I’ve penned more than a few sex scenes in my time and, let me tell you, it isn’t easy. It isn’t even fun. As a writer of protagonist-driven genre fiction, I try to avoid gratuitous love scenes. Besides, I’m not that good at coming up with a hundred different ways to describe a certain part of the male anatomy that plays a major part in these scenes. Of course, there’s another way to approach this, using metonymy, but at times that seems more cliché-ish than anything else. I bet I’ve read a hundred books where a character runs her tongue around some inanimate object. And for those who don’t read, I know you’ve seen it in countless movies. Anyway, we all get the gist.

One major rule of thumb in writing a sex scene is that it should be used to deepen the reader’s understanding of the character or characters while advancing the plot. So, with some books, the romance ends when the bedroom door closes; with others, I allow the reader to, well, take a peek at what’s going on beneath the covers. Even so, I have found that my perception of the sex scenes I write doesn’t always coincide with readers’ perceptions, which don’t always coincide with each other, for that matter.  I received an email from one reader regarding a book in which I thought I kept the romance mild, advising me to, “Remember you’re writing for PTA moms.” I took that to mean, tone down the sex. But an email from another reader admonished me because there weren’t more sex scenes in the book.  Go figure.

I used to fight this battle in my mind constantly: Is the scene too sensual? Should I tone it down? Should I offer more? And I have come to one conclusion, the one thing that has been there from the start. Stick with the rule; if it advances the plot and gives the reader a better grasp of my character(s), the scene stays in. If not, the delete key sure comes in handy. Well, okay, sometimes I save it to a file for that erotic romance I’m going to write some day if I ever get up the nerve. Hey, erotic romance is a hot genre now. Some e-book authors make over a hundred thousand dollars a year and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Now if I can just get past my Southern Baptist upbringing and fear of what my parents and, oh, yeah, my kids will think…