Sunday, June 7, 2009

Is Sex Necessary to a Story?

Recently, I was telling a friend that my next book, Addiction, has a lot of sex in it. She seemed offended and told me I should close the bedroom door on those scenes. I wasn’t able to explain the reason why it was necessary to show those scenes then, but I’m going to try to do that now.

To leave out the sex in Addiction would leave out the reason for the heroine’s actions. It’s about why she is the way she is. This character is needy and has low self-esteem, and it’s not enough to tell the reader about her, but we must show her. Once you read this story, you’ll recognize this girl if not in yourself in someone you know. I have had friends like this, and I swore I would never allow anyone to use me like that.

Sorry to digress. Now, I’ll get back to the topic. I do not go out of my way to write love scenes in my stories unless they are essential. For one reason, they are the hardest scenes in the whole book to write. I would rather write a fight or an action setting than a love scene. That’s why I bow down to those who can write them.

Okay, you already know I’m not comfortable writing these scenes, so why did I do it. I wrote the sex and love scenes because it was only fair to show the progression and growth of this character as she grew into a more self-assured young woman. With the help of the hero she learns to value herself, and I felt these scenes between the hero and heroine shows that development.

Other writers may have written the sex scenes behind closed doors, but then much of the intensity and emotion would have been left out of the story. The love segments are not the only intense moments or even the focus of the book, but only with time will I know if Addiction is well received.

Personally, I skip over the love scenes unless they are well written and don’t bore me to death. The good ones can be pretty exciting. You guys don’t know what you are missing out on. Laughs.

To the writers, do you find it necessary to put love scenes in your stories, or do you close the bedroom door? To the readers, do you favor sex scenes or do you choose to skip over them?

Feel free to leave a comment. Don't be afraid, we all have our opinions and no one will get knocked for theirs. I allow free speech on my blog. Just don't get nasty.

Have a great week everyone.


Sandy

32 comments:

J Hali said...

Sandy,
Hot, hot question. I put the sex in - the door's wide open. I believe it is an important catalyst between the H/H in a romance. But I've read and enjoyed romance and other books that the innuendo was as exciting, and sometimes more so, than if I had read it.

Paris said...

Hi Sandy, Yes, I agree that love scenes are the hardest to write and not just because of the choreography involved,LOL! Since I write erotica, I'd be out of business if I had to close the bedroom door. Emotion is difficult to write and to sustain the emotional level needed to convey what your characters are trying to express is exhausting, but also very rewarding. Each story is different and needs to be handled as the plot dictates. I totally get why you couldn't close the bedroom door. Sex is actually more about what's going on inside people's heads than what's going on between the sheets. The challenge is to use one to express the other.

Anastasia Rabiyah said...

Hi Sandy!

As a writer of erotic works, yes, I think sex is necessary in my plots. (Big surprise) When I tend to move over to erotica, in which sex is how the character grows and changes, sex is essential. I've read good and bad sex scenes and downright freaky ones. If it is essential to the plot and the author can execute it and keep the reader enthralled, by all means it needs to stay.

*hugs*
Anastasia Rabiyah

Linda LaRoque said...

I'm with you, Sandy. I skip over SOME sex scenes, especially the ones that go on for pages. But, I also agree some sex scenes are necessary in some stories. After all, it's a natural part of life and if properly written, involving the emotions, can add to a story. There is nothing wrong with sex scenes being behind closed doors either. Every story is different.
Linda

kt bishop said...

There's nothing wrong with sex scenes in book, provided they're of legal age. I waited until my characters in Picking Cotton, turned 18. She lost hers on Valentine's Day. Just make a reason for the love-making....

T.J. Killian said...

As an editor of both erotic and mainstream, I understand and am even sympathetic to writers who are under the gun to heat up a story. What I can say, is whether the door is closed or busted wide open, the sex should make sense in the plot.

As your editor on Addiction, I thought the sex was neither over the top nor was it gratuitous. It was a great plot point for the heroine and if you had taken it out the story would have lost much of its umph.

As to legal age, it is a problem I face most as a writer. If I'm writing historical, then I must face the fact that in Medieval Times the average life span was a scant 25 years. In the case of most historicals, they lose their accuracy because 20+ was considered on death's door. Also, coming from a different country, 18 is the legal age in the US. In Ireland it is 16. This causes some confusion for authors of a different nationality.

That's my take.

Roy King said...

I've had fellow writers ask, "Is profanity necessary to a story?" Well, if you were to create a scene of longshoremen meeting on the dock to drink beer after work and left profanity out of the dialogue, readers would laugh themselves silly at the result, and probably throw your book in the trash! Same with sex. The key thing to remember about both sex and violence is that they create immediate adrenaline rush in the reader, and as such, throw a spotlight on the scene. The author should make certain that is the intent. A common reaction to sex scenes in both books and movies is that they are boring; as much as I love sex personally, I tend to go in the other room when the sex scenes come on. Why? Typically, they are too predictable; you know exactly what is going to happen. Sex scenes are virtually always about two people who decide they are ready to go to bed, so they do. Yawnsville!!! To write a good sex scene, you have to create tension. One of my writers came up with the brilliant idea of placing her sex scene in ancient times but with contemporary overtones. This was remarkably successful; we really wanted the characters, who at the climax of the story realized they would soon be married, and desperately wanted to make love at that moment when the emotion was at its apex, and who would not have hesitated in today's day and age. So to write a good sex scene, come up with a twist! Give the characters an obstacle they must overcome before they can consummate the sex scene--that way, you create the tension necessary to make any scene work, sex or otherwise.
~RHK
The author is former President and Critique Committee Chairman of Southern California Writers Association

Anonymous said...

Sandy,

I wrote the sweet romances years ago and even published one with Silhouette Romance. Now I write Single Title and sex scenes are present and on the page. I have learned that, for me, the scenes that bring my characters to life the most, are the scenes when they feel the most vulnerable. Who isn't vulnerable when the clothes are off? Not every writer wants to explore the relationship this deeply; not every reader wants to read it, and fabulous stories have been written that never included a sex scene.

However, for me, the attraction, the desire, and the sex are all a part of my characters' story of falling in love.

Interesting topic.

Christie Craig

Sandy said...

J. Hali and Paris,

Thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate your opinions on this topic.

Sandy said...

Thank you, Ana. I've read some of your stories, and I have never thought of them as erotica. There is always an important theme running through your stories.

Sandy said...

Linda and K.T.,

Thanks for stopping by. K.T., you're right there has to be a reason for the sex. I would never use an under age character for a love scene.

Linda, you're so right every book is different.

Sandy said...

T.J.,

Thanks for coming by. I agree with your comment
about the sex scenes in Addiction were a plot point.

You are much more than an editor to me.

Sandy said...

Roy,

I finally got you here. lol Thanks for your comment. You'll just have to read Addiction when it comes out to see if it puts you Yawnsville. Smile.

I totally agree there has to be tension in every scene.

Sandy said...

Thank you, Christie. I'm glad you like my topic. As writers, we can't hope to please every one with what we write.

Sandra Sookoo said...

If the story calls for it, put it in. If not, there's no shame in keeping it out. I've written stories both ways, and sometimes, the tension is more satisfying than reading about the actual act. It's all about the story and the characters. I say, don't sweat it. It's the author's call :-)

Anonymous said...

Sandy, you need to be more specific about " Is sex necessary". With someone else or by ones self? Please explain. I will then respond.

Sandy said...

Sandi,

You're so right, and that's exactly what I do.

Thanks for coming by.

Sandy said...

LOL

Dear Anonymous,

I think I know who you are. The question is: Is Sex Necessary to a Story meaning is sex necessary for the characters in the story.

Thanks for coming by, Anonymous.

lienaferror said...

Great post, Sandy.

Sex is a wide open door in my writing. I find it very easy to write a sex scene and try not to put gratuitous sex into my stories. In my writing, they play and intregal part in character developement.

Again, great post!

Liena Ferror

Sandy said...

Thanks, Liena, for stopping by and posting your comment.

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Hey Sandy

Great question, and my answer is, put it in if the story calls for it, and it will be different for every story because it pertains to the characters and every character is different. Same goes for every story.

In the first book I wrote, I closed the door, because the market where it was published is pretty much a closed-mindset market. They know sex happens before marriage but don't go showing it. In my other books geared towards the American market, I've left the door open but the sex was neither gratuitous nor was it erotic in nature. It was a love scene, which can be a highlight in a romance.

The difference many need to understand here is that sex when well-used in the story, like a plot point for example, can be a great tool. There's a difference between sex and a love scene inherent to a story. Sex is about the mechanics, while a love scene has the mechanics as the backdrop for emotions and character involvement. That's why it can look like a writer dropped a gratuitous sex scene in a story, because it has no involvement with the story per se.

It then comes to mind that the way your characters are portrayed will also call for the type/frequency of love/sex scenes in the book. A story about a character who is a dominant, while not erotic in nature, will need some in-your-face sex scenes with the door wide open. A story about a regular girl and a regular guy will have a more toned-down sex scene. Think Basic Instinct versus Maid in Manhattan.

It all depends on your story and your characters, and this every writer should know before penning down a sex scene.

Hugs

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn)

Sandy said...

Z,

I love your description about the difference between sex and love scenes. Perfect, my dear.

Thanks for coming by.

Hugs

Lyn Cote said...

Hi Sandra,
Since I write inspirational romances, sex scenes aren't necessary to my plots. It all has to do with what a writer is writing for which readers.
There is a romance for everyone.
Lyn

Sandy said...

Hi Lyn,

I hear there is some debate among inspirational writers on the need of love scenes. You are lucky they aren't necessary to your plots because they are difficult to write.

Thanks for your input, Lyn.

Chiron said...

Hey Sandy,

Ironically, I've faced the exact opposite issue--being told even that I needed to step out of my 'comfort zone' and include sex scenes. *laughs* It just goes to show everyone has an opinion, eh?

First and foremost, it's about the story. Love stories aren't just about sex. When an author leans on sex to add the tension they're missing the point. Love stories are about finding what's missing in our own hearts, and in our lives, and through the interaction with another, finding love.

That being said, love stories can range from sizzling to sweet depending on the interactions and what each character needs to find. Women's fiction, for example, might include the long-standing friendship between a group of women or the challenge of a sibling rivalry. Sometimes a stray dog becomes the catalyst for transformation in a person's heart. Truth is, the best love story is when a person discovers his or her true self as a result of this interaction.

Many love stories include sex mostly because it's fun, not because the sex is an integral part of the story. In some cases it can be an easy way to ratchet up the tension—making the story about attraction rather than self-understanding. When the sex scenes are an integral part of the story it's a completely different situation.

Interesting topic! For me it all boils down to one thing. What does the writer want to do? Because each story should be a journey of self-discovery for the author, after all. If a scene bores us, chances are it will bore our readers too. If we modify our style or choices simply for the purpose of pleasing the market or our critics, our writing will change from a journey of self-discovery to a boring jog on a treadmill.

Just my opinion.

Smiles,
Chiron O'Keefe
The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

Sandy said...

Chiron,

I have to disagree with you on one thing. It's not up to what the writer wants to do. It's up to what is needed for the character.

I didn't include sex because it was fun, but because it was a part of this character. This character is not me nor was it a self-discovery journey for me. This character was based on a young woman I met many in my early 20's

Carol Ericson said...

I think it depends on the characters, the story, the genre, and the writer! So many factors. When I write erotic romance as Mia Varano, of course there had to be sex - that's what readers want and expect from an erotic romance. But instead of plain old sex scenes, I like to put my characters in interesting sexual situations - a male strip club, on a boat with power games going on, at a an erotic house party. Some of the most highly charged sexual tension can come from books with no sex scenes at all. It all depends...

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

I've written stories with sex and without. It all depended on whether or not the sex made sense between the characters and if it furthered their emotional growth (even if it was later in the story and not at that particular moment).

Angela Guillaume said...

This is such an interesting thread. I think that it took me a while to realize that it's not about the market, but the characters. I do appreciate a good sex scene in a book if it makes sense, and I'd feel the book misses something if it is left out. And now that is how I view this particular topic when I write. Like you said, it's all about the characters - but also about the plot/situation.

Sandy said...

Carol,

I totally agree that it depends on the genre.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sandy said...

Stacey,

I have written both ways, too, and like you it depends on if it helps the growth of the character.

Thanks for your comment.

Sandy said...

Hey, Angela,

Good to see you. You're right if the sex has to do with the plot, which it does in Addiction, it has to be there.

Thanks for your comment.