I have several rules when it comes to writing. Rule 2 is When you think you're about to go over the cliff - go.
But when it comes to sex scenes I've had some issues with scenes that were either too bland or way over the cliff. How do you handle these scenes.
I think sex in thrillers works the same way as sex in any other type of fiction (except erotica/porn, obviously). If it's important to the story to go into detail--if it illuminates the characters in a worthwhile way, or forwards the plot, or, ideally, both--then it needs to be there, in as much detail as necessary. If it doesn't do those things, then there's nothing to be lost by glossing over it and moving on to the scenes that do accomplish those things.
I've written some fairly explicit sex scenes in thrillers, where they were necessary. But I've also written plenty of books without 'em.
I've only had two short stories published, but I tend to pull away from the rude bits (as do many crime novelists I like).
My wife, on the other hand, writes for Mills & Boon and her stories have a lot of sex in them. That's what readers for her line expect – so, perhaps, the answer is to work out what your readers might want.
Brian, I have a feelin' you're diggin' deep with this topic. My first novel was a romantic suspense, so I had to pretty much follow tip sheets for the sex with a capital "S." I had trouble writing those scenes to be frank about it.
Some of my reservations about writing sex scenes occurred because I didn't want that vanilla-cream sex that readers would ignore and read past to the next page (I'd sure read enough of that). Part of it was, however, because of a deep-rooted self conciousness that I might "reveal" myself if I were to be too graphic or . . . not graphic enough, and then--even those issues are governed by genre: I would, for example, feel freer about the language and type of sex I used if I were writing hard-boiled as opposed to mainstream mystery.
Then--there was the problem of how to make my my sex scenes stand out from all the millions of others I had read. I mean, how many ways can our characters have sex--even OTT sex (whatever that is)--unless they're zombie detectives and antagonists with extra body parts that do really bizarre things?
I like Jeffrey Mariotte's response, though. What I've learned about writing those challenging sex scenes myself is:
I read some good advice about sex scenes once; I wish I could remember where.
Basically, the author said less is more, and to leave as much as possible to the reader's imagination. The problem wasn't with graphic descriptions or worries about offending a reader. The problem is that a sex scene, with rare exceptions--erotic thrillers, for example--stops the action. The story does not advance while the characters have sex. Depending on your expected reader, this can be a problem.
Unless the scene tells us something important about the characters involved, less is definitely more.
I.J., I can't resist. Would "Sex on the Beach" be a good title for a Konrath novel? Since he names them all after drinks?
Sigh, we digress (or at least I do).