Sex, Fists and Barnes & Noble
Heather Long is my guest today. Heather is my oldest and dearest virtual friend but we’ve taken our relationship to online chats, phone calls, texts and a fairly regular Facebook Scrabble game. We started working together in December 2005 and though we’ve both moved on from our original gig together, we both seem to be following similar paths. It is a huge comfort to travel the lonely road of a writer with a friend who not only gets you but gets what you’re going through too. I consider myself very lucky to count Heather as my friend. (I also love her books!)
Truth is stranger than fiction and clichés are clichés because they are true. So here are some truths that I find when it comes to writing. Writing and developing an action sequence or a fight scene is a hundred times easier than writing a believable, sensual, earthy sex scene. Why, you might wonder? I mean, how hard can sex be to write? After all, sex is a basic, raw, biological function engaging two or more bodies in some pleasurable action.
How many ways can you say kiss? How many ways can you say stroke? How many ways can you describe the feelings of sparkling fire spreading along nerve endings to kindle liquid heat in your belly, shuddering with each caress?
See, it sounds simple, right up until you sit down to write it. If you can get past the language issues with description and keeping it fresh, then you also have to consider that most people aren’t quiet when they are having sex. The story does not just pause for the sex scene. Stories that pause for the sex scene fade to black.
Instead, your story must progress through the sex scene, developing the intimacy between your main characters and propelling your overall storyline forward. So now, you must inject dialogue, emotion and introspection into the embrace of these passionate phrases. If you can do all of these things, your next step is to edit and smooth the scene for continuity, not only within the context of your overall novel, but within the scene itself.
You see a sex scene should deliver one of three things for your characters:
- Individual emotional growth or development
- Forward momentum within the interpersonal relationship
- Some combination of the two
For example, a character who is making love with her best friend for the first time may struggle with mixed feelings of passion and grief. Passion for the man, but grief at the potential loss of a friendship – this juxtaposition of emotional reaction can make for a visceral decisive moment for the two characters.
Conversely, two characters that are inflamed by their mutual attraction but lying to each other (no matter the reasons) will both experience intense conflict – particularly if their passion is blended with genuine intellectual, emotional and physical attraction.
The conflict in this scene actually becomes the unfolding puzzle box for the readers as well as the characters. The characters must puzzle through their motivations while the reader peels back the layers, wondering who is really fooling whom and how deep will these two become mired in their own deceptions and are they making love to the person they sense underneath the lies or to the lie they perceive?
You see – sex scenes are big, fat huge complicated and tough to write. The best sex scenes seem effortless, but I bet if you go back through them, you’ll find many of the elements listed above. So give me a straightforward, bloody or even complicated and bloody fight scene any day.
All I really have to keep track of at that point are the broken bones. And who has what weapon; and why they are fighting whether it’s for survival or over a woman or a man or saving the world. I have to know why this emotional investment is so important to the character and what will happen if they aren’t successful. After all, characters – not even your favorites – always win.
Truth be told, whether you are writing passionate lovemaking or beating the bloody pulp out of your characters, you still need to have a vibrant, passionate connection for every touch of flesh upon flesh. So maybe the truth is, I find that fighting helps me access those passionate contradictions easier than sex – Freud would probably have a field day with that.
In the books you have read, when to characters fight or make love, what conflicts and contradictions stand out about that interaction to you, the reader?
Shameless Moment of Self Promotion
Heather Long lives in North Texas with her husband, daughter and their menagerie of animals. As a child, Heather skipped picture books and enjoyed the Harlequin romance novels by Penny Jordan and Nora Roberts that her grandmother read to her. Heather believes that laughter is as important to life as breathing and that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are very real. In the meanwhile, she is hard at work on her next novel.
Heather will also be guest chatting on Wednesday May 19th via Kris Cook’s weekly chats, so be sure to stop by and visit!