Friday, December 13, 2013

Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet

What I like most about Stacia Kane’s Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet is that it desensitized me. Completely and utterly popped my mental cherry. After you have read the word “cock” a hundred times, even a Catholic upbringing in a Muslim country can’t make you feel awkward about your sex scenes.

Of course, there’s much much more to the book than that. But the most important thing about it, for me, was that it got me over that hump. No pun intended.

The book is a collection of 24 essays originally published on Stacia’s blog, and although I believe they’re still there, I wanted a copy in physical form. Plus, someone who writes such helpful material deserves to have her book bought. So I got a copy for Christmas last year and it was the best present ever.

I also like how sex-positive this book is. It might seem really obvious that a book with this title would be pro-sex scene, but I’ve come across a lot of writing advice urging people not to describe sex in any detail. Fade to black, summarize, describe it in terms of elegant metaphors, but don’t mention body parts and all that crude unpleasant stuff.

Well, if you want to write a hot or erotic romance, you won’t get very far with that approach. Instead, Stacia shows how to keep the sex scenes an integral part of the relationship and the story—while still being explicit and spicy. The essays even include lists of different words for the sex organs, which was really helpful. It was the first time I’d seen such a list presented seriously, instead of in an amusing collection of purple-prose terms from romance novels (not that there isn’t a time and a place for that too). Plus, I like the discussion of graphic vs. mild and how this needs to be reflected in the story as a whole.

The mechanics of sex, the tone of the writing, even symbolism—it’s all covered here, with detailed examples from Stacia’s work to illustrate points. I think my favorite was the list of unusual places her characters have had sex, because those inspired me to try to be more creative.

If I had a complaint, it would be that this book doesn’t cover enough. I would have liked more discussion of menages, BDSM, etc. A few less-than-positive reviews on Amazon also mentioned the style, which is very breezy, informal and personal (i.e. there are several mentions of Stacia’s preferences in sex scenes, which works for a blog but not so well for a book). But on the whole I enjoyed the book—and I keep it on hand if I ever need help with a sex scene.

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