Oh, it is that subject. :-) Well, the title caught your eye, and you are here reading this--which attests to the draw of the subject. First, let me say that this is not an advice column on the subject. It is simply a short history of my own experience wrangling with writing sex. Many of my readers are not writers, and thus, have probably never given a thought to what goes into writing about sex...or the process by which we come to it.
Okay, I am smiling as I recall while writing my first book (still sitting in a file on my computer) how I dodged the whole issue of sex scenes until I could no longer avoid it. Did I just write "issue"? Well, it was an issue. I had no idea how to do it. And the longer I waited, the more complicated it became.
I was tempted to just leave it out...but, not only would that have turned the story into a veritable treatise on inter-galactic politics and intolerance, but it would have starred a prudish protagonist who may as well have worn a habit... A habit, I say? Now there might be a clue. Writing about sex. I dunno...I was raised Catholic... I can't do that--there must be a special place in hell for people who do that. Sister Mary-slap-my-hands-with-a-ruler would stand beside St Peter and point the way--ruler outstretched, pointing down
So, I bumbled along, at least that is what it felt like, avoiding those parts of the story. My mom, bless her heart, read the book in sections as I wrote them, while cheering me on. And I finally wrote my first draft of a scene where the protagonist and her love interest crawl under the covers together. Let me tell you, it was hot!
And, I reached a conclusion that it is an art writing sex that is something other than funny, because when you write it as you think it--especially if you have an analytical mind, it is sort of...well...you know, funny.
Oy! In retrospect, it was akin to a how-to manual.
Sue, a former supervisor at work, read it as well. The plot thickened. No, not the plot of the book, but what followed after Sue read my fledgling sex scene--along with the rest of the book.
She commented to me that she saw a lot of me in the protagonist, I was dismayed. I had not written about me, she didn't look like me, she was 30 years younger than me! How could Sue see me in this woman? The introspection began.
I discovered after much thought, and an objective look at my protagonist, that there were some pretty obvious similarities in philosophy. Well, I forgave myself after the realization. I was new to this, and in truth--for any of you who don't write, every character I write is, in at least some small way--part of me. I can't help it; it is the well from which I draw. Oh, there are tons of other people I have met along the path of life whom I have infused into my characters. But still, my fictional creations can't help but occasionally speak with my voice, whether in anger, dismay, or love.
Then it was like a bolt of lightning hit me. Dread...well, if it is me that readers see in this book, oh my God! People will think, I mean...they will get an image of me and my husband...oh my God, my mom read this! And someday my children will read it! Oh...my children, I mean, yes, humans are sexual animals...everyone but our parents and our children, that is!
It was a horrific moment for me. What had been a struggle before suddenly became an impasse of humongous proportions. I was not going to write about sex when someone I knew would read it and think, she does that??? Or, wow, gives a person a whole new view on the room-mother who bakes cookies for the class.
Back to the drawing board. I tried to go to just alluding to the sex in the book. Sue read it and then told me that I had built up all of this great sexual tension...and then...nothing. <I am laughing as I write this> The scene just fizzled.
At that time, I was beginning my fledgling attempt to establish a blog, and found the blogosphere to be a very cool place, a friendly place, and a useful place. I began to post short essays about my life, what occupied my time, and yes, finally a mention about my travails writing sex scenes. And then, Eureka! < --I know, an expression associated with a man running naked down the street--I have come so far in what I am capable of writing>
A blogging friend, Kate Dow, read the post lamenting my shortcomings on sex scenes--writing them that is. And she commented back to me that Erotica is writing the physical description. What I needed to do was to write the emotions associated with the moment, the act, the scene. "Stick to the emotions."
<huge sigh> What a relief! This whole writing sex thing...so unavoidable, so complicated...and so much easier after Kate's simple explanation.
So, I can do it now, and I have avoided the dreaded ruler pointing me toward the most direct route to hell-- for writing sinful scenes. Just kidding about the straight to hell stuff, guys. I have befriended people who write children's books and people who write erotica. I have great respect for both; each requires its own special niche talent. I have simply chosen to develop my talent somewhere in between them.
So, there you have it...my experience with learning the ropes about, coming to terms with, and finding my comfort zone when writing sex.
Question... as you finish this...should the title have been, "Writing about writing about sex?" ;-)
Please. leave me a comment. I learn so much when others share their thoughts. If you have never written, have you ever given a thought to what goes into writing a sex scene? And if you write, how do you approach writing sex into your story?