[This is a continuation of previous posts Creating Incredible but Credible Characters: Sex Scenes (Part 1) and Creating Incredible but Credible Characters: Sex Scenes (Part 2)]
Each book I write has less sex in it than the last. In Light Bringer, my fourth novel, the characters didn’t have sex at all. But what can you expect from aliens? Still, it never occurred to me that I had left off any mention of sex until a reader pointed it out to me, because my characters connected in a way that served the story, as the following voyeuristic scene shows.
Teodora went still. The moment she’d been waiting for had finally arrived. Ninety-nine and a half percent of the subjects’ DNA tested as human, but the remaining half percent remained unidentified. Now, perhaps, she would see that unidentifiable half percent in action.
On the other side of the one-way window, the female cocked her head, and her face took on a rapt expression as if listening to a distant melody. When the male entered, her incandescent smile seemed to brighten the room.
The two subjects moved toward each other. The light became more radiant. They stopped an arm’s length apart. For a second Teodora thought she saw a rainbow between them, then they were in each other’s arms. An auroral glow drifted and whirled around them.
Something as delicate as a spray of perfume touched Teodora. Her skin drew tight, and she felt an immense thirst. She fixed the feelings in her mind so she could take them out and analyze them later, then she set them aside and concentrated all her attention on the subjects.
Hearing a faint thread of music, she held her breath. The music seemed to swell into a heart-breaking song of joy. The colors dancing around the subjects grew in intensity, colors she had never seen before. A distillation of rubies. A blue moon shimmering on restless waters. A green so pure it might have come out of the earth itself.
In the spaces where the colors overlapped, Teodora knew she was seeing the color of love, the color of total harmony and acceptance.
The colors echoed in Teodora’s emptiness, and she felt herself crying deep within her soul. This was something she wanted, but could not have. Maybe no human could.
Later, Teodora discusses the episode with her boss, the head of International Institute of Scientific Advancement.
“It was not like watching humans,” Teodora told Berhard Petri after reporting what she had learned about the subjects.
His eyebrows shot up, and she realized he’d caught the unusual touch of animation in her voice.
She modulated her tone. “It was like watching a higher form of life.”
“It hasn’t been established that they’re a higher form,” Petri said. “They could be a devolution.”
“You did not see. Theirs was an interaction on a higher plane, not about individual parts, but harmony of the whole. With humans, it is all about the body parts, the physical attributes. They do the act, but there is no resonance, no color, no song. It is as if humans have an ancestral memory of seeing the gods in love, and now they are trying to have what they had once seen, but only managing the visceral part. Like the ancient Egyptians trying to emulate the pyramid builders from an earlier age, they cannot get it right.”
Sex scenes don’t need to be deeply meaningful to be effective. Sex scenes can simply bring the couple together or show the intensity of a relationship. Sex scenes can create a change of pace, either as a diversionary tactic or as a quiet time between hectic scenes. A sex scene can be a fast-paced action sequence to get the reader’s blood roiling. A sex scene can even be playful or humorous. What it cannot be is a scene thrown in there just because you thought it was time for a sex scene. Such scenes need to be as germane and as necessary to the story as a plot twist or a revelation. If the scene can be removed from the book without leaving a hole, it should be removed or rewritten—unless of course you are writing erotica or another genre that demands lots of titillating sex. In which case, you are probably making a fortune and have no need for these tips.
This article is anthologized in the Second Wind Publishing book: NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING, which was the 100th book released by Second Wind.
“As someone who constantly evaluates novels for publication, I was astonished at the breadth and clarity of the wonderful advice contained in this handbook. It addresses concerns as grand as plot development and as simple but essential as formatting your submission. It offers crucial advice on literary topics ranging from character development to the description of action. Virtually every subject that is of great concern to publishers — and therefore to authors — is covered in this clear, humorous and enormously useful guide.” –Mike Simpson, Chief Editor of Second Wind Publishing
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.