This is one of the monthly “open” posts, a slot that’s given to us on the Write Anything team to be looser and less adherent to the overall theme of this year. In our other monthly posts, the “theme” posts, you’ve been following along for each of us as we began, continued or renewed our commitment to some project or other. Back in February, we publicly committed to a novel, a collection of short stories, a sequence of poems, a novella, whatever. The projects are as varied as this cast of writers.
Our degrees of progress have varied, too. Some of us have been quite successful in meeting our original goals, in one case so successful that it meant leaving Write Anything to handle the flood of work. We’re exceeding expectations, or we’re on track, or we’re a bit behind but still moving forward. For some of us, the original goal wasn’t a good one to choose and we switched horses mid-stream. For others, the work stalled, the projects jumped the track. This might have been an unexpectedly good thing or it might be causing us pain and angst.
These open posts, though, don’t have a rigid topical structure. Regardless of how your project is going, these are a chance to discuss ideas, news, tips, reflections, etc. on writing related matters that are NOT related to that project. They are (as our editors have so clearly noted) “open” posts for a site called “Write Anything”.
So let’s talk about sex.
I’m much more comfortable writing about physical violence than I am writing about sex. I feel bad about this, since I have so much more experience with (and enthusiasm for) having sex than I do for committing physical violence. Why don’t I write about a subject I know so (ahem) intimately? It’s not that I can’t write about sex; I’ve written erotic scenes ranging from “that was kinda hot” up to “God, I hope my mother doesn’t read this”.
(For the record, when my mother read those latter scenes in one of my early novels, her comment was usually along the lines of, “Well, that didn’t advance the plot very much.”)
How much sex does a book have to have? A couple of pretty good slippery naked squish scenes, with bra straps slipped off eager shoulders and wide, strong thighs slick with sweat? I’ve noticed that many genre fiction books—horror, science fiction, detective, fantasy—toss in a sex scene or two, sometimes so obviously bolted on that it might as well be labeled NEXT THREE PAGES ARE FOR THE TEEN MALE MARKET.
Is this something I’m missing out on? Sex certainly sells. Having a sex scene or two in a book justifies having a leggy piece of eye candy on the cover, even though it has no relevance to the overall story arc. Just think of the fan-fic that could be written around the book, even ghost-written by an unscrupulous author as a blatant bid to generate some artificial buzz.
Ah, well. Maybe in my next book. From the beginning, I’ll make sure that the main character has a hella strong libido and a loose constellation of moral restraints. The way I figure it, if I have a gratuitous sex scene in the first three chapters, a big segment of the readership will be pulled along through the plot just to see if there will be another one. With a bit of luck, the sex scenes won’t stick out too much (no pun intended). If I have more than just luck, if I work it properly in the writing, I’ll be able to get by with just hints and implications, rather than taking the easy route and getting anatomically explicit.
And if I do a REALLY good job, the sexual tension won’t just be a crude literary device that helps to advance the plot. It’ll become an essential part of it.