50 Shades of Gray?

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried writing about sex, but let me tell you it’s impossibly hard to get it right.  You want to strike the right tone – not uncaring, not harsh but also somehow real and gritty and – yes, let’s not forget – fun! and you end up being either coy or slushy.  If you manage to avoid this Scylla and Charybdis you can end up between another rock and hard place (fnarr, fnarr!) and sound either too clinical like a doctor; or too smutty.  It’s just really hard to get it right.

And it’s not just me: there’s a thing called the Bad Sex Award for dreadful descriptions of sex; here’s the shortlist from last year.  I must say I’m disappointed in Ben Okri – I thought better of him:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/poll/2014/nov/12/literary-review-bad-sex-award-shortlist-2014

But! would you believe it,  in 2012 ‘Fifty Shades’ didn’t make the shortlist.  There really is no justice: I would have thought the ‘novel’ defined bad sex.  But no…

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/nov/20/bad-sex-award-2012-shortlist

So here’s my problem: in my latest story I’m trying to describe a couple making love.  They’ve lost both their twins in a car accident (I’m writing about losing children a lot recently, I’m not sure why – yesterday I was actually in tears as I wrote about the accident).  They say the first thing a couple often does after losing a child is to make love, and whilst this doesn’t happen in the story, it signals the end of the first stage of overwhelming grief and the beginning of new life.  But it’s so hard to make it authentic and moving without resorting to metaphor all the time.  I’ve got as far as describing waves, but that’s pretty standard stuff.  I don’t know where to go from here.

Answers on a postcard please…

Kirk out

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