Friday, February 4, 2011
Building a Fire
We know what ruins a good fire. Wet firewood. Insufficient oxygen. What smothers a good sex scene? The ultimate wet blanket: the internal critic. Isn't it interesting that I can risk life and limb learning to scuba dive, rappeling down rock faces or taking bicycle trips hundreds of miles down the coast and my internal "gasp! You can't do that!" voice is silent. But try to write a scene between two people who've arrived at a point in their relationship where intimacy and trust are necessary and an entire army of horrified commentators gathers in my head, wringing their hands, wailing and rending garments over the fact that I'm attempting to write a sex scene between two people committed to one another. It concerns me that this post of writing sex scenes has turned into the perfect segue to next week's topic. "My Favorite Neuroses". O_o
Return with me to the fire metaphor. A good fire is hypnotic. Mesmerizing. But you can't sit and stare into a roaring blaze unless you went to the trouble of laying a solid foundation. Kindling set to assure a good coal bed, dry wood arranged to maximize airflow. If you put the work in, you get a roaring blaze to stare into while you char your marshmallows. Sex scenes require the same initial work and that's where my real interest lies. I mean, once the tab and slot joining has occurred, there are only so many ways to describe the - er - ins and outs of the act without. . .let's say 'gliding' into porn movie territory. No, for me, the interesting part is what leads up to tab to slot insertion.
I love the mental, emotional and physical manuevering that lures two people from conflict into tentative alliance, then into attraction, hope, and eventual trust. The actual culminating event then has to live up to all that initial dancing around. But no pressure, right? Sex scenes in my stories serve to break down walls in my characters - walls that need shattering if these characters are to become whole. If the hero and heroine refuse to step over the trust line, if either refuses to take the risk sex represents - entrusting body and heart to another, then there's no way that hero or heroine can achieve any lasting victory at the end of the book. Which makes me wonder whether I expect too much.
Oh, look. Back to the fire metaphor. You know how else you kill a fire? Overload it. It hadn't occurred to me until just now that maybe I'm asking too much of my love scenes - crushing them beneath the weight of all my 'burn hotter!' expectations.
Any fire experts care to weigh in? ;)