During my weekly perusal of Salon.com’s books section I came across an article about good sex in literature. This ought to be amusing, I thought. And it was. Salon even has a Good Sex Awards panel that bestows honors upon books that have the best depictions of good and (bad ) sex. Readers are even encouraged to nominate their personal faves.
So this got me thinking…I remember a discussion I had with my writers group about whether there was a necessity for sex scenes in books. Some of group members thought it was definitely not necessary–especially when the scenes were generally so awkwardly written or so patently boring that you didn’t want to read them in the first place. We all had examples of sex scenes from books we’d read that seemed malplaced or felt like the literary version of the gratuitous nude scene in a lot of movies–fluff, nothing more. But then we talked about how some of these scenes depicted a turning point or were actually part of the development of the characters–which is of course what we want when we read. We want the character to change or come to some realization about herself and the world around her.
But how do you write a good sex scene? And when do you actually need one? I am struggling with that now. I have a scene in my novel-in-progress in which I want the sex scene to be the impetus for my character leaving the man with whom she’s involved. Not because the sex was awful. But because she knows that it has become the lifeline for their relationship–argument, make up sex, no resolution of their issues, more sex. And she knows they can’t have a proper relationship if they can’t even discuss what has caused their problems in the first place. The problem for, of course, is how to write the scene so it doesn’t feel like instructions for how to have sex. I want to capture the intimacy without necessarily saying he put his mouth here and she stuck her fingers there and the usual blather. So now I am reading a lot of sex scenes that others have written and trying to figure out what I like and dislike about them.
So far, I have found a few in Sarra Manning’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me that are quite good. She captures the idea of how something awkward can lead to great sex or how foreplay can even stem from a game of Scrabble. So I think my weekend will be spent trying to finish this scene and see how it will connect with what eventually propels Kyra from Los Angeles back to Philadelphia and then across the ocean to London. I’ve already written the chapters when she is back in Philadelphia and when she moves to London. I’ve even written the final chapter. I just need to finish that damned scene and another chapter (which involves someone on death row seeking forgiveness).
I think I’ll focus on sex this weekend.