Confession Part 1

Joe’s Post #50

imagesCAEI7Y1ZI have a few confessions to make. Writing confessions. This week…

<< No, no, that’s not it. I mean, it may be true, but that’s not what I want to confess.

This is something much darker. Much more embarrassing.

I have a hard time with sex scenes. Wait, that came out all wrong. What I meant is that they are difficult for me to write. I’m actually not bad at romantic scenes, or flirty scenes, but when it comes to inserting X body part into Y body part, I get all red-faced and gigglie and that scene dies an ugly, boring death.

I think it’s because a sex scene is the last bastion of a secret phobia I have. Shhhh. (It’s of being judged.) I honestly don’t care if you read a scene I wrote about someone dismembering someone else (which may say some scary things about me) or a scene about emotional loss that’s linked to some very personal real-life experiences. No. But I DO seem to worry if you read what I write about a penis or what I call a certain female part I can never really find a good name for.


What would my mom say?

My grade 1 teacher?

My grocery store bagger?

OMG, he wrote what?

teacherWhat’s worse is that the line if pretty far out there now. In the old days, like 2009, erotica was erotica. Porn was porn. The romance might be the odd kiss and cuddle, often with a few somewhat explicit details and humor (Diana Gabaldon is great at this.) But holy heck, read 50 Shades (or in my case, I read Sylvia Day‘s book, Bared to You), and you’ll see that bar is now way, way out there. The things those women write about… wow.

Don’t get me wrong, not every book needs a blindfold, a banana, and a chandelier, but the fact that I can’t seem to write one bothers me. The fact that I won’t even put words in this blog that make me blush kinda says it all.

With this confession, however, I can’t say 10 hail maries and it’ll be ok. I can’t ask for forgiveness. What I need to do, what I will do, is do what I do when I’m afraid of something – I go do it … and do it … and do it, again, until I’m over it (with the exception of leaping off of tall buildings which, I imagine, is pretty much a one time event.)

Zip-lining, done. Dentist, done. Coffee date with super cute girl, done! So, sex scenes. You’re next.

Any advice?

22 thoughts on “Confession Part 1

  1. Vulva. Vagina. Clitoris. Pussy. Warm, pulsing wetness, There. Not so hard.

    Diana Gabaldon writes the best sex scenes I have ever read. Why? Its never about body parts and she manages to get the mood across. And the mood is different each time, even (especially) between the same couple. Epic awesome.

    Advice? Not sure if I have any. I’m faking my way through this as much as you are. But if I was going to give it a whirl it would be something like this….

    1. Lose the idea that somehow your readers (your grade one teacher, your family, your vet) are going to be thinking about you as a writer when they read these scenes. They won’t.

    2. Are you writing for a male audience or a female audience? What is the overall tone of your book? Is it fast-paced, dirty, somewhat aloof? If it slow and sweet and deep? Your sex scenes should reflect the overall purpose of the book.

    3. The sex scenes should be about the character. What is it about this character that will color his/her sex life? Is she hesitant? Is she gentle? Is she reckless? Is she playful? Is he trying to prove something? Is he scared? Is he ruled by his body or his mind or his heart? Is he insistent or is he persuading? How can you bring the character out through their actions? Just like how a character would react to any other event in your novel. Who are they? How would they act?

    4. Like every other scene in your novel, sex scenes have a purpose. Have to have a purpose. Sex is intimacy. But sex is also incredibly dangerous because we are so vulnerable. How is the relationship going to change through this particular act of sex? What is different after the sex than it was before the sex? What is revealed about the characters through the sex scene? How can the scene end in disaster, a subtle disaster or an overt one? Why does it matter?

    5. Sex is primarily about feelings. Not about the senses. Senses are good. But senses are not story.

    • Some great advice here, and I agree about Diana Gabaldon’s special, um, sex scene skills. Even in person, she’s no shrinking violet or mincer of words – she exudes physicality and her sensual writing personality jumps off the page.

      • I’ve met Diana a few times. She is all kinds of awesome. She is not afraid to be herself. Just genuine. But isn’t that what its all about, anyway? Your relationship with your reader? Your relationships between characters? Getting it on the page takes the courage to be genuine when you write.

    • Thanks,especially for 3 & 4. I struggled over this. I have a character with a lot of mother/women issues, so he only refers indirectly to a sexual encounter, even though it effects the plot. He’s just not comfortable with it, at least not at that point.

  2. What Sheila said. Also. You aren’t either Miley Cirrus (Cyrus? whatever) or Robin Thicke. If you’re having trouble with your imaginary judges, just think about what they’d say if you had done what they did. In front of however many million people. There, what you’re going to do isn’t so bad, is it? I have the same problem. Remember that no-sex sex scene in Tuya? It took me weeks to get up the nerve to write that and there wasn’t even any sex in it! Or much in the way of body parts. But I know why – I felt like a voyeur. I know these people, I love at least one of them, like the other and they’re in a way only a writer can understand, my friends. I don’t watch my real friends when they do the two-backed beast, and it felt very much like that’s what I was doing when I wrote about Kote’s adventures on the couch with Annie.

    Also, blindfolds, bananas and chandeliers. You forgot the seal suit. Have fun. Reward yourself when you finally get it done and over with. Go have dinner with that pretty lady.

  3. I remember thinking exactly the same thoughts and then I told myself it’s just a writing exercise, you write it knowing you can take it out or have another go, just go ahead and give yourself permission to write it without the thought that anyone will read it. When I turned it into a writing exercise, my thoughts changed into wanting it to sound authentic and I focused on making the scene and surrounds real.

    The same thing happened when I had to write about a major confrontation between two characters, I really didn’t want to be present and a friend even asked me what was wrong that morning as we walked to the gym together – I couldn’t believe the anxiety of having to write that scene was showing on my face. I just had to sit myself down and write it out, knowing that when I did, I would then get to tomorrow and it would be over. But all these emotions can contribute atmosphere to the writing if we channel them. So use all those feelings and how they physically make you feel. Bonne Courage!

  4. I have become an eight grade virgin myself when trying to write a sex scene. I have worked on that, and then walked away, thinking that perhaps I will tackle that another day. Originally I thought to prove that all those BAD sex scenes could be better done, then found myself humbled by my own inability. It’s pretty darn ego busting, I will say. Still postponing, I appreciate your candor.

  5. You probably didn’t know that the British journal The Literary Review has for years given an annual prize “The Bad Sex in Fiction Award”. And some are truly astounding. I mean fall-out-of-your-chair bad. I’ve got a dirty mind and yet I can’t figure out some of them. Here’s coverage from 2011 in The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/nov/22/bad-sex-awards-the-contenders , and a reflection on why men are in particular so bad at writing sex scenes http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2011/nov/25/male-writers-bad-writing-sex. I think the ansewr to the last one is pretty clear: most men are simply interested in the outcome, and not the process. That is, they’re into sex, ot making love. As for me, I don’t see why you have to write them anyway: there’s more good fiction out there without sex than there is.

  6. Joe, you have no trouble getting into your characters’ heads and thinking-seeing-hearing-acting-feeling like them in action scenes. Is it really any different in sex scenes? Maybe your fear of writing about sex is actually a big fat author intrusion? It might be easier if you follow these steps: 1) Resist being a voyeur (you, the author); 2) Become a participant (your character). Follow the aforementioned steps carefully. Do not attempt to write while actually having sex. Could be messy and hazardous to your romantic relationships.

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