Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to Write About Sex...

When I see things that get into how to write about sex, I often sit back and smile sometimes. Writing about sex can be subjective, and I've never found a set definition...or road map...when it comes to writing about it. But the articles I'm linking to now aren't all that bad.

Before I get into these articles, I'd like to warn anyone out there who is thinking about writing sexy, smutty erotic romance books. Whether you do them with a tongue-in-cheek style with parodies, or you do them with a serious tone and tackle serious issues, you're going to get slammed sometimes. There will always be those, even within your own genre, who will make snide "perv" comments and you'd better be prepared. I once had a m/m romance author who thinks she knows what "gay literature" is insinuate that I was a frat boy using a fake name. Clearly, she knows nothing about gay men or gay culture. But I digress.

You should also be prepared to understand that if you ever want to break away from writing sexy, smutty, erotic romance books you'll have to use a pen name and start from scratch. But that's pretty much the case with all genre authors who've built a fan base. People like to put you into little boxes and keep you there. It's just the nature of it all. Think J.K Rowling and The Casual Vacancy. Even though I'm always thinking about writing mainstream books, if I only was recognized for writing gay erotic fiction in my lifetime I would be very content. I like what I do, and I could care less about who doesn't like it. But not everyone can feel that way. So just be sure you know what you're getting into.

You will also see more bad reviews than good reviews. And that's because your readership is discreet and they tend to shy away from leaving public reviews for obvious reasons. A priest or a gay Amish guy is not going to take a chance leaving a review about a hot sexy gay romance. He might e-mail you with nice comments about your book, but you'll never see a public review. It stands to reason and I fully understand this and respect it. I even expect it. But you will always get some pinched prissy who either doesn't get much sex or has had nothing but bad sex, leaving the worst possible reviews you can ever imagine. It's something you get used to, and don't ever respond to it. If you're lucky enough to reach the real market and the real discreet readers you need, those bad reviews won't matter much at all. In this one case, with regard sexy erotic romance books, reviews have little to do with sales.

In this article, the writer talks about some of the more intricate details when it comes to writing about sex. I think the writer nails it with this comment:

Although resistance is crumbling, it is still a problem -- especially for e-books, which fight reviewer prejudice against the format. But there are reviewers who will review erotica, and websites devoted to the genre. Just don't expect your book to be reviewed by, say, Kirkus Reviews, or for all reviewers to treat your novel fairly. The genre is misunderstood even within the industry.

Even though everyone thinks about sex all the time, everyone wonders about sex all the time, and everyone gets a little confused about sex sometimes, sex is still the most avoided topic of all time with regard to public discussions. I think it always will be. They say there are two things people lie about most: how much sex they get and how much money they have. That's probably because most don't have much of either.

I'm not going to get into anything else from that particular article, but I do think that if you're interested in writing erotica, it's a great place to start. I didn't find anything with which I could disagree.

I also tended to agree with most of this article. The parts with which I disagreed are so small and subjective they aren't worth mentioning.

I just wanted to get this out of the way early. I think that there are only a handful of ways to refer to our body parts, and it is my opinion that you should probably just stick to the ones I’m listing. If you write bizarro fiction and want to use some sort of strange name or go for a laugh, that’s different.

For men, keep it simple. I think I’ve only ever used the words penis, dick and cock. Anything else just seems strange, and to be honest, makes me laugh. So no throbbing manhood or spear of salvation—or whatever flowery or weird phrase you’re trying to incorporate into your writing. It just doesn’t work.

I would like to add one more thing here. If you're writing a sex scene between two people having sex and those two people are joking around, it's okay to use the "flowery" funny names for body parts. I did this in one of The Virgin Billionaire books, where Jase and Luis are having what they call "literary sex." I wanted to show the reader that they love each other so much, and are so comfortable with each other in bed, they can actually laugh about sex, too. In other words, they don't take themselves too seriously and it's supposed to be campy and funny.

But more than that, if you're writing parody and you want to add something funny to a sex scene, there's no better way to do it than by borrowing from trashy porn. A word of warning, though, not everyone will get your sense of humor and you'd better make it clear you're trying to be funny. I'm still getting slammed for once referring to a burping dick by the romance police. Of course it was all taken out of context, and what I wrote was never intended to be taken seriously, but there are those lacking a sense of humor and you'll have to be very careful.

Can you draw from your own personal sex life and put it into a book?

 Tap into that hot model you dated back in college and then embellish in the areas that never happened. Do whatever you can to make it realistic, use whatever memories you still have. Does the idea of this embarrass you? Can I tell you a secret? People are going to think you did all of this stuff anyway. If you write a sex scene with anal sex and hot candle wax, people are going to think you did it. So, get over it, and just make it work.

I love this guy; he's so right about this. I can't help wondering how much sex he's had and I'm only reading his article. If you are interested in writing sexy, smutty books, I recommend reading his article in full, too. The good thing is I think all authors who write about sex tend to vary in distinct ways...which is why readers have so many things to choose nowadays. I haven't read any of his books, but I tend to think I get into more detailed sex scenes than he does. And there's nothing wrong with that.

The only other thing I'd like to add is try to keep the sex scenes fresh. There are millions of ways to write about sex and you don't want to run the risk of repeating yourself. And don't forget about the "tease." Sometimes I find the sexiest scenes in books or movies aren't always with people having sex. I just finished a book where there are a lot of sexy scenes in a locker room, and yet no one is actually having sex. That takes a little practice. But once you get the hang of it you'll have just as much fun writing it as I hope your readers will have reading it.


A.B.Gayle said...

Interesting topics and related articles, Ryan. Thanks.

I think one of the key elements in pulling off a good, yes they're in love sex scene is to convey the fact that both people are really into what they are doing and therefore the person they are with. The ability for the author to convey this desire or excitement (a word that guys use more than females) is the key.

But is there a difference in the way sex is regarded? Most women who read romance have that sex=love or sex=very meaningful thing going on. Possibly some men don't think of sex as being that key to an intimate relationship.

You often gets comments, especially when there is a lot of inner thought going on during the scene that this is implausible. The brain can't think while all the blood has gone south. Reaction?

I liked the comment in one of the articles about leading the reader on and then shutting the door firmly in their face, "Tigers and Devils" style. My main beef in these cases is that what happens in bed (in a sex scene) actually reveals a lot about characters and their relationship. Who tops who, how, why, the amount of time spent in foreplay, the aftercare. Or can we extrapolate these from their actions in and out of bed?


ryan field said...

"The brain can't think while all the blood has gone south. Reaction?"

It's interesting because I just finished a scene like this. I kept re-writing it and then removing it. I wasn't sure if I should keep it in. The character, who is the good guy, was doing something he shouldn't have been doing. But I ultimately decided to keep it in because, as you said, the blood had gone south and the character wasn't thinking rationally anymore.

I sometimes think those "things" can be extrapolated from the way characters act when not in intimate situations. But not always. In that case, I think it depends on the characters, the situation, and ultimately how the author wants to make it work. In real life I've been surprised more than once at who was a "top" and who wasn't. Why not in fiction? In other words, just because someone is softer and gentler on the outside doesn't mean he (or she) can't be a top...or even more dominant in the bedroom. I've also seen just the opposite in real life, where the last person you would suspect to be a bottom is actually a bottom...:)

A.B.Gayle said...

Interesting, Ryan. What do you think your character in that sex scene revealed about himself by doing what he did?

I suppose what I'm getting at is that it's not judging who does what, where and how, but if these people were characters in books, wouldn't you feel that the fact that they acted outside the expected in the bedroom added another layer to their personality and would make them a more rounded character?

Or is it just sex.

ryan field said...

In this particular case, with this character, I think it's him getting even with all the bad boys who have screwed him over in the past. He's really a very trusting person, and they always take advantage of him in the end. This isn't something he'd do in the beginning of the book. But by the end he's been kicked around so many times what he does is almost his own private way of getting even...without hurting anyone.

But, even in this case, it's not just sex. What he does happens with his best friend, someone he's known and trusted for a long time. So it still goes deeper...for this guy...than just sex. And they are both comfortable enough with each other to know it's not going to lead to anything more. So it's not just a random act.

In real life, I think it's just about sex sometimes.

ryan field said...

The interesting thing is that it worked both ways, with or without that scene. And it's a very short scene, too. I just thought it added another layer to Treston, the mc.