Sex In Fiction: Less is Usually More

sex sells #2

In my early years of writing fiction, much of my storytelling included crafting sex scenes, sometimes more than the story required or could handle. Writers pick topics to explore on the page for lots of reasons, many of them personal. It’s nobody’s business why we spend the time we spend crafting scenes for our fictional characters to act out and that includes sex scenes. When I submitted a rework of an opening chapter to a well-respected author of fiction, only then did I learn about a sex scene’s potential to dilute a story.

As an editor, I’ve had to deliver bad news to writers about sex scenes not servicing the story. Sometimes, it’s in the writing of the scene, sometimes, it’s in the number of sex scenes and sometimes, it’s the sex scene’s influence on character development.
The advice I received from this learned author of fiction when I submitted an opening chapter (that in essence was a sex scene) was the following: Write erotica and lots of it. He believed it would eventually improve my overall writing. What I understand now that I didn’t back then is this: I was working through some stuff on the page. Maybe he recognized what I didn’t because maybe he went through something similar during his development as a writer? And then again, maybe he didn’t.
I did take his advice because it made sense to me. Also, I had several erotica short stories hidden in my hard drive that I never dreamed of publishing. Online magazines, called zines back then, began popping up on the internet so I found an online magazine that published erotica exclusively and submitted per guidelines. Within a year’s time, I had two short stories published on this zine.
For several reasons, I believe that writing erotica positively influenced my mainstream fiction writing so I pass along this advice delivered to me: If your storytelling includes writing sex scenes, sex does sell but less is usually more; that is, unless you’re writing erotica.
If the topic of this blog ‘reads’ true, do your writing self a favor and find an erotica site – write under alias so no one knows it’s you – and submerge yourself in this genre. Writing lots of sex scenes can be part of one’s development as a person and writer. I believe it was for me. Perhaps, it’s ‘a midlife writer’ kind of stage of development? In case it is, I’m passing along my own developmental writing arc to whom it may concern.


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