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Gratuitous sex scenes (or violence, or action, or vampires, or zombies – sell )—especially kinky sex SELLS, right?


No, not really, or not as much as one would hope. Oh you’ll make a few sales, you’ll give away a lot of freebies and you’ll get a lot of snickers, but lets be serious, you’re not going to sell a lot of books.

Really? Fifty Shades, ha! Gotcha!

Yes, I’m thinking of 50 Shades, too. First let me say congratulations to anyone who writes and finishes not one, but three books. Edits them, submits, markets and works hard getting their product and name out there. The author E. L. James got people reading and did the near impossible, she sold enough books to retire.

But lets talk about the sex. In the first book, the only real character growth seemed to revolves around the sex scenes (I didn’t finish the first book, but I know many people who did). Friends keep trying to give me the copies they either were given as gifts or bought. Most of whom didn’t finish (or even start) the third book. I found that odd, if you’re invested in the characters, don’t you want to see how the story arc ends? So I asked, and the answer was almost always that the sex got in the way, or that the sex scenes were getting silly, or (the one that really surprised me), the sex was really turning the reader off.

Think about that last one: the sex was turning the reader off. So be careful. The last thing any writer wants to do is turn the reader off.

I believe that any gratuitous scene regardless if it’s sex between two hot lovers or sexy alien vampire zombies looking for love while only wearing latex—if it’s gratuitous, it needs to be cut, period (or put aside and published under a nom de plum).

When you write a sex scene you are showing your character exposed—emotionally, mentally and physically. Does the arrogant, assertive man become submissive, frightened because he’s afraid of rejection, lover? Does the caring man become almost violent? Does the passive, kind woman suddenly pull out a whip or ask to be spanked? Does the ‘wild’ tattooed girl want to cuddle, speaking sweat nothings, full of gentle caresses?

If you include a sex scene it must carry for many readers more weight than a fight scene, or even dialogue in an argument. We, the readers want more than just exposure to an intimate moment, we want to be in the moment, feel the contradictions, learn about the characters. We expect something to be revealed and at the same time to be emotionally drawn in. If the scene is supposed to be sexually stimulating, then we expect it to stimulate us (just like any emotionally charged scene), if it’s supposed to bring up fear, nervousness, danger, etc., then we expect to feel those emotions.

The simple truth is that writing a good sex scene is in many ways harder than writing a good fight scene. Sex scenes should be layered (don’t be too obvious). We should be getting to know the characters in an unshielded intimate way—so a very big WARNING to you new at this. The fastest way to lose readers is a bad sex scene.

I’ll repeat this because it bears repeating—the fastest way to lose your readership is with bad sex scenes. Most people will forgive a bad fight scene, poor spelling, even flat one-dimensional characters as back ups for your mains, but if you mess up a sex scene, so long.

Don’t believe me? Look at sales of books that include a lot of gratuitous sex scenes, poorly done sex scenes, flat, boring, tab A into slot B, scenes (or violence, or car chases, etc.). So master the finesse, the titillation—think impact. Work in layers. Use all your characters’ faults, charms, fears and wants, especially the driving force that keeps them in motion. Do that, and people won’t be turned off but turned on to your writing.

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