminology do you use to describe . . . things? How do you keep from making the scene sound like a teenager's attempt to write erotica? What would your mother say if she read the scene?

Sex scenes in novels can be embarrassing for not only the writer, but the reader as well. It happened to me a month ago while I was listening to the audiobook for K.J. Howe's The Freedom Broker. I was stopped at a traffic light with the car windows down when the narrator began to describe a sexual encounter in a public restroom. Yep, I couldn't get the windows up fast enough.

Then there's always the possibility that your sex scene might end up winning the annual Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award. This award honors "the year's most outstandingly awful scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel." If you want to read some laughable, even cringeworthy sex scenes, check out the award's website at literaryreview.co.uk/bad-sex-in-fiction-award.

I've always been of the opinion that the details of the actual sex is not important as much as the idea that the characters did have sex. Unless there is a major plot point revealed in the heat of the moment, such as one of the characters has three nipples or something like that, I've never seen the need to get into all the nitty-gritty of who was one top or who orgasmed first. Those details never seemed important to the overall story. I've always leaned toward the side of caution. I usually allude to the fact the characters had sex, often writing the initial contact at the end of a chapter. Then picking up the next chapter after they've finished having intercourse. It's less messy that way, no pun intended.

So, will I add a sex scene into my story as my critiquer suggested? I do see the need for a certain degree of intimacy between my characters, but will it lead to a moment of hot, passionate sex? I guess you'll have to wait and see.


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