While we’re on the topic of sex scenes… How to write a novel–part 14

If you’re anything like me–human, mostly–and you’ve spent any time at the beach, you’re probably already aware that the ratio of truly beautiful people to the rest of us is, well, pretty damned small. And I mean “beautiful” in the most rudimentary sense: exterior beauty. I’m referring to perfect hair, a perfect smile, a perfect body–the works.

Ilustracion con una pareja de jovenesSo why in the world do we insist on writing about fantastically gorgeous people? Who are we kidding? Not every hero needs to be six foot four, weigh 200 pounds and have a 30-inch waist. Seriously. I could count the number of guys I know who are built like that on one hand. Prob’ly one finger.

Ditto for the ladies. I’m pretty sure I married the last perfect gal of my generation, and thank God she still tolerates my presence. But on our last beach trip, I had my worst fears confirmed. Hang on to your hats, people, I have really bad news: Most of us just ain’t all that hot.

But you sure couldn’t tell that by what we write. According to all the fiction I’ve seen lately, women are universally slender, often petite, with flowing locks and azure eyes–usually limpid ones, whatever in hell that means. The guys all seem to have lantern jaws and slab upon slab of lean muscle. And when one of those guys climbs into bed with one of those gals… content  Well, let’s just say miracles happen.

Yes, yes, I know we’re writing fiction, and a desirable element of fiction is fantasy. And certainly, the sex I’ve been reading about is nothing short of fantastic. Who knew that tab A could be inserted into slot B with such spectacular results? Every time. No matter what–or where. Flawless execution, perfect timing, mutual satisfaction, no remorse, and almost never any procreation.

I’d say “fantasy” pretty much covers all that.

Please don’t get the impression I’m some sorta sex scene Scrooge. I’ve written my share of randy romps that logic dictates are utter nonsense. And I’ve been told folks generally liked ’em. Which is nice.

cialissilhouettes2But once in a while I’d like to read a bedroom scene that contains something a little more “real.” Let’s face it, human bodies weren’t designed to operate in complete silence, and I’m not talking about someone screaming (moaning, gasping, grunting, or otherwise fulminating) the classic, “Oh God, oh God, oh God!” line.

Sometimes people actually laugh. I’m not kidding. Really–they do! And why not? They’re supposed to be having a good time. Heavy breathing is fine, but why couldn’t someone burst out in song? Okay, maybe not the Hallelujah Chorus or Row Row Row Your Boat, but something melodic in between might be nice.

Or maybe, just once in a while, the fireworks don’t happen. I’m guessing that outcome is a lot more common than folks think. And if I’m wrong, who’s paying for all those Viagra and Cialis commercials?

In my classes I often use the word verisimilitude. It means the appearance of being true or real. Very handy word, despite being a mouthful and hard to spell, even when sober. But it’s of critical importance when writing fiction. One must focus on creating the “appearance” of reality. How does that apply to sex scenes?

I suspect the answer lies somewhere between the perfection we all wish we had and whatever it is we actually have. A little of this, a little of that, and before you know it, you’ve got… a casserole! And you know what, casseroles can be pretty darned good. Especially the spicy ones.

Next up: Writing for the nose.

–Josh

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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