Sex Scenes -- In or Out?


The Proper Application of A Sex Scene

Every once in a while I read a guest post and think "I wish I'd written that." This is one of those times, and I'm delighted to welcome author Ciara Ballintyne to my blog with a post that takes a serious look at those semi-obligatory sex scenes in fiction (and movies too). Thank you Ciara, and over to you!

The Proper Application of A Sex Scene
by Ciara Ballintyne
If you don’t know me well, you may not know how rabid I am about the inclusion of sex scenes in books. And I mean, frothing at the mouth rabid. 

It’s not that sex scenes should always be included. It’s not that sex scenes should never be included.
I firmly believe they should only be included when it’s important to the story. This means that taking the scene out makes noticeable difference to your understanding of the story. 

If its presence or absence doesn’t change the story, then the sex scene is gratuitous. 

My on-hold work in progress, Deathhawk’s Betrayal, has a sex scene. My novella, Confronting the Demon, does not. My new project, In the Company of the Dead, probably will. All three have romantic subplots. 

So what’s the difference?

The protagonist in Deathhawk’s Betrayal has real issues with men, intimacy and sex. It was frankly unbelievable that she would just casually jump into bed with someone, and therefore it was important to show the sex scene so I could show how she felt, how she reacted, her emotional state, fears, hesitations, and how she dealt with them. This was a major plot point and a major achievement for her character, so it was vital the reader share this journey with her. The direction of the character’s life completely changes because of this event. 

In the Company of the Dead features a priestess of a goddess of death who has sworn vows of chastity. You can easily see that if she were to be even tempted to break her vows, we would want to witness that moment. Skipping over this scene would cheat you out of part of a significant conflict, and it's entirely probable that such a scene would involve some sexually explicit material, depending on close she's pushed to that line.

Contrast Confronting the Demon. Here there is romantic tension that certainly needs a resolution, but it’s enough to know the characters have resolved their differences and will have their romantic ‘happily-ever-after’. Making it clear that this includes an intimate relationship is important, but actually including a sex scene would have added nothing. Neither character had any particular issues that created conflict to be resolved through sex. Failing to explicitly detail the actual act does not change the story in any material sense. 

Except for erotica or romance, I believe this general principle applies (and I would apply it to those genres too, except for genre expectations!). As a reader, having to sit through a sex scene that doesn’t in any way contribute to the story is a tedious experience for me, and I expect many readers share my feelings. My husband isn’t a reader, but he feels much the same way about the almost mandatory quasi-sex scene Hollywood throws in many of its blockbusters. 

I concede I don’t read a lot of romance or erotica, and I understand sex is a large part of those genres, but I still believe the strongest sex scenes are the ones charged with conflict and tension, instead of having been included ‘just because’. 

How do you feel about sex scenes in books and movies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The gates to hell are thrown wide when Alloran is betrayed by his best friend, Ladanyon, and framed for forbidden magic. He is hunted by the guards and the wizards both, tormented by the gruesome murder of his friends and loved ones, and crippled by fear for the living.
Now Alloran must face his demons, or damn the woman he loves.
Also featuring bonus short story 'A Magical Melody'
Genre - High Fantasy (17+)
Length - 110 pages
Published - September 24th

What early readers are saying about the novella

“Ballintyne gives wonderful descriptions and I found myself becoming lost in the magic of her words in a picturesque world with every turned page”  Bella Doerres “The power-packed action will leave you breathless and the eerie suspense will make you chomp on your own nails, beware!” Satarupa “With imagination and detail that paints a full scene for the mind’s eye, Ciara takes us on a short but exciting journey into a world of magic, love and demons from hell.“ Miranda Wood of DustyKatt’s Stuff Reviews “I actually enjoyed a good fantasy novel that didn’t take days and days to read, but still offered the opportunity to get caught up in its world and story.” - Tracy Riva Global eBook Awards Judge "This story wasn't quite what I expected; it was better! The first pages surprised me, reminding strongly of THE WAY OF SHADOWS by Brent Weeks (the scenes, setting and story feel). I was immediately drawn in." - Dr. S. Drecker "I will be recommending this to all my paranormal addicts." - Leanne Herrera
Ciara-Ballintyne-smallCiara Ballintyne was born in 1981 in Sydney, Australia, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, one masochistic cat, and one cat with a god complex.
She holds degrees in law and accounting, and has been a practicing financial services lawyer since 2004. She is both an idealist and a cynic.
She started reading epic fantasy at the age of nine, when she kidnapped Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings from her father. Another two years passed before she began her first attempts at the craft of writing. Confronting the Demon is her debut book.
She enjoys horse-riding, and speculation about taking over the world. If she could choose to be anything it would be a dragon, but instead she shares more in common with Dr. Gregory House of House. M.D.

Website |  Goodreads |  Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Alloran stared at the alley mouth, mallet hanging slack in one hand and chisel in the other. This wasn’t yesterday’s alley. It was a different one, but it felt the same. Like seventh-circle demon. Like hellcat, now that he recognised the feel of one. Gooseflesh covered his bare arms. Did a shadow move in the darkness? A cat? Something else, something bigger than a cat? Surely, there couldn’t be… Ladanyon wouldn’t….
Yes. He would. The man he’d once known, the man who’d been his best friend for nearly a century, wouldn’t. But the man he’d become, after summoning a few demons–he would. His footsteps dragging, Alloran ventured deeper into the alley.
Once he looked, the body, hidden beneath a thin blanket of rotting food and assorted garbage, wasn’t hard to find. It was a man this time. He nudged food scraps off the corpse’s face.
The victim had jade eyes, a nose too big for a bearded face, and almost invisible blond brows. The details hit him with the force of a hammer blow. A wizard. A mentor. A man he’d known all his life.
His knees hit the ground and his bones turned to water from the shock. The wizard, Mandron, lay close enough to touch with his belly sliced open by teeth sharper than any blade and his entrails gnawed on. The rest of him left to rot. Sweat dripped down Alloran’s face. Another victim of a hellcat. Another victim of Ladanyon. What was the chance that Ladanyon coincidentally killed two people he knew and accidentally left them somewhere he would find them?
None. Every part of this had been planned, right down to the finest detail. Sweat broke out on his forehead. Ladanyon knew too much. He must be watching, watching and playing, as a cat does
with its food. Alloran’s gaze darted up and down the alley as if Ladanyon would pop out of an alley or appear on a rooftop.
Nothing stirred.
The corpse’s fist held a rolled-up piece of paper. With trembling fingers, he pulled the note loose and unrolled it.
How do I surpass you? Let us examine the matter…. I have mastered the minions of hell and enslaved them to my will.
The paper fell from his numb fingers and fluttered away.
Jealousy? Was that all? Thirty years had passed since Alloran gave up research. Ladanyon had nothing to prove, given he made every discovery worth mentioning since then.
Alloran wiped sweaty palms on the coarse fabric of his pants, his hands coming away filthy from the dust embedded in the cloth. The bodies would just keep stacking up–until Ladanyon ran out of things he had mastered better than Alloran. He backed out of the alley.
‘Where’d you run off to yesterday?’
Alloran jumped and spun around, bringing the mallet up reflexively as his stomach sunk. The sight of Dek, even with his arms folded and a scowl plastered across his square features, elicited a sigh of relief.
‘What’s the matter with you, man? Yer white as a sheet.’
Alloran affected a frown. ‘Don’t like dead bodies. Don’t like violence. Got the heeby-jeebies. Supposin’ they come back?’
That was true enough, as far as it went. Everyone thought he’d Choose martial magic when he came of age if only because of his height and the breadth of his shoulders, but he’d never been interested. What he wanted to know was “why” and “how”. Why and how for everything. It was a pursuit more dangerous than martial magic as it turned out. He licked his lips and tried not to look at the alley. This was what too much curiosity brought.
Dek was staring at the alley, squinting in the sunlight. Alloran slapped him on the back before the mason could connect the alley and his partner’s nerves.
‘We got work to do, aye?’ He gently tried to steer Dek towards the statue. ‘Where ’ave you been all mornin’ anyway?’
Dek turned away from the alley. ‘Answerin’ questions for the hell-damned city guards, which is where you woulda been if you hadn’t run off faster ’an a deer.’
‘Didn’t know nothin’. Don’t wanna know about no bodies or talk to no guards.’ Turning his back on the alley and its gruesome contents, he strode back towards the statue and hauled himself up on to the scaffolding. His arms were cold despite the heat of the summer afternoon, and he rubbed them. ‘Top’s all done, I reckon’. We’ll be needing to break all this down and get started on the bottom half.’
Alloran slapped the rough timber with a gloved hand, trying to shunt the corpse and its message from his mind. Eyes that weren’t there bored into his back. At least, he hoped they weren’t there. To be sure, he glanced over his shoulder, scouring the edges of the square for movement.
Dek clapped a hand to Alloran’s shoulder, causing him to flinch and fumble his mallet. ‘Hey, you got a parcel, did you know?’
‘A parcel?’ Alloran lost his battle with the mallet, jerking his foot out of the way just in time. ‘From who?’
Dek shrugged. ‘How should I know? Came in the regular delivery. Down there.’
Alloran’s gaze followed Dek’s nod. A crate sat at the foot of the statue. He’d been so pre-occupied with the alley, the corpse, and Ladanyon that he didn’t even notice. Stomach twisted in knots, he swung down from the scaffolding.
The crate was nailed shut. His breath whistling through gritted teeth, he seized a claw hammer and wrenched the nails out.
He removed the lid. A scream clawed its way up his throat and choked off into a whimper. The topaz eyes of a sorceress stared at him from a face locked in death. The pain of the crate lid falling on his toes was a distant thing.
Ismyn. Nearly eighty years ago, she was his first lover. He stepped back and stumbled, landing on his arse in the dust. Dek yelled from somewhere nearby, but the words were meaningless.
Recently dead. Her complexion was still the colour of clotted cream, and death hadn’t filmed her fixed gaze. Straw filled the bottom of the box, absorbing blood from the stump of her neck, and more blood matted the ends of her red hair. Another scroll poked from rosebud lips.
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Unknown said…
Thanks for hosting me. I'm flattered that this is one of those posts you wish you'd written :-)

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