Sunday, August 28, 2011

Scenes I hate writing: Sex Scenes

At the moment it's a real relief for me to be working on YA. My YA might be gritty and violent and nasty, but nobody is having sex. Nobody in my main character's tiny circle of friends anyway, because they've got more to worry about than hormones. Bless 'em, because I hate writing sex scenes.

Wanna know something scary? I think I'm good at writing sex scenes. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know my awful secret -- I've got a book published under a pen name that is (clears throat and checks my mum isn't watching) naughty. Hell, let's be honest, it's erotica. And it was probably a weird thing for me to attempt because I don't like writing sex scenes. 

Now, after having written what feels like a gazillion sex scenes -- people in naughty books are insatiable -- I like them even less. I've realised there are three reasons why I hate them.

1. There are only so many times you can describe a sex scene in new and creative ways without relying on euphemisms. And I hate euphemisms.

2. The choreography. Just like in fights scenes, you have to remember where every part of every person is at every time. And I thank my editor for pointing out to me in one of my earlier drafts that if that couple was doing what I said they were doing, there was no way they could be looking one another in the eye. Whoops. For my next book, this guy: 

3. The Shame Factor. If I write about torture or war or bloodthirst and violence, I do it safe in the knowledge that my family and friends can read it without thinking that I'm a bloodthirty, violent war-mongering torturer. However, when I write about sex, and let's say it's particularly inventive sex, I'm frightened that the the first thing they'll wonder is How does Jen know that? And this is why I have a pseudonym, and why I can never tell my mother what it is.

How do you feel about sex scenes? Do you avoid them like the plague, or do you dive in headfirst? So to speak.


  1. I've rarely written them. I'm more of a fade to black kinda gal. But when I do write them, I try my best not to dissolve into hysterics ^^; So at least I'm having fun! XD

  2. I will find out eventually, you know. You never could keep a secret, especially not from me.


  3. Is this a repeat of your last blog? Sex scenes, battle scenes, same thing, right?

    How're Townsville's possums?


  4. Sex scenes are certainly out of my writing comfort zone, but I have written, hopefully with a bit of tact and grace

  5. @ Miss Cole, Oh, I always get hysterics, but I keep writing anyway. And thn I blush when I read it back!

    @ Anonymous, I know you're not my mum. But, just in case, I'm working an arvo shift tomorrow. Can you make me a chocolate cake to take into work? You know how domestically challenged I am. Cheers.

    @ JJ, LOL! Except, in romance at least, both sides are expected to win! At the same time, preferably. (Now I really hope my mum's not reading this!)

  6. @ JJ - The possums are just great, thanks for asking. They are living life to the full, fighting, carousing, loving, and doing most of it on my roof at 3 o'clock in the morning. I'll send you a couple!

  7. Trisha, I've written a gazillion of them and they're still way outside my comfort zone! But on a weird level I am very proud of writing them because of that. If I can write them well, I can write anything! That's the theory anyway. :)

  8. I hate writing them. I always feel like I'm doing it in an awkward, boring way. Luckily, my characters aren't particularly randy.

    And euphemisms. *shudder*

  9. Well fortunately sex scenes are never really integral to any story that isn't erotica. You never really need to write them. IMO, fade to black is what I like best.

  10. Haha. Yeah, I've never been a fan of writing graphic sex scenes. Mild sex scenes with few specifics? Okay. Erotica? Noooooo.

  11. Your mum and I WILL find out.

    I wrote a couple of sex scenes into my last story. Not erotica style though. More of a fade to black after the camera lens got steamed up. Very, very difficult to write those types of scenes.

    I found the only way to keep it grounded was to zero in on the main character's emotions and why the scene was necessary in the first place. Only thing that got me through it. Whew.

  12. I've yet to write something that doesn't have an intimate moment in it (even in my current one where the MCs are dragons).
    That'll change soon, my next work shan't have much more than a chaste kiss. It'll be quite fun.

    As for how I write them, it depends largely on the story, but much of it can be categorised under “fade to black”. Sometimes before they actually DO anything apart from snuggle if it's implied they'll go further but it isn't needed for them to be depicted doing so.
    The rest is done using the pov of the inexperienced one, who focuses less on what's happening and more on the OMG effect.

    Either way, I usually make it short for lack of wanting to wade into euphemism overload. There’s only so many times I’ll refer to certain body parts in a scene, thank you very much (Not at all, if I don't have to. And I not to).
    Even then, I'll try my best to be tasteful. That's my aim for such scenes: if it needs to be, best not to be crass about it.

  13. Like anything else, there's a technique to it. I enjoy reading them and enjoy writing them and hate arguing over personal tastes on the topic.

  14. I want to know what this pen-name is. Erotica is awesome; way more awesome than erotic romance, anyway :D

    I love writing sex scenes. My WiP will probably only have two of them and the first is half-way through the book, and I've got a bit of withdrawl (no pun intended). The choreography can indeed be tricky, but I love the mental side of sex. Writing about the politics, the power struggle, the new perspective it can give a character. Sex is about so much more than the pork sword going to tuna town, and that's the part I love to write the most.

  15. Lucy V Morgan: "The choreography can indeed be tricky, but I love the mental side of sex. Writing about the politics, the power struggle, the new perspective it can give a character. Sex is about so much more than the pork sword going to tuna town, and that's the part I love to write the most."


  16. @ Cookie, I think it's the awkwardness for me as well. I'm always worried that people are going to point and laugh. And possibly rate my performance. Wait, we were talking about writing, weren't we?

  17. @ Sarah, it's weird, but before writing erotica I don't think I'd ever included a sex scene in another book. I guess because I don't really do "fade to black". If I'm not writing about it, they're not doing it. So, generally, my characters didn't have sex. Then I decided to write erotica, and went to the other extreme!

    @ Steph, it's a challenge, for sure!

    @ LG, I absolutely agree on the emotional hook. If they don't feel strongly about the other person, whether that's love or hate or something else, they shouldn't be doing it!

    @ Aldrea, what a great idea! The inexperienced POV could be very useful -- just like the guy in the mud in battle scenes!

  18. Lucy, my pen name remains my secret as long as I'm still in my quite conventional government job! And possibly until I'm dead...

    You're absolutely right in what you said. I should have focussed less on the things I hate about sex scenes -- worrying about choreography and biology -- and more on what I like about sex scenes -- the power struggle, the love/hate (cos angry sex is fun!), and the emotions of it! Whats going on the in head is always as important as what's going on everywhere else!

    @ Margo, writing sex scenes has taught me a hell of a lot about writing as a whole! Because if I can write something I'm afraid will be awkward and messy, and come out the other side with a piece of writing that actually flows well, then I can be proud of that.

  19. You go with your naughty self!

    I like reading sex scenes that are done will without any euphanism (ee don't need to be clever about it. We all know what parts go where.) I like writing them too, though they don't come up in any graphic way in any of my recent works. I write YA, but I am not afraid of sex in YA. There's sex in my superhero story, and it's not entirely fade to black. I don't like treating sex like it's something to be ashamed of, but I don't want it derailing my story either while everyone hides their eyes, points, and giggles awkwardly. There's a balance.

    And like Margo, I hate hate hate the arguments over personal tastes. It's fine that we all have our personal tastes for sex scenes, but all too often the argument falls apart into "what I like is right and what you like is wrong." There's plenty of naughty bits to go around.

  20. I had a sex scene in my first draft, but that was cut long long ago. It might come back in a later book, but it just felt icky writing it and worse re-reading it.

    No I ain't no prude, but I just can't stand my peas mixed in with my mashed potato if you get my drift.

    I even hate sex scenes in movies. They might have made sense once upon a time in a world before the world wide web, but nowadays, if you want to watch two people bump uglies, then porn is just a click away. (or so they tell me ;)

    Very rarely, the sex drives the plot. I'm thinking of movies like Basic Instinct, of course. Or in other movies it can add interesting depth to character dynamics, i'm thinking History of Violence, or most Mark Ruffalo movies. (sp?)

    I couldn't even watch the 3 minute ooohhing and ahhhing scene at the start of the Wire season 1 epp 3. Had to skip dat. ewww.

  21. I keep them more love focused, rather than sex focused and I drag them out as long as possible. I also like to avoid direclty saying various body parts. It seems more tasteful that way.

  22. I don't have a problem writing them. I'm not sure it's possible for me to be embarrassed any longer.

  23. @ Sommer, I'm still coming to terms with my naughty self, but I'm getting to know her better! And of course there is room for sex in YA, just not in my particular story. Having said that, my MC is a 17 year old boy, so if he's not getting it he's certainly thinking about it, and there's no use pretending otherwise!

    @ Travis, I'd much rather read a sex scene than watch one, I think. It goes back to what Margo and Lucy were talking about -- the power plays and the motivations. Much easier to grasp through the written word than on a TV screen. Having said that, there are a few scenes in True Blood I might have rewatched.

  24. Hi Cindy! It's definitely a matter of taste when it comes to euphemisms. I detest them! All that talk of dew and flowers and I can't figure out if they're in the bedroom or the garden.

    @ Marsha, I love your attitude!

  25. Jen: "I detest them! All that talk of dew and flowers and I can't figure out if they're in the bedroom or the garden."

    LOL. This discussion came up on a forum I frequest, and someone was saying how much they detect reading historical or fantasy romance that refers to the male sex organ as 'manroot'. Someone from another part of the world posted a photo of a plant in his region called a manroot--a huge round *spiky* plant. And someone responded, "And THAT goes into the quivering honeypot?!?" and about 200 people collectively went EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!

  26. Spiked? *shudder* No. No, no, no, no. That sort of blunder kind of rams home the importance of finding out what certain words are used for.
    But then, I don't like the imagery of a 'quivering honeypot' either. It's sticky, sweet and you can spread it on your toast? >_>
    That's wrong in so many ways.

    It seems the closest I've come to naming anything is 'shaft' and that was only after trying many other variations that didn't fit (Technically, what with it being on another planet, I could've called it a 'flibnib' if I'd the inclination).
    I think the mindset should be heavily considered when it comes to writing about sex, especially when it comes to euphemisms. I don't want to be derailed from the story by the sudden onset of some crude loon talking pornese in an otherwise poetic setting.

  27. @ Margo, agreed! Honeypot = eeeughh!

    @ Aldrea, it'll be a long time before I can look at honey on toast in the same way... It's all about balance, I think. Given that my book was erotica, there was no fade-to-black for me and no euphemisms.

  28. What your editor said really got my imagination going. :P

    And just the other day I read this bit from Louis L’Amour:

    Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, the Brontes, Checkov, Thackeray, and many others, who used sex, did it with wit and charm. Sex in current books is clumsily done, indicating that most writers really know very little about it. They write like a bunch of small boys out behind a barn. They are crudely lewd. There’s no fun in their sex and nobody appears to be having a good time.



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