The Art of Fiction: Writing Sex Scenes and Romance

As I've spent the last year and a half writing a novel, naturally I've devoured books and articles on the craft. But this article by Jessica Barksdale Inclan makes such sense out of a thorny (ouch! why are we doing it in the rosebushes?) question: how much to put into a scene involving sex and/or romance, and how to write on an age-old subject without sounding aged and old. Of course, the answer is age-old: simply write the characters well. Use the scene to reveal character. Put in as much as needed for that and no more (that becomes prurience).

In writing a novel whose plot centers on four marriages, it becomes impossible to leave it out, and those are the scenes I've found most difficult to write. I keep thinking about how the scenes in Lady Chatterly's Lover were masterfully character-driven. How you couldn't tell that story without them. Imagine that book if he had tastefully glossed over what they actually did when making love! It would have devolved into the most puerile of romance novels. Well, maybe not the most puerile, given his immense gifts, but not a book that would have been remembered as a great book. And not just a racy one.

Inclan's article is a mini-course in writing good sex scenes, complete with reading suggestions and a list of best scenes in contemporary books. A great resource.