To Have The Sex, Or Not To Have The Sex; That Is My Question

I have blogged before (many, many, many times before) about the relationship sex in the romance genre has to the story that contains it (or pointedly doesn’t contain it).  Until tonight pretty much all of these discussions of “should they do it or not” with respect to my own work have been academic; with all the stories I was writing, I knew in advance whether or not the story had sex.

But the time has come, my friends, for me to face this particular quandary.

Do they do it before the audience, or does the curtain fall beforehand?

I am down to the last scene or two of my novella. I’ve put in an additional 5000 words or so since I initially thought I was finished, in order to bridge the gap between proposal and wedding and clean up some of the dangling plot threads around the lovers’ family situation. So now I am down to writing the end…and I am not quite sure where it ends.

On the one hand, I have the fact that this is a novella whose story ends with the wedding of two virtuous characters who make a point not to have sex beforehand even though they could have and wanted to. My personal feeling is that sex would sort of be gratuitous to the story if it is literally the last scene of it. We know they connect sexually, so there is no doubt it will be good and no need for sexual healing to complete the emotional journey. In this case, sex could not further any part of the plot.

On the other hand, I have my hero starting the last scene (or is it?) from his point of view counting down the hours until he can finally hit that. Not including the sex, therefore, seems like slamming the door in the face of the readers when, even until the very last scene, I’ve been drawing out the sexual tension.

What to do, what to do?

Any romance readers out there who care to chime in? Is it more annoying to you to have an utterly gratuitous sex scene at the end of a story, or to get blue-balled by a writer who decides to close the door since the sex isn’t furthering the plot?

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2 Comments

Filed under Reflections on Romance, Writing

2 responses to “To Have The Sex, Or Not To Have The Sex; That Is My Question

  1. I’m a romance reader and author, and I have a couple of opinions about this.

    I mostly write sci-fi romance, and the books in this genre tend to be either sweet or erotic romance; there’s very little middle ground, and I’m one of the few authors standing on that ground. The sex scenes I write aren’t gratuitous–my first and second novels clock in around 70,000 words, and there are two in each–but I do use frank language, and I’ve received a little flack about that from people who were expecting something more along the lines of an episode of Star Trek: TNG.

    As an author who writes it, I say, if it works within the context of the story, write that sex scene! It’s okay if it’s at the end of the book! Even if you don’t end up using it, you still got some practice writing sex scenes under your belt (and God knows how many poorly-written sex scenes there are out there…). If your hero’s counting down the hours, write it!

    As a reader, if it fits, I like it. I think everyone’s read books where it reads like a sweet Regency or Victorian, etc., and when a sex scene occurs, it’s like the author cut and pasted something from Penthouse. It’s completely out of place, cringe-inducing, and not sexy at all. I hate that. If an author can’t/don’t really want to write it, then she shouldn’t. The focus should be on the relationship between the hero and heroine within a well-crafted story.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response, Jess! This mirrors what a romance-reading IRL friend said. Having concurring opinions helps make sense of things! There are stories where sex isn’t appropriate, but I think in this case since my inclination is to write it, and the reader opinions I am seeing are to want it, that it should be there.

      RE sf romance…somehow hearing it is mostly split into the two extremes doesnt surprise me. Hearing there are at least a few writers working in the more traditional romance ground makes me happy. I have never found sf crossovers i like for this reason. Definitely checking out what you’re up to!

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