I think far too many people are scared of sex in fiction when, in fact, it is simply another aspect of a plot. However I do believe there are some considerations when adding sex to a story.
Whenever I think about it I ask myself a couple of questions:
- Why am I adding it?
- Who are my audience?
Answering those two questions always lets me know if I am adding it because it adds to the story or if, actually, it would be better to leave it out.
Now most fandoms are not shy about sex, but they are usually careful about it. You will most often find that in fanfiction communities all fiction is rated and will give you information on pairings and warnings about content so that you can pick and choose what you like to read according to your own tastes. This makes it very hard to stumble in on something you don't like.
Many times it's not so easy with published fiction.
There are also many levels of sex in fiction:
- Alluding to events of a more carnal nature.
- Having the lead up and then fading to black.
- Describing the acts in a less explicit way.
- Describing everything with anatomical detail.
If I've answered the first of my questions to my own satisfaction then the answer to "Who is my audience" will often give me the level of description required.
The one thing I find most important in a sex scene is the characters. I have read far too many incredibly boring sex scenes, because they are all about tab A in slot B and not about what the characters are feeling and thinking. Having the characters not feeling anything and just going through the motions is a perfectly valid way to write a sex scene, however, there had better be a reason the characters are doing that or you will have lost me as a reader.
If they're doing the Sunday crossword in their head that's fine, it's adding to the character, but I like reasons for the sex, so if it's just sex without character input at all, I call it written porn and I'm not really interested. Some people might like that, and, good for them, but not me. When writing, I look at sex scenes like any other scene and if they don't add to the plot they get yanked out.
I've written fiction with no sex, fiction with kissing, fiction with semi-explicit sex, fiction with full on anatomical detail and what I have found is that it's like writing anything else. Research is important, but it's fiction, so it doesn't have to be totally real, and make it entertaining or your reader is going to switch off.
How do you perceive sex in fiction?
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