Monday, 25 October 2010

WRITING TIP #69: HOW TO WRITE SEX

Don't.

Ever.

And if you absolutely have to. Still don't.

Nobody does it well because it can't be done well.

Unwelcome sex: Yes. Failed sex: Yes. The absence of sex. Yes. Thoughts about sex: Yes.

Actual, detailed I-put-my-hand-on...: No.

Spare us. Hint at it. Show that it happened, reference it obliquely. Just don't try to describe it. Ever

13 comments:

Charlotte said...

Absolutely. I have managed it with three oblique references and feel quite proud. There be sex, but no details.

TOM J VOWLER said...

Some will disagree, Charlotte, and my challenge to them: post a scene that works.

Helena Halme said...

Best advice ever. In any case, it's a nasty, messy business.

Helena xx

Karen said...

*Cringes* The thought of my mother reading it would be enough to put me off should I ever be tempted.

I have written a humorous bedroom scene in my novel, but there's no - ahem - thrusting or panting.

I blushed just typing that.

TOM J VOWLER said...

Comic writing is different, Karen. Especially writing that's able to laugh at itself.

Lindsay said...

I'm glad failed sex is allowed - as it does feature in my comedy novel - otherwise I agree with Karen. My mother says I'm not to write about it unless she has died before it's poublished. (At the rate I'm going she'll be qualifying for a telegram from HRH before I'm published.)

Dan Holloway said...

Has no one else got the #69? Or are they too embarrassed to say. There have been a LOT of posts about this recently. It's the season, of course, what weith the bad sex awards and all.

I've been asked to contribute (and HAVE) to two anthologies on the subject recently as well - literary writers writng sex, not erotica or porn - Robert James Russell's Sex Scene Anthology, and Quiet Riot Girl's "Objectified" - incredibly thought-provoking, both.

I must say I don't understand the issue with writing sex - I hear sex is too personal, sex is too universal, I hear it all - but the fact is that sex is as much a part of life as anything else - from eating pasta to getting chill-blains when you put your frozen feet on the fire. The problem only comes when we think it's somehow mysteriously different.

Um, I just see your challenge, Tom here's me reading my short story The Last Fluffer in La La Land at this month's literary death match. I should warn it's very adult - of course. It also split the judges right down the middle (of course!)

http://vimeo.com/16145245

the print version is at

http://eightcuts.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/literary-death-match-live/

Do take a look at those collections as well - there are people who do it way better than me - one is at www.gamespervertsplay.wordpress.com and the other at
http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/sex-scene-an-anthology/

And now I've buggered my chances of getting my guest blog posted owing to contrariness!!

TOM J VOWLER said...

Ha Dan. I'll have a look.

Sascha Illyvich - The Dark Wolf Lord said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sascha Illyvich - The Dark Wolf Lord said...

the sales of erotic romance novels should disprove that sex can't and shouldn't be written.

the trick to writing sex is to describe and show us what the characters feel. Get into their heads. Erotic acts are more than a series of he did this and she did that.

we've dedicated an entire blog to it: http://www.writesex.net talks explicitly about how to add a little or a lot of spice to your writing.

if done well, any author can learn to skillfully and properly add sex scenes to their writing.

Patrick H said...

Spot on, Tom. I've said this a hundred times to horrified teenagers/late middle-aged folk (the two lustiest tribes). I think there's a loophole though: you can write it funny; and you can write it violent. But never romantic. I'm too pure of mind anyway: when I hear 'hot throbbing member' I can only ever imagine a politician canvasing under midday sun with a headache.

Jenn Ashworth said...

I agree with Patrick - and I like writing sex. Sex scenes can be brilliant for the same reason that any other scenes are brilliant - because they illuminate theme, character, plot - because they bring together two (usually...) people in an act that can involve vulnerability, conflict, differing expectations, failure, mishaps, slapstick, awkwardness, confessions, revelations, abuse of power. All fascinating, dramatic stuff.

Problem free, romantic, successful sex? Nah... it's as dull as ditchwater to read. That's the kind of sex that if your characters are having it, I don't need to know the details.

For me, it's very similar to dialogue. I love reading and writing it, but only if there's some kind of tension or conflict involved. Pages of chat about making tea don't interest me that much either.

TOM J VOWLER said...

Thanks for all your interesting thoughts. I've been somewhat tricksy, as the recently finished novel has, as an undercurrent, sex as a theme. But certainly not romantic. And not a member in sight.