Instagram Email me!
I wrote a book! If you've ever wanted to learn a bit more about creating recipes, this series is designed for you. The first book focuses on cookies, because who doesn't love cookies?
Available now on Kindle.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Writing More Sex: The Hard Parts



This is a follow-up to my earlier post about Writing Sex, in which I wondered where to start with the sex scenes I'm going to need in my novel. Since then, I've been writing. A lot. And I've started to narrow down what I need, and what makes it hard.

"Normal" sex is comparatively easy to write. I can give you soft and gentle love scenes in a romantic setting, where the physical side is really subordinate to the emotional content. This is within the realm of my experience.

Much harder, for me, is when the plot requires sex outside of a loving context. In a couple of places, my next book demands sex for its own sake: a purely physical act.

For example, in one of these awkward scenes, my heroine has to go undercover as a concubine... with all that that entails.

Before anyone wonders, this is not gratuitous. There's nothing included in my book to try and shock my readers. When I have sex scenes, it's because they're critical points in the progression of the plot, as well as being important for character development. They're difficult scenes, but in context, they're also essential.

Lack of personal experience isn't the only thing that makes these scenes hard to write. There's a social taboo that surrounds any discussion of sex, which is magnified by graphic description, and magnified yet further if the circumstances are anything but ideal. And writing something in a novel, for anyone to read, feels very much like opening a public debate - without the chance to say "I don't like it either," because that's part of the discomfort, it must be: the worry that by writing something, you'll be seen as in some way condoning it.

I can only begin to imagine how hard it must have been for a writer friend of mine, who has rape as an unavoidable part of her narrative.

Yet I don't feel I can censor my story for the sake of what some people might think. I'm not willing to change my plot just to avoid one or two pages that some readers might find uncomfortable. Besides, however pretentious it may sound to suddenly define myself as an artist, fiction is an art form. The visual arts have crossed all these lines - and more - already, so perhaps I can borrow just a dash of that bravery.

Fiction holds a mirror up to life, and life includes bad sex, sometimes, even if we prefer not to talk about it. These things can't be artificially excluded from stories.

I try to keep this blog approximately PG-rated, so I'm not going to post excerpts, but if you'd be interested in reading and giving feedback in this area then please drop me a line and I'll look into setting up a password-protected page. I will, of course, be happy to return the favour if you have any excerpts you'd like me to read.

33 comments:

Midwestern Mama Holly said...

woot to hot monkey sex! sometimes ya just gotta do it for the sake of doing it !

BLOGitse said...

Sorry I can't help! :)
But this world is full of 'experts' - just google! or ask mama Holly :)

BLOGitse

Mary said...

You face an interesting dilemma. I know you'll puzzle through it. Just remember if what you write makes you uncomfortable your readers will probably have the same response. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Tabor said...

On rare times, I think about writing a novel, but must not be motivated enough because I never get there. I, like you, wondered how to write hot passion or hot anger into a sex scene without being more clinical than needed or more prurient. I look forward to your success. I think because you are so open in approaching this it will be perfect.

lostinsophistication said...

I completely understand your concern about the social taboos you have to face in this instance; I am more responsive to such social suggestions that most -- which has made my life quite complicated at times... So, I am very glad to see you go where your story leads you, without subsiding to the unspoken demands of taboos.

Also, I'd like to thank you for your corrections; I make newbie mistakes in English all the time, so it's good someone calls me on them! It took me years to refrain from spelling "fate" "faith". Ho-hum.

I would love to help you in the way you have helped me over the past few months, though I fear this is one area in which I cannot give feedback.

Daphne said...

Have you ever read any of Laurell K. Hamilton's later books? Trash-o-rama, but the lady can write sex like nobody's business. Might be a good reference.

I think graphic sex scenes have a definite place in literature, as in real life. I'm not opposed at all. Go to it!

lakeviewer said...

Sorry, not in my bag of tricks. However,instead of actually describing the event, why not have characters refer to it? It all depends on the kind of novel/screen play you are writing.

Writing Without Periods! said...

Oh I wrote a lot of sexy scenes with my Harlequin books. I got so tired of trying to think of different ways I could describe 'things'. Good luck
Mary

Anything Fits A Naked Man said...

Wow, I think I'd be in the same boat as you on this one! I don't have any advice, only an encouraging, "You can DO it!!" Good luck!!

And have a great weekend!

Daphne said...

Also I have to giggle at the title of your post. :)

Mhel said...

I think writing Sex is much more challenging than anything else. You need to make use of all the senses available and relative to the topic. It can either be sensual or urban taboo-ish. But writing sex doesnt mean its dirty and taboo. HAve you seen the movie "Quills" where Geoffrey Rush portrays a character of a "medieval sex writer". I find his words erotic yet poetic. Really sensual. And also Anne Rice's Vampire sagas... Hope that I helped in some ways.

Stopping by from SITS....

Lee Ryan said...

I've read a lot of John Updike; he certainly doesn't shy away from frank descriptions of sex scenes.

What I like about Updike is that he doesn't gloss over the details - even in times when maybe you'd rather he did - but that just reminds us all that non-porn stars have sex too and so that will involve hairy, pale, flabby and old bodies from time to time. Updike captures all of this and more.

Sex changes characters' attitudes about themselves, other characters etc... and a good description of a sex scene captures the reasons why that might be and helps it all to make sense. I thought Updike was good about that.

Midday Escapades said...

Oh boy, that is an intriguing part of writing indeed!

Mammatalk said...

Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you. Don't pass on the smoke after you've wrapped up the scene. ;+)

Chef E said...

Ditto on Lee Ryan!!!

I am in :)

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I haven't written a word of fiction since I was in the fifth grade, therefore, I'm no help.

I always do wonder though how the authors come up with some of these "love" scenes. Specifically the person that wrote the books that the series TruBlood is made from. Is she a complete deviant or just someone with an incredible imagination?

ScoMan said...

You shouldn't compromise necessary scenes because it makes other people uncomfortable.. even if it makes you uncomfortable.

Sometimes we have to do things that we don't like, but they're necessary.

It may well be words like those that found your undercover concubine in this place to begin with.

Elizabeth Braun said...

From my point of view it's simple: Omit it, it isn't necessary. There's no need at all for any descriptive passages of sex of any sort. It doesn't really add to the work and many people find it uncomfortable.

Personally, if I knew there were even moderately explicit passages in any book, I simply wouldn't read it. That's one of the reasons why I prefer much older fiction to modern. The classic authors knew how to get their meaning across without having to describe so much as a caress.=)

liliannattel said...

Writing about sex really isn't any different than anything else. If you can write about a character doing something you've never done, because you can imagine it, and because you can imagine how the character feels and thinks doing it, and you can imagine what the character sees, hears and smells while doing it, and because you have insight into how the character is changed by it, then you can do the same with sex whatever the context.

Louise | Italy said...

Hiya. Greetings from northern Italy via SITS Saturday Sharefest. This is a very interesting subject. I have also tried, but unlike you failed, to write sex scenes. I find myself trying to indicate what's happening physically and that turns out just crude and sophomoric. Actually, I suspect, what one needs to do is concentrate more on what is happening emotionally and let the reader fill in the gaps. Just a thought.

cheekymama said...

It's hard to write about sex without feeling someone looking over your shoulder and either smirking or frowning in disapproval. I actually enjoy it in the right context - it can be liberating and add a new dimension to your characters/relationships. I think so long as you remain truthful to the situation and the people you're writing about, you can't go too far wrong. It's like good dialogue really. After all sex is just another type of conversation.

from Babes about Town
http://babesabouttown.com

Luschka (Diary of a First Child) said...

Happy SITS Saturday
I've often wondered at rape scenes and so on, what they are based on. An interesting dillema, but no, I think you have to be true to the book or it'll feel like there is no depth to it!

Deirdre said...

I can understand your concerns. I've actually been in this position before where I began writing for the sake of writing and development and it was assumed that I was living my words.

It became very awkward and I didn't know any other way to explain myself then other than to say that my writing was the equivalent as to the writing of a SCI-FY movie or something of the like.

In reading your blog over the past few weeks, I can see that you're every expressive, and darn good at it. I think, in time, you'll find the right way to write your scene.

I would love to help you in any way that I can. Feel free to include me in the list of test readers if you need any extra help.

You can reach me at inspired11 at gmail dot com.

Have a wonderful weekend. :)

M said...

Rachel, you seem pretty fearless. I'm looking forward to seeing how you work this out.

Allyson & Jere said...

Hey there, just stopping by to say thanks for stopping by my blog and making a comment.

Yeah, I am happy to have at least been paid, even if I was cut. It was still a totally fun experience.

Good luck with your "sex writing" dilemma. Wish i had anything to add there, but I got a big nothin.

Bitsy Baby Photography said...

thank goodness for sex, i'd be out of a job if there wasn't any of that going on =) however, can't help with the writing, lol.

Michelle said...

I love literature, and writing too, although I've never given fiction a try myself. As for book sex, sometimes it's got to be there for the the sake of the story. If readers don't like it, they don't have to read it. Peace. :)

SITS visiting & blog following.

carma said...

if I ever wrote a sex scene it would end up being the laughingstock of my book...Otherwise I'd love to help.

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

Urmmm. Don't ask me. I'm the mother of teenagers. The only thing I ever say about sex is, just don't do it yet!

Mademoiselle Poirot said...

It's part of life, part of human nature and if it's a crucial part of your book then I don't see anything wrong with it. When I read fiction I read it as "the story" and it has in that moment nothing to do with the author, I never wonder (maybe I should?) about the author's beliefs or standings, I only see the plot and the characters... I don't know if I make any sense, but the bottom line is: don't censor yourself, if you think it's right for your book then it is right and nobody else can judge that. Go for it :-) Love from London, Carole x

alessandra said...

Hmmm, I wouldn't write something, I feel some discomfort about.
However, good luck!

Holly said...

Interesting. I have had this issue but not in regards ti writing about sex...that is a whole other area I have yet to touch on!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I never really thought about this... That would be hard. But I think rape might be easier to write since it's so cut and dry.

Post a Comment

Thanks for dropping in! I'd love to hear what you have to say, and if you leave a URL, I'll be round to visit you soon. (Comment moderation is on because the spam has become overwhelming!)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...