Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sex: Always, Extremely, and Profoundly

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Sex in Your Novels: When Do You Use It, How Graphic Do You Get, How Does It Change Your Character(s)?"

I answered the question in my post title, so I guess I'm done and go finish trimming the tree!

All right, seriously, I suspect I'm fairly well known for writing the sexytimes into my stories. I sometimes teach classes in Sexual Tension and Sex as a Tool for Character Transformation. I think I've written maybe one or two fiction works with zero sex. Some of this is because my readers expect the sexytimes from me, sure, but it's also because sex just always works its way into my stories.

For me, sex is a profound part of the human experience - and it's also a way to pry open the characters. During sex, we are vulnerable in a way that we aren't in any other facet of life. We reveal our intimate faces to another, and the emotional stakes can be extreme. Sex is a way of connecting with another person, and it's also a way of showing where that character is in their emotional journey.

When Do You Use It

This varies from story to story, depending on the characters, but very often the act of full intercourse happens at a moment of intense emotional crisis. I'm using THE SNOWS OF WINDROVEN as an example, in part because this is a midwinter holiday story, so appropriate for the season. It takes place during the Feast of Moranu, my fictional solstice celebration in my Twelve Kingdoms world. The hero, Ash, is struggling with his own feelings of inadequacy - and that he feels unworthy of the love of his life, Ami. His consuming passion for Ami is a drive nearly beyond his control, so when he lets go and allows himself to have sex with her are emotionally charged moments.

“No,” she said miserably, face pressed into my chest. “You’re right. It was thoughtless of me. I just…” She let out a long breath. 
“What?” I urged. When she stubbornly shook her head, I levered the hand between us to lift her chin. Her eyes huge in her face, she looked fragile and vulnerable. Heartbreakingly beautiful. “Tell me, my sun.” 
“I just really miss you,” she whispered. “I miss us, how we used to be.” 
I groaned, losing everything to her, as I’d done all along—even before I ever knew her. And I was kissing her, lush mouth soft and sweet under mine, then parting and taking me into her heat. I devoured her, frustrated that I could only hold her with one hand, but using that to cup her head and hold her still so I could drink her in. I’d been starved for the taste of her, for the silk of her hair between my fingers and the delicate curve of her skull in my palm.

How Graphic Do You Get

I'm really not sure where I fall on the graphic scale. I write detailed sex scenes, but I also use euphemisms and focus on the feelings and sensations, rather than meticulously detailed blow-by-blow descriptions.

(explicit below)

My Ami might look angelic, but she possessed an uncanny mastery of the sensual skills. Another gift from the goddess of love. I slowed, stroking into her and savoring the way she enveloped me, so warm, an embrace like coming home. She watched me now through slitted lids, blue burning through the lace of fire, her moans like purrs. I bent over her, taking her nipple in my teeth and flicking my tongue that way that drove her crazy. She grabbed my head, bringing my mouth to hers, sucking my tongue in and biting hard enough to draw blood. 
I snarled, losing what little gentleness I’d been able to muster. Holding her in place, pounding into her, my vision blurred into a red haze. A whirl of jeweled stars exploded in my brain, and with a shout of near agony, I wrenched my mouth from hers, sinking my teeth into the vulnerable curve of her neck. The climax vised through me, a rumbling thunder of need that rattled and rocked me.  
Holding onto her like a drowning man, I dropped into oblivion.

How Does It Change Your Characters

Obviously this changes with the character, depending on what's going on with them. But I do believe that every sex scene should have some sort of personal fallout for the characters. Sometimes they might go right back into whatever cycle they're bound up in. Other times they might finally let go of something that's been holding them back.

In the case of this particular scene, he immediately retreats to that same prison he's made for himself.
The pain in my arm finally made me move. Trapped between us, the still-bruised flesh and knitting bones protested being pinned. Reality crashed back with it. I’d fucked the Queen of Avonlidgh on the grand table in the main hall of Windroven. An abysmally bad decision, even for me. 
As if there’d been any thinking involved.

But later
“It’s not so easy as that.” 
“It is that easy, Ash.” She framed my face with her hands. “Just let me love you. Let yourself love me and everything else will fall into place.” 
“Love doesn’t solve everything.” 
“No.” She kissed me. “But it makes everything worthwhile.” 
I sank into her, into the kiss and into the silken sweetness of her embrace. In the soft light of morning, I let myself love her as she’d asked, showing her with caresses and all the rawness in me, how very worthwhile that could be. 


  1. Your sex scenes are amazing, whether they are in an erotic-focused book, or your lovely fantasy stories. I love that they run the gamut of emotional involvement, not just the "typical" touch, escalation, SEX!, cuddle.

  2. Is there an industry standard about sex scenes in books? Like how descriptive one could truly go with a scean? I also notice you like to do teasers of same sex sex is there a reason you like to do that in your stories? Would you ever consider writing a same sex relationship into one of your stories?

    1. There's not really an industry standard, no. I'm not sure how you would break it down and apply it. I do same-sex teasers? How so? I mean, I include the face that people are homosexual or bisexual in my worlds, to reflect the spectrum of humanity - is that what you're getting at? As for writing it... maybe? I'm pretty far down the het scale, so I'm not sure I'd write it well. But I have friends who've encouraged me and promised to sensitivity read, so it could happen!

    2. Thank you for replaying. Yes you answered my question. If you do decide to write a same sex scene I 'm sure it will be completely amazing. Be Brave 😊

    3. Thank you - though it's less about being brave than wanting to respect an experience that's very real for many people and that I've never had. :-)

  3. Thank you for your post. I, too, use sex - although not erotica - in my books, because real grown-ass humans (and aliens I suspect) have sex and enjoy it. The sex is always a pivot-point in the plot (else, why use it?). However, I am getting pushback from readers. I guess YA books have conditioned people into thinking there can only be smoldering looks and longing in plots? I dunno. How do you handle criticism, if you encounter it?

    1. Mostly I ignore it. There will always be critics. I've found that the people who complain about the sex are the loud voices, but that doesn't make their opinions more valid. The people who like it are just happily reading. :-) Emphasize that your books are YA and move on!

  4. Oh I love these snippets. Nice, nice, nice.