Technically, right now, I’m not “blocked” per the usual meaning, because I’m writing regularly. Even if I’m in a slack phase in my writing, I am making progress on the crucial second draft of “The Shepherd and the Courtesan” (working title only), and I have to keep up on the blog.
Since I was blocked in the truest sense of the phrase for years in that I didn’t write at all, what’s holding me up now is not that much of a big deal.
But I do find it interesting.
There’s one scene that’s holding me up – the first sex scene between the Shepherd and the Courtesan. This scene does not happen right away in this novel.
In fact, it doesn’t happen until the second half of the novel, and there are a several sex scenes before we even get to them, which are juicier, more transgressive, and more exciting.
Before we get to this, we have the psychological BDSM sex scenes between the Patron’s Daughter and the Brute – neither of them main characters – while the main character, Addie, who will later become the Courtesan, acts as voyeur.
We get to Addie’s flight to the Capital City, and none of the sex scenes with her as a Courtesan for the sake of pacing. But we do get the first sex scene between the Shepherd and the Woman who would become Ella Bandita; and the first sex scene between the Shepherd and the Courtesan is right after that.
But the difference between all the other sex scenes and this is that this sex scene between the Shepherd and the Courtesan is rooted in tenderness, whereas the others have some element of drama and intrigue.
Also in the scene between these characters, I’m writing about those who are not the usual players in an erotic scene, mainly because of age and ageism. The Shepherd is 50, and the Courtesan is 60. They are still true to the usual standard of romantic fantasy in that both characters are exceptionally attractive.
In an erotic scene, the Courtesan suspends disbelief because she’s been very sexual for more than 40 years; and any woman who stays active keeps her juice much longer than those who don’t.
The Shepherd, however, has been mostly solitary and without a mate for 25 years. There is a lot of vulnerability there. I’m resistant to writing about that, and I wonder why.
I wasn’t resistant to writing about the psychological and physical violence between the Brute and the Patron’s Daughter; for the record, that’s not the kind of scene I live through in my personal life, and perhaps that’s why. I’m emotionally detached.
So maybe I can’t be emotionally detached at the thought of a character who had embraced his solitude, and was now suddenly confronted with emotional and sexual intimacy, along with the fears that would entail. That hits closer to home to my experience.
Then I arrive at the logistics of impotence. Erectile dysfunction is reasonable to expect in a middle-aged man who has not had sex in a quarter century. That likelihood cannot be ignored because it would render the scene ridiculous, even in a “fantasy.”
Oh, and then there’s the logistics of being a woman writing a sex scene from the POV of a man. I’ve done it before with the Wanderer in the previous novel, but it adds a whole new level of awkwardness to writing it.
Since Viagra is not an option for a story set in pre-Industrial fairy tale times, I consulted with my Tantra teacher on natural methods to induce a solid hard-on for the good Shepherd. She shared the finger-in-anus-to-massage-the-prostrate technique that she claims would raise an erection in a dead man. (Ok, I exaggerate.)
Although that information is very pragmatic, I couldn’t figure out a graceful, poetic way to introduce it in the scene. And the long-celibate Shepherd is more likely to be scared off with a move like that. Maybe I’ll use it later in the story once they get better acquainted.
For their first time, I went with tender loving care, encouragement, tantric breathing, and palpating the perineum. Although there’s no guarantee those gentler methods would be effective in real life, who is to say that’s impossible? It only has to be in the realm of possibility, and that is good enough for me.
As far as insights and how-to advice, I think I led by example. You can write a blog or a Facebook Note, and open up to strangers. Writing this post gave relief to my shyness. I've never used Facebook Live or Instagram Live, but I bet that would lead to some pretty out there input, and there’s always something useful.
If you prefer a more intimate place to get feedback is talk about it with people face-to-face. Discuss the sex scene with close friends or your writers’ group. I will need to do this eventually for that masculine perspective on those sex scenes told from the man’s experience. But even without that, other perspectives can be very helpful in fleshing out a challenging what ifs and snafus. And talking about it in person is likely to break you out of your reticence.
I’m ready to take on that sex scene now. How do you handle being shy about writing a descriptive sex scene?
For anybody who’d like a nibble - and this is only a nibble - because sex is part of the background, not the main event in the scene, click hereto view this excerpt out of my work-in-progress, “The Shepherd and the Courtesan.”