Writing intimacy – choice of words

I’m returning to the topic once again, this time with some thoughts on choosing the right words. It’s something I’ve got into a discussion about recently while seeing advice/feedback on my foray into this type of content.

Warning: potentially sensitive content!

Even though this was not the point of my discussions (my goal was to get some feedback on my writing and the realism of those scenes), it sparked these thoughts nonetheless. After all, this is something where most languages offer a wide variety of words to use ranging from euphemisms to outright vulgarisms.

Setting

I’m repeating this in every post on this matter but I find it an important point. Unless it’s the intention, things should not feel out of place, and that applies to choice of words as well. If a book is happening present-time on near-future, using present-time words is okay. In fantasy (at least the kind I read the most), modernisms would feel out of place. The same applies to historical works. If I was to read words like “blowjob” in these, it would feel out of place – and affect my enjoyment of the book.

Thus, I believe it’s important to make sure the words used in descriptive parts of intimate scene should match the whole story and keep consistent with the vocabulary used.

Another aspect to consider is the type of scene. The words used to describe it should match the grand goal. If the scene is to be rough, so should the words (keeping the abovementioned in mind). If it’s to be a sensual scene focused on emotions, the words will likely be on the gentler side and overusing the F-word won’t leave a good impression.

Characters

Of course, it’s very likely the characters won’t be silent throughout the scene. They’ll have their own thoughts in addition to what they actually say. I’ll repeat myself again but I believe consistency is important. Unless there’s a reason, a character should stay true to who they are outside: someone who speaks little and to the point will likely do the same – and choose words fitting that. Lighthearted characters might use more gestures and words. Brooding characters will probably keep much to their own internal thoughts and possibly challenge their intentions this way.

I admit that this is one of the hardest parts for me. On my best writing days, I busted out more words than I speak in a week. Dialogues are my weakness and the main reason I was seeking feedback on those scenes. I am glad I’ve (hopefully) learned something.

So, I’ll wrap this up here. Feel free to comment – your opinions, tips, and experiences will be welcome.

3 thoughts on “Writing intimacy – choice of words

  1. Great post. I’ve seen too many books by new writers ruined with the use of what I consider inappropriate words for the genre/scene. It destroys the flow and imagery and makes me feel that the writer hasn’t edited enough to notice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, maybe some of them are inexperienced so they don’t realize it? After all, you can’t edit out what you don’t know is wrong (whether by finding it out yourself or with through feedback). You’re right, though, and it’s the exact problem I’d like to avoid.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree inexperience can play a part, however if the book is published and has those errors, that means the author didn’t take the time to have their work reviewed by BRs / CPs and an editor. That would have me leaning away from reading anything further from that author.

        Liked by 1 person

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