Authors And Their Rude Bits

Rude-Britannia-007You know that awkward moment when you’re a good way into the story, the characters feel like your family members, they’re interacting with each other like there’s no tomorrow, and then… BOOM. They’re going to have to sleep together.

I’ve talked about this cheeky little conundrum before (this post) but as a writer I think I’ve changed from my previous stance. I’m much more willing to tackle the old in/out’s but there is still a nugget of uncomfortableness when it comes to coming. However, an interesting interview with Julian Barnes may provide a reason for this.

Julian mentions the fear that the reader in someway will think that the writing is derived from personal experience, and this inhibits the writing and prevents true honesty. I think this could be right.

He mentions a conversation that he had with Kingsley Amis once in the eighties. Amis abandoned a novel that had a homosexual character in it because, ‘the chaps at the club may think I’m queer.’

If all writing is based on the personal experience of the writer then this a valid point. Although an author doesn’t have to experience what it’s like to be gay if they’re not, there is still a link between describing the feelings of that character and the feelings that have been honestly felt by the writer. For example, if you’ve never been depressed in real-life then how could you hope to describe depression with authenticity in a book.

Feelings are the lifeblood of your characters. Good writing is able to evoke those feelings in the reader. To accurately describe those feelings, it must mean that the author must have felt them at some point. A good method actor will remember certain emotional states so that they can access them when needed later. It’s the same thing.

As an author, we write so much from personal experience that when it comes to a sex scene we automatically put ourselves in that situation. Writing about a pseudo-self getting jiggy with it is about as appealing to most people as sticking pins in their eyes. So we avoid it, usually with humour.

Barnes makes the point that the refuge for any writer is bad sex. It’s somewhat easier to write about things going wrong because you then have license to be funny. This provides objectivity and then you’re away. But to meet good sex head on, to show in the pages a meaningful connection between two people that love each other for that moment, is really hard. (excuse the pun)

How does it not sound like a cliché, or hammed up, or over the top, or false? What words do you use that will not make the reader giggle? I can think of about fifty words for both the male and female genitalia and every single one of them makes me laugh. Even the dodgy erotic fiction that is prevalent these days talks about ‘long shafts of manhood’ and ‘velvet lined caverns’.

Maybe because I’m British, I’m born with a human defect for expressing the deepest of emotions but I don’t think there can be a good sex scene written down that talks about it graphically. The better writers are cleverly able to sidestep the nookie but still give the reader the implication.

Have you ever read a good sex scene that felt natural to you rather than funny, or cheesy? Cheesy sex…? now that does sound funny.

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9 responses to “Authors And Their Rude Bits

  1. I avoid reading romantic novels, like the plague. (too much of the manhood shafts and velvet caverns). I haven’t read any Harold Robbins recently, but my recollection was that his sex scenes felt fairly natural.. but then his books got boring, because they all started to read the same.
    I’m still new enough to writing, that I’ve been able to get away with having my characters limited to platonic relationships… but I’ve also concluded that – just as some authors should not write certain genres, some authors should not write sex scenes.
    As for cheesy sex? sounds like something out of Monty Python.. I can imagine the skit, now…

    • 🙂

      ‘Here we are at the World Cheese Sex Championships. The World Champion from Holland, Edam the Plumber has his first encounter against the new pretender from England, The Ginger Swinger, Red Leicester. We should be in for a smelly one, Ladies and Gentlemen. Let’s get it on.’

  2. I’ve never had the occasion to even think about this, although I did get a little erotic bathtub scene in my head once; I resisted because I really didn’t want to go there. I’m not sure it would have added anything to the story/plot at that point. Maybe I should revisit that when I’m editing. Definitely something to think about. 🙂

  3. Ah yes. I’ve struggled with this too. There is, like you say, nothing as authentic as going through an experience to write about it.
    But I’ve also learned that there are three factors that work together which will save me from say, sleeping with another man, sniffing cocaine, fixing a car etc… these are 1) thorough research, 2) observing those who do these things (or suffer from them) and 3) exercising the imagination – ie visualizing what it would really be like to do something like that. I think if all three factors are put together then a vivid description will emerge that will come close enough to the actual experience.

    What do you think?

  4. There are some authors that seem to go the perfunctory route, describing it in the same way they describe their fight scenes or scaling a wall or some other activity – thinking specifically Richard Morgan, Joe Abercombie, R. Scott Baker – the trick for them being that it’s totally in keeping with the style of their writing and the characters involved. There are others that hint or give you the first few moments followed by the aftermath in terms of what it does to the story – again, in keeping with the style of the rest of the book. Where it doesn’t work (and it’s true of every scene, not just a sex scene) is where all of a sudden the level of detail, or emotional resonance, style or whatever changes dramatically. If it’s an emotional character, go with the emotional aspects etc. If it’s a physical character then mix it up with what’s happening. If humour is evident in the character/relationship then make sure that doesn’t lose out.

    Or just add cheese. Every scene is better with cheese in it.

What d'you think?

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