Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rambling On About Writing Sex

Rambling On About Writing Sex
by Linda Robertson

There is no sex in my first book.


Was I embarrassed or ashamed? Was I concerned that people I knew like my parents, my friends, co-workers, or teen-age children might read it?


There’s no sex in VICIOUS CIRCLE because it takes place over one week and that just isn’t enough time for my main character Persephone to decide that she’s ready to be intimate with Johnny.

There ARE sex scenes in every book after that.


Because sex is a natural part of relationships. When there is attraction, sexual tension follows. There can be bonds forged on that attraction, what people will do—and won’t do—because of those bonds reveals their character. When you have characters in scenes that are already tense, if they are attracted to each other it adds a whole new level of subtext to play with in order to make that scene scintillating—so why wouldn’t you?

Movie Examples:

The Matrix. If not for the relationship budding between Neo and Trinity, do you think Neo would have felt there was something worth fighting for?

Star Wars 4-6. So good at looking-out-for-himself Han Solo would never have stuck around hanging out with the political rebels if not for Princess Leia.

The Mummy Returns. Here you have Evie and Rick who, after years of marriage and the birth of a
rambunctious son, have their love still burning brightly. You also have Imhotep who has been brought back from the dead twice, fighting for the love of his life Anck Su Namun. (Can you FEEL the sexual tension in that picture??) In the end, we see both men struggling to keep from falling into the abyss as stalactites fall from the ceiling. Evie braves this danger to save her love. Anck flees to save herself (though she fails at that too and the beetles eat her alive—hey, wouldn’t this be better if the Beatles ate her alive? Har har), leaving Imhotep to hurl himself into the abyss broken without her. Love wins. Yay!

I know what you’re thinking, there’s no sex in those movies! But there was plenty of attraction and sexual tension that propelled them. Okay…here’s a couple WITH sex scenes.

Underworld. I admit, I love the vampire-girl-saves-boy-in-distress twist here. But you KNOW they’re gonna do it. It seals their relationship, committing them to a willingness to fight tooth and claw together. And they do that too.

Terminator. “Come with me if you want to live.”

Yes, sir. *salutes*

Reese was hot. Making love in a cheap hotel while running for their lives may seem like they were taking a terrible risk (In spite of the large windows, I’m sure they kept one eye on the well secured door…) but they were sooo stressed they needed a release. You knew he was in love with her, and you knew he was going to give his life for her because he had risked so much for her and he wasn't in her "future." No one else would have fought that hard, taken those risks, and given her the inspiration she needed to stop being a "normal girl" and become a soldier. The fact that he was the father of her son who did all the remarkable things…ah…this time travel sexual twist literally made the story. Without the sex, there was no story.

Why? (I hope you heard that one in your head in a whiny three-year-olds voice.)

Why does that spark of attraction between couples add something appealing to the story?

There are more reasons than these, but here's a few:

1.) Because everyone wants and needs to be loved. (If they say otherwise they are lying to themselves as much as they are to you.)

2.) Because sex is fun. Duh.

3.) Because there is a sense that life will go on when the happy couple wins the day. i.e. Han and Leia/Michael and Selene/Rick and Evie.

A-HA!, you say. But that's not so much the case with Neo and Trinity/Imhotep and Anck/Reese and Sarah.


Why does the happy couple sometimes get torn apart by death?

Another partial list...(Can you say Titanic?)
1.) Because the reality is that happy endings don't always happen.

2.) Because there is great, great power in a character giving their life for another--it is the ultimate expression of love, isn't it?

Don't you feel there is a difference in Reese being struck down and dying as he fought to save Sarah and the self-sacrifice of Jack staying in the water so Rose could stay warm in Titanic? (And those of you who would have preferred he put her whiny ass in the water and save himself, just hush.) There's a HUGE difference between both of those and the young couples slain shortly after having sex in Friday the 13th flicks, right? Some characters have done something to build love and it resonates with us. Some characters are just horny so they can be 'punished' by the evil 'scary movie' slayer.

So, are you sensing a theme, here? That writing about sex boils down to (forgive me for using the word boils right after the word sex...cracking myself up again...) the reason we as readers/viewers are shown the sex.

What is your intention as the author? What kind of impact are you trying to have? Titillation or character development? Is the smut scene a plot point, or the whole point? Either of the answers have value when placed properly, but when you can combine just the right amount of both, balancing the need of the scene, the story, and the characters...there you have gold. For me, finding THAT balance is what writing sex is all about.


  1. "Because there is great, great power in a character giving their life for another--it is the ultimate expression of love, isn't it? "

    Yes. Yes indeed my friend.

  2. I love, love that Seph didn't jump into bed right away with Johnny because sex didn't fit the characters at that point in their story.

    Now, I have to re-watch the Mummy movies, 'cause they did spotlight some mighty fine men with slightly questionable tastes in women.