Monday, November 17, 2008

Is Your Sex Gratuitous?

How do you know when a sex scene has become gratuitous? Is it the fourth or fifth time? Is it when your characters seen to spend more time in bed than out? Why the heck am I asking this question?

A sex scene is like any other scene in a story with one exception which I'll get to later. It has to have all the things that make a great scene. First and foremost is conflict. If there is no conflict, internal or external, there is no scene. You might have a gratuitous sex scene. But there is always character development, which a sex scene can be a treasure trove of hidden discoveries about your characters. I'm not talking about who puts what where and for how long. But the why of it. Show me the character's motivation, this can also fall under the category of internal conflict if done properly. In reality it probably should have both conflict and character development. There's more to it than that, but it's a start.

Now I said there was an exception. This is called a payoff scene. When you've teased and tormented your reader with sexual tension so hot the characters are literally sizzling on the page, you may owe them a payoff scene and if they don't get it, well, let's say it won't be pretty. I've read books that never deliver the payoff scene. Are they good books? Possibly. Would I read the author again if I knew she didn't payoff? Probably not.

This is of course, my personal opinion of sex scenes. I have read the joy of writing sex which is a wonderful book. It takes on more of the literary community sex scenes rather than dealing with any particular genre. Even in Erotic romance, sex is not just for the sake of sex. Every sex scene serves a purpose. Read the one in your favorite book, what do you learn about the character or what is at stake during the love scene? Or is it the payoff of a lot of build up scenes?

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