You just know what my advice is going to be. Same thing it always is: Do whatever works.
But …. What works?
I’ve been known to read a sexy book in my time. I love George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series, and those have as much sex as they have blood, and that’s going some.
But that’s what those books are like. The main character is a self-confessed cad, relishes his vices, and appreciates a woman who also relishes his vices. Plus, it’s got all historical bits in.
That’s what those books are like.
So, yes, the sex belongs in those books.
On the other hand, the sex, while rampant in the Flashman books, is never graphic and, thanks to Flashman’s attitude, never lingeringly erotic.
So when is hot, erotic sex appropriate?
Well …. When it’s, you know, appropriate.
I mean, if you’re writing for middle school and under, any pussy you talk about had damn well better be an actual factual cat. Young adult, you can acknowledge the fact that people have sex, but you probably don’t want to get really graphic in word or in deed.
New adult or adult, the question begs to be asked: What kind of book are you writing?
What is that book’s fuzz?
When #4 Daughter, the amazing Sara Marian, was wee, we used to do jigsaw puzzles with about twelve pieces. They were pictures of puppies and kittens, and we would look for pieces by saying, “Where is this puppie’s fuzz? Is this a piece of this one’s fuzz?” Then we got one of ducks, but it was still, “That is not this one’s fuzz!” And now “fuzz” is shorthand for “appropriate.” As in, “You can’t wear high heels on an archeological dig. That is not an archeological dig’s fuzz!”
So, if you wonder what level of sexual discussion/action is appropriate for your book, here are some questions for you to ask yourself:
What age am I writing for?
What market am I writing for?
If your market is adult Christians, they may or may not want your characters to get Biblical with each other, y’knowwhatImsayin?
What’s the tone of the rest of the book?
What have you led your readers to expect? It’s okay to surprise your readers, and it’s okay to contrast situations and characters, but you never, ever, ever violate a reader’s trust. Unless you’re Joss Whedon. If you’re Joss Whedon, I’m the only one you need to worry about, and you obviously don’t, because I don’t trust you anymore, Joss Whedon. I don’t like you anymore. You’re a bad, bad man.
ANYWAY, if you’re still in doubt, try writing the same scene at varying levels of
graphicness graphicity graphicabilitarianism heat, and see which works best. If you’re still not sure, ask a trusted beta reader or a good critique group.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: How do your five favorite writers handle sex or sexuality, heat-wise?