What should you do when your characters want to have sex?

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Sex, Writing
Tags: , ,

I’ve watched fondly as my lead characters have blossomed and grown into beautifully rounded people. I’ve laughed at their jokes, admired their bravery but all the time something has been gnawing away at me. Deep down I know that sooner or later they are going to want to do it.

That’s right. Sometime soon they are going to want to have sex with each other.

Personally I find this terrifying. Not the sex of course but the fact that it’s me who’s going to have to arrange it. This problem has been keeping me awake at nights, not just the thought of writing the scene but also the fact that people I know are going to read it. People like my mother-in-law and my next door neighbour.

I know that for some writers this comes as easily to them as falling off a bike. Erotic Fiction authors seem to be able to do it without so much as a blink. However I have noticed one thing; most Erotic Fiction writers are women whereas six out of eight of last year’s nominees for the Bad Sex Awards awards, a competition held by the Literary Review in the UK, were men. Is this more than a coincidence I wonder?

Maybe I’ll just let them have a little privacy and come back to see how they are getting along on in the morning.

  1. emmiemears says:

    Hahahahahaha….believe me, I feel your pain. I actually blogged about that last month.


    There you go. I think the most important things to think about are your target audience (Great Auntie Mildred and next door neighbour can skip those parts if they want to — or have at you with a blunt object if they feel inclined — but if you’re writing for a specific audience, those are the people who should get the final say in how you opt to write sex) and what kind of tone you’re going for. If you’re going for a gritty, true-to-life tone, slamming the bedroom door in the reader’s face might be a disconnect for them. If you’re trying to write a book suitable for teens through adults, closing that door carefully might be the best option. If you’re writing a big kid book that’ll rile the censors regardless of any added sex, leaving it out might also be that disconnect moment.

    Robert Jordan wrote really interesting sex scenes without being graphic much at all. Instead of slamming the bedroom door, he sort of drew a hazy curtain across it. He left no doubt that what happened beyond the curtain was going to make you blush, but he also avoided saying anything whatsoever about tumescent members or any other such embarrassing euphemisms.

    • philsrogers says:

      I read your blog post at the time Emmie. The funny thing is, I was at a party in my street recently and a terribly lovely and terribly posh sixty-something lady from down the road said to me ‘You simply have to have a sex scene’ when I told her I was writing a book. I guess it’s wrong to categorise people. 😉 I’m writing a crime thriller so I guess I have to follow the lead of other authors in the genre and observe the golden rule – only put it in if it carries the story forward.

      • emmiemears says:

        Just to let you know, Phil, I gave you the Versatile Blogger award on my blog today! You should stop by and check out your virtual swag. 😀

      • philsrogers says:

        Wow Emmie thankyou!! 🙂 I will be proudly displaying this award on my blog; however the only place I can get the internet right now is on the balcony of the holiday cottage we are in and it’s raining.

      • emmiemears says:

        By all means, don’t let it rain on your computer! 🙂 Have fun on holiday!

  2. zencherry says:

    You can do it, I know you can! Emmie is right, choose your audience to decide how many veils you want to fall away during that dance. 😉

  3. MPLanglinais says:

    I close the door softly behind me as I exit.

  4. For my book I used the first-person narrative to avoid the awkwardness of writing out a sex scene (getting my protagonist to openly spare the reader the details). You can’t help but think that it’s the part of the story that reflects the most on the author, and there are some things my character does that I really don’t want attributing to me!

    Have a listen to this if you get the chance – it’s Will Self and Martin Amis discussing this very matter…


  5. J.L. Murphey says:

    Phil, I usually just start the scene and seg into something else. LOL

  6. Old Jules says:

    Seems to me having enough respect for your characters to give them some privacy’s something that separates the hack from the non-hack in the universe where writers reside. Privacy doesn’t sell books, but it does allow the writer to put his emphasis on plot development, improving characterization, dialogue and otherwise playing god to his creations. Readers these days already have experienced sex and know the various possibilities for a writer to describe it.

  7. Julie says:

    That is too funny! I once took a class on writing sex scenes (one of the more fun ones!). The instructor said that what ISN’T being done/said is equally as important as what is. It should reveal character or move the story forward and not be gratuitous.

    Have fun! 🙂

  8. Martha says:

    Writing about sex always spins me into a pause and during that pause, someone is almost guaranteed to shout ‘Muuu–uuu-uuuum!’ which wrecks the moment entirely. Bad sex is OK — sex between useless characters, because writing failed attempts at sex is fun. But good sex…


    Hopeless. If I write anything at all, I end up writing to the tune of Pop Goes The Weasel.

    Humpy dumpy diddly pump, humpy dumpy pom pom…


  9. Interesting that in Harry Potter the most widely read book in recent history there is NO sex!

  10. Laura says:

    Lol this made me laugh too but I do like the way you mentioned giving them some privacy and seeing how they are getting on tomorrow. I have read a few of Jodi Piccoult’s books and whilst she’s probably not going to go down as a classic writer in history her sex scenes do seem pretty natural. Maybe check out a few ways where it has been written about but not emphasised and go from there 🙂

  11. Old post, so you surely aren’t that interested in reading new comments, but as a new reader, i thought I’d add that, once upon a time, I dreaded sex scenes in my fiction as well. What I’ve found since then is, it gets easier with time, particualrly if you have a private audience of ‘beta readers’ to experiment with before you start publishing novels with sex scenes. And yes, the golden rule applies: only if it forwards the plot/serves the story (not always the same thing).

    Good luck with the book. And, uh… post more. 😉

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