Writing about sex

2 12 2011

This week, the topic of my online writer’s course is sex. How, and whether, to write it. It’s a mystery-writing course, split evenly between those who prefer the cosy mystery, and those who like the seamier side of mysteries (in fiction, of course)
We’ve been talking about sex, therefore, and how best to put it in print.
It’s not an easy challenge.
You can write the porn-ish stuff, but that’s pretty mechanical, simple in and out (and in and out and in and out). Not too interesting, and after a while you feel the desperate urge to clean out the toilet or read the Bible or wash your hands and eyes. For me that’s not the point, though I know some get pleasure from it.
You can “draw the veil”, just showing your characters wandering into a bedroom hand in hand, and then waking in the morning stretching luxuriously and looking rapturous. (This happened on my wedding night. We left the reception, and went off to our room, and then the next morning we went down to breakfast, only to realize that almost the entire wedding party had stayed at the hotel as well and were all ALSO having breakfast. I have never been so embarrassed before or since, as everyone smiled at us knowingly. Arggh.)
So I have a certain antipathy to the idea of veil-drawing. Besides, it kills all the fun.
I want to write of the moment when character’s lips are millimeters from their partner’s, when the first feeling of breath warms the air between them. I want to write of the first contact, when you feel the temperature of his lips, the moistness, the pressure.
I want to write of those first passionate moments, when bodies are pressed yearningly together and clothing slips away (all except the socks, for some reason) and the pressure of bodies against each other becomes ever more insistent, hand movements firmer, more commanding, more urgent. And then the erotic culmination of this contact…
I’d like to write, too, of the innocent first touches – sitting beside each other on a couch, hips burning into hips while you pretend nothing is going on, of the brush of hands over coffee or a piece of paper, when, unexpectedly, the heat trail of the casual fingers leaves singes. I want to write of pupils dilating as you gaze into his eyes (or her eyes) and realize that they want you.
I’d like to write about the feeling of guilt, the backside of love, when you realize you are not being faithful to yourself, to another, the thrill and the awfulness of it, the draw of it, the repellency.
I’d like to write about tenderness in a murderer’s heart when he makes love – about the split between the person who could kill and the person who can embrace, the conflict between those or the lack of conflict, and what that means.
I’d like to write about forbidden sex, the kind that turns stomachs, the kind that I find dark and disgusting – because I want to know why anyone would want to abase oneself that way, what drives people to find connection in things that others flee.
It is such a deep-rooted thing, sexuality. It drives so much of what we do, of who we are. It’s worth exploring in the characters I create – not the whole story, but more important than if they scratch their head unattractively or read Harlequin romances or Machiavelli. Which also are a part of the puzzle.
The oddest thing is, I often don’t know what my characters are like in bed when I start writing about them. They usually eventually let me know, and it’s often surprising. And fun, if sometimes dark.

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