Two things made this quick little post come about. Reading Sugared Game (yummy) and this post, which I’ve had marked for the monthly links roundup anyway.
How MUCH is too MUCH?
And who’s to say, either way? And yes, now I’m going to quote a fic (this one), and note that the idea of a number in real life implies that there is a number. And there is not. Books don’t have to have sex scenes. Nor do they have to not have them. Because the most important question of this silly little roundup is not this one, but the one which follows.
What genre are we in, again?
Yes. This should’ve been point number one, but my brain has a weird way of working when we’re talking about stuff I really care about. If you’re writing erotica of any kind (or if your book is packaged and/or marketed as such, which is sometimes even more important), you’ll inevitably have way more sex scenes, and their progression (yup, I imagine it just like blues chords) will be much more defined than if you’re not. If you’re writing basically any other genre, look to your sub-genre. And to the year you’re writing in. Because, there’s a market for ‘clean and wholesome’ as much as there is a market for everything else on the fiction spectrum, nowadays. And it might just be my humble opinion, but the versatility (and global accessibility!) is one of the best things to have ever happened to fiction in general.
What’s it to you as a reader?
I always try to write books I’d love reading. (Although I tend to read mostly books by people who are immensely better storytellers than me, which is, when I think about it, very healthy.) As a reader, I try to avoid books without sex scenes like, umm, a bad rash. As a writer, I can’t imagine writing novels without them. Your own gut feeling is much more important than we take it for. Never let anyone tell you your books need or must not have sex in them. It’s your copy, alright?
What is this ‘moving the plot along’ thing everybody keeps mentioning?
If done right, even in books which have almost as many sex scenes as chapters (I’m looking fondly at you, Harvest of Sighs), the plot and the sex scenes work together to advance the storyline without even trying. Or is it the fact that writers who know what they’re doing make it appear effortless, just like with humor and other (harder) stuff? I always find this ‘writing tip’ a bit bemusing because I put sex scenes in my copy where I feel like there should be one, where the relationships in question demand it, or where there’s a need to advance the stakes. Which, I guess, complies answers this question. Mostly.
bONUS POINT: But I hate writing sex scenes…
Then, by all means, don’t you dare write sub-genres which require sex scenes. Other than that, you’re good to go. And if you want to write sex scenes, but don’t know how and/or don’t dare, for fear of feeling bad or stupid or whatever… every skill can be learned. How to learn to write sex scenes (other than writing them) is too big of a subject to be delved into right here, right now. But the one thing I can tell you is that keeping it impersonal is not going to work.
Make what you want of it.