Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thoughts on Sex Scenes.

Things that fell through this weekend: having a dinner party, going camping, going hiking. So I decided to commit myself to writing (since I clearly had the time). I have been trying to re-inject some electricity into my long-suffering “novel”. I was emboldened to do this when, at the Goodwill Saturday morning I found and purchased what has to be the one remaining dictionary of classical mythology that I didn’t already own. It was providence! A harbinger of fate! Or something!

After a lot of thinking and yes, even some actually writing I discovered that I have to completely disassemble one of my storylines and start over from scratch. Very sad face. This was upsetting and so I put it off by reading about Hermes in my new dictionary, but then, this happened:

Yes, I think that by choosing to lounge inconveniently there on my books the cat was actually trying to make me realize that while all writers must do research, at a certain point the research just becomes a crutch, something that allows us to further delay the act of writing by telling ourselves that we are better preparing for that writing. It was as if The Kitten squeaked, “Eventually preparation becomes over-preparation. Remember what Billy Joel said, ‘Too many choices make you change your mind’.”

Who knew my cat was a Billy Joel fan. That’s kinda weird, right?

Anyway, so I sat down and wrote.

I have knocked out nearly 26 pages so far this weekend and am currently trying to rewrite that disassembled storyline. Also, this weekend I wrote the first sex scene that I have written in a very long time. I actually wrestled with it some (not in the way that you are thinking, you filthy and pruriently-minded person you) because I hate the way that most writing deals with sex. Unless you are specifically reading erotica (come on, you know you do) most novels have a very PG-13 attitude when it comes to sex. The author leads you right up to the bedroom door and then closes it on you, breaks for white space and then opens the next morning. I recently read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson (on a recommendation from King Heifer a reader of, and occasional contributor to, this blog) and I quiet enjoyed it. The protagonist has a pretty liberal sexual attitude (he is European after all) and has the sex with three different ladies throughout the course of the book. What’s interesting though is that some of the sexual crimes in the book are described in awful and gut-wrenching detail, but the enjoyable, consensual sex (of which there is a pretty good amount) is almost completely omitted. Had this been an American writer I would just blame it on that Puritan sensibility that we still all seem to have when it comes to sex, but this was a Swedish author. The nation that gave us the Swedish Bikini Team, Victoria Silvstedt and … that’s really all that comes to mind. Anyway, what gives?

As I was writing this sex scene (the first in the story so far) I was trying to just write it and not think about it. I will say though that I am calling it a “sex scene” but in reality even I stopped the scene right as the actual sex starts. So why did I do that? For me, I guess that I didn’t want to over-do it … what came before was pretty graphic. The point of the scene is to see the way that these two characters interacted in that situation. I think that in fiction (as in life) the way one conducts one’s sex life is a kind of mirror or metaphor for the way that they conduct themselves in life. And that is the thing that I find kind of uselessly PG-13 about the omission of the actual sex part in most books. How these people fuck one another could actually tell you something about them. I may have ended the scene as the sex was starting, but believe you me, That is because I am a very “experimental” writer and I will be returning to it in flashbacks throughout the next couple chapters.

But I will say that I understand the caution most writers choose to exercise. It can be very difficult to tell when exactly you cross the various lines from titillating to erotic to pornographic. Since those lines are a little (or a lot) different from one person to the next, it is probably just better to avoid the whole thing entirely and just skip ahead to the next morning.

Well I say no bueno to that!

Over the course of several months the walls of my bed room have been filling up with 3x5 cards and post-it notes.

(This picture makes it look far less erratic than it looks in real life)

No doubt this makes me look like a crazy person, but one of those cards says on it, “WRITE HOW YOU WANT” and god damn it, since it doesn’t actually matter to anyone (it’s not like I have an agent, an editor, or a book deal) I am going to do just that. So that means that sometimes I will write, and you – the reader - will have to read, some actual sex. Any reader who gets alienated by that would probably have already given up on this book anyway (on the second page of the first chapter there is a conversation between a character’s hypothalamus and his lungs, yeah, it’s one of those kind of books).

Anyway, this blog post was just an excuse to take a break and think out loud a little, but that said, my broken storyline is not going to rebuild itself, so back to the salt mines I go. The dirty, dirty, sexy salt mines.


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