Monday, April 19, 2010

Dr. Ruth Anyone?

Monday, April 19, 2010
Let's talk sex. Or to be more precise, sex scenes in books. Do you read them? Skip over them? Enjoy them? Hate them?

At my writing meeting this weekend, we discussed how to make sex scenes count, which led us to a discussion on how sex in books has changed over the years. It used to be that implied sex was called sweet. Now they tell me that books with only one sex scene are considered sweet. I guess the norm used to be just one sex scene if any. Now? Those rules absolutely do not apply.

Are writers putting them in just to have them or is there meaning behind each and every one? Is the scene character driven? According to our guest speaker, Ann Voss Peterson (who was amazing, I might add), it must be. If it's not, that's when readers skip over it because they can tell it's forced, faked. And not just the "sex" scenes. Each "love" scene must transform our characters in some way or at the very least, give us a glimpse into their inner fears, conflicts and turmoil. We all have such things that exist within us, so why wouldn't our characters?

Some books in mainstream romance have multiple and I mean MULTIPLE sex scenes. Many times it is done well and I get the realness of each one. I think paranormal is more apt to do this because we are often dealing with otherworldly characters and sex can be a major part of their existence. If there were a book written about a vampire or a demon with little to no sex scenes, I for one would be sorely disappointed.

For me, these type of scenes are not easy to write. There are so many things to take into consideration. What will people think? Is it too much? Not enough? Too raunchy? Too vanilla? Will people talk in whispers when I walk by after reading my book? These things shouldn't matter. I should write them in accordance with what my characters would do. How they would act and feel based on who they are and what is inside them and how it will change them.

So how about you? Does it bother you to read sex scenes? Do books have too many? Not enough? Have we gone too far?

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi


~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Elle! Good topic.

Hmm, some I skip over some I read. Depends on the book. But I like the thought that each scene should also show us something about the characters--inner conflicts etc, because it does play into sex. It's a very intimate stage.

I have no problems writing hot sex scenes but I don't believe in just plopping one in there. There has to be a reason and there has to be a build up of sexual tension.

I can write details but I always ask myself, do we NEED these details? Or can the scene be written without them. I think care has to be given so the scene doesn't feel like a sex manuel.

Elle J Rossi said...

Hi Sia,

I'm with you. Normally I read the sex scenes, but there are a few that I skip over. I have to ask myself why. Do I need to be in a certain mood or did the author not give me something within the characters that made me want to read it?

Sexual tension is so great. We've all been there and know exactly what that feels like.

What I get from your last statement is to write those details and then edit the excess. Good plan!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

SIS BJ said...

Hi Elle

Like Sia, some I read others I skip. I do think some go a little too far with the sex scenes. It's like reading soft porn. I don't need all that to enjoy the book. I say leave a little to the imagination.

I do like sex scenes in paranormal. You can add a magical touch to them.

Alyson Reuben said...

Are you kidding, Elle? I love good sex scenes. Tastefully written, that is. *clearing my throat* That being said, I have to admit that I DON'T enjoy every intimate scene in books. Some are either so over-the-top (too much like porn) that they're completely unbelievable and even painful sounding, which is a definite turn-off. And others are so weak and lame that I find myself thinking the characters need some kind of profound counseling.

About writing the scenes... I'm by no means an expert! I try to incorporate things that aren't just visual (ex: emotions, thoughts). Some sex scenes won't require very many details. Others will. Depends on the rest of the context surrounding the scene. Hope that makes sense?

Chris Behrens said...

Although I haven't read that many books with sex scenes, I look at it this way: I'll read them until I get to the point where I believe it's becoming gratuitous and not adding anything to the story, then I'll keep reading. NOT. If you have a well-written book you don't need to liberally toss in sex scenes, unless it has a direct bearing on the story.

I agree with BJ that paranormal sex scenes can be very interesting because they can be totally different and outside the box, pun intended.

Elle J Rossi said...


Paranormal sex scenes are my favorite for many reasons. Magickal elements being at the top of the list!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


Absolutely it makes sense. Thoughts and emotions are the reasons most of us want to be with another. To exclude that in our writing would be unfair and unrealistic.

Some over the top sex scenes have their place too and when in the right context, can actually add to the story line. I think I actually prefer those over the lame ones!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


Love the pun. Leave it to you!

You said: "If you have a well-written book you don't need to liberally toss in sex scenes, unless it has a direct bearing on the story."

Well put, Sir. Well put.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Tori Lennox said...

I'm in the "some I read, some I skip" camp too. :)

Mary Jo said...


Like others have written, if the scene needs to be there for character or plot development, I don't skip over them. If as a reader I don't see that happening, I'll skip them.

As a writer, I take those same concepts to determine if a sex scene happens> Or not. Sometimes, though I know it's needed, but, gee, I'm not in the mood or have a headache. Then I offer a rain check for a better day. :-)

Elle J Rossi said...


Seems to be the trend of the day.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...

Mary Jo,

I had to laugh at your comment. I feel that way too sometimes and tend to blame it on my characters. They must not be ready or this scene is in the wrong place. Could just be me though, huh?

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi said...

Great topic, Elle, and maybe wonderful comments. I confess, I've skimmed more than one graphic (and long) sex scene. I'm more hot for the sexual tension and a compelling story. When wring a love/sex scene I try to keep in mind a quote from Nora Roberts. Hope I get this right.

"It's not the motion. It's the emotion."

SIS Beth

Elle J Rossi said...

Hi Beth,

I've decided it totally depends on what I'm reading and how it's done. I think JR Ward does a great job of incorporating many and sometimes long sex scenes into her books. They totally work and I wouldn't dare skip or skim one of them.

Another author that comes to mind is Kresley Cole. Holy steam factor, but very well done.

Nora Roberts? Completely different style that absolutely and completely works and rocks. She does sexual tension like no other.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Edie Ramer said...

I'm with the others on the sexual tension and build up. Then when the sex comes, you're ready and eager for it. I do skim sex scenes that feel like they're put in just to have a sex scene, which happens a lot in books lately.

For my own sex scenes, when they happen, something changes in the plot. In my current book, I only show two sex scenes. There's a third, but nothing changes, so I didn't show it. I think it worked. Neither of my readers said, "You should've put in the sex scene."

Elle J Rossi said...


You're so right. Something needs to change in the plot, whether it be progression or sometimes even regression of a character. I totally get that now.

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

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