by Mary Margret Daughtridge
In less than two weeks I have to give a talk on how to write a sex scene. The more I thought about it, the less I could think of anything noteworthy to say. I’m no expert, but I thought a scene in which my characters have sex would have the same requirements, craft-wise, as any other.
I did some research. After I read twenty or thirty articles, I realized how to write a sex scene was code for how to write sex that turns readers on and doesn’t turn them off—or if one fancies oneself to be among the literati, how to include the sex that will get my book published but not open it to charges of pandering or titillation. One sage grudgingly admitted one could hone one’s craft by reading a few “tawdry bodice-rippers.”
After several hours perusing the net on the subject, I found only one tidbit of advice all agree on: don’t use gratuitous sex. Yes. Whether the wise ones were romance writers or imagined themselves a superior breed, they all used the exact, same word—gratuitous.
Any advice so universally handed out--not about the craft of story-making, but about how to deal with a topic-- must be wrong.
This isn't guidance about how to write about sex. A rule like "no gratuitous sex" only hamstrings and stifles creativity. Here is my rule in two parts: (a.) no scene of any kind should be gratuitous. And (b.) there’s no point at which the inventive romance writer couldn’t insert some sex if she wanted to--as long as she followed the same rules for inclusion as for any other scene.
Shortly after I turned in SEALed With a Kiss, our editor, Deb Werksman informed me that it was under the 90,000 word minumum. She asked me to please send her 4,000 words, ASAP—preferably a sex scene.
I went back to my first draft and found a sex scene—that I had a lot of fun writing—but that seemed superfluous in the final analysis, so I had cut it. Looking at it again, I realized that with only a little tweaking it could show my heroine Pickett changing (she steps out of her comfort zone) while meeting the first purpose of a romance which is to entertain.
I polished it and sent it to Deb. She loved it, and so do my readers. They comment on the sex in the swing more than any other scene in the book.
So here’s how to write a sex scene: scr** the rules. ( I couldn’t resist.) Make every sex scene about the characters, not about the sex, and have fun.
What advice would you add?