Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Be a sex-writing strumpet: Afterglow

***Insert generic disclaimer***

And so…we come to the end

Technically this is part 25. If you add in the crits, it’s part 31. Can you believe it? We’ve been discussing sex scenes for nine weeks. The series is over 40,000 words. And I still haven’t covered everything, not in the sort of detail I’d like.

For instance, I forgot to warn you of the dangers of the word “felt” and how it removes the reader from the action instead of placing them in the thick of it (as it were). When you say “She felt his hands move up her back” or “He felt how smooth her skin was” you’re telling, not showing; you’re pushing the reader away from those feelings. How much better it is to say simply “His hands slid up her back” or “Her skin awed him, so smooth and soft beneath his fingers.” The only time you’d use felt is when you have no choice, or when you say being in his arms made her feel safe, or something along those lines.

I ran out of time before I could get heavily into the mechanics of ménage scenes. I could probably do another several thousand words on inserting emotion into your scenes, on using them to build character. I haven’t shown you all of my examples. I didn’t get into BDSM at all, and I had plans for that one—I still may do it, because I have a friend who is a lifestyle submissive and she’d agreed to do an interview for me. So look for that one, because I feel I’ve cheated her and you by not getting to it.

But for the moment, anyway, we’re done. There are bits and pieces I’ve left out, sure. But I’m also conscious of the dangers of overexplaining things, of becoming redundant and boring. And to be honest, that worries me the most. I started the series because I thought it would be fun for me to do, but also because I thought I had something new to say on the subject, or at least, I have a different way to say it. To that end I’ve tried to keep the series fun; I’ve tried to work at least one good joke into every installment, to make it so even if you’re not a writer, or you don’t write sex in your books (which, shame on you! Ha ha) you might have still enjoyed reading these. I wanted to encourage people who are nervous about or uncomfortable with writing sex scenes that it’s fun, it’s something you really can do. It’s just sex, guys. It’s 100% risk-free sex, too; no actual bodily fluids are involved, at least not on the page (for me anyway; if you get actual bodily fluids on your pages, that is of course entirely your business. Freak.)

And most of all, that there is nothing dirty about writing sex. That a writer’s job is to tell the truth, and that the fact is, the deepest truths of our characters can be found when they are naked, when they are at their most vulnerable both physically and emotionally, when they let their guards down and just interact. Not every book requires a sex scene, of course, but there's no reason to shy away from them if yours does.

Let’s put it this way. Perhaps I’m the only woman in the world who felt like this, but when I told my father that the hubs and I were expecting our first child, as much as I was excited and proud and all of that, I have to admit to one brief, fleeting moment of nervousness: He knows I’ve had sex! He’s my Dad, and he knows I’m not a virgin anymore! (The fact that at the time of my marriage I was twenty-six years old and had lived with a previous boyfriend for two years meant nothing; I think he and I both pretended the ex and I slept in separate beds.)(Ooh, that reminds me of a funny story, which further illustrates the point. Annette Funicello, Disney’s first squeaky-clean teen, said once in an interview that she often had people come up to her in public and say things like, “Annette, I can’t believe you’re smoking! I can’t believe you’re drinking!” Her response? “Well, I have three kids, so guess what else I do.” Which, awesome. Anyway.) So I was nervous about this, and actually had occasion one night, when we’d both had a few drinks, to mention it. And he just kind of shrugged and smiled and made some comment about how he’d thought I was artificially inseminated and where was that husband of mine so he could kill him for soiling his precious little girl. And that was what happened to my first husband. No, of course I’m joking! Nobody threw any bodies into the Everglades, of course not! Actually, he did think it was funny that I would even think that, and basically said, “Well, you’re married; it’s different when you’re married.”

And it’s the same with books. It’s different when you’re writing books (whether you're married or not doesn't matter, it's just an analogy). It’s not you. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. If people are reading your books, and wondering if it’s a true-to-life encounter you’re describing, that’s their dirty-minded, inappropriately nosy little problem, just like people who wonder whether or not a bride “had the right to wear white”. Only the nastiest sort of person would think this way; polite people don’t speculate on such matters, which are none of their business (no, I will never stop working etiquette lessons into my blog posts. It makes me happy. Give me a break).

Anyway, we’re done here. And I’d love it if you guys could do me a favor. If you could comment to this one, I’d really appreciate it. Tell me what you liked best. Tell me if it helped you. Tell me if there was something I didn’t cover enough, something you wished I’d cover but didn’t. What was your favorite part, what helped you the most? What did you learn about your scenes and the way you write them, if anything? If you’re one of the people who submitted a scene for crit, did the crit help you? How? Do any of you look at writing sex scenes differently now? Do you feel more confident? Did you do any of the exercises, and if so did you find them helpful?

I’d really love the feedback. I do hope/plan to expand the series at some point and either offer it as a free download on my website or possibly find an actual publisher for it; either way, your suggestions and feedback will help me enormously when it comes time to revise it.

So thank you all so much for hanging out with me here for the last few months and playing along. I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have.

Friday I’m posting a revised version of one of the critted scenes; the author sent it to me and I decided to pop it up so everyone can see the difference. Like a little exclamation point at the end.

Monday I resume regular blogging; more rambling about me and my opinions and what’s happening with me and all that fun stuff. I hope those of you who friended me or bookmarked me just for the series will stick around; we usually have a pretty good time here, I think.

Big hugs to all of you.


Solidus said...

So, you asked for comments. :-)

First off, then, a big Thank You for this series. I don't write sex (or, at least, I've never had occasion to so far) but so much of the advice applies to writing generally that it's been hugely fun and enlightening to read. I think seeing the advice in a specific context (i.e. the sex scene) and dissecting that particular relationship has made some points come clearer to me in general.

If you do intend to add to the series, I'll await updates with interest.

BernardL said...

Your covering of word usage, ingredients and mechanics were my favorite parts. Even in toned down sexual situations, those guides hold true. It was a wonderful series of instructional posts. I appreciate you taking the time to do it, and I doubt if it could have been done better by anyone.

Seeley deBorn said...

You really do rock.

I'm editing that damn novel now, and this has really helped me to see what needs to be fixed. I'm looking forward to writing a much cleaner draft next time.


Bernita said...

One thing I learned was to spread out scenes, go into detail - very useful for a keep clipping along type like me.
And I think elements of your advice could apply to other action scenes - not just sex scenes - as well.

kirsten saell said...

Well, first off I was delighted to learn of your unabashed affection for the word "cock"--a word I, too, am inordinately fond of, LOL.

And it's nice to find an author out there who's willing to admit that arousing the reader is one of the points of a sex scene. You'd be amazed how many writers claim that never enters into it. :D

Sexy word choices was one of my favorite parts. And foreplay, of course...

Renee Collins said...

Hi December/Stacia. I just wanted to thank you for the kind words and excellent ideas you gave me on Evil Editor. I really appreciate it. With any luck, I should be sending off a better version to agents by the end of the month. So, thank you!

Great blog, btw. :)

December/Stacia said...

Thank you everyone! I really appreciate the comments and all the feedback and everything. Writing the series was fun but wouldn't have been anywhere near as fun if you guys hadn't been playing along and leaving comments and participating in everything.

You're welcome, Renee! Good luck! :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

I agree about the "nasty" minded speculators. There sure are a lot of them out there, though.

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emb said...

Thanks! I've been following this and it was a giant help.