1. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Romance Including a sex scene with one mc but not the other? (adult content, obviously)

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Tenderiser, Aug 29, 2015.

    This was hard to summarise in a thread title so it's probably confusing.

    I have two protagonists in my romance who, I am hoping, the readers will want to be together. But they don't get together until roughly 1/3 of the way through the book. Before that, and indeed before the story starts, the male protagonist has a casual arrangement with another woman where they just have sex, no relationship.

    I'm wondering if it's a mistake to include a sex scene between them. It won't be a blow-by-blow ( :twisted: ) account and it isn't gratuitous - it serves a narrative purpose, by giving the reader clues that casual-arrangement-woman is more into him than he is to her, even if male protagonist doesn't realise it, which is very important to the plot later on - but I can't help feeling it's a mistake. Especially since the couple of sex scenes between my protagonists are much softer, more romantic than hot (although I hope they're hot enough). I don't want to end up with the most erotic scene in the book being between one main character and his not-love-interest. At the same time I definitely don't want to make this one romantic because it's from my male character's POV and he has no romantic feelings towards this woman, although he likes her as a person.

    There's not a lot of sex in the book as a whole. I have two sex scenes between the protagonists that go into any kind of detail, because both are important to the plot, and the rest of the time it's more of a "then they went to bed" or "in the morning" kind of thing (don't worry, those are not verbatim extracts.)

    This is the third time I have found myself writing a sex scene between male MC and casual-arrangement-woman, which I should probably take as a clue that it should be in there. I deleted the first two attempts because I was worried about it but now I'm wondering if I should leave this one in.

    Obviously it's hard to comment without having read the book, but what are your initial thoughts about this? Have you read any books where this happened, and did it work for you?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    For me - starting with a sex scene might forever cloud the issue. I wouldn't do a cut away but maybe a start after the affect of sex. For instance you end chapter one with him thinking of visiting so-and-so you start the next chapter or scene with him trying to sneak out of her bed before she wakes up but she does wake up.
    The dynamic & focus shifts from sex to their interaction afterwards. This is where you could show the reader what they mean to each other and how this relationship works.
     
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  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, I wasn't clear. This scene would be several chapters in, when their (non) relationship is established. The first time we see them together is just as you suggest: after sex, where she's trying to get him to stay and he's trying to leave. Then we see them a few times at work together, where obviously they can't make any reference to their shenanigans.

    The place I'm thinking of leaving this scene in is where he's recently realised he is falling for female MC but is resisting it. Casual-arrangement-woman makes a personal sacrifice to help him and is then coming on to him. He takes the familiar, comfortable option of her where there is no risk of it developing into a relationship (so he thinks) over the risk of female MC. At the same time it's obvious C-A-W will go to quite a lot of personal risk to help him out.

    I've just finished the scene and cut it off where the talking ends and the action begins. I think I'm comfortable with the level of heat now but I still don't know whether to leave it in.
     
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  4. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    The whole "non-relationship" thing really goes out the window with intimacy. It is just so easy to see it as a cover for an actual relationship that they are physically, but not emotionally ready to handle. This can sort of warp a reader into adding their own history onto a character and start to believe that a real development will occur and the MC will act upon it. Casual and mechanical versus intimate doesn't reoccur with the same person frequently without it becoming intimate.

    Though with something so complex, you can probably spin it and serve it any way you want.
     
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  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    You're right, there's a lot of intimacy. He is very comfortable with her, especially since she knows things about him that he's unable to tell the female MC. But I think I've managed to make it convincing that despite him genuinely caring for her and enjoying their time together, he really doesn't want to be in a relationship with her. Whilst he isn't unkind, when I read their scenes back I'm thinking "ouch" on her behalf at some of the things he says, knowing how she feels. He's just completely oblivious to it until later on.

    I'm tempted to post something now to get opinions, but it's scary putting your writing up for critique. :eek:
     
  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can't say I would have a problem with that in and of itself. It happens in real life all the time, after all. Then again, I'm not a romance reader, but I've heard there're all kinds of "rules" to writing romance. Perhaps making the main couple sleep with others is a huge affront to the fans of the genre, lol. In my and my writing partner's writing (@T.Trian here), that type of arrangements are fairly common until the main lovers finally get together. In one of our WIPs, we didn't write out a single sex scene for the Lovers (in hindsight, it's a bit weird and we'll go back to change that), but we did describe the sexcapades they have with other people. Apparently some men are very much capable of such arrangements (and women too).

    I'm really not sure if what you have constitutes as a problem. If it happened to mislead me, that's just a good thing 'cause then I won't know for certain how the story will end!
     
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  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    There are definitely a lot of rules to romance. In fact I was reading submission guidelines in my particular sub-genre earlier, for formatting rules, and I remember it said that side-romances are okay. I don't think it will upset readers that he has sex with someone else in the book, I'm just not sure if I should actually show them having sex.

    As it is I've ended with them undressed and about to get it on. I think the conversation that leads up to that point makes all the points I need to, and showing the actual sex wouldn't add anything. So between this thread and my own hesitancy, problem solved!
     
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  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There might also be rules to the amount of sex scenes and how graphic they're allowed to be. I own one novel by Lisa Jewell where the characters engage in all kinds of activities from snorting coke to shopping in the more exotic shops of Soho, but there are no sex scenes, as far as I can remember. I always thought that was kind of weird, not even the main lovers do the naughty, but then again, it's probably a genre-within-genre thing. A friend of mine has published pretty raunchy elf romance, that I'd definitely classify as romance instead of erotica despite the level of sexy detail. In one novel, the female MC actually had pretty blush-worthy sex with some guy she liked and it was described in just as much detail as her later fuckage with the male MC.
     
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Elf romance, I love it. :D

    You're right again about the sex scenes within sub-genres. I found this really useful flow chart earlier from Harlequin, which I followed down to 'superromance' for me. For other publishers it's somewhere between a contemporary romance and a suspense, depending on their individual definitions. In either case the level of heat I have should be appropriate. I don't think I'd be interested in reading or writing a romance without some heat, but of course it's personal preference.
     
  10. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think bottom line, sex scenes have to fit the story, contribute to what is happening.

    I have similar scenario in WIP. Male MC is forming first ever friendship with female MC on ship, which will eventually become love, but neither yet know nor admit it. He is approached by prostitute in Taprobane (Sri Lanka) and they have wild monkey sex. But she is spy for the king on north end of island. This causes big problems that ends in firefight between ship and town, negotiated exit of ship with necessary repair parts and critical crewmembers.

    Later on, love blossoms between MMC and FMC but not until their friendship has caused major problems in Chinese court: they are all condemned to death, kind of major problem. They make love in jail cell after cuddling against cold, waiting to die, while FMC's brother, MMCs senior officer and ambassador make sure guards don't notice. (They were all condemned)
     
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  11. lifeisastory
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    lifeisastory Member

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    I believe, if you do it right, you could even make that one of the core issues: To the protagonist, one is purely physical, the other is physical and emotional. Because he loves the female MC, he respects her in a way, he doesn't want to have sex with her "just like that", he wants to really get to know her or wait for the perfect moment. Not having sex with her (yet ;)) could be a statement of his love.
    As far as your concerns about the hottest scene in your book: You said you didn't describe the sex very vividly and to me there cam be things hotter then sex: The way you describe their bodys when they look at each other, certain actions, words... I think the sexiest thing is not sex itself but the promise of sex. The lead-up. Have them make sexual allusions. And describe the sex with the other woman maybe even in a way that is borderline gross to the reader
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not entirely sure what the focus of your story is, but if you need to show the reader the difference between what casual sex feels like (or sex feels like to a character who is not in love with his partner) and what it feels like between two people who actually do love each other, then by all means write both! Just make sure you make it clear what the feelings are, in both cases. Figure out a way to show your reader both the non-love and then the love. It doesn't have anything to do with who sticks what where, or even concern for the partner's pleasure (which can happen even when love isn't present) but it's all about touching the partner's soul, and being touched in return. The intimacy doesn't end with orgasm.

    I hate the idea that people shy away from reading or writing non-gratuitous sex scenes, because sexual compatibility is so important to people! It's one of the things that drives relationships, and is certainly a major part of any love affair that isn't over in the blink of an eye. How people are with each other when they are having sex is SO important to portray. It's often the most intimate thing they ever do, and certainly the most vulnerable they make themselves in ordinary circumstances. Skimming over sex because of some strange notion that it shouldn't be written about is a huge mistake, in my opinion.
     
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  13. Aire
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    Aire Banned Sock-Puppet

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    In other words he has causal sex with a woman which means nothing - and which people do daily for no other reason than to "feel good" in real life. Or he is celibrate for his life with only his hand as "companionship" until meeting the woman of his dreams.

    You're overthinking it.

    Separate the two encounters by the approach.

    Causal - is causal. You're not taking a causal out to a fine meal & meet the parents. Literally he meets the woman at a bar, goes to her house, has sex... leaves right after or early in the morning. The literal "wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am".

    Dream woman - have him wine & dine her, take her out to social gatherings, meet his friends, etc., etc.. Have some good foreplay or if you don't have detailed ... the aftermath is utterly different than causal [cuddling, gentle caressing, etc.].
     
  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to be a bit of a dissenting voice, I think, but I'd try pretty hard to avoid the scene, especially if it's several chapters into the book. I've many times read the "wakes up with a woman he doesn't really care about" scene as the opener of a romance, but I'm having trouble thinking of a time when I've read the hero having sex with another woman several chapters into the story, after he's already met the heroine.

    If you're looking at Harlequin flow charts, you're looking at a pretty mainstream market, and that market is pretty rigid. (There are definitely places to sell less traditional romances, but Harlequin ain't one of 'em!) And I think one of the "rules" of Romance is something about neither MC having sex with anyone else after meeting the other MC. The idea, I think, is that they're so completely drawn to each other that sex with anyone else would be pointless.

    If you really need the scene, I'd follow @peachalulu's suggestion about just showing the after-effects. It's boring to write bad sex, and you can't really afford to write good sex, since that seems like it would be lessening the impact of the main relationship. So I'd avoid writing the sex altogether.

    Again, this is if you're going for the mainstream market. There are smaller publishers that are a lot more flexible about their content.
     
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  15. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is set about 2000 years ago, so other times, other customs.

    My male MC (MMC) is a senior Roman centurion in his 40s, whose experience with women has been entirely with whores and sluts. He might have had a temporary "wife" as others did, but he never did. So he is slightly at a disadvantage around high class women.

    My Female MC is Chinese of Roman ancestry, aged 22, who has been concubine to an abusive man (Chinese) since 12. They are temporarily separated on ship. Her initial contacts with MMC on her are very awkward and tentative for both... she has not been allowed to speak to other men (irrational jealousy on the part of her consort).

    Ship is hijacked, she sees possibility of life without Wang Ming. The idea of life with MMC Antonius has not yet emerged for either yet, but they both enjoy friendship, novel for both, talking alongside of ship's rail, watching sea go by. Daily ritual.

    Ship stops in port for repairs after storm. Antonius and Roman officer go out into town. He is approached by prostitute, has a delightful dalliance with her, though the officer is skeptical... and Antonius realizes she is trying to get more info than he wants to give. She is agent for the king's spy, and gets enough info to cause serious in trouble for ship. This is casual sex, part of MMC's life before FMC.

    Ship with consort is in pursuit, rendezvous in S. China sea as she is begin to relax and enjoy friendship with MMC. Taken back to her old nightmare life by boat, silent, no farewells. Growling MMC restrained quietly by officer.

    Six months later, through a variety of events, she and whole Roman party in jail facing execution because they resisted her execution. Facing certain death, partly for the infidelity she never committed, FMC makes love to MMC in jail. Escape, marriage to MMC while returning to Rome via long overland route. FMC kills Wang Ming in final confrontation as he once again tries to take her back to nightmare life.

    This is the committed sex. MMC despite rough appearance is of Greek descent, son of tutor, well-educated (keeps it hidden) There is a discussion about Eros (casual sex) vs. Agape (willing to die for the one you love). After one happy bout her comment "Eros goes well mixed with Agape"
     
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  16. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Whoops, how did I not realise this thread had more replies?

    In subsequent revisions, the sex scene has been removed and I haven't felt the need to reinsert it. I think I just needed to get it out of my system so I understood what their sex life was like. I've written a lot of scenes and then realised they had no place in the book, but I needed to do it.

    He's definitely going to have sex with his sex-buddy after he meets the female MC. It's not love at first sight because I hate that in books. I'm okay if that closes off certain publishers. I was looking at the flow charts to understand what sub-genre I should be calling the book, more than because I think I'll be published with them :)
     
  17. Inks
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    Inks Contributing Member

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    Funny. I'm used to sex selling certain works and then having it stripped out for the "general public" in a later edition. Understanding the characters better is ultimately going to contribute to better depictions and finer nuances. So even if the scene it out, the effect of writing it stays with the person who counts the most - the author.
     

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