14 Oct

Scenes. Again.

From the interwebs:

My book is a romance, not erotica, because you can take out the sex scenes without affecting the plot!

If you can take out any scene without the whole plot falling apart, it’s a bad scene.

In romance, sex scenes are markers of relationship development. In many books, the characters are intimately involved for a prolonged period, but not every boning session during that time warrants page time—only the ones at points of change. A few examples:

  • The first time is obviously a change from a platonic status to a sexual one.
  • A subsequent encounter triggers the realization in a vulnerable moment that pants feelings have changed to heart feelings.
  • An encounter that’s more _______ (rough, tender, spontaneous, daring) than the usual reveals there’s another side to a character or relationship to explore further.
  • Make-up sex after a fight or reconciliation sex after a split signifies new understanding and appreciation of each other.
  • My favorite is always the combo of relationship-building sex and external plot events: “While you were busy screwing, A Bad Thing™ happened that you could have easily prevented if you’d been here, so I hope the orgasm was worth the guilt and angst you’ll be wallowing in for the rest of your days.”

The crucial point in all of these is SOMETHING HAS CHANGED. Every scene that follows should be about the situation post-change. Behavior should adjust accordingly. If you “just take out the sex scenes,” there should be an obvious, logic-destroying gap in how they got from point A to point C.

BECAUSE SEX SCENES HAVE THE SAME TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS AS EVERY OTHER SCENE.

With the exception of friends-to-fuckbuddies, it’s possible to show the above changes without sex. Just as when the change you want is to remove the protagonist’s Obi-Wan so he has to fend for himself, you have creative options to choose from: kill sensei, have him leave in anger, send him off on another mission. You choose based on what consequences you want to set in motion because the scene doesn’t exist in isolation. The action in the scene matters less than the change it causes. If you choose sex as the action that creates the change, the scene is no more disposable than any other chosen action would have been.

If your sex scenes don’t matter to the plot, it’s not because it’s a romance. It’s because the scenes aren’t doing their job. That’s not a romance issue—that’s a writing issue.

Leave a Reply

Name and address required for spam filtering. Email address will be neither shown nor harvested for nefarious purposes.