16 December 2011

Writing The Naughty Parts

Or: Sex & The Single Girl (In Space)

For this blog post, I ask the question (and dare you to share): How does writing about sex make you feel? Nervous? Anxious? Giddy? Or is it just par for the course; business as usual?
To kick things off, I offer up my own recent experiences.

Of all the things you can write about, I don’t think anything comes under more scrutiny than sex. And for good reason. Let’s face it, for most of us, sex is one of the, er, more intimate and personal interactions that we can have - Ooh! And fun! Let’s not forget fun.
I knew when I undertook the task of writing a science-fiction novel that a lot of the elements would be scrutinized: my invention, or re-invention, of a reactionless space drive engine, my take on genetics, even my calculations of astronomical units. Science-Fiction is one of those genres where a large portion of the readership will really pour over the details - but that’s what makes them such a passionate and fun group to write for.
While I’m sure I got plenty of the techy elements completely wrong, writing about them didn’t make me nervous at all. At least, not nearly as anxious as I got when it came time to tackle a subject I think I know a great deal more about. Sex. After all, I’ve had sex - and more than once! I think I’m pretty good at it too (as Woody Allen said, “well, I practice a lot when I’m alone”).
While I was writing those sexy-bits, one particular notion really hit home: dear gawd, people might actually read this.
And it’s weird. I’ve written sexy scenes before. But they’ve always been in screenplays, and usually the ‘camera’ would simply pan away, at the appropriate moment, to a roaring fireplace, or the train would enter the tunnel and the lights would flicker, obscuring everything from view.
But I didn’t want to wimp out with this book. There would be no ‘panning’ away or jumping ahead. The intimate bits were there for a reason. It’s not that I wanted to go all graphic. Far from it. I don’t enjoy sexy scenes that come across like anatomical survey expeditions. I just didn’t want to shy away from what needed to be a very frank and, I hope, real moment.
So, not only would people be reading these more intimate parts, they were bound to have something to say about them too. I started to feel quite exposed - as a writer, worrying about how my take on sex would be judged, but also as a person, knowing that, to some extent people would know that there’s a lot of me in those ‘behind-closed-doors’ bits, if you know what I mean.
I know no one’s going to read any of the action sequences, and think, “gee, this is how he holds his katana?” But in the sexy parts, let’s face it, we all draw on our own real life experiences, and our fantasies (and those videos we accidentally click on in the spam box).

Now that it's done, I'm glad I didn't shy away or wimp out. And like dropping your trunks on a clothing-optional beach for the first time, it's never quite as scary the second time around. 

As Karen (one of the awesome girls from Alcyone) says, "Well, this is really quite invigorating!"


  1. I wrote my first bedroom scene this year, and it embarrassed the heck out of me. But I forced myself to let a few friends read it, and they seemed to think it was okay. I don't think I'm ever going to feel entirely comfortable with it tho! it's not so much the writing of it, more who will read it that know me.

  2. You just reminded me, speaking of 'who will read it'. My MOM says she wants to read my book. Ahhh! (lol).

  3. I absolutely love writing sex scenes. I love how the characters connect emotionally as well as physically and I love dealing with the mental processes before, during and after. Some times there is fallout, and that's fun as well.

  4. Misa, I think you hit the nail on the head for me - dealing with everything from the physical to the emotional aspects, the fallouts and repercussions... As writers, we're supposed to look for those 'pressure-cooker' situations. Sex often is a great 'pressure-cooker', if not a climactic event (absolutely no pun intended).

  5. I was pretty embarrassed writing my sexy bits. But... I knew it was integral part of the story...so I did it. I prefer tastefully done scenes, not in your face (not that wouldn't read scenes that make you fan yourself). I think I've accomished that, and a few of my readers commented as such. On a note, your sexy bits, very tasteful...

  6. TK: Your 'naughty bits' come off very naturally. I think that's why I was expecting (hoping) Jax and her 'Copper' would... well... you know. : )

  7. QUOTE: I know no one’s going to read any of the action sequences, and think, “gee, this is how he holds his katana?”

    Hahaha! You are so right!

    You're also right about readers (of SF especially) scrutinizing the sex way more than the science. I was so worried about that scrutiny that I choose the fade-to-black approach on my first draft of AMBASADORA. Then realized the emotional pay off wasn't there without the beautiful details--because without them, I wasn't doing justice to the exchanges of intimacy between the characters.

    Like Misa, I love writing sex scenes, though they honestly take the absolute most time for me. I labor over every word, every touch, every expressed emotion. So much so that it lulls me into this dream-like state while I'm writing those pages.

    As for people thinking of the author in those intimate situations, they certainly do! One of our friends told my husband after reading his novel, which contains some juicy sex scenes, that she was nervous because she didn't want to know what he did to me in bed. She said this in front of a large group of people.

    My husband and I just looked at each other and I finally said, "Well, we have to do research somehow."

    Nobody said a word.

  8. Heidi: Ah...awkward social moments - I love those! Except I'm usually the one blurting something out that brings on the awkward silence. If it's not me, then it's my wife - but that's why we get along.