Thursday, July 31, 2008
Revising the Novel - Writing the Sex Scene part 3
So then, the real question is; how much sex should one have in their novel?
The answer, of course, varies with the genre and style of writing, but in general terms, the title above says it all, sex sells. Now this doesn't mean peppering your legal thriller with scene after scene of hot doings in the jury box, but on the other hand, I have heard an agent say that if a book doesn't have sex, the implication of sex, or at least a strong romance, it won't sell.
People enjoy sex (not the physical act, well, yes the physical act, but also the story of sex). They enjoy both romantic sex and steamy sex. Sex that they'd do and sex they'd never dream of, as long as it's not offensive (a difficult line to draw, I know). They love the prelude to sex and the after effects.
And I do to. Particularly the character ramifications. There is very little you can do to affect a relatonship more between two of your characters than to put them in bed together. I love what happens to the characters during the act; the nervousness, the desire, the fear, the insecurities, the abandon, the neediness. It is a great way to explore character. But so is the character ramifications after the act and the way the characters see each other, grow with each other or apart. Trust me, sex can be very revealing.
The general rule that I follow is that there has to be a romance in a thriller. Even if it's not completely consumated, it has to be implied. In fact, just the tension of romance, the possibility that two characters will have sex, can be enough to up the drama in a scene or in the entire book. I can't ever see myself writing a story that doesn't involve love and romance. It just reveals so much of a character and is such a powerful motivator for character actions.
But that doesn't mean I'll always have sex. Again, following my rule, if I can fit a sex scene in, and it falls in a logical place (perhaps a surprising place) without disrupting the flow of the story, the pulse of the action, then by all means, I'll add it. But if the scene is added just to have a sex scene, if it feels unnatural or most importantly, if it slows down the action or disrupts the tension, then I won't have it. The main flow of the story always has to be most important.
So I guess I'm saying that sex is great, in the right time and place.
Hmmm, now I sound like a 10th grade health teacher.