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Does someone know how to describe sex in a book? (1 Viewer)

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SpartanWarrior

Senior Member
Hey, everyone.
I have completed almost my book and I want to end it with sex. I just don't know how to describe it.
A friend of my gave as a advice to not get to much into the details. But still it's the first time for my two main characters.
Does anyone have any tips or advice to this?
 

sigmadog

Staff member
Media Manager
I can only speak from experience here.

1. Begin with begging and pleading.
2. The act itself, oh, about 30 seconds give or take.
3. follow up with crying and a heartfelt apology.
4. wait a year until your Birthday rolls around again, then repeat step 1.

Hope that helps!
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
A lot depends on what story you're telling and what kind of book you expect to end up with.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Bloggsworth is probably right . . . I'm being cautious because of Foxee's insight. Who ARE the participants? If they are coarse, low-life louts who grunt and thrash through 'the act' sloppy drunk . . . a coarse description might be essential. In a novel I'm writing, there is a lengthy 'sex scene' in which a high-class hooker describes in detail a 'nasty fuck' she just had with a lout known to the man she's speaking with. Then she tries to seduce him. The detail is essential to our sense of the (very different) evolving characters of the two men. At least, I very much hope that's the case!!

The judge who ruled that Lady Chatterley's Lover was neither pornographic nor a gratuitous attack on community standards, used two broad criteria in arriving at his judgment: 1) was the sexual description designed primarily to arouse prurient desires/reactions? (ie, was it a "one-handed" book ). 2) did the sexual descriptions consistently contribute to the literary development of the characters and their situation (ie, did the sex have literary merit?) He concluded "no" for 1) and "yes" for 2). I think 1) is really all you need as a rough guide. Sex can be a powerful index of character. On the other hand (hyuck--hyuck) in a pornographic 'novel', the plot and characters are just an excuse to get the reader from one graphically described sex scene to the next. I'm sure that excellent writing and intricate character/plot development would doom your ms to the cutting-room floor,
 

Sam

General
Patron
The prevailing wisdom on this is exactly what Bloggs said: less is more.

Unless, of course, you're writing something that as a rule requires and employs more, i.e. romance, erotica, etcetera.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
I'd go with Bloggsworth's general sentiment, but not the cigarette, that's cliche. You say it is their first time and at the end of the book, so it obviously is not a book that is sex obsessed, I'd avoid as much physical description as you can, "The ensuing encounter was a satisfying climax for both.", for example, no need to even call it a 'physical encounter'.
 

Bloggsworth

WF Veterans
Bloggsworth is probably right . . . I'm being cautious because of Foxee's insight. Who ARE the participants? If they are coarse, low-life louts who grunt and thrash through 'the act' sloppy drunk . . . a coarse description might be essential. In a novel I'm writing, there is a lengthy 'sex scene' in which a high-class hooker describes in detail a 'nasty fuck' she just had with a lout known to the man she's speaking with. Then she tries to seduce him. The detail is essential to our sense of the (very different) evolving characters of the two men. At least, I very much hope that's the case!!

The judge who ruled that Lady Chatterley's Lover was neither pornographic nor a gratuitous attack on community standards, used two broad criteria in arriving at his judgment: 1) was the sexual description designed primarily to arouse prurient desires/reactions? (ie, was it a "one-handed" book ). 2) did the sexual descriptions consistently contribute to the literary development of the characters and their situation (ie, did the sex have literary merit?) He concluded "no" for 1) and "yes" for 2). I think 1) is really all you need as a rough guide. Sex can be a powerful index of character. On the other hand (hyuck--hyuck) in a pornographic 'novel', the plot and characters are just an excuse to get the reader from one graphically described sex scene to the next. I'm sure that excellent writing and intricate character/plot development would doom your ms to the cutting-room floor,

Actually, it was the jury who made the decision, not the judge. It was probably the words of the befrocked 19 Century prosecution barrister which tipped the balance - Waving the book around he asked the jury:

"Would you want your wife or servant to read this book..."
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Bloggsworth -- Quite correct. I was being far too picky. The jury, yes, arrived at its decision. It was instructed, however, as to the essentially moral parameters it was to observe in its deliberations. I was thinking more along the lines that an actual sentence is the judge's exclusive purview. Under the British system, followed for the most part in Canadian jurisprudence, a judge CAN set aside a jury's decision. It is VERY rare, but has been done. In my comment I tried too hard to underline that the power of changing social standards resided in that one figure, the judge.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I am curious--and I am very much learning the novel form--why most of your comments rather dance around the sex issue. In between the lines seems to be . . ."do you absolutely have to have the sex?" And if you do, "less is more", or , sex is ok if the whole book has an erotic bent of some kind. What's wrong with a sex-chunk in an otherwise pretty sex-free novel? One from the past just leapt to mind--John Barth's The Sotweed Factor, a novel by no means erotic or prurient in its generality, has three or four sex scenes, one of which--I'd say close to 1000 words--seems downright pornographic. Hariki Mirikami's acclaimed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, again a non-erotic novel, has some very steamy scenes.

Sex is an integral part of life and if, esp in longer works involving complex character development, sex scenes contribute significantly to our sense of a character, I don't think an author should hesitate. As Olly points out, however, how MUCH will always be a problem.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
I am curious--and I am very much learning the novel form--why most of your comments rather dance around the sex issue.
Sure! My take on this is that it has zero to do with how we feel about sex and 100% to do with what shelf your finished work is on in the bookstore or what magazine will print it. Like almost any other aspect of story writing genre has forms and categories not to mention specific publisher guidelines.

If you're writing a romance your sex scene probably has guidelines that your publisher expects.

Which aren't the same guidelines given for erotica, if any.

Which will differ from mainstream.

Sex probably won't show up at all in a young adult or a gothic romance. If YA goes there now I doubt it's anywhere near romance or erotica levels of description.

Sexual description in Sci-Fi can go to any level depending on who's publishing, who's writing, and, again, who is expected to be the audience.

Etc.
 

clark

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
Lordy, I hate to open this old quandary--but is there not a distinction between EROTICA, which can have literary merit--the work of the pre-Raphaelites in the death-throe decades of Victorianism, The Story of 'O', that kind of thing . . . and flat-out PORNOGRAPHY, which is 100% prurient and dedicated to arousing the reader as an adjunct to masturbation. In the latter, I believe real writing skill, character development, structure, etc. would be UNdesirable, given the purpose of such books. Am I right?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Hey, everyone.
I have completed almost my book and I want to end it with sex. I just don't know how to describe it.
A friend of my gave as a advice to not get to much into the details. But still it's the first time for my two main characters.
Does anyone have any tips or advice to this?

I am curious--and I am very much learning the novel form--why most of your comments rather dance around the sex issue. In between the lines seems to be . . ."do you absolutely have to have the sex?" And if you do, "less is more", or , sex is ok if the whole book has an erotic bent of some kind. What's wrong with a sex-chunk in an otherwise pretty sex-free novel? One from the past just leapt to mind--John Barth's The Sotweed Factor, a novel by no means erotic or prurient in its generality, has three or four sex scenes, one of which--I'd say close to 1000 words--seems downright pornographic. Hariki Mirikami's acclaimed The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, again a non-erotic novel, has some very steamy scenes.

Sex is an integral part of life and if, esp in longer works involving complex character development, sex scenes contribute significantly to our sense of a character, I don't think an author should hesitate. As Olly points out, however, how MUCH will always be a problem.

As others have said, it depends entirely on your market. If you provide too much description, you may lose a huge chunk of the market. I'm a member of a number of book clubs. The books we read are part of a large network of books pre-selected by the library. I can tell you that none of those will have descriptive sex scenes in them. It's because although sex may be an integral part of life, so are a lot of things that some people don’t want to read about in detail. Doing your taxes is an integral part of life, but is a detailed description required in your book? So it doesn’t matter if other authors include steamy scenes, the question is do your readers want to read it, and do they want to read it in your story?

I'm in a similar situation as the OP with my current WIP. Two of my MCs are married and I have already included a scene in the bedroom with them. My other two MCs have been having a romance and building up to it for some time. I have tested the waters with members of my book clubs (all women) and it has been unanimous, no one wants too much detail. Just the romantic parts of the leading up to and the winding down.

Now, on the other hand, there are authors that have made their name on writing steamy scenes, and there is a huge market for that. Two that come to mind are Jackie Collins and E. L. James. And plenty more I'm sure, but those are the bestselling authors that come to mind. But IMO, if you wish to get this descriptive, you would need to do it early on, because this market expects it and would get bored if it didn't happen soon enough.

But, to SpartanWarrior, you may wish to try something more novel. It's an intriguing idea to have it only happen at the end. But, my thoughts are, first test your market to make sure they want to read detail, and that they want to read detail in this story. If yes, then I would suggest that you allude to it early on and through-out the book. If you are able to do that cleverly, then you could have a hit on your hands with a huge steamy scene at the end!
 

Gofa

Friends of WF
He looks deeply into her eyes a little lost as to what to do next.

She notices his indecision and asks quietly

Have you read 50 Shades of Grey

He colours then answers

Yes 12 times

She counters

Me it's 20

A long pause follows

Okay then she breaks the silence feeling it's time to order up

Lets have a page 97 with 121 and a side of 243 and we can have with page 352 both ways

You can see him checking his watch as to how many days they should allocate

Then says

Oh yes. Great

Now she becomes shy, looking at the floor she whispers

Can we finish with a Threesome with my Teddy Bear otherwise Teddy will sulk.

the end

As you can see lots of sex not too much detail
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Lordy, I hate to open this old quandary--but is there not a distinction between EROTICA, which can have literary merit--the work of the pre-Raphaelites in the death-throe decades of Victorianism, The Story of 'O', that kind of thing . . . and flat-out PORNOGRAPHY, which is 100% prurient and dedicated to arousing the reader as an adjunct to masturbation. In the latter, I believe real writing skill, character development, structure, etc. would be UNdesirable, given the purpose of such books. Am I right?
Maybe I'm too young for the quandry. ;) I always thought that erotica was roughly equivalent to literary pornography.

ETA: Gofa that's a fun illustration. Someone really has to pick up the 50 Shades menu idea and run with it. I have never read 50 Shades but there are possibilities here.
 

River Rose

Senior Member
Actually neither have I nor watched the movies
But i am 12,000 words into a book that runs with those themes

I have read the 50 shade book series. Many times. Many ,,many times. Also have seen all of the movies many times. Many many times. The books were way more explicit than the movies. I do understand they had to scale the movies down in order to get into the theaters w a “R” rating. Many other erotica books along the 50 shades genre took off after their success. I read those as well. None disappointed.
 
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Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
. I have tested the waters with members of my book clubs (all women) and it has been unanimous, no one wants too much detail. Just the romantic parts of the leading up to and the winding down.
This may be bang on the money,Taylor, but it does occur to me that people's responses in a social situation and when alone reading may be quite different. Not everyone is as upfront as RR.
 

LadySilence

Senior Member
I had the same problem as you.
I wrote some stories, with sex scenes, some very vulgar, some very soft.
But I was not satisfied.
One day by chance, I was looking for a gift, for a friend of mine, I discover this book:


"I Give You My Body...": How I Write Sex Scenes
by Diana Gabaldon


I like the writing style, by Diana Gabaldon, so I bought it.
And what I was looking for, a manual, which explains, and teaches how to write, sex scenes, finding the balance.
 
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