Monday, July 6, 2009

Bad Sex in Fiction Awards

“I sometimes think novelists write about sex in order to avoid boring themselves to death.” – Walker Percy

While writing The Ride, I came to a place in the story where the next logical step between two of the characters was a steamy sex scene. This is going to be fun, I thought. With my hands poised above the keys, I froze.

“You don’t have a clue what to do here, do you?” I heard my Muse mutter.

She was right, I didn’t. Each word sounded forced or hokey. I deleted a few of the words immediately. “Your mother is going to read this," I reminded myself. Though no easy task, I finally worked my way through it and was pleased with the outcome.

After running across information about Britain’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award, I feel even better about the scene. I didn’t make this award up. According to LibraryThing Beta,

“The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award is an award given annually to the author who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel. The award is in the form of a "semi-abstract trophy representing sex in the 1950s", which depicts a naked woman draped over an open book. It has been presented each year since 1993 by the Literary Review, a London literary journal. The award was originally established by Rhoda Koenig, a literary critic, and Auberon Waugh, then editor of the Literary Review.The given rationale is "to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it".”

The 2008 award went to Rachel Johnson for Shire Hell. From,

“Johnson was singled out for her novel's slew of animal metaphors, including comparing her male protagonist's "light fingers" to "a moth caught inside a lampshade", and his tongue to "a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop".”

Also according to the article, her prize was a plaster foot and not the trophy of a woman draped over a book. I’m trying to keep this a PG so you’ll have to read the article in the for more details. You can also read about the other nominees and Updike’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Entire “nominated” passages for previous years can be found at Literary Review. But, here are excerpts of a few of my favorites (that I could print without blushing too much).

From I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe winner in 2004: “Hoyt began moving his lips as if he were trying to suck the ice cream off the top of a cone without using his teeth.”

From Bunker 13 by Aniruddha Bahal, winner in 2003: "She's taking off her blouse. It's on the floor. Her breasts are placards for the endomorphically endowed.”

And from Kissing England by Sean Thomas, winner in 2000: "She is his own Toshiba, his dinky little JVC, his sweet Aiwa. Aiwa - She says, as he enters her slimy red-peppers-in-olive-oil ****(word censored by the author of this blog) - Aiwa, aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwa aiwaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh"

Have you read any scenes that should be nominated for this award? Do you have any advice for writing sex scenes?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: The Ride, writing sex scenes, Bad Sex in Fiction Award, Literary Review, Rachel Johnson, Updike, Tom Wolfe, Bahal, Sean Thomas, Walker Percy,


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Too funny! These are great.

Yeah, I close the door on any intimate moments. I know I'd do an awful job. I mean, when I write.

The author who wrote using animal metaphors should have read her material! Ugh...gross.

Mystery Writing is Murder

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I keep mine very PG, avoiding the actual act and being pretty straightforward in my descriptions.
Guess I'd suck at romance writing!

L. Diane Wolfe

Marvin D Wilson said...

LOL - loved this post and can SO relate. I can't write good steamy romance scenes. I know it. I've written sex scenes, kind of raw, in my Owen Fiddler book that are pretty good, but the really romantic sexy scenes? No banana. I tried, several times, in my new novel I'm writing. I'd do a draft and then have my wife and oldest daughter - both romance novel nuts - read it and critique it. Every time they told me it was NOT sexy and NOT romantic, and advised me to stick to what I know how to write and leave the steamy stuff to romance novelists. Sigh, oh well.

The Old Silly

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I loved this line, Jane, “Your mother is going to read this," I reminded myself. Too funny.

My first novel had a sex scene that came out okay. Rather tender, I thought--as did some of my readers. Not to brag, just sayin'.

For Book Two, and all future work, however, I'm in Diane's camp. I sort of fade to black at the key and critical moment. What a coward. Hey, I believe in privacy. Plus, at age 60, and clearly in my decrepitude, it's tough to do research. (Did I write that???)

Best regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Alexis Grant said...

Ha! Horrid! Can't wait to read yours.

My advice: Think about what YOU like reading in steamy scenes. What makes you blush??

Karen Walker said...

Oh, God. This post could make me change my mind about writing fiction. I think I'll take a cue from those of you who have commented here and keep it simple and private.
Karen Walker

Helen Ginger said...

Very funny. So far, I have not had to worry about this since I've not written a sex scene. Knowing that there is an award for horrible sex scenes, I think I'll keep it that way.

Straight From Hel

Patricia Stoltey said...

This post is a riot! Talk about the writer being yanked out of a story. Those examples were priceless.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm making a career out of writing mostly sex (under this name anyway ;-) so it can be done, but like any writing, it takes attention to detail. Most people haven't thought about or paid attention to what the experience is like -- in part because I suppose they don't watch themselves or anyone else. I'm leaving out watching the average porn film because they have little to do with real sex.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Fabulously funny post. Thanks for the laugh. My aunt, who is a nun, reads my stuff so I have that thought in my head when I write. LOL

Anonymous said...

Wow.....the Rachel Johnson tidbit is great. My obligatory sex scene is okay, but nothing to enter in a contest. Keep it somewhat short and a lead-in to an attempted murder for the protagonist is my theory.

Stephen Tremp

Morgan Mandel said...

Those are funny. I'm not that great at writing sex scenes. I don't do that many of them. It's hard to think up what hasn't been said before in some way or another.

Morgan Mandel

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world