At several of the book club discussions I’ve attended over the year about my first novel, many women have asked me why I didn’t write the sex scene between Michael and Annabelle when they first became intimate.
I have two answers for you:
1—My parents would read it. I’m not sure how I’d feel discussing that particular scene at a family gathering…
2—I believe much can be left up to the imagination of the reader.
It is difficult, I think, to write something that is so intimate, and at times magical, as a moment where sex is not just sex, but rather a sort of spiritual melding of two people into one. (If you’ve ever tried to describe an intimate moment to one of your friends, you know what I’m talking about. Some things just don’t translate well beyond those who are engaged in the act.)
I was thinking about this because I’m about to write what I call a “psuedo-sex scene” in the novel I’m presently writing. It’s one whereby you know the characters “do it,” but yet you don’t divulge everything in the scene as the clothes drop to the floor piece by piece. And then I came upon this particular quote, and it just spoke volumes to me.
- “Sex almost always disappoints me in novels. Everything can be said or done now, and that’s what I often find: everything, a feeling of generality or dispersal. But in my experience, true sex is so particular, so peculiar to the person who yearns for it. Only he or she, and no one else, would desire so very much that very person under those circumstances. In fiction, I miss that sense of terrific specificity.” – A Psychiatrist to Anatole Broyard
This falls under the writing rule of “be specific, not explicit.”
I know some people don’t mind writing explicit scenes. As my writing seems to be geared primarily to contemporary romance as opposed to Romance-Romance (like a Harlequin novel) or erotic romance, I believe I can get by with intimating sex, and not actually writing about as it unfolds in full detail.
I’m not E.L. James, nor do I ever plan on including any sort of explicit sex scenes like the ones she created.
I believe if you understand your craft, and you have a handle on the characters and plot, you can intimate some and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination, without actually seeing what unfolds bit by bit in the bedroom with the characters.
Perhaps I just respect my characters’ privacy too much.
Nevertheless, either way you go, it’s all in good fun.