Every sex scene needs a purpose. Unless you’re writing actual erotica, a form of literary pornography, its purpose cannot be titillation alone.
Whether your genre is Romance, Fantasy, Sci-Fi or Murder Mystery, there may come a point where your characters end up in an intimate situation. This is very challenging for many writers, and very easy to get wrong. The thing to focus on is the reason for that scene.
Because that is where the interest lies: not in the actual mechanics, but in the why? of it all. And the what now? when it’s all over. Here are three examples of how a sex scene can be used in your novel.
1. Character development: Barry turns out to have an insecurity complex
May answered with a light moan. Barry wasn’t sure if he should increase the pace or not. He had always felt so sure of himself around May. But now she lay before him, naked, he was overwhelmed.
“Should I..? Are you…?” He wasn’t sure how to ask if she was ready for him. He was also hesitant about his size. Would he be able to satisfy her?
What’s going on here: the sexual moves are a device to show Barry’s uncertainty. He could be doing any other activity: sculpture, cooking, public speaking, and revealing the same doubts.
2. Relationship progress: May considers that Barry may not be the man for her
She thought back to when they had first met, at the conference in Perth. How firm his handshake had been, and how rogueish the charm of his smile. She had envisaged a masterful and commanding lover.
But the minute they were in bed he had become a nervous wreck. May reached for his hand, trying to guide it to where she needed his touch. “Just there,” she told him.
“Like this? Or a little faster?” Barry asked.
May was exasperated. Surely the man must know what he was doing, with three marriages and two ex-wives? Any ambition she had to become the fourth was rapidly fading.
What’s going on here: the characters are engaged in sexual activity, but the main action is taking place in May’s head. We see her changing perception of Barry, and her changed intentions as a result.
3. Plot driving: Barry’s wife discovers him in bed with May
The heat was building between them. May clawed at his back, wanting more of him. She began to emit little moans, just as Barry struggled to hold back his own climax.
Then May gasped and grabbed him, and it was too much. Barry lost all control. With a loud cry of victory he drove into her, just as the door was thrust open.
Valerie stood there, her face white with fury.
“When you have quite finished with my husband, dear, perhaps you could get the hell out of my bed?”
What’s going on here: the sex is being used to build a physical and figurative climax, so that the drama occurs at the highest point of tension.
A sex scene can be as romantic and elegant or as funny and crude as you like. It simply needs a reason to exist. If there’s no reason, you may as well fade to black.
This article was contributed by SSOA writing group member Marjorie Banks.