Sex Sells...Or Does It?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

One thing I’ve noticed with the new generation of romance novels is that there’s more sex than there used to be when I was a teenager. Rare are the novels that end without a scene with the potential to fog my glasses.  When I started writing romance I figured I’d have to include some of that good stuff to keep readers interested. However, I realize that if I can find ingenious ways to keep the reader in the story and out of the bedroom, then that also works for me.

In the process of doing the final edits on my first published novel, a light bulb clicked on from a note the editor made on the manuscript.  At one point she noted that I could delete the love scene and not take the reader into the bedroom with the couple. Leave them at the door, she advised.

I do admit that sometimes things are best left to the reader’s imagination and I accept this from the point of view of someone who has always been a voracious reader. 

So, having an understanding of what she meant, I reworked that scene and left the goodly gent and his lady to do their thing not-quite-behind-closed-doors, but close enough. 

Based on the publisher’s preferred sensuality level, she also noted that the characters were compelling and therefore I could tone down the lovemaking. Another light bulb clicked on for me and stayed while I wrote the follow-up novel to Contraband.

Celeste and Mark, the main characters, are problem children so of course, their story is chockfull of adventure and danger. The two have a high level of awareness of each other and a psychic connection that makes them intensely attuned to each other.  That worked so well that I didn’t need to put the two of them in a bedroom together further on in the book.  The opening scene does have the two of them in bed together, but they never quite make it back there, and the book doesn’t suffer for lack of sexual tension. I know because the story has been read by a half dozen of my writing pals, none of whom asked about them getting together. 

I take that as a good sign.

I think I’ll continue using this formula. Juxtapose fascinating characters, place them in challenging situations and keep them on edge for most of the story.  I shan’t forget to involve the reader, who should be so wrapped up in the characters’ skin that seeing them between the sheets becomes secondary to their story.

So, what’s your take?  We know sex sells, but is it absolutely necessary to make a story un-put-down-able?


  1. No, I don't think it's that necessary. Some of the most memorable romance novels I read left me sighing and imagining.

    Of course when I was really young, I snatched up the more graphic works to learn things :)

  2. Catherine,

    When I was younger, I too gravitated toward the material that was sure to teach me some stuff I didn't know.

  3. I personally prefer not to read sex scenes that leave little to the imagination. It's not needed.

  4. I find it really difficult to write sex scenes and I'm not one who's usually uncomfortable with sex! It sounds like you are writing just enough to keep readers enthralled without going overboard.

  5. Cass, it does take some getting used to. Nowadays, I try to keep things to a minimum. Works better, I think. :)

  6. You bring up a good point. Personally, I think intimacy in general should be anticipated in writing, especially in romance; sex scenes have to flow tastefully and seamlessly and not be the exact center of the story.

    Its funny that you should have the picture of that particular anime character there in the article. I'm familiar with her--Yoruichi Shihoin from (the anime) Bleach. I really like her character in general, as she is one of the few brown women in the show (in Japanese animation, period, actually) and she's highly hypersexualized by Tite Kubo (the creator of Bleach, or mangaka) and the animators of the television show.

  7. I do agree that sex scenes should be done tastefully to avoid jarring the reader.

    I think I probably chose that picture because of what it says to my mind. She gives the impression of being full of confidence and knowing she's powerful in her sexuality.


Don't be shy, I'd love to hear what you think.