October 11, 2007

Don't Be Afraid To Write About...You Know

As a writer who is woefully terrible with quotes, I am going to paraphrase this one and give credit to the first author who lays claim to it: "A person does not really become a writer until their parents die." It's a funny line, and I'm willing to bet that there are a few of you out there who get it right away. What that quote means to me is that writers often edit themselves and don't write anything too controversial as not to embarrass themselves, or their readers. Only when that writer's mother and father are gone, can that person feel relaxed enough to author content which may make Aunt Bessie red-faced if she saw it. My biggest hang-up has always been the sex scene. In my case, as a side note, I still have to pretend that my wife is never going to read anything which can be considered “adult” for fear that she may think that I’m really writing about my own fantasies. I can see the scene playing out between the two of us if she ever read the stuff I edit out of a story.

Angry wife: “So you want to bang the baby sitter? You pervert!”
Me: (sweaty brow, hands shielding my face): “No honey, not me…the guy I’m writing about wants to. I think our baby sitter is ugly.” (Gulp)

Okay, I’m exaggerating. She supports what I do, and understands the process, I hope. But, I digress.

We all “do it”, ya know. Even our (gasp!) parents “did it” or else you wouldn’t be here, duh. So, naturally our characters are going to feel a bit romantic for each other and want to act on it every once in a while. My goals when typing out a “roll in the hay” scene between two characters is to have them learn something about each other, or to illustrate a plot point. Mostly, I want them to be complete human beings who react as the rest of us three dimensional individuals do when we’re around other people. I wouldn't want to turn one of my stories into an orgy fest; but, I think that at least one person in each of my stories would like to see another one naked.

How you actually describe the scene is up to you. Your technique can be to chronicle the entire event from the awkward first kiss, all the way around third base and across home plate. You can be vulgar, or clinical in your description of body parts, or follow the amorous couple as he carries her upstairs to the bedroom and slams the door in your face, leaving you, the reader to guess what's going on inside. All of this is relative to your skillfulness as a writer, and how much of a risk you wish to take. Even the voice used to tell the story has influence on what verbiage is used or how graphic it becomes. A wedding night between newlyweds may be narrated differently than the new inmate's first visit to the prison shower where there's a welcome party awaiting him. But the point of this article is not to lay out how to write a sex scene; it is basically to encourage you to write about what is perfectly acceptable. Also, you don’t have to kill your parents in order to work up the nerve to write that scene between the young woman behind the counter at the local deli who always wears a tube top, and the beer delivery guy.

Your audience has to remember that you're writing about human beings, and a complete human character needs water, food, shelter, clothing, etc. They even want to get frisky with each other. Those are all elements of good drama. You should feel free to sketch your characters to a point where your readers will be able to handle it if a twenty-year old Au Pair strikes a pose on the living room couch in her nightgown while watching Conan O’Brien, and then Dad wanders downstairs for a late night snack. Au Pairs can help a lot around the house and we can afford one, right honey?