First, let me say that I enjoy writing them.
Second, let me say that I’m probably not very good at writing them.
Third, let me assure you that they are unlikely to ever make it into a final draft of any of my books. (My mother might read them.) (Plus, they’re probably not very good.)
So, if they are going to get cut anyhow, why do I write them? Several reasons.
First, during NaNoWriMo they are cheap word padding. Nice, mindless, fun… and they add lots of words.
But they do more than that.
Sex scenes can get you moving again when you’re stuck. You know the feeling: you want to write — need to write — but the story just seems to be going nowhere. Use sex to kick start it again.
Maybe even mix it up — don’t use an established couple but switch people around. Or have one them have a one night stand. Don’t worry. You can cut the scene out later — for now, just give yourself permission to have fun with it and let your (creative) juices flow. Not only will you possibly gain a fresh perspective and renewed enthusiasm, you may just learn a few things…
About your characters, that is: sex scenes can help with character development.
An example? In The Sword and the Shield (part of my month of insanity) there was a lot of sex. Yeah, a lot of it was word padding since I was writing 100,000 words in one month while working full time, going to school part time, and being a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo for the first time. But you know what? Some of those sex scenes led to some character development and plot lines that I hadn’t considered when I made the outline. (I had a fairly weak grasp of the characters when I started it, but they really grew on me.) And out of it came one of my favorite bits of dialogue:
“If I love you and I admit it, does that make me a fag?”
“If you love me and you admit it, what that makes you is honest.”
That little snippet of conversation was a huge turning point for one of the characters. (And it was a turning point that I hadn’t seen coming, and that I most certainly hadn’t planned!) (Damn you, Daniel! You were supposed to be a villain! A cold, callous, unredeemable villain! You were not supposed to be a soft-hearted egotist coming to terms with an unexpected aspect of his sexuality.) (Erm, yes… Needless to say this book is in for a whole lot of revision. *sigh*)
Anyhow, moving on…
Even if you think you already know the characters, you can still learn a lot about them by how they relate sexually, either to an established partner, a friend with benefits, or a one night stand. It can’t hurt to experiment, even if you cut it later because it does nothing for the plot.
And, yes, sex scenes can advance the plot, too. (Just watch any soap opera.) Why are they in bed together? What does one (or both) hope to get out of it? Are either of them cheating on someone else? What if someone finds out they are together? The scene itself may get cut, but its ramifications can echo through the rest of your novel.
In The Other Mages trilogy (due out next year), sex both harms and heals two of the characters. It’s not heavily focused on, but it is a huge part of their histories, and a major part of overcoming their pasts and, for one at least, fully accepting her power.
How will the scenes be shown in the final drafts?
One event is written about in a journal, and referred to later. That has to stay: it’s entirely too important to the character’s growth to cut it out, and the ramifications of that event echo throughout the book — even the entire trilogy.
Another experience is more hinted at than openly expressed or discussed, and it’s probably going to stay that way, too. There is no need for me to be overly blatant about that one — the character’s realization of what had happened is enough.
The last one is still in flux. There’s going to be a fine line between showing and telling: too much will leave the readers wondering what happened to my normal writing, and too little will leave them what happened to change the characters.
(The scene is of major importance to the growth of the characters, but not necessarily to the plot. However, without showing the importance of what is happening to the characters, the plot sort of goes “Huh?” and sits around with a puzzled look on its face.)
The scene is probably going to be a fade to black, though. After all, it’s a fantasy novel, not erotica.
(There is nothing wrong with erotica (sorry, Mom!) but it’s just not what I write.)
But I do write sex scenes.
You know… just for fun.
And for the things I discover in the process.
After all, isn’t that what writing’s all about?