Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Sex in Writing

Jumping on the bandwagon of a couple other blogs, I've decided to give my two-cents on the topic of sex in writing.

With regard to sex scenes in my writing. I don't have any, and I probably never will. Having said that, however, let me also say that I don't believe there's anything wrong with sex in a novel. Not if it's tasteful. Some of you may be shaking your heads. Tasteful is such a subjective word. Some people out there in the world would think the phrase 'tasteful sex scene' is an oxymoron. I'm not one of those people.

However, I do believe sex is a private thing. Not because it's dirty or shameful or wicked. To me, it's private because it is so very special. To me, it's so special, it's not something to share with the rest of the world. Sex is the most profound way one person can show their highest values being mirrored in another person.

I write my characters with that philosophy in mind. I'll hint at sex in my books. Heck, in Blink, a man and a woman spend an extended period of time alone together. The two main characters admire each other, and they have similar values. They're bound to sleep together. It would be strange for them not to have sex. But I only hint at it.

The only problem I have with reading sex scenes in novels is if the sex is degrading in some manner. Which seems pretty obvious given my stated view on what sex means in a relationship. People who care for one another shouldn't want to cause pain - whether it be mental or physical. JMO, to be sure. But pretty rational when you think about it.

The only time I'll even hint about sex in that manner is when I'm trying to make a point. In Spectacle, one of the villians gets interrupted having a sex with another one of the villians. He uses sex as a tool to get what he wants, and he's not above doing whatever whenever with whoever if it moves him up the power ladder. It's key to his personality.

So once again, I come to the point I've been talking about all along. If it works for the story, write it in. But keep it in character, keep it as part of the story, and make sure it flows.

As with anything you're writing.

Now, to illustrate my view on sex, here's a brief excerpt from Spectacle:
Without warning a pair of small, sure hands slid over his shoulders and down his arms. He stood perfectly still and allowed himself a moment to revel in their touch. As the hands slid forward and he felt her arms wrap themselves around his chest, the scent of her shampoo wafted on a slight morning breeze. She laid her head against his back and sighed. Lifting his hands, he covered hers and hugged them close to him. It had been a long time since he had thought about the joy of having a good woman in his life and a long time since he had given up the thought of ever finding the right one.

Slowly he turned to face her. Her smile was hidden in the darkness, but he knew it reflected his own. Without speaking, he urged her to stand beside him and he rested his arm across her shoulders, pulling her firmly against his ribs. Together they watched in silent companionship as the sun rose.

When the day had fully begun, she shyly said, “Good morning, Michael.” Her head nestled in the crook where his shoulder met his chest, she wondered at how perfectly she fit there and how wonderful it felt.

He traced the curve of her cheek and then combed her silken hair between his long slender fingers. “Good morning, Alex,” he replied.

Stretching herself onto the balls of her feet, she moved forward to press her lips against his the way she had longed to do for so many days now. Sensing her intent, Michael shifted slightly and her lips met softly with his rough cheek. She smiled and said playfully, “You need a shave.”

He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. “Yes,” he whispered into her hair. “I need a lot of things, Alex, but some of those things will have to wait for another time.” Releasing her, he playfully ruffled her hair and then turned to walk back inside.

Laying her hand gently on his arm, she said huskily, “There is plenty of time, and one small kiss won’t take too long.”

She could see the temptation rising in his eyes, and he swayed slightly toward her as if he were fighting a battle. The smile in Michael’s eyes turned slowly to a smoldering gaze, and his hand reached toward hers. Gently he took her fingers from their grasp on his shirtsleeve and raised her hand to his lips. He kissed the back of her wrist softly and looked into her eyes. “There is time for one small kiss, my dearest one,” he said, “but there isn’t time for the things that must come before that one small kiss. A kiss is a promise, Alex; a promise you will be the only woman who will ever feel the touch of my lips again. I don’t make promises lightly, and when I make this promise, we will both know it is the right one to make.” A look in her eyes made him stop, and in an instant his resolve nearly crumbled, but the same force of will that had put Los Verdad on that mountain was more than enough to shore up his resolve once more. “It is not a popular way of looking at romance, Alex, but I don’t do things the popular way; I do things my own way. When I kiss you, you will know you have been kissed and that you will never kiss another man for the rest of your life.”


hesitant scribe said...

Oh you are soooo brave! I have to figure out how I'm going to tackle the old 'sex scene' in my novel and it scares the hell out me! It makes me feel all exposed, somehow!

spyscribbler said...

No mental pain! Physical pain is a different matter. It can be quite erotic, intimate, and loving. Not to mention out-of-this-world amazing!

To each his own, though!

liz fenwick said...

Its tricky. I tired to write a sex scene in novel one. The book called for by the story but it felt wooden and didn't work because I was uncomfortable writing it. In the next book there is no sex despite it being a romantic novel. its all about anticiaption which is exactly what you have captured in your scene. Well done!

Tia said...

I included a sex scene in my novel, as well as a brutal rape scene. If you had asked me if I would have a sex scene when I first wrote the book, I would have had yes. However, I never imagined that I would be writing a rape scene. The story demanded one. My story takes place in the ancient world, in a much more brutal time than ours.

I tried to keep both tasteful. But you can't exactly have a "tasteful" rape.