July 24th, 2008


Best Not Let The Kids See This

UPDATE: 7-27-2008
Today's Topic Is Sex Scenes

First, I am not a prude, at least in the old-fashioned sense. I have no problem with the concept of sex scenes in books or movies. In reality, I tire of sudden sex scenes between protags caught in the middle of a life-and-death struggle or on-the-run. It doesn't have to happen every damned time. It even can ruin the flow of the story when it looks like Oh I Put The Sex Scene In Here So We'll Sell Better Because We Have A Sex Scene. That logic is so wrong on so many levels, unless you're writing for the porn markets.

Second, most of my SF short stories or even novelettes and novellas don't have sex scenes. Part of it is my objection to including them Just Because as noted above. Part of it is marketing -- more than one major market I'd like to sell these stories to specifically mentions PG-13-ishness in their guidelines.

Third... well, it's not as if I can't write a sex scene. Obviously some of them are pretty lame and quite rightly won't see the light of day. However, those from the 2004 Clarion class know that I can produce sex scenes which are so terrible in the extreme sense that they frighten me.

Fourth, you can always practice by writing porn. It's not anything you ever have to show, though one writer told me once he was sure that at least half the entries in Penthouse Letters were from writers trying to learn how to write sex scenes. Another hard military SF writer I saw on a panel at a con unabashedly talked of selling to the men's magazines, saying it not only helped him get over any fears of writing sex scenes, but the mags pay well, too.


Fellow 2004 Clarionite kimnik Nikki Kimberling of Blind Eye Books mentions that writer jgraeme2007 Josh Lanyon also writes about writing in Man, Oh Man!: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks & Cash and offers the M/M Manuscript Evaluation Service.

Forget for the moment that he specializes in writing gay sex -- bad sex scenes know no boundaries. And you might learn something.

So Nikki intentionally wrote an awful sex scene -- this is not as easy as it looks, my friends. She is a professional, don't try this at home. Here are links to the original piece, Dr. Lanyon's critique and an improved text.

UPDATE: And now the conclusions to our adventure, final comments on Nikki's LJ and an amusing bit from the good doctor himself.

I was greatly worried that she was doing this to make fun of Dr. Lanyon's service and was posting this stuff anonymously, but it seems that he is in on the fun...
Head on over to Nikki Kimberling's Live Journal for a real life example of Josh's editing and evaluation. Nikki's an editor for Blind Eye Books and she'll be running this in four parts, providing examples of truly wretched prose for Josh to work wonders upon.

...and see his LJ entries here and here.

Sometimes It Is Hard...

No, not that! But sometimes it is hard when one is reading to switch off the critiquing hat and not get thrown out of the story. That's what bad sex scenes do for me -- they make me lose the focus of the story. I suppose that's true of me writing them, too. Where they are a natural part of the story, no problem. When they are an impediment or a distraction to the story, they simply don't belong.

That uncomfortable sensation? Sometimes it's there for a reason. (grin) Sex scenes are like any other important scenes in your story -- and aren't they all important if they are to be in the final manuscript? -- write good ones.

Dr. Phil
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