Saturday, July 22, 2006

You've Come a Long Way, Baby...



You have no idea how many openings I've discarded for today's intercourse.

Yesterday's comment tail seemed to tilt towards laying down double entendres.

Don't think I can top Ric's quicky :
Need to walk down and mail a letter. Open box, raise flag, slide letter in...
so there's no need to stroke his expertise just to enlarge the topic.

Sex , to be serious, has come out of the closet and become part of the everyday decor. I mean, here we are in my virtual living room.

Don't think it's a question of morality or immorality in fiction, just fiction reflecting life and current social acceptance of fact, of reality, a recognition that sex is one of the basic motivators of human existence.
Novels with sex scenes as an essential part of the plot are no longer described as "racy, shocking" or "bold and spicy." Have to exclude pure erotica here, of course.
Now, critics tend to reserve those words for other shibboleths.
Because of this acceptance, some writers strive to introduce what the average reading public might consider as kinky.
But sex sells - and readers tend to expect sex scenes to provide a more encompassing reality to a character's adventures.
In fact, they might well consider characters in general fiction as flat, superficial, and under-developed, if sex or thoughts of sex are not a natural part of the plot.
Some readers say they skip the sex scenes - whether from personal taste, an uncomfortable sense of voyeurism, privacy beliefs, ethics, etc.
One of the main reason for this exclusion by some, I suspect, is that the scene has not been fully integrated and seamlessly welded into the character development.
The reader may have a sense of a tacked-on, gratituous insertion, and they resent seeing the outline mechanics, the editorial revisions, too blatantly revealed.
Readers still prefer to be seduced, not treated like a bar scene pick-up - and certainly not raped.
One issue I have with a lot of sex scenes I may blog about tomorrow.
Meanwhile - feel free.

26 comments:

Erik Ivan James said...

"Some readers say they skip the sex scenes...."

I'm one of those. I skip, at least, the details. For me, the reading enjoyment is experienced during the prelude to the physical act. If crafted well, the circumstances, emotions builing, and "foreplay" will capture and hold my attention. Once she starts bouncing and he starts thrusting I'm flipping pages searching for the final scream and grunt. The details always seem the same...why bother. If then I find a paragraph or two of "pillow-talk", I might linger.

And, you are entirely correct when you say the sex must fit directly into the story and its characters.

Excellent post!

Dennie McDonald said...

as someone who writes w/ "gratuitous" - as my mother calls 'em - sex scenes - I rarely read them all the way through myself - that's bad isn't it... but not for the reason you might think, I don't want what someone else wrote in a very detailed scene to influeance the way I write mine - make sense? The stories I write, the scenes are intrigal to the story - hell they are the story. And hopefully I have made them as much importance as the H/H GMC and whatnot.

ah...it feels good to blog again and have a little normalcy - if I could have ever been called normal - HA!

Dennie McDonald said...

I should say I rarely read OTHERS all the way through - I read mine - I want them to flow and not be jerky - and pretty much nothing I could write now would sound any less gross given what it concerns - maybe my blog absense has deteriorated my brain - more than usualy that is ... ok I shall shut-up now!

Flood said...

I am just thankful that no one in my stories fall in love or lust and needs to have sex. Because, like I said to Lala Scrivino, it would end up reading like two robots discovering that have more appendages than originally thought.

Hardly inspiring prose. So I do admire those that can write such scenes.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Erik.
And you've just hit on one of my main aggravations.

If yours are integrated, Dennie, you've hooked the reader.
From my reading I suspect some writers read the scenes very closely for the sole purpose of borrowing a new euphemism; sometimes to avoid over-using a popular one.

"Gross??" You're kidding, I'm sure. Nothing "gross" about a smooth sex scene.

Every story certainly doesn't need, require or sustain them, Flood.

Ric said...

Thank you for the link.
I agree with Erik for the most part. After a certain point, the mechanics are no different than eating breakfast. And most of us don't need to read that.

The important part is in the set-up (and occassionally the pillow talk)

Allowing the reader to feel, see, touch, experience is the key.

He came down to breakfast, not knowing what to expect. The table was set with mismatched silverware, a cheap plastic plate, commercial orange juice in an old jelly jar glass. She stood facing the stove; he hadn't seen her eyes since she took his hand and led him upstairs to her room. No words had been spoken.
When she didn't ask how he wanted his eggs, he realized there would be no return visit.

kmfrontain said...

I, personally, don't find a story only about sex that interesting. It has to be about the relationship foremost. The sex, when it happens, is part of the dynamics of the relationship, yes, but...then I get stories that are only about the sex parts of the relationship, and that...sucks. Stupid pun, but true in the non-sexual sense.

Ok, so there are some writers that fall through the cracks and can't write pure erotica worth the name of the genre. But those happen to be the ones I like best. Like Erik said, "the sex must fit directly into the story and its characters".

Interesting the point about kink, Bernita. It's true that kink is in a lot of erotic stories, even my own, but I think it's there because all writers are into shock value or kink. I think some of us want to explore that area of human character, but only in fiction. At least that's the case for me. I don't write kink out of any need to do it. Just like I don't write pure fantasy for any need to fend off malevolent beings out to consume all things good. From a purely analytical view, it's just odd and therefore interesting to look at, especially when you may already have looked at the "regular" stuff in sufficient quantity.

kmfrontain said...

And I meant I "don't" think it's there because of shock value or a personal interest in kink.

Darn. Forgot a word.

Bernita said...

Just excellent, Ric!
Nooo, don't think we'd want to read the details of scene alluded to.
Of course, there are those who do erotic comedy very, very well.

Regardless of your approach to the subject, Karen, some writers could learn a lot from your treatment of sex scenes - whether they intend to throw in "kink" for whatever reason, market or otherwise, or are writing traditional style.

EA Monroe said...

Great post, Bernita. You covered my questions, as did Erik and Ric. Does the sex scene further the plot and character development? Or is the sex scene merely obligatory? After pages of "sexual tension," what does the reader expect? I've had that answered two different ways. One reader/critiquer said she felt "cheated" because the sex scene wasn't delivered when expected although said scene didn't further the plot. When I posed the question to a writer friend who had read the novel, she said, "No, she didn't feel cheated at all." So, there you go. One reader expects/wants one thing and another reader expects/wants something else.

Laurell K. Hamilton and her Anita Blake series has been getting a lot of flack over this same issue.

Bernita said...

It can depend on the style, E.A., as to whether a reader feels cheated.
If the previous set-up has been frank and explicit, a reader might well feel cheated if the writer suddenly closes the bedroom door, or deviates from a sexual thread without adequate explanation as to why the apparently inevitable did not occur.
A proper sex scene ( yes, I know) will change the relationship of the characters and compound conflicts or introduce new ones.
A sex scene cannot help but advance the plot, to my mind. If it doesn't, if it operates as casual sex with no affect on characters than a trip to the bathroom, or, as Ric says, a breakfast menu, wotinhell is it doing there and what kind of people are they anyway?
If a writer does not want to go there into that psychological jungle that a sexual encounter can produce, then they should evade the sex.

Monica said...

Great post! Sex should advance characterization and plot or it just lies there like Paris Hilton, all mechanics and no soul.

Some people believe sex is like pizza, that there's no such thing as a really bad pizza. (Anchovies or pineapple can be a dealbreaker for me although some folks like that stuff).

Anyway, I was really sick of writing sex a while back. I perked up when I let go of romance writing conventions and used sex to make a statement about the relationship. Also, I made the sex better.

While I suppose once can debate whether ther's such a thing as bad sex, there's definitely such a thing as good sex.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Monica.
I say "great comment!"

kmfrontain said...

Bad sex is often very good for forwarding the plot as well. Yay for bad sex!

But only in fiction.

Rick said...

Monica, you've got me curious now - what are the romance conventions you had to let go of? I assumed that romance writing, including sex, was all about making "a statement about the relationship."

Other than that I pretty much agree with the consensus. There's not much fresh you can say about the sheer physical mechanics of Doing It. And steering past the triple hazards of clinical terms, bathroom wall terms, and embarrassing euphemisms makes shooting 'twixt Scylla and Charybdis feel like gliding down the Grand Canal in a gondola.

Monica said...

I let go of the hard manhoods, the gasps of ecstasy and silken tunnels of luuurve.

I gleefully grasped hard dicks, enthusiastic fucking, and wet pussies.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Coming from a background of writing romantic comedy and chick lit, Bernita, I have to admit that it took me a while to get used to crafting explicit sex scenes when I began writing erotic romance. Frankly, I wasn’t certain I could manage it and so I read tons of erotic romances by top-selling authors to see what it was all about. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. While I thought many of the books were well written, with beautifully constructed sex scenes, I cringed at others.

For me, if a book (especially those I’ve written) can’t stand on its own without the sex, then it’s no good. Period. I don’t like the idea of tacking on a sex scene simply to meet a quota for a particular book length. When writers resort to that it shows.

Since most of what I write is comedic, another challenge for me was incorporating the right amount of tasteful humor during the sex scenes. I found it easier than I’d originally expected because, after all, what goes on during sex can really be quite funny at times.

Interesting discussion here (as always). I look forward to reading more.

Bernita said...

Rick, whether or not there is much fresh one can say, the point seems to be that they seldom do.

Thank you, Daisy.I know what you mean.
I was thinking of you when I mentioned extremely well-done erotic comedy.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol Monica, the idea of one of your characters refering to her 'silken tunnel of love' made me giggle.

For me, it depends on the tone of my novels whether there'll be sex scenes. Kings and Rebels has none because it doesn't fit the chivalrous tone (it's a bit like a modern Ivanhoe) while the Endangered Frontiers books have sex in various degrees from probably vanilla (though not purple) in The Burgundian to the BDSM stuff going on between Idamantes and Vinicius in Towards the Kingdom of Tolosa which is important for the plot because their relationship is, and that has to do with their sex, the trust those practices involve, and the breaking of that trust. The Charioteer has a rape scene - not nice, I know, but I don't think closing the door would have the same impact. No sex in Storm over Hadrian's Wall either, since the only relevant sex, the spring/winter relationship between the Pictish girl Ancailot and the Roman officer Messala, Valerius Messala's father, is more or less backstory; I'll have to sneak that in by the backdoor.

Gabriele C. said...

BTW I find it easier to write kinky and gay stuff, and even rape, than a nice hetero scene.

Does that make me a perv? ;)

kmfrontain said...

Not in my mind, says I, who writes kink in her spare time. :D I call it a healthy lust for men. Without constraints.

Bernita said...

Not in my mind either, Gabriele, Karen has expressed it neatly: "a healthy lust for men."
May also have to do with a required objectivity.
No one really thinks that mystery writers go out an serial kill to write stories.
One doesn't have to have either field experience or perverted tendencies to write about them.
And that's shouldering aside an entirely different question as to whether such scenes are perverted or not.

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