I unexpectedly ended up writing my first sex scene. A few days ago (after I wrote my scene, of course) I was reading about how romance writers classify how heated the romance and sex will be in their stories. At the milder end of the “heat” scale is the “closed door” where sex is implied but not described. Tasteful, but certainly not exciting. At the higher end of the “heat” scale you have throbbing, slippy-slappy wet body parts. Exciting for some, offensive to others.
Naturally, I went right for the high end of the “heat” scale and before I knew it I had written a blisteringly explicit scene, featuring my favorite bad Fae, Melisent. More importantly, it nicely solved a plot issue I’d been worried about and when it was over, well, there was a lot of blood.
So, that happened.
I would never exclude a sex scene because I’m a prude (which is sort of like Bruce Banner saying he’d never turn into the Hulk unless he was angry). Likewise, I would never include one just for the sake of gratuitous pandering. I have one because what happens during it advances the plot and the characters. A sex scene can foreshadow, either explicitly (heh) through direct action and dialogue, or implicitly, that is, to help the reader understand how a character thinks or feels or reacts which might matter later on. But if they’re just fucking to be fucking, well, that’s what erotica is for. The scene I wrote is actually major turning point in the plot and for two of its characters (just two–no three-ways or orgies for you, sorry).
Scenes in a story should evoke a primary emotion or sensation in addition to fulfilling their obligations to character and plot. In describing a view, I may want the reader to experience awe and wonder (particularly important to fantasy). In describing characters I want certain details to evoke danger or confidence or comedy.
In the case of sex scenes, a good sex scene should also make you feel something. There are all kinds of definitions of “good,” here, because there are so many reasons and motivations people want to boink each other–and some of them aren’t very nice. But in the situation where people are having a good time exercising their baby-maker muscles, my goal is to make you suddenly wish you were not on that commuter train with all those people around while you’re reading it. It should move the needles on your gauges (hopefully into the red). For a sex scene, basically I want the reader to get all hot and bothered. Taste is highly subjective and we’ve all got our turn-ons (or for some of you, fetishes) and turn-offs. But all I can do is try to make something that gets my own blood flowing a little faster.
One humorous, interesting aspect to writing this scene was afterward I felt like I was the dirtiest, most depraved person alive (I know, I know, I said that like it was a bad thing). But then I thought about some of the sex scenes I’d read in other books (I’m looking at you, Anne Rice, except not directly into your eyes because that would be awkward) and my sex scene didn’t seem all that messed up, after all.
Which was even funnier, because then I felt lame like it wasn’t dirty enough.
Ah, the emotional roller coaster of being a writer!
How do you feel in general about writing or reading sex scenes? Do you enjoy it? Does it make you squick? Know any fantasy books that have particularly good ones I should know about? I need all the help I can get.