Sunday, February 27, 2011

Writing about Sex

Seven years ago, when I first got serious about writing fiction, I told my daughter I was writing a novel. She was a young teenager at the time. She said she thought that was neat, but then she made a kind of horrified face and said, “You don't write about sex and stuff, do you?!” My daughter's reaction had an impact on my writing. I wrote just about every one of my first dozen or so novels, censoring myself through the eyes of my “Inner Daughter.”

My actual daughter hasn't read any of my stories. As far as I know she's never even looked at this blog. What is more, she's no longer a teenager. Recent events have dictated that I step across the line I have drawn for myself.

In writing the first draft of a story, the working title of which is Second Chances, I discovered early on that this one was going to require more sex than anything I've written before. The main character is a very sexy lady and she would not allow me to censor that aspect of her character. I learned some things in the process of struggling to express her sensuality.

First, even without my Inner Daughter's censorship, I don't usually like reading graphic descriptions of sex in books. Too often, the sex is brutal and gross. I hate that, even when it is necessary to the story (i.e. the horrible brutality in the Stieg Larsson books), and I generally skim or even skip those passages. I discovered that I really prefer for the author to take me to the bedroom door, close it gently with a wink and let me use my imagination. Unfortunately, I think most contemporary readers are not as prissy as I am, and they demand more than that.

I don't like to write what I wouldn't want to read, so I'm not likely to venture into erotica, but in Second Chances I was dealing with a main character whose sexuality is more important to her than it has been to any of my previous characters. Therefore, the story itself required me to be willing to include more sex than ever before. The sex isn't graphic (I don't think I could write graphic sex scenes), but it's important to the story, so I couldn't avoid it. It was uncomfortable for me to write at first. But, after a while, I realized that it could also be fun, so I sort of let the characters enjoy themselves, with as little intrusion from me (or my Inner Daughter) as I could manage.

The result was a story with two fully rounded human characters, whose sensuality allows them to deal with a crisis by loving each other, at every level.

It was fun to write. It will be interesting to see what happens to it in the revision process. Who knows? I may even kick it up a few notches.

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