Ten-Word Tuesday will have to become Ten-Word Wednesday this week, since it's my turn to answer Kat's questions:
How do you feel about love scenes? As a reader, are you put off by the gratuitous? As a writer, do you shy away from spelling out the down-and-dirty? Or do you write until your computer lights a cigarette?
Sex is important to almost all living beings, including us, so it's not surprising that it makes its way into fiction. Sometimes a sex scene is linked to character development or the plot. For example, Ice Song is about a woman who is able to "trade" between male and female forms; a key scene toward the end helps her come to terms with who she is. Sometimes a sex scene is written to "scratch an itch," and there's nothing wrong with that. However, I prefer that a sex scene that also advances plot/character development.
For me as a reader, my reaction to a sex scene partly depends on my mood and what I want from my reading. If I'm reading for the science fictional/fantastic aspect or the plot, and I come across a scene that can be replaced by the line, "They had sex, and it was the greatest thing since sliced bread," then the scene takes me out of the story. It also depends on how I feel about the characters. I read a book recently in which one of the male love interests was described as very attractive by several of the female characters, including the heroine. However, to me, he had less personality than a rock. When he and the heroine had sex, I skipped the scene because I didn't care. On the other hand, the other male love interest in this story, a non-corporal being, came across as having more personality. At one point, the heroine used her magic to allow him to drink a cup of coffee, which he could do as long as she held it. I found this scene moving, and if I read the next book in the series, I'd like to see these two get together, even if a long-term relationship between them isn't possible. Sexual intimacy does not always equal emotional intimacy. If I feel that the two characters have chemistry that's not just physical (such as in Soulless), then I'm more interested in them than if they're just two beautiful people who have nothing in common but lust.
As a writer, I don't include a lot of sex scenes in my stories, but I have written some. The first one I ever wrote was between two women who'd been lovers in previous lives. (I initially wrote both characters as attracted to men, but then they developed this forbidden love as well.) I don't have any personal experience to draw on for this type of sex, but I took some writing advice I'd heard at a convention and followed the emotions of the characters. That scene did turn out to be pretty detailed, but in other places, I've written less detailed scenes or "faded to black." It depends on what the story needs.
Anyway, I'm going to turn the chain over to Kate now, but I'll leave you with a little "Steam":