I am thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour today for which Ava Marsh has written a guest post. Ava’s new book, ‘Exposure’ was published by Corgi on the 16th June 2016.
Every year the Literary Review holds an award for the worst sex in fiction – last year’s winner was none other than Morrissey, after turning his talents from song lyrics to a novel. While Morrissey probably took the distinction in his stride – after all, it’s just one award among many – the rest of us fictioneers dread ending up on the Review’s shit list.
So was I nervous about all the sexual content in my novels, Untouchable and the recently released Exposure? Yes, and no. Yes, because there’s a thousand ways to get it wrong, including using phrases like Morrissey’s unforgettable ‘bulbous salutation’.
And no, because there’s one hell of a difference between writing sex, and writing about it. In both my books, the bulk of the X-rated scenes are more about describing a job rather than an act of love – Kitty, the porn star heroine of Exposure, and Grace, the escort protagonist of Untouchable, both work in the sex trade, so sex for them is a somewhat prosaic, day-to-day activity – at least once they’ve got past their initial nerves. So in the main, their first-person accounts of their experiences ‘between the sheets’ tends to be more matter-of-fact than erotic.
In many ways this distance from the act – or rather, in Kitty’s case, the performance – makes these scenes easier to write. Simply a case of describing what’s going on. On the other hand, I had more difficulty with the scenes where Grace and Kitty have sex with someone they actually care about – making love rather than money. Mainly because it’s hard to get across the emotional content of sex without resorting to clichés – or indeed going completely off-piste à la Morrissey.
I think one of the keys to writing good sex – or bad – lies within the writers themselves. Are you comfortable with your body and what it can do? Are you comfortable with other people’s bodies? Do you feel embarrassed even saying certain words? (I once met a woman who never uttered the word ‘vagina’ in her life, before training as an antenatal teacher).
Sex isn’t difficult to write about, any more than eating is difficult to write about. It’s the self-conscious element that creeps in that makes the whole thing fumbly and awkward. Or overblown, in the case of Morrissey. If you’re squirmy about sex in real life, then this is going to bleed into your fiction, I believe – best then to simply draw a curtain over what goes on in your character’s bedrooms.
Here’s my advice for writing sex scenes that don’t make readers roll their eyes or squirm in their seats – unless, of course, you want them to squirm in sympathy with your heroine and what she’s having to do (there are several scenes in both Untouchable and Exposure that are meant to make your eyes water). Write as little or as much as you feel comfortable with. If you’re not relaxed about describing things in detail, then close the bedroom door behind you; readers have active imaginations – they can fill in the blanks.
And don’t for heaven’s sake start thinking up novel and strenuous metaphors – just call a spade a spade. Or, in the case of ‘bulbous salutation’, simply refer to your character’s massive erection.
‘Exposure’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-