Thursday, September 08, 2016

Writing About Sex

Diana Gabaldon has released a new e-book (a little over 100 pages) titled "I GIVE YOU MY BODY": HOW I WRITE SEX SCENES. If you're a fan of the Outlander series, you may have read this advice book already; if not, you'll want to rush to Amazon and buy it. For those unfamiliar with the series, all you need to know in advance is that Gabaldon has a gift for creating sensual, emotional love scenes. This e-book is packed with detailed, specific advice about writing effective sex scenes that won't turn off readers or make them laugh (unintentionally). With extensive examples from her own novels' love scenes, which she dissects paragraph by paragraph, the author discusses topics such as using all the senses, taking advantage of settings, conveying emotion, presenting different character viewpoints, evoking atmosphere, the "non-sex sex scene," etc.

One element posing special difficulty in the writing of sex scenes is language. Do you use the closest thing to neutral terms available in English, which are actually (as C. S. Lewis puts it) the language of an anatomy textbook? Slang words along a sliding scale of explicitness? Metaphorical descriptions that avoid the problem altogether but maybe at the cost of seeming too "flowery"? In my own experience of writing erotic romance, I found that the publisher sometimes wanted more "four-letter words" than I was comfortable with, on the grounds that their readership expected and liked that language in erotic scenes. To complicate the problem, slang terms that I considered rather amusing or sexy were sometimes rejected as crude by the editor—and vice versa. Everybody has an individual level of tolerance and a unique opinion on what's exciting rather than gross! Gabaldon's book includes a chapter on "Terminology." In general, her fiction doesn't feature many explicit mentions of the sexual parts of the body, on the grounds that the reader already knows what's what. For fun, however, she does provide a long list of words for various parts, ranging from euphemistic to porn level.

If you ever have occasion to describe intimate encounters between your characters, don't miss this little book. Or even if you just like to read such scenes, you'll enjoy Gabaldon's witty analysis of how she writes them.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

No comments:

Post a Comment