Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blame it on the bad sex awards (and Sebastian Faulks)

Admitting yesterday that I haven't finished The God of Small Things put me in a confessional mood. Another secret that I've been keeping to myself is that I finished my second story a little short on words. Not a huge amount - maybe two or three hundred - but I just kept getting stuck on a particular scene as it were.

I'm talking about the sex scene. More specifically a lesbian one.

I know what you're thinking. "This so called 'writer' has a lemon on her hands so she's going for shock value. Tut tut." And you'd be right of course. But the scene actually is important to the story, honest. It's about a young woman who has been groomed to marry well by her single mother for various reasons, but is secretly confused about her sexuality. When she gets engaged she is conflicted between what she wants and her duty to her mother. In leaving out the sex scene with her secret girlfriend, it feels like I'm depriving the story of some essential conflict and drama.

"Ah right, she's a prude" you're thinking. "Otherwise she'd be writing like a demon." Spot on once again. But I'm also blaming those God-awful sex scenes I've read in the past. When I read Birdsong I suspected it wasn't much cop, but when I got to the first sex scene my suspicions were confirmed. Purple prose at its finest. I couldn’t stop sniggering. Years later I was happy to see that Sebastian Faulks had won the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award, as it meant I didn't have the maturity of a twelve year old, or on that occasion anyway.

But damn you now, Bad Sex award! Everytime I sat down to write that elusive sex scene I had visions of the awards ceremony. (“I'm so honoured! I'd like to thank Catholicism and Jackie Collins.”) So I sheepishly gave up in the end and started the next story.