Writing Sexy Memoir Scenes
Our memoirs are rich because we have lived full lives. And when we tell our stories, erotic life is an integral part. Chances are, there have been sexual events in your life that changed who you were, that altered your trajectory.
Sex may have been a catalyst for you and your story. If so, it is important to capture that. If, like most of us, you remember your life as part celebration and part cautionary tale, well then, your sex scenes may also be a bit of both. As women of experience and value, we tell our stories so that our children and especially our grandchildren learn from us how they might better shape the world for the future.
You may be tempted to skip over sex when you write your memoir, for all kinds of reasons, chief among them being, What would the grandchildren say? Which is ironic, because the grandchildren would not be here if you’d never done the deed. But if you would like to try writing about this aspect of life (and I hope you will), the very first thing to do is write a draft that neither the grandchildren nor anyone else will ever see.
Your first draft is a safe space, like a play room full of favorite toys that you never need to share. The toys in this case are memories, which belong only to you unless you decide to present them in memoir.
I write about the joy of first drafts at greater length in my book Aphrodite’s Pen: The Power of Writing Erotica After Midlife, which is available in paperback and ebook from these fine booksellers.
So let’s begin. Find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted, and open a new page in your journal or a new document on your computer. Consider a particular sexy time that was important in your life. Answer whichever of these questions appeals to you, quickly, without self-censorship or judgement:
Writing Sexy Memoir Scenes – Drafting
- What was the setting like? Were you in a room, in a car? What did the place look like, smell like? What time of day was it? How much light was in the room? Did it feel safe and private?
- Who was with you? What did you love about the way he or she looked in that moment? What about the sound of their voice? What did they say? Did they initiate intimacy or did you? Were they hesitant, insistent, nervous?
- What about you? At the beginning of the scene were you excited, afraid, repulsed? How did you feel about your own body in that moment? How did you feel about their body? What did you experience through scents, sounds, sight? Did you fully consent to this event?
- What was happening in your relationship with this person? Why was this particular encounter important in the relationship? Was it the first time you were intimate or the thousandth?
- What did each of you say? What were you thinking? Were there moments that were incongruous, or even humorous? You can write this scene as a continuous narrative, or you can write out of sequence, as you wish.
- Describe how you touched each other. Write freely. Use whatever words you want – your language will be edited thoroughly before anyone sees it. What sensations did you experience? Were these sensations new or familiar?
- Write about how this encounter changed your relationship with the other person.
- How did this incident change you, change how you viewed the other person, change how you saw yourself? How did you view it at the time, and how do you see it now? If this event was in any way difficult or traumatic, how did you deal with or overcome that?
- We can view our lives is as a Heroine’s Journey, where we progress through challenges toward a more enlightened state. How does this event fit into the larger story of who you were, and who you became?
Write all of this rapidly, and if your Inner Critic speaks up, let her know she will have a turn later, when you edit; but for now she should hang out somewhere else. You are never going to show this draft to anyone. And give this writing the time it deserves. You may choose to come back to it over the course of several days, answering different questions each day. And every day, keep the pen moving or your fingers moving on the keyboard. Don’t look back, don’t begin to edit, until you have said everything you want to say.
When you have finished – and this is important – put away what you wrote. Save it in a safe space and do not look at it for several days or weeks. This writing can bring up strong feelings, and we need some distance from that raw first draft when we look at it again.
Writing Sexy Memoir Scenes – Editing
When you feel it is time to look at what you wrote, again find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted. If you wrote the draft on a computer, print it out so that you have a physical copy in your hands.
Before you start, consider how you feel about writing erotic memories. Our stories are important and they include our sexual stories, but we may have been taught to feel shame about our sexuality. We can view this writing as an opportunity to overcome that shame. We can edit our work in ways that are positive, that affirm our value and the importance of our erotic experience.
- First, use a yellow marker and read through your work, and highlight words and phrases that resonate as you read. When you finish, go back through and ponder what is important to you about what you wrote.
- Next, expand on the ideas and themes that captured your attention. What did you forget to say in your first draft?
- Consider the order of what you want to say. Any scene in a story or memoir contains an arc from setting the scene, through conflict, to resolution – which is very like the arc of making love.
- Give yourself permission to add what you no longer remember, that tells the truth of the story. You may not recall someone’s exact words, or the precise way that you moved at a given moment; yet adding a particular detail may bring your reader into the scene in a way that more fully conveys what occurred and why it was important.
- Be true to the people in the story as they were at the time, and be true to yourself as you are now. The people in that room spoke in the words of that era, and your narrator voice is the voice of who you are today.
- Take out whatever you wrote that does not serve your scene. Your first draft was important in its own right and is worth saving for your benefit, but you know what is key to share with whoever will read your memoir.
- Read your story aloud, listening for what rings true, and what jars or blocks the flow. Delete the words that you feel need skipping and add the words that need to be said.
- You may shape the scene to be more or less explicit, choosing words that convey meaning without being jarring (clinical sounding anatomical terms can stop readers in their tracks, while euphemisms can introduce unintended humor). Give your readers credit for being strong enough to read about your authentic self.
Ultimately only you can decide how much of your erotic life to include in your memoir. You may choose to use a full scene, edited with these suggestions, or you may choose only to allude to the events. Whatever your choice, the exercise of writing a sexy memoir scene will bring you and your readers more fully into your own story.