Writing about sex can be touchy. Many writers, no matter their ages, worry that their mothers will read their work, and they become self-conscious, making their characters tiptoe around the bedroom or avoid it altogether. Others lose themselves in lurid details of steamy scenes that provide too much information, seemingly there for its own prurient sake.
I don’t fall into either of those extremes. Still, for me, entering the written arena of sex is touchy, often hard. Sometimes I feel like I’m groping in the dark, deciding how deep to go, how much to reveal. Should sex be done quickly? Does length really matter? Is writing about it more a matter of quality and depth rather than duration? If the time spent is too brief, will readers feel as if they’ve gotten the shaft? And if it’s too long, do they feel that sex is thrust upon them and hammered onto the page?
How much sexual detail to lay on readers without grinding their nerves can be a difficult question. It’s a sticky area, with complex ins and outs. But the solution, I think, is internal to the characters and to the story itself: If sex is impotent—oops, important to the characters, if it’s orgasmic—oops, organic to the plot, it’s essential to include it.
Even so, I think it’s phallacious—oops, fallacious to think that every detail needs to be laid out. Simply tickling readers’ imaginations should usually suffice. In the end, after all, a writer’s job is to explore honest internal experience and present it without shame or inhibition, without screwing it up.
Everyone enjoys a story’s build up and an explosive climax. But unless you’re writing porno, the sexual element should fit seamlessly into the characters’ lives and situations, so that the sex scenes seem true and consistent, and they occur in context so essential to the plot that even Mom can appreciate why you wrote them.
Or maybe, she can just skip ahead.
Merry Jones is the author of the Zoe Hayes mystery series: THE NANNY MURDERS, THE RIVER KILLINGS, THE DEADLY NEIGHBORS, THE BORROWED AND BLUE MURDERS, and several humor books, including the best-selling I LOVE HIM, BUT…, PLEASE DON’T KISS ME AT THE BUS STOP, and IF SHE WEREN’T MY BEST FRIEND, I’D KILL HER. She is also the author of BIRTHMOTHERS: WOMEN WHO RELINQUISHED BABIES FOR ADOPTION TELL THEIR STORIES.