1. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Active Member

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    How many sex scenes in a love story (novel)? ;-)

    Discussion in 'By the Genre' started by Shenanigator, Nov 9, 2017.

    Since there are tropes for everything else, is there a guideline for how many sex scenes there should be in a love story that isn't a "Romance Novel"?

    The two characters have had their slow buildup, Big Moment, First Time Sex scene.

    It is clear by the way the characters relate to each other through their dialogue and affectionate gestures that they have a good sex life. But is there some sort of trope that dictates that I need to actually write them more sex scenes?

    My gut wants me to focus on the plot, the conflicts they face, and the emotional things they each go through that relate to the central theme of the novel. To me, it feels like writing their sex life in more detail (beyond their joking around together and him scooping her up and carrying her off or their chasing each other down the hall) would take up valuable word landscape. It's clear they're having sex and enjoying it.

    But I could be wrong. It is a love story, for God's sake.

    Thoughts?
     
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  2. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Active Member

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    I would say this depends on your story and your characters and the relationship they have. It also depends on what the sex scenes are meant to accomplish. Having lots of sexual tension that's finally gets release in one spectacular love scene full of romance an character chemistry fills a different role than multiple terse bouts of coitus that's basically only about sexual gratification and self loathing.
     
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  3. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    I despise books that have a build-up but no 'scene' reward.

    Even in my stories where there is no sex scene, there is always an Erotic undertone that is present all-through-out; I am very Clive-Barkerish like that.
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    Sex once does not equate to a sex life. Not an expert, but a slut who has sex with
    many partners in short period of time has a sex life (healthy would be questionable
    at best, and herpes almost a given). :p

    Once is more mechanical intimacy with your preferred partner, based on how they
    evolve in that aspect on more occasions would be a sex life.

    After you have them paired up you can have them (or not), do the nasty as little
    or as much as you want. It is your story. :)
     
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  5. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Active Member

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    Oh, yeah, after the Big Moment it's clear that it has evolved into a sex life. They're definitely doing it. My question is more a matter of whether or not it needs to be "on camera" or not, because after the sexual tension leading up to the first time, it no longer advances the plot. ETA: Or I should say, there are other plot lines that are more important to their future happiness, if that makes sense.
     
  6. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan Active Member

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    Whether you describe it or not more depends on what you're comfortable writing and who your target audience is. If your story is more YA than romance-adventure, it might be a good idea to fade to black on their first time.
     
  7. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    You can have romance with zero sex scenes or with four explicit, lengthy sex scenes. If there are no guidelines for romance, I don't think you'll find any for non-romance. :)

    Like any type of scene, sex scenes have to earn their place. If they don't forward the plot or add to characterisation, they will feel unnecessary, and readers are particularly sensitive to unnecessary sex scenes (and violence, and cursing).

    I'm struggling with this at the moment. An editor wants me to make a romance steamier, and I'm not happy adding sex scenes for the sake of it. I'm working hard to find ways to use them to further the plot.

    YA can get very explicit!
     
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  8. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Active Member

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    Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful responses.

    I think @The Dapper Hooligan has, pardon the pun, nailed the issue: it doesn't neatly fit into one mainstream genre. I'm OK with that, because it's my first attempt at a novel, so I'm just trying to get the storytelling down.

    It's a love story, but it doesn't quite tick all the boxes for the requirements for a Romance Novel, yet it's closer to Romance Novel than YA. Despite one of the characters being a teen, there are plot elements that would be too controversial for a YA audience in the US...namely that the female MC starts out as jailbait (ages are 17/24), which is a major moral struggle for the male MC. He's not predatory; they meet under circumstances that make him think she's older and make her think he's younger, and there's a lot of humor as he struggles with this. There are also hints of prostitution and some unapologetic cocaine use that would be consistent with 1980, and "if it ain't broke don't fix it" jokes about living together.

    I think if I went YA I'd be one of those rebellious authors who'd be determined to get the book banned. :) But I really don't have the energy for the stalking and threats that would come with it these days. ETA: I've already done the "stalked by angry people who want to harm me and my family for something I wrote" thing for a non-fiction piece, and it's not fun.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
  9. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That's really not too controversial for YA, at all. No way would it be banned!
     
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  10. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Active Member

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    Thank you @Tenderiser , that helps a lot.

    Back to following my gut on this! I always get in trouble when I overthink it.
     
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  11. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Active Member

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    Good to know. Thank you! I had visions of readers' moms coming after me with pitchforks. ;-)
     
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  12. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    I don't see why not. Bet Me only had one sex scene, and it was pretty Vanilla and close to the end.
     
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  13. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    It's a bit strange to see someone posting derogatory things about someone else's sexual activity at the same time as that person has an avatar that seems to be demanding respect for his own sexual interests. If you want respect, you should probably give it, right?
     
  14. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Wrting is never clean. :) Contributor

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    Actually it is more of a philosophical perspective than just simply sex. Granted I understand
    your pointed jab, since you have not really studied it at length over the years.
    (Also someone who has dozens to hundreds of sexual partners, would likely come up positive
    for some form of STI or STD. Whichever you prefer.) :p
    BDSM.jpg
    So it would seem you do not understand exactly as I do, when it comes to such things.
    Also I have had exactly 5 people that I have had carnal relation with, and not more than
    one would need to borrow 3-4 friends phalanges (each has 20) to be able to figure it out. :)
    So kindly don't assume things with which you are not knowledgeable of. Thank you.
    Remember when you point a finger, there are three pointed back.
     
  15. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I have no interest in pointing fingers. I also have no interest in your sex life.

    I'm just not a fan of hypocrisy. You seem really intent on advertising your sexual proclivities--I assume this is a sort of anti-shaming activity? If that's the case, it seems strange that you're doubling down on the "slut" nonsense. What's your motivation, there?
     
  16. Stormburn

    Stormburn Senior Member

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    I read this wonderful fantasy book, but, it was really a relationship drama/romance wrapped in a fantasy setting. When the two leads finally slept together, there was a long and very graphic portrayal of the encounter. Honestly, I felt the blow to blow description really brought the story to a halt. The writer had a real talent for dialogue and characters, not so much for sex scenes (or any action scene in general) I believe sex scenes are similar to other 'action' scenes, like fight scenes or escape scenes, where it's too easy to write a speed bump that disrupts the story flow.
     
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  17. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    As a reader, I agree with this... I almost always skim sex scenes, to the point that if I accidentally pick up a an "erotic romance" I can read the whole novel in half an hour or so.

    As a writer, though? Well, I'm writing romance, where there's certainly more of an expectation of sex scenes, so maybe it's not fair to extrapolate to other genres, but for romance, I've been criticized pretty extensively for not including extensive sex scenes. So I generally include them.
     
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  18. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Active Member

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    Thank you for your thoughtful responses. It really is a puzzle, isn't it? It seems a lot of people prefer not to read them, yet we expect them to be there because it seems the thing to do.

    I think going to go with my gut on this one but will keep watching the thread, because I think this is something that comes up for most writers (pun intended? you decide).

    ETA: @BayView and @Cave Troll I'm not fond of slut-shaming and sexual dogma, either. People are different. They like different things. Sometimes that includes different activities or a variety of different partners. As long as they're consenting adults, I'm not going to judge anyone for that.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
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  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    thing is that like fight scenes they don't have to interupt the story flow if you write them well ... If I eliminated sex and fight scenes I'd have no book :D
     
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  20. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Member

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    There’s always been some very thoughtful replies, but I just thought I’d weigh in.

    Asking “how many sex scenes should there be in a romance novel” is like asking “how many sword fights should there be in a fantasy novel.”

    Scenes happen for a reason. A good rule of thumb for sex scenes is that — like any other kind of scene — it should entertain the reader, it should show something about the character, or it should move the plot forward.

    There is generally an expectation your romance novel is going to have sexy bits, just like fantasy fans generally expect a bit of stabbing. But there’s plenty of romance novels that either don’t show sex or only have one sex scene.

    So long story short:
    I got no advice, good luck
     
  21. Azuresun

    Azuresun Member

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    I think there are two reasons to do a sex scene--first is because you want to titillate the audience, and there's nothing wrong with that. Writing sex scenes actually takes a lot of skill--a glance at the Bad Sex in literature Awards will show that even very good writers can fail comically.

    The other is because there's something important in the depiction of the sex that you just couldn't convey any other way. If there isn't (you can convey it in the build-up or the post-coital scene), then just do that if it's more comfortable.

    Of course, a sex scene doesn't need to be (ahem) blow by blow with every movement being detailed. It's fine to skim over the physical actions and focus on what the characters are thinking and feeling about what's happening. Avoid the worse excesses of purple prose, and that can be very effective and sweet.
     
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  22. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    This is another point they share with fight scenes (and any other scene for that matter) - too many new writers try to describe everything in painstaking detail and sap all the motion out of their plot.... its a consequence of taking 'show don't tell' too literally.

    The other thing about sex in novels is that most readers have had sex (and those who havent probably know a bit about it) so people now roughly what the mechanics look like....ergo you don't need to describe the detail of who put what where when you could be describing the smells, taste, sound and most importantly emotions .... whether thats "man that felt so good" or "Jesus its like a frankfurter in a sandbox, hurry the fuck up and get it over with already"
     
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  23. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic Supporter

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    I think you already have your answers, but I just wanted to weigh in, too, and point towards Sarah Morgan, a romance author who usually has only one sex scene in each of her novels. So...I think that's perfectly acceptable in the romance genre, and if it's acceptable there then it surely must be acceptable in other genres, too. I think you should follow your gut instincts. :)
     
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  24. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Shenanigator,

    There is a handy narrative technique (something I learned about when I was studying film) I forgot to mention. Let us say you have two characters wanting to have a conversation -a boring conversation, but an important one. You have this conversation occur while something interesting is going on in the background or foreground (A murder, boxing match, a chess game, a sex scene, etc.) The idea is that the audience is entertained by 'action' of the scene while still absorbing the important info from the conversation.
     
  25. Stormburn

    Stormburn Senior Member

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    I think its a matter of a writer recognizing what their book is about and the reader it will attract. I'm a military history/aviation junkie. I've recently read a 'what if' book about the German WW2 carrier Graf Zeppelin. Normally, these kinds of books are 'tech porn' with blow by blow technical descriptions and tactics. This book was just a very average adventure story in a WW2 setting. Now, the GZ was a very unique design featuring technical innovations that only the Germans could want, so I was extremely disappointed that none of these elements were touched on.
    My WIP features a MC with a unique fighting style. I developed the style based around capoeira and swords. I have a chart of moves and everything. In the first draft of book, I did blow by blow fight scenes. Technically it was correct, but, story wise it was awful. Fights are suppose to be fast and violent. Here I was doing play by play of a boxing match. So, I rewrote the scenes from the perspective of a viewer who knows nothing about a sword fight. I still use my visual aids when story boarding the action, but, the scenes read very fast now. Though, in another style of book, the reader may want a technical description of the fighting.
    Well, that's my two cents.
     
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