Avoiding Redundancy in Multiple Sex Scenes While Writing a Novel

by | August 24, 2016 | General | 4 comments

by Kathleen Bradean

Two months ago, I asked readers to tell me what topics they’d like for us to cover. Martin asked how to avoid redundancy in sex scenes while writing a novel. I tried to pass that on to Lisabet and Donna, and they did answer, but this question deserves deeper investigation.

For purposes of discussion, I’m going to over-simplify a few things, such as an observation that there are two types of erotica novels. The first is a fun romp of sex scenes loosely tied together. The other is the exploration of a character through the lens of sex and sexuality.

If you’re writing the first type, the aim is variety. A Donna mentioned, avoid redundancy by bringing in different or multiple partners, using different sexual acts, adding elements such a voyeurism, and increasing the stakes be it more intense BDSM or the possibility of being caught or whatever fits the plot. The result should be light and fun for both the characters and the readers. (I don’t mean light as an insult. It’s difficult to maintain an upbeat tone page after page. I couldn’t write a breezy story if my life depended upon it. But I do enjoy reading them.)

If you’re writing the second type, you’re probably going to have fewer sex scenes than in the first type, but that’s up to you and what best fits your story. You can use all the tools available to the previous type, but this isn’t sex just for the sake of sex. This is a carefully crafted sexual encounter designed to transform the character. Titillating your audience isn’t necessarily your aim or an inadvertent outcome, although there is absolutely nothing wrong/right/good/bad if it happens. Redundancy shouldn’t be a problem here because you are focusing on what this particular encounter means to a character at this specific point in their life. Since your character should be changing throughout your novel, at each sex scene they have a slightly different take on what’s happening and you’re going to help them grow through it. So even if in both scenes the sexual positions and partners are the same, the emotional outfall might be very different. Maybe the first time the character is over the moon that this person wanted to have sex with them, but the second time, they feel used or sad. You also have the luxury of writing bad sex/sex gone wrong/discomfort with what happened/mixed or complicated feelings. We learn a lot through setbacks in life, and so should our characters.

Martin, I hope this is what you meant by redundancy. If not, let me know.

Feel free to add your thoughts on this.

Kathleen Bradean

Kathleen Bradean’s stories can be found in The Best Women’s Erotica 2007, Haunted Hearths, Garden of the Perverse, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 6, and She’s On Top in print. Clean Sheets and The Erotica Readers and Writer’s Association websites have also featured her stories. Writing as Jay Lygon, her stories can be found in Inside Him, Blue Collar Taste Tests, Toy Box: Floggers, and the novels Chaos Magic, Love Runes, and Personal Demons. Read more about Kathleen Bradean at: KathleenBradean.Blogspot.com www.JayLygonWrites.com


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    "you're probably going to have fewer sex scenes than in the fist type,"

    Now there's a Freudian slip for you…!

    I would like to add that you can get some variety by having some of the sex scenes be entirely imaginary–that is, they represent a character's fantasies. This both increases the heat level and also reveals your character's inner nature. It also lets you foreshadow a physical sex scene that might come later.

    Masturbation scenes can serve the same function.

    In my novels, I also tend to increase the sexual and/or emotional intensity as readers get pulled more deeply into the book. So the first "sex scenes" may not involve penetration or orgasm. Or I might start with vanilla sex and proceed to kinky sex.

    Beware of sex scenes that exist only for the sake of physical pleasure, though. Personally I find that sort of scene pretty boring. Even in the light-hearted romp type of book, characters need to have SOMETHING at stake, besides just scratching an itch, IMHO.

    • Kathleen Bradean

      I want people to know I fixed the typo, so you're not crazy about the "fist type."

      I suppose there is something at stake in the breezier sex romps, but for me the reasons (beyond just wanting sex) are usually so painfully or flimsily contrived that they might as well not be there.

  2. Martin Gross

    Thanks, Kathleen. Since my erotic horror novels are in the second category, I suppose there isn't too much need to worry about redundancy, for the reasons you outlined above. As far as sex transforming a character, that notion happens quite literally in my 'Wolfgang' novel, which is now published on Kindle, BTW (remember you gave me a beta-read for one excerpt: I believe I dealt with the problematic 'omniscient' first-person narrative issue OK).

    • Kathleen Bradean

      I'm glad I was of some help – both then and now. Congratulations on finishing your novel! Many people start them. Not so many actually finish one, much less get to sell it!

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