Krissie and I have been e-mailing about sex in our current WiPs (I know, you’re not surprised). She’s dealing with button flies and I’m trying to figure out plot arcs, which tells you all you need to know about how we write. But underneath that and the place the conversation eventually went is the role that sex plays in
Nita’s story takes place over five days, so for awhile I tried to believe that it was believable they wouldn’t even have sex. People are trying to kill them, and Nita’s world just blew up because she’s finding out she’s not human, and Nick’s world is blowing up because he’s finding out he is, and they’re both fixers and the island needs fixed in several different ways so I can see them looking at each other and saying, “You know, in a minute, but first I have to put out this fire.” Except all of that creates stress and adrenalin which is a big push toward intimacy in general and sex in particular (office romances, war romances), especially since toward the end they’re really partners, and there’d be a move to make that physical, too.
Which means I have to figure out what to show and what to elide. If character changes and plot moves (along with the earth) I have to do the scene. If it’s just “boy, that was good/bad sex,” I can have somebody just say that in the afterglow scene. I think the first time probably needs to be on the page because so many things go wrong, but I’ve also already written it and it’s a terrible scene. The last time everything works, but if nothing changes, I don’t write that, except that I think that showing the change from the first scene is probably important. And then there’s Nick cycling through a 500 year (50 hell years) character arc in three days; right now I’ve got the sex scene from the arrogant bastard from 1502, and it’s short, but then there’s 1600 something and 1800 something which
So I’m asking you: When is a sex scene necessary and when can it be skipped? I’m not talking about whether you like sex scenes or not, that would depend on the specific scene, I’m talking about the scenes you want and don’t get, and the scenes you get and just skim. And what number is too many, assuming this is not erotica, where the answer is “There is no ‘too many.'” Also, I have a strong feeling that what actually happens during the sex act is not as important as what the characters are feeling, their emotional and physical reactions, so I’m not terribly interested in body parts and instructions on how to do this; is that necessary? So much of this is just personal preference, but trying to see past that, when does a story need or not need a sex scene?