Monday, February 13, 2012

A Not-So-Dirty Secret About Writing Sex

In honor of Valentine’s Day let’s talk about sex. More to the point of this blog – let’s talk about writing sex.

I teach a workshop called “How to Write About Sex and Respect Yourself in the Morning”. At the Q&A there is one question I can always expect.

“Does there have to be a sex scene – or a love scene – in my story?”

My responding question – “Are you writing the true story of the adult lives of your characters?”

If you are – guess what? Adults have sex and sex is a huge part of their life experience – especially when it is a source of conflict for them.

That should set off alarm bells for any writer. Because – guess what again? Conflict – I prefer to call it struggle – makes a story intense and compelling. Sex works for the storytelling.

But this is not the not-so-dirty secret about writing sex. That secret evolves in response to another FAQ.

“How sexy does my story have to be?”

My responding question – “”How much do you want to turn your reader on?”

The turn-on factor has to do with the level of reader engagement you are after. Sex in writing is about accelerating that engagement straight to the most sensual receptors of your reader’s being.

Yet another FAQ – “How do you determine whether or not you have done that successfully?”

Here’s the not-so-dirty secret. They will be turned on by the reading only if you are turned on by the writing. That is not a secret because nobody knows it. This aspect of the turn-on factor is only a secret because nobody talks about it – not much anyway.

Also – be careful not to turn readers – and yourself – off again with your choice of language. I recently read a passage by a bestselling suspense writer where she describes a character’s vagina as “slick”. Cringe. Cringe. Turn off time. Pavement is slick.

So watch your words. And don’t forget to have a Happy Valentine’s Day.

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