Sunday, 15 May 2011

Sexual Spieling

One of my blog readers, GillyF, recently posed a question. She writes romantic fiction and is hoping to record the audio versions herself. She asks, “(H)ow difficult is it to read the sex scenes aloud (in my case - especially as I'll have written them myself and my Mum will hear them...!).”

It’s a good question. The simple answer is: the difficulty of reading sex scenes aloud is in direct proportion to how self-conscious you are about it.

A few general points:

As a narrator, you will sometimes be called on to read sex scenes that you find embarrassing, or distasteful, or arousing. The trick is to forget about yourself and your personal response to the material. To read a sex scene well, you can’t be self-conscious.

You can’t be embarrassed. If you are, it will come through the voice and the listener will be uncomfortable. 

You can’t go the whole hog and read with breathy faux-sexiness, or you risk sounding like one of those late-night telephone chatline ads.

You can’t be detached from it, as though you were reading a public service announcement, as that will (probably) be at odds with the material and will leave your listener cold.

So how should you read it?

Uninhibitedly, with sincerity. 

There are different kinds of sex scenes – romantic, funny, raunchy, violent - but Gilly asks about romance, so I’ll concentrate on that.

Here are my top tips:

1. Create a closed set in your mind. Forget the engineer is there. Forget the producer is there. Pretend you’re alone. 

2. Leave irony at home. You may think a scene is soppy or cringe-making, but the characters in it don’t.

3. Slow down a bit and soften your voice. 

4. Keep a picture in your mind of someone you love (or fancy rotten!). Imagine you’re reading the scene to that person.

5. What’s the POV? If it’s written first person, you can let in more emotion. If it’s third person, pull back a little, but give it enough to keep the mood.

6. Think of the scene as a piece of music, increasing and decreasing your tempo and pitch. Try putting a bit more edge in your voice as the action becomes more urgent.

7. Keep it subtle – most people listen with headphones. A very small shift in tone will have a big impact.

8. Relax and enjoy it! In my experience, the words know how they want to be said – just go with it. 

I think the best narration happens when you are absolutely in the moment – so perhaps my best advice to you for narrating sex scenes is: Be there.

And my second-best advice to you is: do not, do NOT under any circumstances think about your mother listening to it!

Photo by liveandrock