Writing The Secret: Sex & Romance in Fiction
Last weekend, I taught a workshop at The Loft Literary Center on with the title as the topic. It was me and 11 students all interested in how to approach sex and romance in their stories without being ‘cheesy’ or ‘going too far’ or ‘crossing the line.’ It was a great class, and like most of the ones I teach at the Loft, way too short for all the things I wanted to cover.
So here I figured, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d post a little recap of what we discussed and what we didn’t get a chance to cover, along with some recommendations for further reading.
I hope I conveyed my enthusiasm for students to write about sex and romance. I hate that it’s considered prurient or indulgent or gratuitous (fuck you) or a B-plot. I hope they will try writing a sex scene or a draft full of romantical gestures, and that each time they do so, it gets easier and easier.
As I said in the class, more than once: EVERYONE wants to read about sex. But not everyone is willing to WRITE about it.
Some topics covered:
– writing group response to sex scenes in manuscripts
– technical terminology to use for body parts and genitalia
– my aversion to the whole “Only If It Serves The Plot/If It Isn’t Gratuitous” line re: sex/romance in fiction
– explanation of romance, erotic romance, erotica
– the responsibilities of the writer re: triggering and writing non-consensual sexual acts and rape
– concerns of writing sex in young adult books
– Rule 34
– the advantage fictional sex has over visual sex (porn)
– some notes about the romance genre and market
– vulnerability and romance
– romantic cliches and how to defy/defeat/revitalize them
Please message me or leave a comment if you’ve got a link or book recommendation I should add – this is greatly appreciated!
Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex by Judith Levine, University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male by Andrew Smiler. Jossey-Bass, 2013.
Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank, Bloomsbury, 2007.
The Erotic Mind by Jack Morin, Harper Perennial, 1996.
How To Write A Dirty Story by Susie Bright, Touchstone, 2002.
How To Make Love To Adrian Colesberry by Adrian Colesberry, Gotham, 2009.
How To Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton, Picador, 2013.
Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love & Desire by Lisa M. Diamond, Harvard University Press, 2009.
Fiction (super literary grown-up fancy kind)
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
In The Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Endless Love by Scott Spencer
Swimming Sweet Arrow by Maureen Gibbon
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Towelhead by Alicia Erian
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Testimony by Anita Shreve
Recommended Romance Authors
Joanna Bourne (god I love The Spymaster’s Lady! So excellent!)
Linda Lael Miller
Laura Lee Guhrke
Cecilia Grant (great review here of A Lady Awakened)
Eloisa James (this review especially pleases me: “Bitches love a castle.”)
On Porn & YA Literature:
On Making Sex Normal – a TED talk by Debbie Herbenick:
Real Sex Advice: The Savage Lovecast podcast (with Dan Savage)
The Sex Talk:
Sex, YA Books and Some “E” Words
Sex in YA series (by author Kody Keplinger)
Keeping It Safe: http://www.yahighway.com/2011/04/sex-in-ya-part-2-keeping-it-safe.html
Sex v. Romance: http://www.yahighway.com/2011/07/sex-in-ya-part-4-ya-vs-romance-sex.html
On Sex by Ashley Hope Perez
Part I: http://www.ashleyperez.com/blog/item/105-on-sex-part-1-this-house-i-cannot-leave
Part II: http://www.ashleyperez.com/blog/item/106-on-sex-part-2-teens-are-sexual-people-too
Let’s Get It On: Sex Scenes in Young Adult Novels:
On Sex , YA Literature and Terminology:
Writing Sex in Literary Fiction:
So… Are Your Characters Ever Going To Fuck?
The Boys of My Youth: a collection of posts about days gone by
10 Contemporary Sex Scenes That Will Make You Believe In Love: