How to Write Sex Scenes



Do your fictional characters have sex? And if they do, how do you present it? The topic of sex in fiction is important for writers. How can you write sex into your stories in a way that fits character, story, and reader expectation?


Are the acts explicit or implied? Do they happen off the page, behind closed doors? How often do characters indulge? Is a character’s personal life integral to the story or merely part of the background?


Choosing to include the sexual activities of characters is a significant decision for writers. And once that decision is made, writers are faced with dozens of related decisions. Where does the writer start the decision-making process?


The story might demand a particular style of sex scene, but if the genre you’re aiming for has different expectations, you need to consider that as soon as possible in the writing process. What are the expectations and requirements?



What to Consider


What do the readers expect from a novel in the genre? Are sex scenes necessary, a requirement, or can a good book get by without them? What about the length of scenes? How much do readers expect to see? How much detail do they want? What is the publisher looking for?


If sex is necessary for revelation of character, a mystery could open with the main character having sex, having just had sex, or being interrupted just before sex by the incident that begins the story.


Sci-fi, fantasy, westerns, adventure and literary novels may or may not include mentions of sex. Again, the plot’s timeline is key here. If the lead characters are under tight time constraints, they’re not likely going to spend an hour having sex. If they imagine they face the end of the world, however, all bets are off.


If sex can reveal character and/or advance plot and/or increase tension, and if the genre allows or encourages or permits sex, then the writer should think about including sex in the novel.


Once you’ve learned that the genre either allows for or encourages sex and you’ve decided your characters will indulge, what’s the next step? Do you just drop your characters in a location and have them go at it? A sex scene is just another action/event in the life of the characters. You need to give it the same considerations you would any action scene—a balanced length, a resolution, and consequences.


You’ve got to know your characters, how they’d behave. Ever wondered how someone else has sex, what they think about, what their purpose for sex is? Their motivations for sex—as for each of their actions—have to be consistent for the characters. The acts themselves need to fit the character or the person the character imagines himself to be or the person the character wants to be.