1. Morristreet
    Offline

    Morristreet Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Messages:
    39
    Likes Received:
    20
    Location:
    Chilliwack, BC Canada

    How descriptive should an intimate scene be?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Morristreet, May 5, 2014.

    I've been battling this for a while, so figured I'd drop a post on here and get feedback.

    In an 'adult' novel, not porn or erotica, but one targeted at 18+ readers, how descriptive do you feel an intimate or sex scene should be?

    My intimate writing is currently a blend between Jean M Auel's work and something a bit harder, depending on the characters involved as I have two different writing styles for the scene styles. My main style is militaristic, so that relies on wording similar to Jean Auel's work, descriptive without using explicit words, just imagery. Then, for the more sensual characters, I tend to go into a more descriptive style because that is the mindset of those characters.

    I am not too sure if this works or not, or if it would tend to be confusing. I don't want to post examples because they are descriptive and I don't want to violate any TOS or younger readers' eyes with graphic examples.

    I would like some feedback from other writers who write intimacy, how do you handle it?
     
    Mike Hill likes this.
  2. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,601
    Likes Received:
    5,875
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    [​IMG]

    Don't have an answer but I'm interested in the question.
     
    Mike Hill, Echoesian and Mckk like this.
  3. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Most responses you'll get will just be personal preferences, of course. For me, I don't want to read a medical book description, or all the mechanics involved. I also don't want a lot of euphemisms. What I prefer are emotion and tactile descriptions - ie, what the characters are experiencing versus what they're doing.
     
    jannert and Catrin Lewis like this.
  4. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,680
    Likes Received:
    2,532
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    I'm reminded of a scene in the film "French Kiss", wherein Luc tells Kate that in his first experience with a prostitute, kissing was more expensive than sex. "Of course," Kate replies. "The real intimacy is in the kiss."

    I generally don't write explicit sex scenes, preferring to "drop the curtain" before things get too steamy. What I'm after is what happens before the intimacy (how they feel about one another and why), or after it (consequences, especially from a causal sexual encounter, run the gamut from gratitude to elation to crushing guilt). What actually happens in the bedroom (or wherever) usually isn't important to the story (other than the fact that it happens at all), so I'm content to leave it to the reader's imagination.

    I find it amusing that lots of folks who rail against writers who are overly descriptive are often willing to make an exception with this. ;)
     
    Mike Hill, 123456789 and sunsplash like this.
  5. MLM
    Offline

    MLM Banned for trolling

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2013
    Messages:
    548
    Likes Received:
    171
    Location:
    Kansas City
    It's about presentation. If you describe it in a way that is hot and steamy, it's erotica. It doesn't strictly determine the matter based how much or how little of the mechanical operations involved you explicitly state occurred depending on the context and tone. Granted, getting really specific with the particular acts that occur, order, frequency, feelings involved, etc, is generally beyond the pale.
     
  6. David D Bryce
    Offline

    David D Bryce New Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2014
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Scotland
    The word areola is very effective
     
  7. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,279
    Location:
    Scotland
    Unlike @EdFromNY , whose point of view I respect a lot, I am not a believer in dropping the curtain. Why? Because I believe sexual intimacy is a huge part of people's relationships, and how they behave together and feel together while they're having sex is incredibly important.

    It is certainly possible to give readers a feeling for what relationships are like without showing how they behave in the 'bedroom' or wherever they might have sex with each other. However, I feel that well-written sex scenes can also do the job, and maybe in a more immediate fashion.

    Sexual activity produces very heightened feelings—or sometimes surprisingly detached ones—and I don't ever shrink from writing about them. Indeed, they are an integral part of my story, and I would never consider cutting them out just because people might not approve of them. When you write a story you get inside your characters' heads and hearts ...nothing is more intimate than that. I feel that shutting a door down on what happens to a person during sex (unless it's not an important factor in your story) just calls attention to itself. (Sorry, guys, THAT part of my character's brain is a no-go area!)

    I do think it's important to use the same tone for your scenes with sexual content as you use throughout the rest of your story, though. If you're gruff, ruff and ready throughout the rest of your book, or terse and Hemmingway-esque in your choice of words, don't suddenly go all gooey and flowery with description during your sexual scenes, or resort to silly innuendo. Call a spade a spade, a shovel a shovel, and get on with it.

    I think it's important to treat scenes where your characters have sex in exactly the same manner you treat other scenes, and in the same voice. Point of view should be clear, and it should be adhered to, same as any other scene. If your POV is female in a heterosexual scene, for example, we will only be able to guess at what her male partner is seeing, thinking and feeling. As in any other scene, his emotions and thoughts will be revealed by what he does. She, however, is free to think and feel as much as she wants, for the reader's benefit.

    I'd say forget about what people will 'think'—of you or of what you have written—and just write sex as honestly as you would write any other scene. If you do that, it will feel 'right' for your story—to yourself and to your readership.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
    kburns421, aikoaiko, KaTrian and 3 others like this.
  8. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,601
    Likes Received:
    5,875
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Makes me wonder if there isn't a job for a good sex scene writer. I'd consider farming the task out. I like a good sex scene, and cringe at bad ones or ones that go on too long. It's a skill I can't say I've mastered.
     
    Renee J likes this.
  9. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,279
    Location:
    Scotland
    I think the trick is to stop thinking of a sex scene as somehow separate from the rest of the story. Just write it the same as you write anything else.

    For example, take a Chapter One of a long novel about how the past impacts on the present. Written in first person, from a male perspective.

    You make it home from work through 3-foot-high snowdrifts, knowing you're going to be snowed in for a day or two. You spend the early evening shoveling snow, then come in to dinner, which your wife has created in your absence. It's a special fondue-in-front-of-the-winter-fire dinner, with a nice bottle of wine to share. You spend the rest of the evening in intimate conversation with your wife about the things you both regret most about your early lives. Then you go to bed and have comfortable, loving sex with her before falling asleep, feeling incredibly contented with your present life. And you are shattered awake the next morning by a phone call bearing bad news...

    If this chapter has been created to show the main character's domestic and emotional state at the start of a book, why flinch at writing the sex scene, or take it out of context as you write it?

    Yes, of course you could have them 'just go to bed,' but what if, later on in the story, his wife's attitude towards him in bed subtly changes? Outwardly their life appears to be the same as before, but in bed she subtly changes her approach. It's a major turning point in the story, when he realises he's already lost her, or is in danger of losing her.

    Sex scenes can signal powerful things happening within a relationship, and it's a mistake to avoid them because you think you can't write them. Just let them flow with the rest of the detail you provide, and you'll be fine.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
  10. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,201
    Likes Received:
    1,786
    Location:
    Australia
    Match it to the level you describe the violence.
     
    kburns421, Echoesian, T.Trian and 3 others like this.
  11. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    OK, but as ED pointed out, how does describing most sex scenes with a lot of detail move the plot forward?

    It MIGHT move the plot forward. If A is being seduced by an older woman into cheating on his girlfriend, we can get a sense of suspense (is he gonna do it, can he resist her?) and then as he's doing it, a sense of abandon, then guilt. But, I can think of plenty of situations where it doesn't move the plot forward at all, in which case, EVEN if it demonstrates the character's relationship, I still don't think any appreciable length of detail is justifiable.
     
  12. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,279
    Location:
    Scotland
    Oh, I agree that any scene, including a sex scene, needs to move the plot forward. However, sex scenes certainly can more the plot forward, same as any other scene. And demonstrating a character's relationship—especially if it changes later on—can be part of that process.

    My point is that a sex scene is the same as any other scene, and should be treated the same as any other scene. Neither included when unneeded, or excluded if it is needed. The amount of detail is up to the writer. If their other scenes are detailed, why skimp on the sexual ones? And if their writing style is spare, so will their sex scenes be.

    I just don't think sex scenes should be removed from a narrative simply because they ARE about sex.
     
    T.Trian likes this.
  13. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    So first time they have sex she's laughing at him the whole time. The next time they do it she's screaming like a wildebeest. OK, I get it, the guy's obviously being possessed by aliens, and on a macro scale, the two sex scenes demonstrate this, but what about on the micro scale? I think you would still need some sort of inherent tension to drive any sex scene that lasts longer than a paragraph.
     
  14. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,279
    Location:
    Scotland
    You're right that no scene—not just a sex scene—should last any longer than needed. I've got no problems with that. I didn't think I was making a case for including extra-long sex scenes, was I? Anyway, whatever ...I've said my piece...o_O
     
  15. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    Not arguing, discussing-you're my late night friend hoo hoo-

    I guess what confuses me is the length that people are referring to when they "detailed sex scene?". If it's only a paragraph, who really cares? If its offensive it be easily skipped.
     
  16. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,279
    Location:
    Scotland
    The devil is in the detail, isn't it? You might require detail to make your point. Just as in any other scene. For me, 'offensiveness' isn't an issue at all. People will take offense at lots of things, and that doesn't really concern me when I write.

    My point—and my only point—is that a sex scene should not be treated any differently from any other scene.

    Some writers include a lot of detail in what their characters eat. What kind of food they eat and how they eat it can build setting and scene, or move the plot forward, reveal character, or provide immersion for the reader to experience. Some writers even detail how the food is prepared.

    Other writers just have their characters eat dinner.

    There is no one-size-fits-all approach to food and its consumption, when it comes to writing. Why should there be one for sex and how it plays out? If a sexual scene enhances the story, by all means write it, and write it well. Make it as detailed as you need it to be, to fit your own style and the story itself.

    By the way ...I'm your early morning friend! It's 8.40am here at the moment! :)
     
  17. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    Agreed.

    Not agreed. You're an owl, for crying out loud.
     
  18. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    It is not true that every scene has to move the plot forward.

    Scenes can be valid, and even moving, even if they have little to no effect on the overall plot. I'm thinking of the movie version of The Shawshank Redemption as an example. There's that scene in which Andy, building his library collection at the prison, finds some records, and plays an opera piece over the speakers for the inmates in the exercise yard. He gets time in solitary for this, but it hardly affects the plot at all. (If I remember correctly, it wasn't even in Stephen King's original novella; it was added by Frank Darabont for the movie.) It's just one of several scenes that are there just to develop Andy's character. It builds character, but does not advance the plot. It's also one of the most memorable scenes in the movie.

    So I think sex scenes are entirely valid even if they don't advance the plot, so long as they develop character. They have to deepen the experience for the reader. Many readers of novels aren't looking for speed; they're not racing to the end just to gasp for breath and say, "Well, I'm glad that's over!" They take pleasure in the luxury of a rich novel, a story that takes its time and makes characters mean something.

    My point here is that you don't have to justify elaborate sex scenes by claiming they advance the plot. You can justify them by saying they enrich the reader's experience, and that's plenty good enough. :)
     
  19. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    Can't use movies as arguments for novels. This is especially true if the scene wasn't originally in the novella.

    And obviously there are novels that do this, too, but at least if the guy goes off on a tangent about, say, tennis, you can just say the guys a tennis nut, but what do you say about the guy who decides to write pages of unnecessary humping? :confused:
     
    Mike Hill likes this.
  20. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    Also, I don't want to get into the whole Jay vs everyone else argument, but....

    I do agree that scenes don't have to move the plot forward, in the hands of an expert whose seen his work published. Speaking for myself and being currently unpublished, as much as I'd love to bask in those enriching extras, I'll wait until I know for a fact I have the basics down.
     
  21. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,279
    Location:
    Scotland
    Would it help to tell you that I was actually up at 5.ooam, my time? No ...probably not. I'm not an owl, I'm a blooming lark...! (Early morning is when I write.) In fact I was out walking at 7am...just got back in time to start jousting with you! Two cups of coffee later...

    Hint: That picture is just an avatar. It's not really what I look like. :)
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  22. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,279
    Location:
    Scotland
    He's a humping nut?
     
    Mike Hill likes this.
  23. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,722
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Sometimes you can. The reverse is not true: you can't use novels as arguments for movies. Novels allow a lot more leeway because there isn't the time constraint - a reader can take as long as he wants to read the novel. A movie viewer in a theater has to take the whole thing in in the time the filmmakers gave him. That's the major reason novels can get away with more and longer scenes that don't advance the plot.

    If a movie can be compared to a 100-meter sprint, a novel can be compared to a luxury cruise. The idea of a novel isn't to get to the end as fast as possible, it's to see what there is to see along the way. :)
     
    Mike Hill and jannert like this.
  24. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    I think morning is the time to write, actually, so look at me, I'm screwed!

    If you like writing right when you wake up, ever consider breaking up your sleep into two?
     
  25. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,330
    Likes Received:
    3,083
    Absolutely, as long as the context and the significance are at least somewhat noticeable.

    You can go peruse the workshop section to find plenty of tangents that plain and simply don't work. In fact, you're pages through and you're thinking, what's the point? To those people, I'd suggest making sure every scene counts. If that a fair statement?
     

Share This Page