Not everybody’s doing it, but everybody should


Sex is natural, sex is fun, sex should reveal characters one by one. This is some advice on writing sex scenes that I culled from Ron Seybold’s blog the Write Stuff. Read on to learn how to get your characters off … to a great start that is….

Sex is an essential element in any character, although it sometimes doesn’t earn a place in the events of a story. Knowing how a character has sex, with whom, or why they don’t, gives insight that can be useful in other aspects of the story.

At this year’s AWP conference in Austin, a panelist on the Sexing the Story roundtable suggested that knowing why people have sex the way they do offers a peek into their most intimate nature. Writing about sex can be intimidating, or liberating. But it’s perfect early-draft material, the subject matter that often gets cut in a rewrite.

Steve Almond sat on the Sexing the Story panel and offered this 12-step program on how write better sex scenes.

1. Never compare a woman’s nipples to pits, cherries, or erasers. No bullshit comparisons
2. Never use the words penis or vagina
3. No euphemisms
4. Sometimes sex is funny — don’t be afraid to describe these comic aspects
5. Real people do not speak in porn film cliches
6. Stop having sex. It really improves the intensity of your writing about it.
7. It takes a long time to make a woman come.
8. Steer clear of announcing orgasms at all. People do a lot of tossing about during an orgasm; it’s your job to describe the tossing
9. Arouse yourself, to arouse the reader
10. People think about sex; what do your characters think about it?
11. If you don’t feel comfortable writing about sex, then don’t.
12. Always include emotion. We already have a name for sex without emotion: pornography.

The panelists also all agreed that The Psalm of Psalms in the Bible is among the best examples of elegant prose about passions.

I would sort of disagree with number 2. "Penis" or "vagina" in the right character’s mouth, or just this side of his or her tongue can be the right choice. I really dislike when a writer forbids other writers words.

As for number 6: I’m experiencing that right now and it really needs to stop. (I would add that not getting any also makes you think about it more and I sometimes find myself writing sex scenes maybe more than I should. I do the same thing when writing about food when I’m hungry. My characters will go to a restaurant and have huge meals.)

Anyhow, enjoy….

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