I Never Write About Sex

Daily Prompt: Never

Tell us about a thing you’ll never write about.

The interactions and actions of characters to a situation is the most powerful drama that can be written. The one word, the one look, to a writer it’s like a flower that unfolds.

The brilliance of writing well is doing so in such a way that the mind is drawn into the scene with as few words as possible. Leave all the fancy words to people who write lies in those vacation magazines.

A few years ago a writer was working on a detective novel. He sent a few sample chapters. The story was compelling. In one scene a detective brings in a beautiful female suspect for questioning. He used two pages to develop an antagonistic relationship between them. He wanted some advice on how to make it more intense and shorter. I suggested this shorter version:

“What is your name?”


“Do some people call you Gabby?”


“Gabby, do you know why you’re here.”


Gabriel said three words yet spoke volumes. Why? Because we know the look on her face, we know the look on the detective’s face, we can feel the tension in the room, and we can even imagine the physical posture of the characters.

He didn’t like it and wrote another page of ranting and cursing characters.

I am cautious about bad language also. I once wrote a chapter in a novel. The chapter was based on real characters and events. The language used by one character was raw and unedited. It wasn’t my writing, it wasn‘t me. Sure I know it was the character speaking, but it’s on my page!

I revised it:

Jason looked at me and hurled a string of vulgar cursing. I’d never recalled seeing him so infuriated.

I became fearful for his health, but not enough so that I refrained from offering an innocent sarcastic recommendation, “You really should invest in a dictionary. You have trouble distinguishing adjectives from obvious verbs.”

There are some things you don’t have to write about. The reader’s imagination is probably better and more gifted than your own words. They may have seen more sunrises, sunsets, beautiful mountains, trickling creeks, placid meadows, and may even live in a sleepy little village that you are trying do describe to the point of nausea. Sex does not have to be described for the very reasons given in the last sentence.

“He gazed at her like a thousand tomorrows would never arrive, followed by one kiss after another. Suddenly it was morning.”

Your characters could have fallen asleep. Who cares? The point is that you feel their emotional connection. To me that’s all that needs to be described.

If a character jumps from the thirtieth floor I don’t need to know how the impact felt. I know already, it hurt like the dickens – but not for long.

Bloggers who never…:

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  1. I absolutely love your response to the Daily Post. I have a habit of writing EXACTLY like I talk, which is a lot. I’ve been told by numerous professors to taper down my wording because half of what I say is already in there and implied. This is wonderful and a great reminder for me!

  2. I like a lot what you say in this article. I think is an elegant way of writing many people should appreciate. Thank you for explaining it. I enjoyed your post.

  3. I really enjoy what you share with us, I learn something new every time I read them. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Awesome post! Honestly, I rather it written this way… it leaves room for our own (the reader’s) imagination to kick in and fill the blanks. Mystery is much more moving than precise overly descriptive depictions.

    • I recall a critic saying my characters are always eating. I wrote back yours are always having sex. Which is more reasonable to believe takes place more frequently.

  5. It is a pure coincedence that my response to today’s DP was about goats and sex. And I absolutely enjoyed reading your post. Fell in love with the Gabby dialogue. Went to Amazon to look up your book )

  6. Great piece! While I do not mind all sex in books, I do take offense when authors “tell rather than show”. Concise, subtle writing is my favorite flavor. I like to work for my own answers and interpretations. It sounds like you have this skill. 🙂

Blather away, if you like.

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