Friday, December 14, 2012

Writing Sex Scenes, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

I'm writing Taming a Gentleman Spy and it's time to construct a sex scene again. Always a challenge, I thought I'd look at how others do it and found a great article in the newspaper this morning.

Writing sex is a minefield where writers try to avoid the "sleazy innuendos, dubious metaphors and strings of turgid adjectives," says Darryn King in Spectrum - The Sydney Morning Herald December 15, 2012. Even good writers can make an awful hash of it. 
Here is an  extract from Nancy Huston's book Infrared, the winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. "This is when I take my picture, from deep inside the loving. The Canon is part of my body. I myself am the ultra sensitive film - capturing invisible reality, capturing heat." 
And som helpful advice from Anais Nin: "'Sex', must be mixed with tears, laughter, words, promises, scenes, jealousy, envy, all the spices of fear, foreign travel, new faces, novels, stories, dreams, fantasies, music, dancing, opium, wine."

More helpful advice from The Joy of Writing Sex by Elizabeth Benedict:
"Sex in real life doesn't have to be about anything but sex, but in fiction it has to reveal something about who the characters are, what they want, what they might not get, what they think they can get away with, or what this collision of bodies has to do with everything that comes before and after your story."
From the same book: Stephen McCauley, (1995) Madame Bovary, for example, is filled with lush, sensual descriptions that heighten the reader's awareness of the erotic tension between the characters. The way Flaubert describes the texture of soot on a fireplace or the sound of water falling on a silk parasol or the look of Emma's tongue licking the bottom of a glass of liqueur conveys a powerful sense of sublimated sexuality. Flaubert's attention to all the senses is so exact and exquisite, he can write a powerful erotic scene with no physical contact. I suppose it helps to be a genius.

In movies, too, sex scenes can be downright awful like Madonna's Body of Evidence or the passionless sex between Kidman and Cruise  in Eyes Wide Shut

In January, the Opera House, Sydney, will present its own sexy readings event, My First Time. has collected anonymous first person accounts of what D H Lawrence called the "tormented tangle".   

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