‘Moist’ was one of the words that made it onto a certain list for the ‘Most disgusting Words’ award in 2008.
I totally disagree.
Whatever happened to ‘Manhood’?
For some reason someone decided to write a love scene and stick that in somewhere and the torture has been on ever since.
Dear writer, it is time to realize that the quickest way to avoid sentencing your book to eternity on Amazon shelves is by realizing that you can’t throw in a sex scene just because.
Sex in a story can work in so many ways; characterization, as satir and can also reveal to the reader, things that even the characters are unaware of.
Except if you are writing a book on plant husbandry, never compare a woman’s breasts to oranges or her nipples to cherries. It will only make you appear completely clueless. Some women hardly have any nipples at all. Some have really weird nipples.
And it might be best to stay away from dark skinned characters with breasts that harden into sharp points that take on a pinkish hue? Except one of the characters is a pencil, this will not be a good idea.
Avoid describing genitals with ‘euphemisms’ like ‘one eyed snake’, ‘Candy shop’, ‘Dear John’ or ‘Dick Cheney’. Well, except if your character is a retarded male stripper picking clients up at seedy bars and in dark alleys.
Richard Milward has immortalized himself in my memory. And not the good part.
“ Then, Bobby starts scrabbling frantically across the carpet for Mr. Condom, sending five or six multicolour Durexes flying through the air, and he struggles getting the packet open and Georgie has to roll Mr Condom down Mr Penis for him and she has to help insert him into Mrs Vagina.”
Ironically Milward is considered a literary great in some circles but this excerpt definitely earned him tons of bad publicity. Goes to show that readers don’t really care about the awards on your wall. We just want to feel something deep besides disgust.
Sex can be hilarious. I
Like it’s o.k. if the male character can’t tell which ‘opening’ is which.
Human beings have senses and these senses don’t stop working during sex.
Well not always.
They might stop in a scene where Tequila is also a character or Moonshine has come to visit. It’s not weird if your character sounds like a really bad demo at the height of passion. By now your readers can probably write case studies on Moans so why not give them something else besides ‘She moaned’.
I’m not going to groan about the degradation of gender while writing a sex scene as it could work as an aesthetic. In the case of a writer who seeks to reveal a character’s inner demons or a story touching upon a plot in which a woman is regarded as a worthless sex object and has come to embrace it and even enjoy it. A writer might choose to pleasure a sadomasochistic readership, who knows?
Stay away from words like Penis, Vagina and please run from ‘pulsing membrane’! Vulva for Pete’s sake….! It’s a sex scene and we all know the organs involved so we don’t need to go back to Form 1 Bio.
Avoid going ‘litero-spiritual.’ This is a perfect example.
“On the edge of a precipice beyond which can be glimpsed a dark-green distance in a reeking mist and something shining out at them, a pulsing point of light”
Perhaps such diction set you apart in school essays and journals but nobody wants to be transported back to a sermon on the resurrection while reading about Sex. Neither will these words that Sonya Chung aptly describes as ‘lingo that gesture towards the grand or the epic’:
“Weeping orifice” or “Imperial pint of semen”
Women are not gushing fountains. It usually takes more than a stroke and a split second to get a woman to climax. Research has even ‘proved’ that some women will never reach climax. It’s O.k. to reminisce about those old novels sporting the gorgeous Fabio on their covers which always had their characters riding the waves of an earth shattering climax together and coming to a shuddering halt together. With ‘knitted fingers’?
Sometimes its o.k. for it to be so unsatisfying that the female character needs to knee her mate in the groin for good effect.
It’s OK to have your characters do other things besides shouting. For the sake of your readers, do some investigation. Invest in great takeout, ring up talkative friends and keep the wine flowing. You’ll find out that everyone goes about their orgasmic announcements quite differently.
Regardless of race or beliefs, Gay sex, Kinky sex and other kinds of Sex that many refer to as taboo can be erotic, repelling and yet fascinating so these books fly off the shelves faster than you can imagine. However this isn’t enough reason to broach them without preparing yourself for sleepless nights of study. There will only be one book as badly written and greatly loved as 50 Shades of Grey.
Are you writing about sex or pornography? Then your characters have to portray emotion. They don’t all have to be happy emotions. Where there’s sex there can be terror, sometimes there’s disappointment. And I’m not talking about the virgin character who has to say ‘please this is my first time” And the plundering character who ‘holds her chin firmly in his hand, looks her in the eye and says “I’ll be gentle.”
It’s OK to come up empty sometimes. It will be a huge mistake to believe that writing about sex will be easy. I used to blame myself until I stumbled on a sex scene from Updike.
“He felt his cashew become a banana, and then a rippled yam.”
Rippled Yam! Makes me wonder if Updike ever saw a tuber of yam or he just spotted a really rotten one in a picture.
There’s actually an award for ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ and this is proof that Sex is a tough subject to write about. The last thing you need is for your great novel to be shred because of one bad sex scene.
Do you think you’ve perfected the art of writing about Sex? I wouldn’t mind reading your attempt…
‘A good sex scene is not always about good sex,
but it is always an example of good writing.’
– Elizabeth Benedict.
This was first posted in 2011(gasp) on my ex-blog and since then I have gone on to read many more retch-worthy book sex. Hence slight tweaking and a change of title from ‘How not to write about Sex’ (cause who likes been taught, right?) to ‘How not to Write about Sex…in a book I could end up reading.’