Authors Answer 36 – Writing About Sex

When reading mainstream novels, it’s quite likely to encounter sex from time to time, from implied sex to very explicit sex. You can see it in a wide range of genres, though not in children’s or young adult literature. But what about writing sex?

Sperm-eggQuestion 36: How do you deal with sex in your writing?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

When it comes to writing sex, I am very careful with how I go about it. First, I consider the nature of the story that I’m writing. In “Nowhere to Hide” I found myself faced with a sex scene and I realized that going too far into it would not be good for the story; I didn’t want to overshadow the zombie apocalypse with needless in-your-face sex. In that case I wanted the scene to be delicate, romantic, and I made it “fade to black” before the scene really got intimate.

But, of course, sometimes you want the heat and the passion. In those cases I am very careful with my wording. Everyone has their preferences, but when I read a sex scene I like it to be passionate, but not sound like porn. I try to write my sex scenes the way I want to read them, and that mostly means avoiding clinical words and words that sound like they’re coming right out of an attractive pool boy scene. Basically, I want people who read my sex scenes to feel hot and bothered by the end of them, but without just shoving boobs and ass in their faces.

Then, sometimes, you just go right out in left field and find yourself writing the smuttiest mom-novel that was ever written, but sometimes you’ve just got to get that stuff out of your system. XD

S. R. Carrillo

How do I deal with it? I toss it in at every given opportunity! Sometimes, it’s sweet and wholehearted. Sometimes, it’s depraved and violent. But at all times, it’s included because it’s important. Sex is one of my favorite things to write into stories. You learn so much about people when you explore their sexual experiences. I find it weird when people shy away from it. We have such a strange aversion to anything sex-related… I’m all for it. Embracing sexuality and its prominence in reality – which fiction imitates, amirite? /endrant.

Paul B. Spence

This is a difficult one. I hate graphic sex in books, but sex is a part of human nature, and nature as a whole, for that matter. Ignoring sex is just as bad as getting graphic with it.

I try to be discreet. My characters have sex. Sometimes it is important to the plot to have this happen onscreen, so to speak. I try to tell enough to show that they are real people, but not intrude too much.

I’m not sure what else to say about it.

Linda G. Hill

I write it. There was a time when I was all, “Omg, what if my mother reads it? Or my kids!?” but eventually I had to get to the point where I was okay with that. As long as they know it’s there, they can choose for themselves whether or not to read it. As for everyone else, I have no shame. It’s fiction, after all.

Jean Davis

While I do read a lot of erotica, I don’t write it. I tend to keep sex scenes short and they often fade to black once things get rolling, because that best fits the genres I write. We all know what happens once tab a slides into slot b.

H. Anthe Davis

I’ve always been a pull-the-curtain writer when it comes to sex.  I’ve been told I sometimes pull the curtain too soon, and should let a bit more of the pre-game action take place, but I’m just not that interested in the details of my characters’ sex-lives if they don’t serve a plot purpose.  I did have an on-screen sex scene in book 2, but it was a quickie in a closet, and I think I described lost buttons and jars falling off shelves onto the characters’ heads more than I did the actual action.  I skim over sex scenes in other people’s books, too — no offense, erotica writers, it’s just not my thing.

Gregory S. Close

I find that sex greatly distracts me from the writing process, and it’s pretty rude to be typing away while… wait, did I misinterpret this question?

Sex is an element of the human condition, and therefore it’s fair game within the story, if the story calls for it to be there.  However, I’m more interested in exploring the emotions and motivations that might inspire sexual acts than I am in describing the act(s) in detail.

Eric Wood

Having written mostly for children, I avoid all things sex.

D. T. Nova

As far as when and whether it happens, I try to make that decision fairly naturally. Even if that means more sex than is typical for the genre.

But when it comes to actually describing it, my answer is different. I don’t do so unnecessarily, and handle it differently depending on the situation. It the reasons why the characters are having sex are the most important thing, I can stop the scene as they begin. And when I do have a reason to actually stick with the scene, I don’t include a lot of physical details.

There’s also something else that I’ve learned; a scene where characters almost have sex but decide not to is actually harder to keep non-explicit than one where they actually do!

Caren Rich

I don’t. I’m not interested in writing about sex.  I know it’s popular now, but I’m not comfortable with it. My writing tends to be “clean reads”. I don’t think a worthy novel has to have “adult” content.  Adult situations can be handled in a way that allows the reader to fill in the blanks.  It worked for Hitchcock.

Allen Tiffany

Brilliant topic! I have a  ‘anthropologic’ (which I’d define as human biology and psychology) view of sex. Which is to say, I see it as a  fundamental drive we all feel, much like we feel a need to eat and the need to stay alive. In short, orgasms feel really good, because our body is rewarding us for doing what the species absolutely must have – reproduction. Of course, different cultures wrap it in all kinds of rules, mores, norms, etc., which is all fine, too. But no matter how you wrap it, sex and the expectation of sex – especially the potential for sex between characters we care about –  is a powerful force in our writing.

Additionally, depending on the genre for which we are writing, we can write in ways that breaks traditional expectations. For instance, we don’t describe people as “blues” or “purples” or “oranges”, so I don’t know why we say “heterosexual” or “homosexual” or “bi”.

In a novel I’m working on, set 300 years in our future, these concepts of sexual preference and resultant labels are non-existent, which allows for potential parings (and repairings) that would provoke labeling and reactions in today’s society. By no means is the presentation of sex pervasive in the story. In fact, it is barely mentioned. But just the awareness that it has happened in the past and might happen again in the future will be something that adds to drama and that the readers find engaging. Hopefully it won’t be from just a voyeuristic curiosity, but will be engaging because two of the main characters that the readers care about are the same gender. Of course, my readers are not in the 24rd Century, they are here with us today, so we’ll see if I’m clever enough to subtly – very subtly – convince them that there is a world without such labels and that they will allow me to pull them into such a world as I have defined it. We shall see.

Jay Dee Archer

I haven’t written a sex scene at all. But I will if a story calls for it. Explicit, most likely not. But you know what? I have no idea when or how I’ll do a sex scene. I guess I’ll know when it comes time to do one. Whatever’s appropriate for the story, I’d say. Sex is a natural part of the human life, and I’m certainly not going to pretend it doesn’t happen.

My first book involves mainly teenagers and children, so I won’t do anything related to sex at all. I have another series to write that involves an older man by himself all the time on a spaceship. I don’t think anything will happen.

In short, what happens happens. I’ll write sex scenes if I need to.

How about you?

What do you think of sex in fiction? Do you think it’s unnecessary, or is it sometimes needed? Let us know in the comments.

12 thoughts on “Authors Answer 36 – Writing About Sex”

  1. My chosen genre is romance so yes at some point there is descriptive sex. I say stick it in there at given opportunity as long as it flows w/ the story. We don’t mind horror and gore or violence, but lean towards being squeamish with sex. I never understood it.

    1. I never understood it, either. Sex is natural and does not scar people for life. Same thing with nudity. Big deal. I saw movies with naked people when I was a kid, and it didn’t affect me at all. Maybe I just grew up in a more open family.

    1. Hahaha. Nothing wrong with that. Frankly, sex is something we shouldn’t be ashamed of, and I never understood why it was a taboo subject.

  2. Reblogged this on The War of Memory Project and commented:
    Several of my characters have active sex lives — I just don’t go into much detail about it, since it’s generally peripheral to the plot. My books are thick enough without expanding on those scenes. That being said, I would like to explore some of the relationships more deeply (with or without sex), likely in short stories. Some day.

  3. How people treat each other behind a closed door in an intimate situation tells a lot about their deepest personality. So, yes, I say show the sex when it gives the reader a glimpse of the core of the characters.

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