Friday, April 16, 2010

Talking about sex

I can’t imagine understanding the characters without understanding what they do in bed. In fact, I would say this about real people too.
from The most erotic organ is not the brain by Russell Smith.

If I need to know all about my friends' sex lives in order to understand them then I'm stuffed. I don't know about you, but I don't talk to my friends about what I do in bed and they don't tell me what they get up to either. (I was going to say, "they don't give me a blow by blow account" but I thought better of it.)

I wonder if it's true of our characters. I tend to let my characters shut the bedroom door on me before anything interesting happens mostly because it's so hard to write a good sex scene. In real life there comes a time when the words just fade away and it's all about experiencing. I suppose the mark of a good writer is being able to find words for wordless experiences. I am not that writer.

What do you think? Do you need to know what characters are like in bed to really understand them? And is that also true in real life or was Mr Smith using just a smidgen of hyperbole there to get us interested in reading his book?

30 COMMENTS:

Old Kitty said...

Ooooh coital shenanigans.

My fave topic!!

I've written a short flash fic (just under 300 words) and would really like to know what you think of it cos it's rather.. erm... steamy..!!!

I don;t know how to find a home for it but it's untested and kind of needs testing... only if you want to!!

Sorry I hope you don't mind me asking but all this talk of erm.. s-e-x has got me hot n bothered.

p.s. Jackie Collins. I used to feel very naughty reading Jackie Collins. Only cos she's very blunt and nonsensical about her s-e-x scenes. I like that!

Take care
x

fairyhedgehog said...

Kitty, I'm happy to read it if you email it to me! I have to warn you, though, I don't usually read erotica so I may not be the best person to comment.

Wings in the Night said...

I don't mind a certain amount of detail. But I agree with you, fairyhedgehog, that it isn't as easy to pull off writing about it as it is to pull off the clothes and just do it.

I suppose some people need every blow and some need NOT to read it.

Describing without naming works for me. I want my paintings to look like photographs. I want my stories to simply get my thoughts working.

Oh, my! I just thought of something.

fairyhedgehog said...

Wings, you just thought of something! And are you going to tell us what it is?

Wings in the Night said...

Well, in the spirit of "know your audience" maybe I should just say this: We held hands and looked into each other's eyes. Then, we closed the door.

Not the most tantalizing thing I've ever written (or thought about). But it does leave a lot to the imagination.

laughingwolf said...

sex scenes done well, work

for samples, see stacia kane books ;)

Wings in the Night said...

sex scenes done well, work

Did mine work?

Bevie said...

I'm with you on this one, Fairy. Even with my best friends I have no idea what they're like in the bedroom. I am certain that some of them, at least do engage in this kind of activity. After all, they've been/are pregnant.

Russell Smith isn't likely to understand me at all.

I also would tend to disagree with Mr. Smith about the most erotic organ. If the brain is not part of it, there's nothing erotic about it whatsoever. Not to me anyway.

I guess I don't understand him.

Thank goodness.

writtenwyrdd said...

Well, I think it depends upon the friends and the characters. I can go either way *eyebrow waggle*! Seriously, some of my close gal pals and I can get rather raunchy/explicit in conversations, but that's not everyone I know. And the sex for characters/story needs to have some relevancy. I don't need to know anything that doesn't define them (like sexual orientation, or something that influences their culture/social group like BDSM)

Wendy Ramer said...

This definitely hits a nerve with me b/c I am not skilled at writing sex scenes either. But while writing my most recent novel, my editor was reviewing a pivotal chapter where the two main characters consummate their relationship. I had skippepd the sex scene, letting the reader understand that sex had occurred and that was that.

Well, my editor would have none of that! He told me to be a grown up and write the damn sex scene. If this was an adult relationship (which it was), I had to be real or my readers would feel cheated. It wasn't erotica, he told me, just honesty. I did it and got the pat on the back I so needed to write more "honestly" in the future.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I do NOT want to know what my friends do in the bedroom. Ever.

Occasionally I do like to look at videos, but that happens so rarely. The one I think I'd like to see is two gay men. Curiosity, but I wouldn't know if the video was true to the reality or like most of the "lesbian" videos out there that are not meant for lesbians. Except I can't imagine who else such a video would be for.

The best sex scene writing exercise I did was to write one without using any body parts. It was hard to do, but I really liked the result. The second half of the exercise was to add body parts. I thought it made it clunky.

I'm reading a series that's based on fairy tales, sort of. It includes sex scenes which seem out of place for me in that type of book, but they are well done. (Mercedes Lackey and The Five Hundred Kingdoms series)

My fave sex scene author is Sharon Green. Haven't read her stuff in many years though. And she's hard to find in conventional book stores.

Wings - for me, it's the build up and you have very little build up there, so it doesn't quite work for me. Good idea for the consummation part.

raine said...

Well, it may be my interpretation...but there may be a slight distinction between "understanding" what my characters do in bed, and "knowing" what they do in bed.

If the H/h make their way to the bedroom, whether we leave the door open or closed, we assume they have sex. No guesswork.
But if they're in that bed and the heroine prefers to be on top because she's the CEO of a major company & she's had to deal with pissing contests all day--well then, I understand something about her.
If the guy likes to tie up his lady friends, or one of them is bisexual and therefore likes threesomes, or someone has intimacy issues, it will show in what they're like in bed.

But yeah, I'm sure Mr. Smith's trying to get us to read his book. ;)

Mother (Re)produces. said...

Sex?
Well.
I can write sex scenes (at least I think I can- since nothing I've written has ever been accepted, maybe I can't!) but I completely don't agree with Smith. It's like my youngest asking is there no potty on the Tardis, only no one ever goes to wee. It's just not relevant. If the story is about Hitlers constipation, then we need to see the expression on his face when he poos, maybe. It's either relevant, or it's not.

Must be creepy to be one of his friends. "Just a few questions before I give you official "friend" status. Top or bottom?" I mean, you'd either deck him or f*** him, right?

Bernita said...

Dear me. I don't want to know about my friends' sex lives. Dear me, no. Their business, not mine.
I don't think it's at all necessary to know everything about a person.
Good sex scenes in fiction must reveal and develop the relationship, otherwise they are just a description of another appetite.

fairyhedgehog said...

Wings, it was short anyway!

laughingwolf, I've read Personal Demons and I have to say it didn't work for me.

Bevie,yes I reckon when people have had kids it's a fair bet you know how they got them.

ww, (laughing at the eyebrow waggle) I have one friend I talk pretty freely too, and a couple of others where we might joke. There's no one that I'd talk through a session in bed with, like I might a trip to the park!

Wendy, I'm impressed! I don't think I could have done that.

Sarah, I suspect any sex videos are pretty far from real life. I haven't read any Sharon Green. I really think the trick to writing sex must be to get into the head of one of the characters and use words that he or she would use.

raine, the examples you give make a lot of sense.

MotherRp, I agree it's not always relevant. As to no potty on the Tardis, there's no bed either as far as I'm aware!

Bernita, yes, rather like the suggestions raine made.

sylvia said...

LOL!

You got me that time - choked on my wine when I read your first line. Perfect.

Not only do I not have a clue what my characters get up to in the bedroom, but my recent attempt to write erotica was just bounced back at me with a very clear message to give up... oops.

I enjoy reading sex scenes and I think I would be ok writing one if I had a plot that naturally *needed* a sex scene - but my plots don't. I struggled to come up with a good reason why my characters should have sex which doesn't bode well for erotica.

Sarah: a friend of mine actually works in the gay porn industry and I asked him. :D Many/most of the films are aimed at gay men but some films about gay men having sex are specifically aimed at straight men (I feel I should use quotes around that phrase) who like to watch but need things packaged somewhat differently.

Allegedly.

David F. Weisman said...

I think if the reader feels they know your characters they do for story purposes, and this doesn't always require a sex scene.

fairyhedgehog said...

sylvia, I didn't want to make you choke! My problem is that I always do seem to have a love interest I just don't know what to do with it!

David, it's just as well if they don't need a sex scene, seeing I can't write one!

DJ Kirkby said...

I used to write erotica and I now struggle to 'tone it down' for my novels.

Mother (Re)produces. said...

BTW, I thought this post over at 'how to write badly well' was rather timely:

http://writebadlywell.blogspot.com/2010/04/if-in-doubt-initiate-sex.html

Just curious- does anybody ever write about characters they don't know much about? Sometimes the characters are just cagey, and it seems to work- not in spite of it, but because of it...

fairyhedgehog said...

DJK, it sounds like you're approaching this from the opposite side to me. ("Coming at it from the other angle" sounded wrong, somehow.)

MRP, that's a very funny link!

Phoenix said...

Story and audience should, I think, dictate whether the door gets closed or not. I tend to write in the sex scenes when it's a relationship-driven story, whether straight or slash. As there's usually a very long lead-up to them hopping into bed, it would feel like I'm short-changing the audience to not let them see how the characters inter-relate during their most intimate moments.

My recent ms is more plot-driven and I close the door on my two MCs when the time comes because 1) lingering would slow down the quicker pacing and 2) even though the primary audience is adult, I would like the book to be wholly accessible for the younger generation, too. I think I struggled more with how much cursing and which words to use in this story than with the decision to close the door on the actual sex act. I went tame on both counts. Had I upped the frankness on either count, I would have to reevaluate anticipated audience and their expectations, I think.

Would Lord of the Rings have been enriched by following Aragorn and Arwen into bed? Nah. Was it necessary to see Buffy and Angel consummate their relationship? Considering the consequences, absolutely.

fairyhedgehog said...

Phoenix, I suppose the kind of sex writing I don't like is the pornographic kind, when it's simply a mechanical description of what's physically needed to satisfy both partners. Love scenes that are mostly about what's special in that relationship can be fun, although as a reader I prefer too little to too much.

laughingwolf said...

fur shur, wings :D

Kevin Musgrove said...

It depeneds so very much on the context, the characters and the writer that it's impossible to generalise. Away from out-and-out erotica (in-and-out erotica, too) it's a difficult trick to do well: there's a reason why there's an annual bad sex award!

fairyhedgehog said...

Kevin, it's definitely easier to do it badly than to do it well.

sylvia said...

Are we still talking about writing?

fairyhedgehog said...

Good question, sylvia!

JaneyV said...

I think that to write sex well you have to avoid describing sex and write about the intimacy between the characters. It's too easy to lapse into pornography or even worse - to bore your reader senseless.

I don't write sex scenes as I write for teens but even writing a kissing scene takes skill and done well they can be quite hawt!

I haven't had a frank discussion about sex with my friends since my early 20s. Strangely enough this discretion coincided with us all settling down with life partners.

fairyhedgehog said...

Jane, it's good to see you back in the blogosphere again! The point about settling down with life partners is a good one.

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