Thursday, December 12, 2013
writing the sex scene
You're writing a romance or at least a book with romantic encounters. At some point the question of how physical will it get becomes an issue. It can be sweet and cozy or hot and torrid. Some writers choose to lead up to the big moment and then close the door on the reader. As a writer of a love story, what to do? How far to take it? Love scenes can be a total turnoff to some readers while others are disappointed if there aren't enough of them in the story.
For readers who are opposed to any detail at all, any sexuality would seem prurient, but to me it's not. Two people coming together in a physical way serves a very real purpose, but it can be challenging to write especially if the writer wants to avoid repeating her/himself. I mean let's face it, there is a de rigueur approach to it all and getting away from that to something unique takes some er uh research... soul searching... okay where it comes to me, being honest-- imagination.
I loved something I read some time back that one writer said her mother asked her, regarding her books, did she know about all the sex from experience? The writer said-- yes, and the time travel too. It's the perfect answer because reality is you don't have to shoot someone to be able to imagine what it would be like to then describe the act and emotional impact.
Once I know a sexual encounter will be there, as a writer, I consider it a serious concern that I present it in a good, healthy, vital way. I don't write about casual hook-ups mainly because the kind of characters I prefer don't do that. Generally speaking no romances do that. If you want casual hook-ups, head for chick lit.
When I write about a physical joining, I personally like to put in something about responsibility which means not only safe sex but understanding there is an emotional impact to such joinings. Nobody rapes anybody in my books and then calls it a romantic happening. My heroines don't say no when they mean yes. Mature sexual relationships should not be about playing power games. Sure there is a lot of immature sex out there. I don't need to have it in my books.
Once it is determined there is going to be a sex scene, then the question is how to write it in a way that won't bore readers with repetition and will make them feel good about what happened. For everything that happens in a book, it starts with the characters. What are their previous experiences? Their expectations? A good writer builds up the tension between these two as they come to know what they want but always there are reasons to delay it.
When I write such scenes, and most of my books have had them, I want the happening to seem inevitable to the reader by the time they get to it. I try to give the lovers a good experience as I think how might this really go down (pun intended). I don't like all the silly euphemisms that used to be the norm for romance books; so I stick to mostly descriptive phrases, but I also don't use pornographic terms because they don't make me comfortable even if in reality two lovers might say such things to each other.
So to write the scene, I put on some romantic music (something like Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini). I want these characters, who I always love in any of my books, to have a wonderful experience. Save the dysfunctional sex for therapy books or a novel of pain. Romances are about good coming together through all the obstacles. I also don't imply sex solves everything. It's part of a relationship but not all of it.
Writing it, I use just enough description to make clear what happens but not to the extent of going on and on. I've bought books by others where it might take twenty pages to describe one encounter. Reading such books, I skip the blow by blow (pun intended) but have counted how many pages. In one book, by a well-known author, if you had taken out those many detailed descriptions, you had a short story.
Some prefer no sex in a book that they read, but I like it. I like my characters to get a full experience of loving in all its aspects and part of that is learning how to please each other sexually. It often involves loosening up and becoming more open to their own bodies and emotional needs. Sometimes their coming together can be a lot of fun. It is a release for them, but, for me, it never comes easy to write. I want it to say all that is needed but not one word too many. I don't want to write anything I would have to apologize to anybody for having in that book.
I recently wrote a paranormal novella which I plan to bring out in February. And in it, although the couple did it, I didn't describe it because it seemed it'd get in the way of the main theme of the book. Each writer decides that for themselves. But one thing for readers who don't like the sex, they can skip it and come back for the pillow talk. Now that's where a lot of important things can get resolved... or not :)