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Writing A Sex Scene Isn’t Sexy

N.E. Lasater / On Writing  / Writing A Sex Scene Isn’t Sexy

Writing A Sex Scene Isn’t Sexy

There is much to think about when considering a sex scene as a novelist.  How graphic?  Should I include clinical detail or cut to the waxing moon?  I’m from the generation that had sex but didn’t talk much about it, so the recent change in, huh, transparency has shifted the meter on what’s acceptable. Mainstream novels today include descriptions that thirty years ago would have been considered pornography.

When should a novelist include a sex scene, or three?   I had to grapple with that when writing Alternate Endings. A chacun son goût, but to me, it’s when the storytelling goal of the scene cannot be achieved another way. The sex advances the plot or illuminates a character with a light that only this sexual encounter can provide.

For me, sex in a novel isn’t about the sex, anyway, but everything else that’s happening: the characters’ relationship, how each person processes the moment internally, whether the sex changes them, precisely how the scene throws our protagonist into her next actions. Whether it’s done standing up or sitting down or on a camel is rarely revealing in itself, honestly, except when the method actually shows something else – love, loneliness, perhaps a fixation on sriracha.

In Alternate Endings, the sex scenes reveal character. They show us, and they show our protagonist, truths nakedly, which then propel her towards change. I think those scenes are compulsory in my story.

When the book comes out, as it will in a few weeks, I will be interested in whether you agree.

N. E. Lasater

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