What My Go-To Guy Taught Me About Writing Sex by Anne Tenino
April 4, 2012 25 Comments
Welcome to the next stop on the Frat Boy & Toppy Blog Tour Extravaganza! *confetti*
This is the last stop on the tour and at the end of this post I’ve announced the winner of the Frat Boy & Toppy Blog Tour Extravaganza! Contest.
On this tour, I wrote a series of pieces on how I cook up a story. Not a how-to manual, just a how-I-do manual, wherein I revealed all the dirty little secrets about how I approach a story, using Frat Boy & Toppy as an example.
For a schedule—with links—of all the places I’ve been visit my site, http://annetenino.com. There you will also find information on the tour contest prize. It’s too late to enter now so how about we make this stop a giveaway? I thought you might like that. Today, I’ll be giving away the grand-daddy of all swag . . . The Frat Boy & Toppy T-shirt!
To win said lurvely shirt (size XL), please leave a comment with your email address at the end of this post, and I will pick one random winner at the end of the day (that’s midnight, GMT -7:00/PDT for me).
What My Go-To Guy Taught Me About Writing Sex
The way I see it, there are three audiences I can write for. I can write for me, I can write for other people, or I can write for a combination of both.
If I wrote for myself, I wouldn’t try to publish. I might post it on the internet, but that’s likely as far as it would go. If I wrote for other people, I probably wouldn’t write gay romance—regardless of the current buzz about “the money being in M/M,” there’s definitely more money in “mainstream” romance if you become moderately well-known. If I wrote for others (and likely for money), why bother writing what I want?
I want to write gay romance, and I do it for myself and others. I chose what to write and where the story’s going based on what I want, but the whole time I’m painfully aware other people are going to read it. Sometimes it seems like they’re reading over my shoulder.
This is never more true than when I’m writing sex scenes.
I gotta tell you, it’s daunting. I’m a woman who writes about two guys getting it on (in explicit and loving detail), so not only am I thinking “Okay, is this hot or squicky? Am I a pervert? Is being a pervert a bad thing?” I’m also thinking, “Shit, can that actually happen?” or “Do guys even feel that? How long does the average male orgasm last, anyway?”
I think every female writer of M/M has at least one go-to guy. After all, the hands-on research we can conduct is limited (other than, you know, actual sex). Oh, sure, I watch porn1, but having seen straight porn before, I feel confident in saying gay porn is not an accurate depiction of what goes on in the bedroom (or wherever) between two men.
So, when I write a sex scene, I send it immediately to one of my go-to guys. When I wrote Frat Boy & Toppy, my go-to guy had a major influence on the sex scenes, and ultimately on all future sex scenes I would/will write.
I emailed back and forth with my go-to guy (can we just call him a GTG?) regularly, and he had a new boyfriend he was really, really into (like, the “L” word was discussed). Naturally—using my handy-dandy “I’m an author and this is research” excuse—I pumped him for lots of information about the relationship. As I got to know my GTG better I realized he was exactly the type of character I would write. I didn’t model Brad (Frat Boy) after him, but I let his preferences and opinions inform Brad’s character. This might be why there’s more of Brad’s POV in the book than Sebastian’s (Toppy’s).
At one point we were discussing Nik from Whitetail Rock. I had some worries Nik might be seen as a CWD (chick with a dick) by some. This is what my GTG had to say:
That smart, strong, tall man who oozes confidence and authority may well prefer his partner dominate him in bed to give him a break from his public life as the eternal champion. His partner could be just like him out of bed and prefer to keep it that way in bed because he wants to take care of his man like he takes care of everyone. And both of them might appreciate that struggle to win before one gives in like they both knew he would. Somebody’s got to be on top and, usually, that doesn’t require a conversation beyond “what do you want?” to figure it out the first time.
I’d heard this before, but it was the fact that my GTG said it that made it sink in. I write relationships with dedicated tops and bottoms. I try to change it up, but it keeps turning out that way. I’m insecure about this, because I know it doesn’t always happen that way in real life. But I felt a little bit better about it after that. I had the stamp of approval of someone I trusted and liked.
(Just for your edification, my GTG had this to say about Whitetail Rock: “Handcuffed over a desk in a university office? Brilliant. Thank you.”)
It was in the actual beta-reading that my go-to-guy made the biggest impact on my insecurity about the dom guy/subby guy thing. I sent him an early version of Frat Boy & Toppy in which, near the end, Brad tops Sebastian. I wrote it because I thought I should, and it was about as short as a sex scene can get without being a fade-to-black. This was my GTG’s comment:
As detailed as you’ve had Brad be during each encounter, this one feels like an outline despite being another first. I would’ve thought Brad would have a lot to think/say about doing this. The brevity here makes me think he might not actually like it–which is entirely possible as I don’t–but he says it’s good.
When I read that it was a light bulb moment for me. Brad wasn’t into it, I wasn’t into it, Sebastian wasn’t into it and guess what? Neither was my main beta-reader. I forgot something when I wrote that scene: good sex is always emotional. Sometimes the emotions aren’t your favorite, but they’re always there. In writing erotic romance it’s my number one rule.
I need to feel the emotion or I can’t write an erotic scene. It won’t connect with my readers because I’m not connecting to it. A good sex scene is satiating–not necessarily physically, but mentally. A sex scene in a book needs to result in mental satisfaction so the reader feels emotionally invested in the characters or the storyline.
There are people out there who won’t ever get that sense of connectedness to what I write, and I’m okay with that. I still wonder how people are going to perceive what I come up with when writing sex, but because of my GTG I changed that scene–and many other details–that kept Brad from being the way I really saw him. I’m grateful for that, and I’m glad I had my friend’s help. Since then, I’ve been consciously writing what feels right, and living with the people reading over my shoulder.
Thank you, GTG! You know who you are.
To purchase Frat Boy & Toppy, visit Riptide Publishing.
1. Note that when women writers of M/M use the word “research”–especially in quotes or italicized–they’re usually referring to watching porn.
Raised on a steady media diet of Monty Python, classical music and the visual arts, Anne Tenino rocked the mental health world when she was the first patient diagnosed with Compulsive Romantic Disorder. Since that day, Anne has taken on conquering the M/M world through therapeutic writing. Finding out who those guys having sex in her head are and what to do with them has been extremely liberating.
Wondering what Anne does when not writing? Mostly she lies on the couch, eats bonbons and shirks housework.
Check out what Anne’s up to now by visiting her site. http://annetenino.com
- “I bet he’s done that…” (thornynotprickly.wordpress.com)
- Writing Sex Scenes: MJ O’Shea and Piper Vaughn discuss sex and “The Luckiest” (thornynotprickly.wordpress.com)