…a truly satisfying sex scene is as challenging to achieve in writing as it is in real life. Keeping it run-of-the-mill might get the job done but having it be a little, um, “too freaky” can be misconstrued as a necessity to quell what has become the boredom of the act itself.
Take Philip Roth’s Bad Sex in Fiction-nominated “green dildo” scene, for instance. Unlike porn/erotica writers, a novelist has the pressure of making this sex scene “mean something.”
On top (ha) of that, the novelist must consider keeping this scene in the same voice and on par with the rest of the novel despite it being about a topic that usually renders the human mind useless for however long it lasts.
Strangely enough, it’s the latter half of the challenge that usually lands these poor writers a nomination. The Literary Review cites Roth’s desire to give the sex scene any more insight than a sex scene can stand to give on its own the reason behind his nod for Bad Sex in Fiction. The award has been described as a way to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”
But then golly, you say – if you know how challenging it is to write a sex scene, then why would you challenge and risk discouraging the authors of these already-written sex scenes? After all, anyone who’s ever taken a glance at a romance novel can sympathize with the author’s struggle of finding as many synonyms as possible for an aroused penis (that’s how we get gems like, “throbbing member”).
– Alex Lam writes about pulling off a good sex scene in fiction.
A life spent consumed by sharing one’s own life on the internet can completely erode the very sense of “the self” as something separate and apart from the reaction that one’s own actions get from others. Life is pure performance; outside validation is everything; contemplation of the self is merely a pose designed to elicit comments of sympathy, respect, or even disagreement or dissent.
This has the effect of destroying not just privacy—all this oversharing is voluntary, after all—but also of diluting the river of public dialogue with endless quantities of worthless self-absorption. I’m not talking about Twitter and Facebook; they’re made for worthless oversharing and self-absorption, and wading through it is the price you pay for choosing to partake. I’m talking about writing. Stuff that is published, for others to read. Again, I won’t argue that narcissism and a garish lack of self awareness is anything new among writers; I’m just arguing that if I keep reading posts on Thought Catalog, I am probably going to hurl myself in front of an oncoming subway train in despair sometime this winter.
– From a 2011 post on Gawker. Since then, however, it seems like they’ve jumped on the oversharing, navel-gazing bandwagon.
By some lights, this a golden age for writers, who can launch a blog, post their views online and reap the rewards of community, commenters and cross-referencing colleagues… On the web, no bureaucracy makes them wait their turn, no dunderheaded editors hold back their talents.
But for a host of other young writers, there is still the problem of getting paid… It’s not obvious how young writers without accommodating, well-to-do parents or a trust from gramps make it these days. Surely they can’t spend a year or two blogging without pay until an audience evolves to nurture them. They’ll starve. Meantime, freelance rates for non-fluff magazine writing have barely risen in the past 15 years. And the chances of getting a job at a quality newspaper or a serious magazine are fast approaching zero.
There are exceptions… But on the whole, the writing game seems likely to become even more a province of the upper middle class and flat-out wealthy than it is already. The offspring of the affluent, branded college degrees in hand, can afford to give it a go. But anyone hailing from more hardscrabble environs may find it too difficult to get traction before succumbing to the dismal economics of it all.
But movie stars, business executives, even accomplished authors all write for free these days. Why should some kid nobody’s ever heard of get paid?
– This article by Francis Wilkinson was published in The Week almost four years ago. I bet my small non-existent fortune the situation has gotten a bit more dire. Or perhaps not, depending how disillusioned young would-be writers have become by the whole thing thus making it less competitive for the rest of us.
Much of the writing being produced right now on the Internet is excellent but ephemeral; there’s no assurance it will be available to anyone in 100 years, or even 10. Novels, on the other hand, are just about the most durable home for words we’ve yet discovered.
If you pack a novel full of politics and culture, it might not make a dent in 2012 … but by 2022, or 2112, the rest of the words written this year will have disappeared, scoured away by time and technology upgrades, and that novel will get another swing.
We use novels, not old newspapers, to get a sense of what life was like 100 years ago. I believe 100 years from now, future generations will still use novels the same way. They’ll use novels, not tweets or posts like this.
– Robin Sloan, the author and self-proclaimed “Media Inventor,” (I wish he would stop using that term to describe himself, makes him seem like the douchebag he probably isn’t) writes for the NY Times on why new media is actually reinforcing the ever-enduring power of the novel.
I’ve enjoyed designing web pages and building iPhone apps, but I’m not convinced that any of it will be accessible for very long. That’s just the nature of the internet right now — we’re still in shakedown mode, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Plain text, though, already made it through the shakedown. Invest in text — learn to design sentences and build stories — and it’s a sure bet, no matter what the future holds.
– A few months later Sloan was interviewed by The Millions and makes his case again, this time focusing more on the power of storytelling.
A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn’t telling, or teaching, or ordering. Rather, he seeks to establish a relationship with meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. And one of our ancient methods is to tell a story, begging the listener to say, and to feel, “Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.” To finish is sadness to a writer, a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn’t really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.
– Excerpt from Steinbeck’s letter to Nathaniel Benchley’s son, who wanted to know something about writing.