Let’s Talk About Sex (Scenes)

I suddenly have a whole new level of respect for chick lit. and romance writers.

To Be A Magician, if anything, was an anti-romance novel. It looked at how you can become obsessed with another human being and how that’s dangerous for not only them, but you. Pretty gloomy stuff, I have to admit. I began writing TBAM after a pretty painful break-up, which might explain a lot about my attitudes towards relationships in the novel. (I say it was a pretty painful break-up. I was sixteen. Every break-up at that kind of age is soul-destroying.)

To Be A Pawn has some similar themes, but it does have a romantic thread in it. I tried to prepare for it with Taking Back The Crown, but am woefully inadequate at writing love stories. Maybe I just lack the empathy for it because I’ve been single for so long.

I’m especially beginning to appreciate what an art the sex scene is. When I was younger, I read some Jilly Cooper novels and they taught me more about human genitalia than Biology lessons ever did. However, I’m a total coward and I am supposed to be writing a young adult fantasy novel, so I’ve found myself leaving the erm… mechanics to be imagined and focused more on emotions or other things.

So guys! Let’s talk about sex (scenes)!

How do you feel about them? Do you struggle or avoid them? Is there anything you avoid while writing them?



24 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex (Scenes)

  1. It is all a matter of target audience. For a young adult audience I would think you might have to be careful in terms of making the novel available to a broad audience. Though there are plenty of YAF that deal with some very touchy material eg domestic violence. lots of YAF is studied in schools nowadays so a novel with rampant teenage sex may not get to the school bookshelves. Consider who your audience is. Good luck.

    • I am looking at the older end of the YA spectrum, given the violence that’s already present.

      I think some YA novelists skirt around the sex issue because they’re uncomfortable with it and I think they forget how knowledgeable teenagers already are about sex and it’s unnecessary to leave things sterile in that area.

  2. Yes I agree. To write about sex you have to have a clear focus on what you are saying/doing. I agree that teenagers are much more knowledgable and experienced than I ever was. I must admit I haven’t read a yaf that went into the sex angle. So I will be interested to see how you handle it. Again best wishes.

  3. Sorry but I have to add, it says something about society doesn’t it that we tolerate violence in all it’s abhorrent forms but get all prissy about sex which can be such a beautiful and natural part of us all. Thanks feel better now.

  4. I once heard a fellow writer on a writer’s board I participate in say, “There’s absolutely never a reason for sexual activity in a novel. It’s always tacked-in, extraneous, and comes off like the writer just really needed a date.”

    This was a woman I respected – however, I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t write YA, I write romances, so that might color my opinion.

    The one thing I don’t like is the language that must be used when writing love scenes. Everything must be covered up with a euphemism, don’t explicitly call body parts by their names. I hate that. I’m not, and have never been, a fan of pretty words during sexual scenes – it’s already a beautiful act, a loving act (at least, in the world of romance) – so why do I need to censor it?

    • I feel like it would be dishonest not to include sex in novels. It’s a big part of our lives, you can’t pretend it doesn’t happen.

      Whenever I’ve written about sex, I’ve felt there was a good reason for doing so, not just for titillation. It’s a huge tool for character and relationship development.

      • I agree, and sometimes the best environment for a character to be truly honest in their POV. And plus, in a romance, if I’ve gotten so attached, so emotionally invested in the characters you’ve created, and the way you’ve developed their relationship … I’m a little peeved when the door gets slammed in my face and I don’t get to experience it it.

  5. It depends on your comfort level writing it but it also depends on how in depth that sexual interaction is expressed. Some fluff over it but I have read some authors that have given more details that made the story more than just the actions, it further progressed the connection between the characters and had such a positive outcome because of that. Good Luck! 🙂

      • So bearing in mind this is for NaNoWriMo, so kind of rushed, here it is. I guess I have fluffed over the details a lot. There’s a bit extra for some context:

        “I didn’t think time would mean anything once I was immortal.” Tiro stated, neutrally.
        “Our bodies may not decay. Everything else does.” Fei said. She pulled away and laid herself on her back. “It’s not that my love for you died. I just buried it. I’m now in the process of digging it up and seeing how it fared.”
        “No chance it sprouted while you were busy with other things?” Fei quickly turned over to check his face, thinking by “other things” he meant “other men.” One of his eyebrows was raised, but he had a small smile on his lips. It was a joke. She removed the sad smile with a kiss, hoping to replace it with an expression which was more content. When Fei started to pull away, she found herself being dragged back in, more deeply. Tiro moved over her and she hooked her arms around his back, letting her fingers push deeply into his skin. His lips travelled south from her face, paying special visits to nooks under her jawline and by her clavicle. This was the second time they’d made love since Tiro had returned. The first time, they had been hesitant and gentle, like they were navigating across place they hadn’t been in a long time. Now they were feeding a hunger that had spanned fifty years and were doing so with desperate energy. No amount of sex would allow them to forget all the time they’d been apart, but they were trying.

      • That doesn’t sound like fluff and shows the connection clearly. I really like this a lot. The interaction is personal and leaves the reader feeling like part of the story in a positive way. Was there anything specific you were worried about? Because I see nothing wrong with this piece at all. Great job! 🙂

      • Thanks! I think I was just worried it was too childish. It might be for YA, but if you’re going to talk about sex, you might as well do it properly, I think.

      • True but I’ve seen some authors push the limit giving further details about the actual love making process but keeping it vague enough so it’s still under the YA rules. I believe that the way you expressed it doesn’t come off as childish. It flows naturally with the story.

        Lots of kids r doing things at the age of 12 that I didn’t have a clue about until I was 16 so lots of authors feel that it’s more realistic to actually talk about sex because as times change so do the readers.

  6. I think that sex scene was just right — enough details to inform the character development, but fading to black at the right moment not to make the reader feel like they’re intruding on someone’s privacy. And definitely not childish at all. I thought it was quite beautiful, personally. Those characters have clearly earned their moment with each other. If you’re writing for the older end of YA, I think you’re in the clear. More and more YA novels are addressing sex and sexuality nowadays and this was well within the proper limits for the age group.

    I wrote my first sex scenes in my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel too. It was hard, mainly because I too was worried whether it would come across as cheesy or immature or just plain awkward. I got mostly positive feedback from my beta readers, except from one who is a particularly conservative person with a low tolerance for anything outside a “PG” rating. She told me she couldn’t stop blushing while reading it, even though it faded to black before things got *too* interesting, IMHO!

    • I remember finally letting my mother read TBAM for the first time and then remembering there was a sex scene in it. It was a pretty ugly one as well, no romance involved at all. I died a bit inside.

      I don’t know how well you know your beta readers, but for me it’s more embarrassing when it’s an actual acquaintance who knows you rather than a normal reader who will most likely never meet you in real life. Maybe the reader’s reaction was partly down to her relationship with you?

  7. MissK Today i was given a new novel – Buried Secrets by Rod Mckeough – it is about kids growing up in the 60’s. It is pitched for older teenagers, is very accessible language wise and deals in part with the question of coming of age. It is published by Balboa press in the US. Funny how these things happen isn’t it. Though you might like to see how this novelist deals with the sexual questions that confront his characters.

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  9. I am totally sympathetic with your problem here. I have faced the same dilemma. Sex sells, as they say, but when I write it, or try to, it doesn’t sound very sexy. Then I realized that the most enduring stories don’t have graphic sex, so I decided to take my cues from the writers whose works have proven themselves with the test of time.

    • I think if it doesn’t fit in with your writing style, that’s fair enough.

      For me, it’s more about not being confident enough to do it even though it’s almost necessary.

  10. Have you read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer? Even when he’s not writing sex scenes, images of venereal disease become a constant motif throughout the novel. It’s pretty interesting. I don’t think a book necessarily has to have explicit sex scenes to be an erotic novel, the language itself, though, has to be sexually charged. Like Nabokov’s Lolita, or D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow.

    • Yeah, suggestive and erotic language is such a hard thing to master, and can be worth ten times more than explicit or graphic language, depending on the effect you want to have.

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