Because it Often Sells

So, let’s talk about sex for a moment.  Way back when I started this blog, I made a couple posts about the differences which I perceive between urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and I still stand by those opinions, but sex sells.

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to start writing paranormal romance novels.  Just because a story features sex, or the suggestion thereof, doesn’t mean that it’s a romance, and, if you ask Jane Austen, just because a story is a romance doesn’t mean that it has to feature sex.

Some of my more recent stories have contained sexual situations, though there has not been, as my father would put it, “naming of parts.”  Nor have I actually described any sex, leaving it to a scene break and to readers’ imaginations.  To some extent, this is due to the nature of the markets which I target with my works.  There’s many a magazine that doesn’t publish explicit sexual content.

Further, I shy away from gratuitous sexual content.  Even if I were to feature explicit sex in a story, I would only do so if it served the story in some way.  Kurt Vonnegut has been quoted as saying that “every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action,” and this is especially true when it comes to writing sex.  Action in this context refers to the action of the wider story, and if the scene isn’t advancing the story in some way, then it should be excised.

In the case of sex scenes, consider why the characters in question are having sex.  What does it tell readers about the characters?  How does sex serve to advance any of the plots or subplots of the story?  If there’s a romantic subplot and the characters are finally ready to admit to themselves and each other that there’s an attraction, for example, Kaylee and Simon from Firefly, then go for it.  If your characters are having sex because there’s nothing else to do, consider skipping to the next scene that will keep the story flowing.

How far you go in writing your sex scenes is entirely up to you and how comfortable you are writing sex.  Just keep in mind that the level of sexual content in a given story will play a part in which markets you’ll be able to sell your work to.


About Hilary B. Bisenieks

Hilary B. Bisenieks (Biss-en-yex) n. 1. An author of fact, fancy, and opinion based out of Oakland, CA. 2. A graduate of the Creative Writing program at Warren Wilson college and Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Workshop. 3. A man unable to be trusted to update basic biographical information with any regularity. View all posts by Hilary B. Bisenieks

2 responses to “Because it Often Sells

  • Penguin

    Don’t forget that once romance is initiated readers often except sex, and will be very disappointed if they don’t get it. You don’t want to have your readers sitting around talking about marzipan when you’ve written the next Golden Compass after all. Also, what’s with the penguins in the pic?

    • Hilary B. Bisenieks

      I really haven’t a clue what the deal is with all the penguins. Maybe they’re waiting for the perfect moment to strike the zombies down? Then again, it seems like the perfect moment would probably have been sometime *before* the zombies got into the room.

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