Writer's Workshop: When and how to do Sex in writing

Saint of M

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I'm a wannabe writer with at least one book under his belt (just three bucks Kindle, Link at the bottom).
but others are also likewise wannabe writers in books, comics, or even fanfic. SO lets put our heads together and try to help each other with tips and tricks we did or saw done right, and learn from went so horribly wrong. And I will have pictures since I tend to write alot and people need a visual break. Given the subject matter, they will be safe for work. Also some mild spoilers as I wil have some excamples.


So, Sex; procreation; mating; boinking; Coitis; shagging; hooking up; copulation; fornication; getting biblical; to know him/her; to become better strangers, country matters; interourse; intimacy; love making; to have relations with someone; a sexual congress; and several variations of a word that starts with an F.

While the Asexuals on the forum may be bewildered why the rest of humanity are into it. It feels good. THere are over thirty thousand hypersensitive nerve endings in the happy parts, and several areas on the human body are endroginous zones. We write songs about this, we tell stories of this, we make fine art of it.


Unfortunately when done right you can hear a heavenly chorus sing. When done wrong we understand why the Aces in the room gets squeaked by this. We have all read or watched a love making scene in a book or film and most of us either though: "Oh yes" or "that's it?"

ANd frankly despite something that is programed into most of us on a genetic level, its real easy to screw up. Too much detail or too much of the wrong details and you crash and burn. Leave too little and you leave the audience gets hyperthermia from how cold it leaves them




My high standard for this is going to be The Wolf's Hour, a book set in World War 2 that mixes James Bond with werewolves. Well, the scenes are very stimulating with at least 4 sex scenes, including one right right after the daring opening. Its been a while, but its as much love making as it is primal need being fulfilled. Also it felt as if the characters were multi faceted, and you were rooting for them once they get it on.

For one that fades to the net scene as things get steamy, I turn to Dragon Age 2's isabella and Fenris Romance, and the once cutscene from Inquisition where male inquisitor romances the iron bull. For two of them (Iron bull and Isabella) its the humor. Regardless if playing male or female, isabella clings to your torso with her legs and arms making out, while the Hawk is disarming her along the way to their bed. For Bull, he's already Naked on the bed waiting for the Inquisitor when three of the characters barge in for business one at a time with expressions of alarm, intrige, and her typical annoyed look respective.

Hawk and Fenris, ties to his past. Part of it is due to his memories are locked away, and having this bit

One of the worst is I'm going to say Stephen King's Salem's lot. While fading to black when things start warming up is both common and acceptable method of having it in a story. However with his, the two scenes to come to mind leave enough fanservice to make you think something is going to be good then cuts to different scene. The first of such being with the lead character and his lover interest going from hiking her skit up and moving her body so he can cup her breast better as they make out in the park, and she asks him to make love to her. We cut to them walking in the park and talking while having an after sex glow. Not only had I have to read that again to make sure I didn't miss anything, I thought "That's it?"


The second and third were with some characters I couldn't even be bothered to remember their names. We spend several pages on the description of a desperate and what she is and is not wearing in bed, and her body before her lover shows up. The male is given little detail other than he is younger and nervous. The second time they are less nervous and the husband catches them, and it leads to an ugly scene that just makes you want to see the husband inevitably killed by the vampires as viciously as possible. The first time the fun bit gets skipped to a different scene at the other end of town, the second what starts off as fun and romantic soon hits a skip scene where it is more than obvious the wife was raped and brutalized.


THe problem here, as with a number of characters in the book, they felt needless and could have been left out with nothing loss. Worse still because of the strong implications of sexual assault in the second part, it felt particularly gratuitous. A topic for another thread for when and when not to add this.


The other direction can also be a problem. TV tropes has a section called Ikea Sex where the love scene felt more like an anatomical description than anything stimulating than putting togeather a cheap coffy table.

If it also seems out of place, or has no build up to it, it can feel shoehorned in.

I think any given sex scene from a Uwi Boll film counts, and since I only saw BloodRayne from Start to finish I will go there. She wakes up from a nightmare, then pushes one of the male leads that didn't have wooden acting against her cell doors, loosens his belt, opens up her vest, and starts rubbing on him. Outside of the exposed breasts its largely tame enough for a Youtube video. It felt out of place as up until this point the two had as much chemistry as room temperature water.

Now this isn't to say there are not anything like this that isn't possible to do. I point to Aliens Genocide. The rich pharmaceutical CEO paying for this expedition drowns his sorrows in expensive booze and the arms of women. And as he romancing one, willing and ready to get going, the other lead interrupts them to have a chat with the CEO. Its a fun kind of 180 turn as you are happy to see him suffer as him have a moment of success.


So how would I write a sex scene?

Frankly I think I would be in the group that would die in a fire, and while going in a blaze of glory might be fun, the market is already full of mediocre love scene. But if I were I would try to be poetic, with enough colorful language to gently walk you through it or make it wild and intense as the scene requires. Using words like caress, kneed, stroke, bath in loving glow for a gentler scene. A moe intence might need fire, primal, feral,a roar of triumph for an orgasm. Heck, might even work for a fight that turns into lovemaking for the second. After all its not a Darthroki wedding unless three people geted hacked apart in a fight, and a broken collar bone on honnymoon is a sign of good luck for Klingons.

For scenes where we skip it, I wouldn't waste the reader/viewer's time.




And to shamelessly plug my work, a link to my book
 

Hawki

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So, by any reasonable metric, I'm a failed writer, so I'm arguably the last person you should talk to, but my view on sex scenes is that 90% of the time they're unnecessary.

That's not to say that readers don't like them. If anyone told you "sex sells," then that person is telling the truth, or at least it's the truth if the amount of sex in written works corresponds to the popularity of the romance genre (having looked at the stats, romance is easily the most popular genre of fiction, and that appears to extend to fanfiction as well). But the reason I say that sex scenes are unnecessary is that in of themselves, they don't service much.

I'll put it this way. There's an art to writing sex scenes. Ask Google, you'll find guides how to. However, sex scenes work by describing the, well, scene, in a certain manner. While doing that, everything else has to more or less stop. In the midst of coitus, does the plot develop? Not really. Do the characters develop? Coitus may affect their characterization and relationship, but the intricacies of it don't - it's the act that does it, not the feeling. And if we look at the other elements of story, such as theme and worldbuilding? It could tenuously relate to the former, but I can't imagine a scenario where it would add to the latter. When I've written multi-chaptered stuff, I can't recall if I've ever had characters boning be a key part of the plot, but I've definitely never included the scene as part of the plot. If characters are about to end in sex, my approach is to establish that fact, but don't waste time showing the fact, because it brings things to a halt. The only time I'd do this is if the work was explicitly a work of romance.

But, granted, probably not the best person to talk to. Again, sex sells. It might not be illustrious, but it does bring in the moocha.
 

Aegix Drakan

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While the Asexuals on the forum may be bewildered why the rest of humanity are into it.
As an Ace, I totally get why people are into it. I have *cough* "alone time" sometimes.

I just found actual sexual activity with another person to be mostly awkward, way too long (for both of us), and involving a lot of painful bonking of sensitive bits.

Legit the only thing I think I would enjoy about it is if it was with someone I deeply loved and was able to cuddle them tight at the climactic moment. That sounds nice. All the stuff leading up to that really doesn't do anything for me. And if it's not someone I'm super emotionally close to, forget it.

But yea, I get why people like it. The pros just don't outweigh the cons for me. XD

*cough*

But yeah, as someone who has just written short stories and game stories, if I had to put one in a book, I'd approach it more the "fade to black, start next chapter" or "describe it kinda poetically with metaphor/dialogue" kind of route.

Like...Why describe the physical bits? That's a biology lesson. Sex is (or should be?) mostly about the raw emotional passion/emotions running hot as two people seek mutual pleasure with each other's bodies.

Gamewise, I liked how Mass Effect 2 handled it. (At least with Tali. That was pleasantly emotionally spicy)
 

Thaluikhain

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So, by any reasonable metric, I'm a failed writer, so I'm arguably the last person you should talk to, but my view on sex scenes is that 90% of the time they're unnecessary.
Yeah, my totally not expert advice would be to avoid sex scenes. Mostly you aren't going to need it, and there's a risk of them being rather bad.

Can't speak for all audiences, but when I see sex in fiction, I'm generally going to assume that the writers wanted to put sex in as crude fanservice, cause this seems overwhelmingly to be the case normally.
 

happyninja42

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I think the real question you should ask yourself first, is this:

"Does the sex scene actually progress the story elements? Either the plot itself, or the interconnectedness of the main cast?"

If no, don't do, just imply it if you want, and fade to black. Don't waste the reader's time if it's just to narrate a porn scene.

If yes, then include it. But you need to make sure it's done properly. Sex between characters in a story can have a LOT of impact and narrative weight, depending on the situation. But if your go to example is a *shudder* Uwi Boll sex scene...well....probably best to avoid the subject all together.

In general, from my perspective, most people that ARE interested in the relationship aspect of a story's cast, are usually more interested in the build up TO the sex, not so much the sex itself. They like the tension and the drama of the "will they, won't they?" aspect of the relationship. A well known example is from a popular show from the 80s called Moonlighting. Where it's been reported (not sure of the accuracy, never fact checked the statistics), that the ratings, which were incredibly high for a long time on the show (it was very popular) tanked dramatically once the two main characters actually boinked. And that they stayed consistently lower than the Pre-Boink era of the show.

I've done some erotic writing personally, and I'm working on a novel myself that will heavily involve the love lives of the main cast, but I honestly don't plan on fleshing out the sex scenes. Because I just don't really think it's needed for the story. The development of their relationship to that point, and after, is more integral to the plot. The actual act of rubbing fleshy bits against each other till orgasm, well, I am confident I could write it well enough to be enjoyable, I just don't really see the need to do so.
 

Saint of M

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THank you folks for your input.

One area I would like some people from other parts of the Rainbow to comment on this as this has been a particularly troubling area.

Most of it could probably go on a thread on working on Romance in general, but when it comes to the more visual aspects of the medium, it can be hit and miss from what I understand as in the USA at least, the ratings board is harsher on LGBTQ material than more heterao. Even then girl on girl is mostly aimed at guys because one cute girl is hot, two is even hotter. There are women that can still enjoy it, a large chunk can definitely leave them thinking no wonder they are only into chicks.

Guy on guy depends on the medium. If you say look at the subgenre of boys love in Japanese media (shonen ai) you''d think it was aimed at gay men but most of the time its actualy girls buying the materail Gay men can enjoy it, as Rantasmo posted on his youtube videos, but as Bennet the sage vid surmised: Half the time its for them to imagin taking on the role of the more passive or aggressive lover, and the other half is to keep creeps from hitting on them. Watching and reading porn is normal on the subway, but if a girl is cought reading it, it might send a signal to the male passengers she's horny and needs the D. Guy on guy material sends a different message apparently.
 

Agema

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So, by any reasonable metric, I'm a failed writer, so I'm arguably the last person you should talk to, but my view on sex scenes is that 90% of the time they're unnecessary.
I'm not a writer at all. But I'm a heavy reader, and I'd concur that at least 90% of sex scenes aren't worth the paper and ink or electrons used to to convey them. Just have say the characters go to bed together or share a meanngful glance or whatever, and move on.

I think the real question you should ask yourself first, is this:

"Does the sex scene actually progress the story elements? Either the plot itself, or the interconnectedness of the main cast?"
Exactly. I would however potentially offer another question to ask: "Are your target audience after some cheap titilliation when they read a book?"

A well known example is from a popular show from the 80s called Moonlighting. Where it's been reported (not sure of the accuracy, never fact checked the statistics), that the ratings, which were incredibly high for a long time on the show (it was very popular) tanked dramatically once the two main characters actually boinked.
That is true. I was around and watching it at the time. A central dynamic of the show collapsed, and they weren't able to construct a new one.

On the other hand, I don't know how they could have strung it out much longer, either.
 

Saint of M

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I'm not a writer at all. But I'm a heavy reader, and I'd concur that at least 90% of sex scenes aren't worth the paper and ink or electrons used to to convey them. Just have say the characters go to bed together or share a meanngful glance or whatever, and move on.



Exactly. I would however potentially offer another question to ask: "Are your target audience after some cheap titilliation when they read a book?"



That is true. I was around and watching it at the time. A central dynamic of the show collapsed, and they weren't able to construct a new one.

On the other hand, I don't know how they could have strung it out much longer, either.
Red from Overly Sarcastic Productions actualy did a video on romance tropes that discusses this to a point, and Gek and Sundry have covered it with Patrik ROthfus and several other writers (one vid on Urban Fantasy, and the other on Sex in Fantasy in general).

To sum up both, when a big dynamic for much of a story is a will they or won't they get togeather once the love interests do writers hit a brick wall. Part of this is because keeping a relationship going means more than after you get a candlelit scene with rose pettles, a bottle of wine and a Berry White playing in the background. THis can easily be solved with the charecters still acting like themselves BUT now they treat eachother slightly differently now they confess love.

Another is lack of consequences. Sex has all kinds. Besides societal ones with family, faith, and depending on the time and place, the social norms. STD's have been a thing for a long time, and pregnancy is a thing. Even if you decide to go through the birthing process, that's, what, 6 months of chemical changes, mood swings, and someone that thinks they are going to be the next soccer star in your belly, much less trying to fit something the size of a cantalope out from your legs. Or the pain of something happens along the way.
 

happyninja42

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Exactly. I would however potentially offer another question to ask: "Are your target audience after some cheap titilliation when they read a book?"
Hard to say if you are a new author. If you just jump into the genre that would include detailed sex scenes, then by definition your audience would be up for it. But if you are just writing say...a fantasy genre story (sword and magic fantasy, not spank me fantasy), it might throw off some of your readers.

I do a lot of audiobooks these days, and a few of the random books in the LitRPG genre that I enjoy, went fairly explicit, and several of the reviews considered that a negative. Now, having heard the parts in question, the act itself wasn't really a problem, it was the context of the moment, and the motivation of the female character. One of those classic "oh you saved me, let me thank you with sexual gratification" kind of things, which is...yeah, not great. The scene itself, as far as the descriptive text, was fine, and I enjoyed that for the most part, it was kinky and hot enough for me to enjoy. It just felt very out of place, and kind of skeevy in it's setup.

But then there are things like most of the sex scenes in the Dresden Files, which, all but 1 of them...well, maybe 2, could be removed entirely, and it wouldn't impact the story. 1 of them was actually plot centric (partly as a dare that Jim took up to write a BDSM scene that was plot relevant.) , and a later sex scene had some aspects to it that were important. But the others are just titilation, but titilation done well I think.