Justifying Our Sex Scenes

Lazarus Barnhill, a fellow author at Second Wind Publishing, is planning to rerelease his novels to include the sex scenes he removed for the sake of keeping the familial peace. I understand why he wants to include the scenes — he wishes to reclaim his literary perogative and publish the books the way he wrote them, which is as it should be. Besides, with the scenes included, the books will probably go viral.

Though I wouldn’t admit it to him, I like the books the way they are now, with the focus more on the mystery in The Medicine People and the romance in the Lacey Took a Holiday. The truth is, I’ve never been fond of sex scenes. I read for mental titillation — expanding my mind, letting my thoughts wander into the realms of what if — and sex scenes leave little scope for such meanderings.

Despite tMore Deaths Than Onehat, I did write one very graphic sex scene for my first book More Deaths Than One. The scene appalled my father (by then my mother was gone, so I never got to hear her words on the subject. Whew!), but that was an important scene in the book.

The story is about a man who is so ordinary he almost seems invisible. Everyone assumes they know him, seeing him as a reflection of themselves. And yet, he has hidden depths that only one woman, Kerry, managed to see. As Kerry told Bob, trying to explain why he interested her, “I’d like to say it’s because you have hidden depths, but your depths aren’t hidden, they’re obvious.” She chuckled. “Maybe you have hidden shallows.”

The graphic sex scene wasn’t with Kerry, though eventually they did make love. The scene was with Bob and another woman, a woman who taught him about prolonging the pleasure and satisfying a woman. If you didn’t know why Bob had such a talent, it would have been unbelievable when you discovered that such a seemingly weak man would have such discipline. The scene also set up the love scene with Kerry. The scent of frangipani had always reminded him of that first woman, and yet when he and Kerry finally got together, he realized that from now on, whenever he caught a whiff of that scent, it would remind him of Kerry, of the teasing look in her eyes, of the moment he fell in love with her. (But then, don’t we all justify our sex scenes as important to the book?)

Oddly, each of my novels had less sex in that the previous one, and the last one had none. It’s hard to write sex scenes that are consistently new and fresh, and I’d said it all in that first book.

Someone dared me once to write an erotic novel, and I even accepted the dare, at least verbally, but I doubt I will ever write the book. The only reason I can see for writing is to write what only I can write, and it’s hard to bring individuality to sex scenes. (Which is probably why bondage and masochism are so prevalent right now — they are different from what people are used to.) Still, I’m young in author terms. I’ve only written five books. Anything could linger in all those as unwritten books of mine!

As for Lazarus Barnhill’s books, I’m keeping the versions I have for now. When he gets rich and famous, those expurgated copies will be worth a fortune, and I will be set for life!

***

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.

4 Responses to “Justifying Our Sex Scenes”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I’ve had some experience with sex scenes (one’s going to be in the final edition of Snake, one way or another), and it’s always hard to decide whether or not to include them. And when you do include them, how do you make them relevant and not seem dry or boring? I’ll probably be conservative with the number of sex scenes I write in the future, but when I do write them, I’ll definitely make them relevant to the story. Otherwise, I’m cutting them out.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The rule with any sort of scene, whether it is sex, violence, suspense, is that if you can cut it out without affecting the story, then you should cut it out. (Except if you’re writing erotica, of course. Then the sex scene is the story.) In fact, some writing coaches say that when you finish writing a book you should cut out the weakest scene, and maybe the second weakest scene, too. It makes the story stronger.

      • rami ungar the writer Says:

        Boy, that coach knew what they were talking about. I’ve cut partial scenes or total chapters just to improve a story. I’ll have to keep the exact words in my head for the next book I edit. Thanks, Pat.

  2. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I have bowed out writing sex scenes for the most part. In the work I’m putting together right now, Cold Water Conscience, sex is a powerful force in the book. It derives its power, however, from the wanting and even the needing rather than in any actual sexual act. The tease and the possibilities far outweighing what could actually happen. I find what goes through a character’s mind in the getting of more interest than the actual getting. In other words the journey being more important drama wise than the conclusion when reached.


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