More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What's S-E-X Got to do with it? (Muse Monday!)

(...What's love but a second hand emotion? (Tina Turner))

I've been captivated with the topic of emotion rising out character interaction lately. I'm coming to believe that the white space on the page is every bit as important a means of communicating character passion as that bit of paper which is filled up with words.

As a romance writer, I am often caught up with different ways to describe the wild and wooly act of "doing it". Preferably, I want to communicate those moments in such a way as to stir my readers both emotionally and physically. Doing this in a way that's fresh and new is a challenge far easier said than done.

The spectrum of human emotion during the act of having sex is huge. One one end, we have down and dirty, pawing and groping animal sex. On the other end, we have tender, reverential physical manifestations of love between two people. A million different scenarios fall in between. And I won't go into the criminal manifestations of the act, as those have nothing to do with romance. :)

When I write love scenes, I'm trying desperately to communicate my characters' relationship and lovemaking to my readers in a way that they have not experienced it before. But honestly, how many ways can a girl find to say pebbled flesh and rising length?

Not that many, right?

I'm learning by deconstructing love scenes that have appealed to me that for the characters involved, the act of making love isn't *just* about the sex, at least not at first. It's about a character attaining an end goal that has little to do with the act of sex itself. Like the sexual act that frames such scenes, the build up of conflicting goals makes for a lot of delicious tension between the hero and heroine. Working those goals between the sheets can make for more than just sizzling sex--it can also advance story.

No more gratuitious sex!

Ah. Bingo. I'm thinking of Deanie and Bud in the classic film, Splendor of the Grass , as I write this. For Bud, sex was about sex and spending some of the pent up testosterone that his love and lust for Deanie has fired in his nubile, young, studly loins...

Oh, wait, I digressed...

For Deanie, at least at first, having sex wtih Bud was about something else. It was about keeping Bud from "doing it" with anyone else. It was about feeling in command of a relationship that spinning out of her control.

In pouring over clips from my favorite movies,and scenes from some of my favorite novels, it has occurred to me that the most successful moments do not rely on words to carry the emotional impact of the act. The best scenes set up in advance thecharacter motivations for making love in the first place.

I hope you find this scene from Splendor in the Grass as useful as I have.

**reprinted from my blog at Inked-In, the net's best (and probably most published!) social network for writers and artists.


Jennifer L Hart said...

"Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken...?"
Thanks for the earworm.
Hold on, I'm dragging my soapbox over, darn thing is heavy...

Okay, I'm up on it now. ;-) This is gonna sound like me being a tool for arguing semantics but I haven't found another way to explain where people ( MEN) actually get it.
You've hit on the key difference between sex scenes and love scenes. Sex scenes are porn, ie sex for the sake of sex. We don't honestly care what the people are doing before or after, it's just about the act itself. I'm not going all school marm-y on you-- sex itself is a basic human need, just like food, clothing shelter. But it is not a story by itself.
Love scenes are emotionally involved, for both the characters and the reader. It's not just about who is doing what to whom, it's about what everyone involved is feeling at the time. Which we try to express by the physical manifestations of the act of love, showing, not telling ect.

In real life, does sex have to mean anything more than, I gots me an itch? Nope, but that's why we write fiction, to make love the way it ought to be

Liane Gentry Skye said...

Great answer, Jenn! Move straight to the head of the class. And you're write about the difference between flat out, gratuitous sex and emotional, character driven encounters.

For me, that's the difference between erotica (written only to tittilate) and erotic/ultra-sensual romance.

Yeah, semantics!

Lori said...

I love my romance reads to include physical love but I'm tired of romance itself being confused with attraction or lust.

Sex as discovery, sex as completion of attraction: these things mean something. But OMG! the tedious scenes of physical desire...

Unless there's emotion, it all feels porny.

SarannaDeWylde said...

I agree. Even though sometimes my characters get down and dirty before the emotion is there, it still means something.

With my WIP they didn't manage to pay up on their deal until about halfway through the book. But wow, was it intense. I hope. LOL. It was intense to write.

I think that's what a lot of people don't get about romance. Yeah, we want to watch what happens behind closed doors, but we want to know what's going on beneath the skin too.

Your mind is the biggest sex organ...

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