So far we’ve brought you four tips for writing sex scenes. These are as much for those among us practiced and sitting on our clouds of awesome lemons as for beginners, because at the very least I hope you’re nodding your heads saying “yes, yes…”
But hey, in case you’re just joining us, here are the tips so far!
#5 For Pete’s Sake, Quit Being Embarrassed!
My mother reads this blog. My grandmother reads this blog. Awkward? Eh.
Here is the story of how I shed the embarrassment and was able to say “Yeah, there’s sex, it’s cool.”
Every year for Christmas since 2007 or so I have done a cursory edit of my Nanowrimo, printed it out, taken it to kinkos and had it bound, and then given it to my mother for Christmas. (I started Nanoing in 2004, but the first one was terrible, and I knew 2005 wasn’t quite up to snuff. 2006 was a two-part novel, so it was after 2007 that she received it.)
In 2010, I wrote a book called Rise of the Titans. It features some extremely steamy scenes, which follow all the rules of before: there’s a hell of a good reason they’re in there, and it certainly wasn’t the only part of the book. Mom knew that Sleight of Spirit was in editing and that’s why she hadn’t gotten it, but when she asked me (over MSN, cause somehow I got the mom with the internet smarts) why I hadn’t given it to her, I admitted that I wasn’t comfortable with the whole ‘there’s a lot of sex in this book and my mom is reading it’.
And in my mother’s classic fashion (I swear to god, I practically saw the look she gave the screen, guys. Seriously.) she said:
“Kate, do you really think I’ve never read, or experienced, an explicit sex scene?”
…oh shit on a stick, I thought to myself, staring at the screen and trying my best not to slam my face onto the desk. I am a complete and total idiot. How the hell do I think I was born, anyway!?
“Uh. Ok.” I said, lamely as hell, and sent her the book. Which she read without any especial comment (which means it passes the first draft muster).
And that’s the story of how my mother murdered shame in 14 words.
Guys, I know it’s hard to think about. I know it’s difficult to understand because as a society we’re remarkably mum about what goes on in our bedrooms (ahem, livingrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, staircases, public parks, etc…) but really. We’re all grown ups. Secretly, we all have those conversations, we all can talk about it frankly, we make dirty jokes, we consider what impact sex has on relationships and on ourselves. This is a part of our lives. This is a part of our narrative as individuals and as a culture. Why the hell shouldn’t it be a part of our writing?
Now, obviously if you’re writing to a YA audience, this is handled differently – but even then, you don’t have to cut it out or put it into cutesy kissy-face terms. Look at Tamora Pierce. In The Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna is seen multiple times talking to her lovers while still in bed together. No, nothing explicit takes place on screen, but there is no question of what’s going on there.
As well, there’s the cultural difference between the USA and many other countries to consider. It’s no secret that we’re weirdly puritanical. Sex is rated NC-17 and massacres are just an R. A punch to the face will get you a PG-13, but flash a boob and you’re an R. As my German teacher in 10th grade put it, this is just plain bizarre. Why? “Because you’re way more likely to have sex in your life than you are to chop off a guy’s head.” There are days at work when I question this, but in general, she was completely right.
So quit being worried, shamed, and concerned. Write the nasty and be proud of it.
Wow that point took up a lot of room. We’ll return next time with a few more nitty-gritty, this and that ones.
(I’d also like to add that there’s one more day for the twitter campaign. So follow now folks to be counted – we’re donating 1$ to Nanowrimo for each new twitter follower until 1/10.)