Is This Sex Really Necessary? #amwriting

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?

See above.

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?





I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Is This Sex Really Necessary? #amwriting

  1. Dan Antion

    February 20, 2017 at 7:12am

    Good advice. I’m pretty sure I won’t need it, anytime soon, but interesting. I have read books where the author could have used this advice. The steamy scene seemed more like a burst pipe than a planned encounter.

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  2. Joey

    February 20, 2017 at 2:06pm

    Mercy! What did Joss Whedon do to you, Marian?

    I’m not too keen on flowery representations of sex. I tire of women being taken roughly in the barn, ya know? I do not read romance novels.

    But, I despise the way Anne Rice writes everything slightly erotic without any culmination. Sometimes people need to get it on. All those vampires are just almost gettin it on, makes me crazy.

    I’ve had this talk with other authors, gratuitous anything annoys me. Sex, violence, gore, fabric patterns, lineage…Ugh.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      February 20, 2017 at 3:58pm

      Joss Whedon wrote Serenity, the putative Firefly movie. But Serenity never happened. LA-LA-LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.

      YES, gratuitous anything is ugh to the max. All a writer has to cast the spell is words, and needless words break the spell.

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      • Joey

        February 20, 2017 at 4:04pm

        I don’t know anything about the Firefly stuff, but on your behalf I’m terribly sorry for your LALALA-ness.

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  3. Anne Hagan

    February 20, 2017 at 5:11pm

    Love this. I do have to say that I write mysteries and I write them in a similar vein to what Janet Evanovich or Sue Grafton would write – not exactly cozies but no need for graphic sex either. The rub is, I write them primarily for a lesfic audience and I was taken to task for not including the heat of sex in the first two books in my primary series. It seems the sex is, to many lesbians, what makes them lesfic in the first place. So, there you go. Even when you think it doesn’t fit, it just might. Considering the market and knowing the expected tropes and conventions is the key.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      February 20, 2017 at 6:05pm

      I don’t like Janet Evanovich’s sex much. It’s been so long since I read one of her books, I can’t remember now what I didn’t like about it! I don’t like most of the sex in the Sooky Stackhouse books, either. How a fairy and a werewolf do it in the kitchen holds no interest for me. I’m funny that way.

      So did you put sex in subsequent books, or did you carve out a new niche in the market?

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  4. Anne Hagan

    February 20, 2017 at 6:24pm

    Originally Posted By Marian AllenSo did you put sex in subsequent books, or did you carve out a new niche in the market?

    I followed a budding romance (secondary story line) along in subsequent books and added in sex where it fit but a couple of the six that followed the first two don’t have any. It just didn’t fit in what were primarily mysteries by the time I got past book 5.

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