Friday, 6 July 2007

Coffee 2 - Let's Talk about S-x

I hope everyone had a great writing week. As it was with last week there was no writing. However I am scanning blogs and things and always thinking about it - that's writing of course. However there is something that supposedly we all think about all the time and it can be a big part of writing too. I hate writing sex scenes. How do you feel about it? I know my first ones were terrible and that is why I can't reread the book I wrote back in 2004. I just cringe at the thought! However I know that these scenes can be crucial the story. Over on the Cruise/Mayer Workshop Jennifer puts forward an excellent discussion on sex scenes being nothing more than action scenes ( the action is simply sex) that move the plot forward. She says if they don't then don't include them!

So how do you feel about this tricky subject? Do you have a 'mother' siting on your shoulder tut tutting you every time your story turns towards a scene? Can you shove her out of the room? Also who do you think handles sex scenes well? What's the worse you've read?

So let's talk about sex.........


Jen said...

I read somewhere that you should NEVER imagine your your mother reading your book if it contains any saucy scenes!

There's got to be a bit of 'naked wriggling' though. I really struggle with it - as I've said somewhere or other on my blog, I feel like a pervy stalker: every time one of my characters has a glass of wine, I'm wondering whether it's the right time for her to get her kit off!!!!!!

I suppose, like most things in life, it'll happen when it's supposed to :)

CruiseMayer is ace...

ChrisH said...

I'm going to read the link shortly but I think Jennifer Cruise writes excellent sex scenes - there's none of that squelchy stuff that makes me cringe! - and yes, that's a good point about moving the plot forwards. I've also found, thinking of last years RNA submission that a sex scene I was perfectly comfortable with was 'too much information' for the reader!! Clearly my technique needs work!

Lucy Diamond said...

I was haunted by the thought of getting nominated for The Bad Sex Award when I wrote the sex scenes in Any Way You Want Me - I avoided all coy euphemisms and anything that made me cringe. I found having a glass of wine as I wrote definitely helped.
I didn't think about my parents reading it because back then, I thought it probably wouldn't get published. It was only when I got the proofs to check that I started having kittens about what they (and the rest of my family) would think.

Rowan Coleman said...

Sex scenes! Great topic. In my first book which had much more sex in it than any other I've written, I blushed bright red every time I sat down to write them and worse still got edited on them so I had to go back over the sex scenes again, with notes!!! (the ignomy)Now when I'm writing one I try to avoid any kind of description that I can imagine me and my friends reading out loud and laughing over, that bad sex scenes award is always at the back of my mind too, Lucy! And never mind mother's reading them (my mum reads much more racy stuff that I write) what about partners and husbands?

NoviceNovelist said...

I have a couple of sex scenes in my novel and I was concious while writing them that I just wanted to move on - I wanted to look away from the page as I was typing them. For me - I think I like alluding to rather than giving the details - perhaps this is something I will have to face up to! I can't really think of who I do or don't like with regards to writing sex scenes though. Must go I can feel hives breaking out and the voice of Sister Beatrice from school about to scold me for having 'dirty' thoughts!!! That says it all really!

JJ said...

Well, I come out of the side of the prudes! I don't believe under normal circumstances that it's necessary to include sex scenes. I am sure that some stories require it, but I honestly believe it's just about titillation. Not (if you admit to it) that there's anything wrong with that ... I cannot see why we need specific details to move on a story - it's clear if you set it up right what they're doing, I just don't think - god, I'm such a terrible prude, aren't I?

Crap writing week, crap plotting week. Flying to the UK tonight.

leatherdykeuk said...

When my sister read the first draft of An Ungodly Child she said "'s a bit racy...

While I never find sex scenes easy - I can't write a convincing het scene to save my life - I do write quite a lot of then. My difficulty is TMI. What I find erotic is really way too below the belt for the sensitivities of most (normal?) people.

I edited Nephilim's Child before sending it away last week. One of the things I did was to tame and cut 75% of the lesbian-werewolf sex. It was Just Too Much.

You know, if I ever get as famous as dirt, or Rowling, I'm going to publish in Children's, Adult's and Filthy Pervert's editions.

Caroline said...

Someone read ISoA and there is an abuse scene that involves oral sex. That someone was horrified because apparently anyone reading ISoA would be thinking that I had taken part in such acts ;-)


As for the bad sex awards. My workshop leader won one and it is a mighty fine trophy! He brought it along and read his scene aloud. Oh I did giggle. He was very proud of his award.

I am still second drafting Black Boxes and this is tough. I hate second drafts.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Good topic, Liz.

I don't think you're a prude, JJ. A think some writers do put sex in their books just for the shock factor. Maybe some readers like that. *shrug*

I don't write sex scenes either. They just aren't necessary to the story in my books. If my characters are having sex, I allude to it, but I don't show it. To me, sex is a private thing - a special and necessary thing, but very private - and I write it that way. The only exception is when I'm alluding to a sexual encounter for the antagonists - then anything goes, and that shows insight into who the antagonists are.

IMO: As with anything, if the scene doesn't add to the story, move the plot along, or provide insight, it really doesn't need to be in there.

Jane Henry said...

sorry swinging by in frantic hurry as am off to the RNA conference today... to say I will catch up with you all shortly, but life is a bit mad at present. Also I haven't worked out how to join in. AND I am so sorry still havent sorted me pesky sidebar yet.

Will do soon, I promise.

Am dying of embarassment at the thought of my mother reading the very very tame sexy bits in Pastures New. But she is 77 and a catholic, so her sensibilities are a bit different. My mother in law who has read it finds it saucy. I don't know what she'd make of Lucy's!

Have got up to around 22000 on the wip. So nearly a quarter of the way there. Am taking my laptop away with me, so hoping to add to teh total over the weekend.

love to y'all

Helen said...

I have no sex secnes in my novel as yet, and I don't think there will be any so I can't comment about writing them. Call me weird as I am quite liberal with the use of swear words coming out of my mouth, but writing them down always makes me feel naughty. The thought of my mother in law reading them is quite worrying...

No writing done for a while. I.T problems then a holiday. Can't wait to get back into it next week.

hesitant scribe said...

Egads! Sex scenes. Hmm. So far have avoided them entirely - too afraid, too cringy, too scared! I'm conscious though, that my novel does have a 'love interest' but probably doesn't need the sex spelling out.

I have only ever written one sex scene and that was from a comical point of view. It was difficult to write but very funny in the end :)

Caroline - I think you've hit the nail on the head - that I worry people will think I did whatever it is I'm writing about but I guess we just have to live with that. We really mustn't let it get to us (I tell myself!)

KeVin K. said...

There is something in the drinking water today. Over at Romancing the Blog they're debating whether inspirational romance can have sex scenes.

A few years ago I was part of a writing workshop taught by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Gardner Dozois. One evening's exercise was to write a 3000-word description of your first sexual experience (these stories were read only by the instructors, not the other students). The next night we were to write the same scene as experienced by our partner (this required me to find many different ways to describe fits of giggles). I mention this because the editors advised I up the ages of the participants in my stories to the legal threshold and submit them to the erotic market. (Kris suggested that as a minister, I might want to give some thought to a pen name.)

Never having considered the erotic marketplace I did a bit of research -- starting with Ellora's Cave, which had published a few of a fellow workshopper's novellas. Took me about a week to decide there was no way I could talk myself into writing erotica. I can do erotica in much the same way I can kill the mouse that's gotten into the pantry -- it's a skill I have, but not a task I enjoy.

This same lack of comfort extends into my romance writing. Though I would dearly love to take on some of the cliches of the genre ("Wow," she said, "You must have been teased unmercifully in gym class.") I doubt I'll ever send an explicit scene to a publisher. If my stories were movies they'd be somewhere north of PG13 and a bit south of R. The bedroom door isn't firmly shut, but the camera's not at its sharpest focus. And I avoid giggle-inducing euphemisms at all costs.

sheepish said...

No sex scenes as such in my wip yet but who knows as I am making it up as I go along!!!! No plotting for me JJ, far too complicated. Maybe later when I've got a bit further. Writing is very slow at the moment as is getting round to everyones blog, I am trying!!!!!
I am following the Cruise Mayer workshop and finding it very useful. All I need now is a Motivational workshop, possibly being tied to the desk might help.
Hope you all have a good weekend I'm off to open the wine, well it is past 6pm.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Not here it isn't, it's only 5.30 and I'm still on the camomile tea - but not for long! Hardly any writing this week as there's a real run on funerals around here, hope it's not catching... I think I'm in the minority in this group because I like writing sex scenes, to me it's an interesting challenge to write them well. I'm not interested in writing them for their own sake, and I wouldn't want to tackle an erotic novel, but I can see the point of including them - as B.E. says - if they move the plot along or give insight into the characters. And I'm not particularly bothered about my parents reading them, they've both read a lot of novels with sex scenes in, and I'm sure they've had sex themselves. There's a lovely piece in Shaggy Blog Stories (here if you haven't got a copy yet) about the reactions of, if I remember rightly, two elderly relatives of Girl with a One-Track Mind's to some of her writing. As novelists, we write about the difficult, conflictual, unusual parts of life, and sometimes sexual encounters come under those headings, and then surely they're worth writing about just like any other interesting aspect of human existence.

A. Writer said...

Great topic!

My first novel has got oral sex scenes that are fairly graphic but I made them funny though. Lots of humour in them. Realistic oral sex, none of the wonderful movie like sex.

As for the sex scenes, I've written the before and after, not the during. Keep it all for the reader imagination ;)

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KeVin K. said...

Looks like we've been targeted by a robot. A program designed to lure us into linking to a site that will phish for personal information. We have these in LJ and blocking them from ever posting again is fairly straightforward -- however, I have no idea how it's done with Blogger. Would sommeone with Blogger savvy please deal with this?

Cathy said...

I'm not technical, but I think word verification probably needs to be set up by the administrators to get around the robot issue?

In Blogger this is done via settings - comments, then select word verification on.

Jane Henry said...

Just thought I'd drop by again as this is such an interesting discussion and on Friday I didn't have time to discuss it properly.

With my editor's hat on I'd say, if you're going to include sex, think about it. Forget the graphic level - does it advance the plot at all/ is it important to see your protagonists having sex or will anything be lost if we don't.

If the answer is no, then don't show it, if you think it's yes then do, at a level of heat that suits you.

If you are uncomfortable writing raunch, don't do it, because it will make your writing awkward and stultified, and there is always that worry about appearing in the Bad Sex Awards thing going on!

Most of the the time I tend to feel sex is put their gratuitously and I get irritated with it and skip it.

Having said that I read the most amazing description of the consummation of a marriage in Elizabeth Chadwick's Shadows and Strongholds, which was tender passionate and true. It went on for several pages and she built the whole thing up to an amazing crescendo with nary a euphemism or cringe making description of body parts.

But that is a huge skill not everyone has. Be realistic, if you don't have it, don't do it!

With my writer's head on I have experimented with erotic fiction - my agent said she thought I was a bit embarrassed by it, which is probably true. I blame a catholic education myself! But I agree with Lucy, a glass of wine often helps and it's better if you really let rip. I had a blast doing it, but it's not really my area.

However I hope I am taking some of the things I have learnt and putting them into my mainstream fiction.

I am planning a sex scene with hero/heroine in current wip, but I don't quite know how steamy I am going to go. My main aim with it is to bring them to a point of mutual trust and tenderness, which is then going to get wrecked by circumstances beyond their control. I use music alot to inspire my writing, and the song I have in mind for this scene is The Miracle of Love by the Eurythmics.

The other thing I always think about erotic stuff is that often less is more. DON'T describe everything they do, but DO show them sweating/hearts racing, the delicacy of her taking off her top, the thrill of him touching her so gently etc...

One of the most erotic films I have ever seen is Body Heat and though there is much nakedness, and one scene where he is obviously getting a blow job, you don't see very much sex, but it is all suggested/implied and gives the feelings of frustration and passion very well I think.

Now IF I could write a scene like that...