Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sex and Writing

Writing about sex or describing a sexual encounter between your characters can be extremely challenging. How do you keep the language fresh─ new, different and certainly evocative? Recently, my thesis advisor said she could actually feel me blushing when I wrote a honeymoon scene that takes place in the early 1940’s. Perhaps, that was because the couple in the scene is based on my parents and their two weddings─ one an elopement to Virginia on a snowy Xmas Eve, and the second, a few months later, a religious ceremony held in a big catering hall for all their friends and family.

It was difficult to write the scene of their wedding night. I felt myself turning into a squeamish teen…Mom and Dad? Yuck! I was also aware of trying to write in relationship to the times and decade. Though sex is sex, the language of sex, the romanticism of the times had to come into play. I stayed away from the clinical and went for the atmosphere, the pressures of war, the coyness of the bride and the naiveté that comes with youth and inexperience. Basically, I tired to stay true to the characters personalities. But mostly, in order to get through the writing, I had to detach.

Here’s Some Basics heard at an AWP conference in NYC:

1. Make your own rules
2. Don’t be afraid
3. Don’t tease
4. No fish-net stockings
5. if it hurts then say so.
6. show that sex is messy
7. be reckless
8. make it hot
9. full steam ahead
10. it’s okay to blush ( I added this one!)


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