September 26, 2014

How to (Not) Write a Sex Scene

I am a full believer in the character-led story. This is pretty much like baby-led feeding - just substitute baby for character... And feeding for story. I use the example of a baby because I view my characters like children, something I've created. Maybe this is an unique approach? Maybe not? Either way, that's my approach, what works for me.

So what happens when your children don't want to behave? With real children, you can send them to their room or take away privileges or toys. What to do about fictional creations who are ready to assert their independence? Short of stopping the story??? Not much. I've tried steering them in another direction, but all roads lead to the same place. Eventually they win. And nothing stalls a story more than going against the grain.

Well, maybe a terribly stiff and awkward sex scene will do the trick? As writers, I'm sure we've all written an awkward scene, something that just makes us cringe and shudder when we re-read it. The story is going well, then you hit a snag, write anything just to keep things going. But you achieve the opposite effect. The story stalls and the muse disappears, or just goes MIA for a while. I have a sex scene hang-up. I enjoy reading a well-written and appropriately placed sex scene as much as the next person, but I am challenged in creating it myself.

It's important to recognize weaknesses (and strengths) in yourself in order to grow as a person, as a writer. I fully admit I can envision how the scene will play out, but I have to work extremely hard to write it properly. If at all. Sometimes it's easier to backspace the whole darn scene and start over. It's more than mixing up the sentences starting with 'she' and 'he', it's all about logistics and sequence. Does your scene make sense? Is what your characters doing actually physically possible? It's a technical process as well as a creative one.

So, if your characters can't keep their clothes on, what can you do? I'm told sex gets better with time, actually doing it and writing about it. So keep on trying. Or, if you are completely uncomfortable with writing a sex scene, keep the bedroom door closed. There are many successful authors who can achieve the desired effects without a full on description of the bedroom activities.

I'm still on the fence. I find it difficult to ignore my characters, but I'm a bit of a prude. What exactly do you call 'the parts' and such... I'm currently in a creative tug-of-war with my main characters. I hit the 30k mark and boom. I think we've reached a compromise, but I guess the proof will be in the pudding.

It's a scary process to begin with, putting thoughts to paper (screen). I tend to be critical of my own writing, but also biased. It's very hard to depend on your own editing abilities. I belong to a fantastic writing group and I often bounce ideas, etc off them. They have a lot of great advice for me which I heed. The main thing I've taken away on this particular subject is adjust your heat level to your own personal comfort. Like a relationship, you shouldn't rush things to the next level, if you aren't ready. And, if you're never ready, that's fine too.

Whether your scenes have sex or not, keep on writing them!

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