Over the past week, the Confabulators talked about how we get past judgment in order to write what we want. So, now that you know that we do, for the most part, write whatever we want, and we’ve talked previously about where we draw lines as writers, you’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what we’re comfortable writing, and what makes us squirm a bit. So, we’ve asked them the big question for this week’s Ephemera. Which makes us squirm more: writing sex or writing violence?
Since my chosen genre is YA, I haven’t had to write about teenage sex. Yet. However, I’ve had to tackle some descriptions of violence, and since these are always from a teenager’s POV I try to remember what it might have been like for either a boy or girl to get smacked, sometimes for the first time and simply describe the action from their point of view. The only embarrassment might come from the teenager’s dealing with a slightly-altered appearance and having to explain it to a parent.
I can’t tell you that I’ve ever been embarrassed to write sex or violence, per se, but I’ve been reticent to include too much of one or the other because what appeals to me may not appeal to others. I’m very aware of – or at least I try to be – the fact that my tastes are probably a little different than others. A hot scene between two people who are having sex is only good if it’s well-written and I’ve read a lot of scenes that aren’t well-written. Same goes with violence. I think there needs to be a level of craft and artistry to pull detailed passages off in either case. I often wonder if I’m good enough to do it and so in that wondering I tend to write around those things. That said, lately, I’m trying my hand at both in newer works. We’ll see what people think.
I’m actually more embarrassed to admit that for me, it’s sex. For whatever reason, I can get downright verbally vulgar and generally be alright, but the second it comes time to write things down, it gets very difficult. Part of it is that it’s very easy to write bad sex, especially of the IKEA variety; there’s an art to writing a good erotic scene. Also, I get very flustered at the idea of accidentally writing my own sexual preferences/interests into a story. It may not be a logic worry, but it’s something that gets me all the same.
While sex and violence are both incredibly difficult to write (in my experience), I think sex is more embarrassing. Mostly because I’m terrified of someone reading over my shoulder and going, OH MY GOD LOOK AT WHAT SHE’S WRITING! YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW WHAT THAT IS YET! But maybe that’s my paranoia talking.
I’ve encountered plenty of sex and violence in my reading, but it’s not easy for me to write either. I don’t mind gruesome or scary, but torture (as I’ve mentioned elsewhere) is nearly impossible for me to write. I don’t like pain and suffering. I haven’t written a lot of sex, but that’s because my stories are meant for a more general audience. However, I think if it were necessary to the story, I could craft some steamy sex scenes. Only under an assumed name, though.
I think you can get away with alluding to sex without the reader getting too upset with you as an author. Violence, on the other hand, is harder to shy away from. That said, extreme cases of either sex or violence always pose a challenge for me to write, but sex is probably harder. It feels more personal.