Sex Sells, Baby

Sex, Sex, Sex

Are you picturing that on a flashing neon sign in the blacked-out window of a shop on the bad side of town?
Stop it!
Seriously, unless that’s just where you like to hang out, of course.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I have always thought I had a pretty healthy opinion of sex. Fun, consensual, not hurting anybody – go for it. But sex in fiction? Frankly, I used to just skip over those sections. There always seemed to be too much something, or not enough of something else (no, not what you’re thinking, get your mind out of my gutter). I wanted to feel that the sex scene was there, not for the sex itself, but for the reason we have sex (at least, when we have it with someone we love, rather than that club pickup just was just too hot for words) – to physically express the feelings of that couple. To see them falling in love, watch them learn each other, feel how each makes the other feel. Just like you put your favorite people into awful situations to see how they react and what decisions they make, you put them into a sexual situation to show how they treat each other, see how they show their feelings to each other, and to figure out what they hide, and why.
I’m merrily writing my way through The Devil’s Cross, and having SO much fun with Hart and Remi. They are each just a hot mess in their own ways, but they are so perfect for each other! At some point these crazy kids are going to have to get it on – it’s a romance novel, after all…so, off I went to research ‘how to write a sex scene that doesn’t suck’. No, that’s not a website, sadly. I did manage to find a couple of books on the topic though. I’m now just over halfway though Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet by Stacia Kane. Loving it! Stacia writes with humor and wit, and with a healthy appreciation for all things deliciously fun and a just a bit naughty. Or, a lot.
But you know, in a good way.
Think back to the first time you really wanted somebody…not just ‘oh my god he/she’s so hot’, but when you wanted to wrap yourself around them and crawl inside them and learn them. All the moments leading up to the actual sex, those are delicious.
A frustrated conversation, an interrupted kiss, a hand on a waist pushing someone out of harms way.
The scent of them when they lean down to whisper something in your ear, the warmth of their hand on the small of your back, that yummy curl of heat low in your belly when you lean in for a kiss.
That builds tension, and tension, as we all know, must be released at some point.
That’s what I want to read. Technically, we all know how it’s going to end. It’s the journey that counts, actually.
However, while my goal here is to write what I would want to read, I do have to acknowledge that there are readers out there that want different things. (What?!) So I researched, meaning I read tons of reviews of highly rated and popular books in the romance category on Amazon.
And holy wow, are readers passionate (see what I did there?) about their romance! More sex. Less sex. Better sex. (Not one request for worse sex though, oddly.) The two constants seem to be that there must be some sex, even if it’s kind of hinted at and happens off-page, and that it needs to mean something. Not just inserted (geez) at a certain number of pages into the book, but at a point where the logical progression of your character arcs take them there. Where they just can’t come up with one more good reason not to. Where they can’t help themselves.
You know, almost like, life.
And boy howdy, does that sell a book. Like hotcakes. Or whatever we eat now instead of hotcakes that are super yummy and irresistible and pretty much crack – but legal. (So far).
While caught up in the throes of my research (really), it occurred to me to check in on the blog of a friend of mine, just in case she might have posted something on this topic. It turns out, I’m not the only one that appreciates tension. Sarah Hoyt (Author, Blogger, Beautiful But Evil Space Princess) says, ‘Sexual tension – as opposed to sex – makes the reader continue reading, makes us interested, makes us crave the moment when the two would-be-lovers, yearning for each other but holding back, finally kiss or even touch.”
See? It’s not just me!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ll end up with some thrusting and grunting in some of my books somewhere, but it’s that thick feeling in your throat that makes your voice husky that I’m really after. I want your cheeks flushed after reading their first on-page meeting, I want you to tell your kids to have pop-tarts for dinner so you can get through one more chapter.
Guilty pleasure, here I come.
May have to line up the VodkahubbyTM for some research. I’m sure he’ll be sad about that, but you know, the things you do for love. And writing!

Please let me know what you think…more, less, none at all? Do you skip the sex scenes? Or do you seek them out? Why?

Posted in Blog Tagged with: , , |  30 Comments
30 comments on “Sex Sells, Baby
  1. NukemHill says:

    I love how your post is about writing a sex scene, and the text under Featured Book is “Coming Soon”. 😛

  2. Olive Martini says:

    Here b/c….VodkaPundit! I have certainly read my share of novels from about age 14 on. I beg of you to consider this advice,please use proper or commonly accepted words for body parts. I cringe and skip the sex scenes if the author goes for weird florid terms. “His raging and mighty sword of manhood” or “her velvety love cavern”. Sort of the Elmore Leonard maxim of just using “said” instead of “mused”, “expounded” etc.

    I haven’t read all of the other comments,but I agree with you and others that the sex should be inevitable and not just something to toss in to the plot. I know you’ve seen “The Princess Bride”. Fred Savage’s character interrupts his grandfather with “WAIT. Is this…a *kissing* book?” Grandpa Columbo says no it’s an adventure and that they can skip that part. Fred is satisfied,the movie continues and then just as Wesley and Buttercup are about to kiss..Granpda stops reading. Fred lets out a yell of protest and then sheepishly admits “he wouldn’t mind” if that part were read. As a reader,that is the idea. Natural,inevitable progression.

    Best of luck. Anyone who is putting this much thought into a book’s structure deserves a shot. I will absolutely read it when you release it.

    • MG14509 says:

      Could not agree more about the terminology – so distracting when they do that! Ugh! And we just ADORE that movie, we actually get together with friends once a year and have a ‘Taco Bride’ night! (Can you guess what’s on the menu?) Thanks so much for the support, it’s crazy how much it means coming from a stranger, might have something to do with being buried in your own head so much writing this thing! 🙂 If you’d like to get updates from me go ahead and sign up for my newsletter on the main page. I will only email when I put up a blog post 1 to 2 times a month, and key events related to the book, like a release date. Thanks for the comment!

  3. In their little book <a href=";Self Editing For Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and David King counsel writers that “Sometimes, the most erotic thing you can write is a line space.” This is excellent advice, which I commend to all fledgling writers. Especially considering how lurid and overdone sex writing has lately become.

    • MG14509 says:

      Totally agree. What’s not said can be just as impactful. Maybe more so in this day and age, with so much coming at us all the time!

  4. Cathy F. says:

    I’m about 67k words into my first novel (a time-travel romance (have about 8 more scenes to write)) and am exploring the same issues.

    I am also a voracious reader, and am finding that so many modern writers today seem to be fixated on “insert tab A into slot B” type sex scenes. Details of where the hands, mouths, and other body parts are; specifically what they’re doing; how and when the condom goes on. Basically, the mechanics of sex. And for some writers, the lead-in feels mechanical too, in that all the characters are thinking about for the chapters before the sex… is sex. Which is frustrating, because the emotional involvement is *key* in my mind.

    I don’t read to get my rocks off. I read to satisfy emotional drives, and I’m pretty sure I know how the mechanics work. Really, in my mind, less detail is more. But when I do get my book finished and finally published, I have no doubt that I’ll get feedback that says that it needs more sexual detail. You can’t please everyone.

    It’s great to see another writer in the early phase of this whole process. I’ve been reading Vodkapundit for years (even before the PJMedia days). Would love to swap beta-reading efforts, or even just swap sex-scenes for critique.

    • MG14509 says:

      Agree! I’m going to write it how I’d like to read it, best I can do. Otherwise, someone else should be writing it! Would love to swap scenes when I have enough put together for that, beta also a great idea. Good luck, sounds like you are rockin’ your way through that first draft!

      • Cathy F. says:

        The real trouble I’m having now is that I keep getting scenes from 2 new stories in my head, and I think “Oh, I better get those down!”

        Must. Discipline. My brain!

        But, yeah… the first one will be done by this summer. I’ve given myself that mental deadline.

        Then I’ll deal with the terror of trying to design a website I can live with. My wordpress site is a disaster. My blogspot site just needs to go. I expect I’ll have to turn the web design aspect of it over to my son, who thankfully works in IT.

        • MG14509 says:

          Same prob, I have so many ideas and so little time! Ended up paying someone to do my site, I just could not handle one more thing! Lucky you have a kiddo you can take advantage of lol!

  5. daliroot says:

    There a 4 worthwhile sites but only 2 good ones for examples and authors who might be willing to discuss it with you.
    The most mature authors are a subset at storiesonline dot net and at also at literotica dot com.
    Look at the ratings of their works.
    storiesonline is 1-10 and literotica 1-5
    Don’t necessarily go for the very highest rating. Many of those are a niche author with some dedicated rating clicking fans.

  6. Dennis Maley says:

    I think you show graphic sex if your work finds its audience in the vein of a soap opera. Every scene played for the maximum emotional effect. For contrast, watch a bit of “Downtown Abbey.” DA had big buildups to the point where the character had to tell an uncomfortable truth to the Earl. But all DA showed was the schmuck walking into the room and later walking out. The tears and recrimination weren’t shown. This is drama. Soap opera is melodrama.

  7. WhittyMike says:

    Don’t forget the indirect or ex-post-facto post-coital description.

    The look on Scarlett O’Hara’s/Vivien Leigh’s face the morning after, said plenty. (Not that anything more explicit could have made it into that 1939 movie, of course.)☺

  8. Susanna Smith says:

    Diana Gabaldon (author of the Outlander series) has written an amazing essay called “I Give You My Body”, which addresses much of what you talk about here. Three cheers for authors like you who care about more than sex for its own sake! Good luck with your book!

  9. Brian says:

    I usually love to see sex in a book, especially if it’s used effectively. And that can be in many different ways.

    Shanna Germain once said that you use romance (which can include sex) to reveal something about the couple involved, but sex is just as often used to reveal levels of domination and submission, and sometimes not even between characters involved! (Think the werewolf sex in the TV version of True Blood or Anne Bishop’s Dark Jewels novels for extreme versions of this.)

    I’ve also seen sex (though more often its promise than its fulfillment) used to charge up otherwise already intriguing or tense scenes. And, whether the act itself is “on screen” or “off,” the who, how, and why is a great way to tell us something about a character.

    But the long, spitting fuse that builds and builds and builds is a joy all its own, so long as you give your readers a satisfying pay-off.

    • MG14509 says:

      Interesting take on the dom/sub reveal, and true even if even what you are showing is that they see each other as partners/equals in the relationship. Steve and I were addicted to True Blood btw, though that last season went a little nuts.

  10. JP says:

    To give a man’s perspective…

    I get the idea that you’re going with here, and it’s a good argument: sex needs to be part of the plot for it to add anything to the plot other than simple steam.

  11. Sunset Paddy says:

    Hard to hit the sweet spot somewhere between lecherous and prudish.

    • MG14509 says:

      SO true!

      • Breaker says:

        It really does vary by your audience. As a teenage boy, I read everything including massive amounts of science fiction and all of my older sister’s romance books. I was shocked to discover that stories written for (supposedly sex crazed boys)usually had sex scenes that were off screen, while those written for girls (supposedly pure and proper girls) were incredibly graphic and detailed; they were really closer to Penthouse Forum than to “romance” directed at males. (Naturally romance for males was usually called “action” but it was the same thing.)

        In all honesty both ways work but they do leave the story with a different tone. I personally prefer some detail, call it R rating but not NC-17. Either way, I fully agree that the buildup, tension, and logic for the characters is much more important than how the act is described.

  12. Lisa says:

    To be honest, I think it depends on the story. My oldest daughter is writing a romance and is having the same issues. Having read virously since a teen, to me if the story calls for it then add it. Look forward to reading yours!

  13. Carol Flores says:

    Got this link from the Vodka Pundit. I used to read constantly, but got lazy and now mostly watch videos of TV shows. I think it depends on each couple what kind of sex they and when. If they have insecurities or hangups to deal with. Or if they are wild and free. As long as it seems real and natural is the key, I think. I think it is harder to write romance for women than sex for men, so good luck in your endeavors! Just try writing a few and see what happens. It’s your book, go with your gut.

    • MG14509 says:

      Totally agree with you. To each their own! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • MG14509 says:

      Thanks so much! Sign up for the newsletter here on my site. I will only be sending out notes when I have a new blog post up or something interesting to share WRT to the book, like a publish date, give aways or beta reading opportunities.

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