Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Graphic Stuff - Another Angle


The Three Musicians,
Pablo Picasso,
Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Is erotica on the wane?

In one of Agent Kristin's earlier newsletters, she reported an editor looking for non-erotic MSS.

Yesterday, Smart Bitches wrote about "semi-homemade" sex scenes -- comparing them to Sandra Lee cooking -- and commented that with the massive quantities out there, readers, after an initial gorge, were picking at their food in a more selective fashion.

Also, yesterday, sensual vs. explicit formed part of the discussion on a BookEnds post.
And lately, I've noticed serveral other agents pleading for stories in which a couple do not climb into each other's pants by page four. That's a related topic, but, I think, indicative of a certain retreat from crotch first and all the time.

Perhaps hawt and graphic content -- the mainstay of many e-pubs -- is slowly fading as a primary selling point as over-dosed readers become more discriminating. After awhile, instant sex becomes as bland as instant mashed potatoes, no matter how much chili power you sprinkle over it.

Be that as it may, December is conducting a great workshop this month on writing good sex and how to avoid the insert-grunt mechanics and cliches; while Bernard teases his readers in his on-going assassin series with the art of foreplay and sexual tension.

39 comments:

Angie said...

I like explicit sex as much as anyone, and have written my share and will continue to do so. But I'm here mainly for the plot, whether I'm reading or writing. Sex should support the story -- further the plot, show character, develop relationships, something structural. Or at least be funny; I can make quite a few exceptions if the writer makes me laugh. :D

My publisher is fine with that, and won't turn down a romance with little or no sex in it. Some of the writers in my genre, however, fret over whether they have "enough" sex, and get quite enthused talking about scenes or even whole chapters which are nothing but. :/

There are readers who like that sort of thing, and so long as that's the case then it's only right that there be books out there for them. Personally, though, I wouldn't at all mind seeing the pendulum swing more toward the middle of the range.

I'd hate to see romance go all the way in the other direction, though. A good balance, with a lot of sex-in-service-to-plot, and a nice chunk of both plot-without-sex and sex-with-as-little-plot-as-possible, would be good, I think. Everyone could find what they wanted that way. Assuming there were some way of telling ahead of time which sort of book the one you were looking at actually was before buying it, but that's another issue. :)

Angie

jason evans said...

I wonder why that's on the decline? I would have thought this particular subject has age-old appeal.

Bernita said...

"the pendulum swing more toward the middle of the range" - probably that will be the result, Angie.
And my personal feelings mirror yours about book sex.

Bernita said...

May be like vampires and chick lit, Jason - the "new/bold" has worn off, "fad" is over, but the good ones will still be published.

Ric said...

Here you are talking about sex and it's not even Friday yet. Or is it? Did I miss something?

writtenwyrdd said...

Agreement with you and Angie. Plot and story first. Sex is icing, and too much icing gets me feeling queasy.

I think readers are missing writerly foreplay when we are in bed by page 4 of the book. (But straight erotica expects this, of course. Different genre.)

Carla said...

Fashions come and go, in books as in everything else.

Robyn said...

I think even die hard fans of a genre can become saturated. There are authors- and genres- I've had to take a break from. Even dessert becomes bland when you have it every day.

(And you're right- December's series is great!)

Bernita said...

Ric, sex should never be scheduled.

Yup, Written, no one needs a diabetic coma.

And always interesting to observe, Carla.

AND she's nowhere near done either, Robyn!

Dave F. said...

I'd rather write a hot and sexy story without the sex act. It's more of a challenge but it makes for a better story.

This is like that Tango Dance in "Scent of a Woman" where Pacino's blind character dances with a gorgeous lady in a restaurant. The dance is so sexually charged it melts the screen yet they really only dance. It's the character's attitude, movements and words.

December/Stacia said...

Thanks Bernita! :-)

And yeah, it is a pendulum. There will always be a market for hotter romances, absolutely. But I think the idea that every romance out there has to be erotic is fading, and that's just fine.

Charles Gramlich said...

When I read, I want the story. I don't mind some explicit sex, especially if the story plot turns on a sexual issue, but sex alone won't sell a book to me. In fact, I've shied away from some books if I though sex was the only thing they had going for them.

Bernita said...

Right, Dave. Anticipation and projection = great tension.

Probably fading also because some have gone about as far as they can go, December!

"When I read, I want the story" - and sex is only one story in a plot, Charles, not the whole story.

Charles Gramlich said...

Exactly.

raine said...

I've always believed in the pendulum idea. I think it swung toward the very graphic stuff after decades of romances in which the bedroom door was closed at a certain point. Having it swing to the other extreme was fine with me, but I DO need a storyline to go with my sex. I can enjoy sweet or hawt, as long as the characters work for me and the writing is good.
I don't think erotica is going away. There'll always be an audience for it. But I do think it has morphed and grown into cross-genre territory, so we have erotic romance, erotic paranormal, urban fantasy which is often heavy on the heat, romantic suspense with erotic elements, etc.
However, as in all genres, readers are looking for better storylines--yes.

spyscribbler said...

I think it's like the real world: anticipation is everything. Once you've released that tension, you have to build it up all over again...

Bernita said...

I certainly hope it is not going away, Raine!I don't see how it can. Especially since it has freed up other sub-genres for exploration as you describe.

And that, Natasha, requires skill and psychological depth, not just repetition.

StarvingWriteNow said...

I have found over the last two years or so that I tend to skim the sex scenes or skip over them altogether. Maybe I'm old or jaded... I don't know what it is, but I would rather read more about a growing relationship, learning about each other than how fast they can get their zippers down.

Steve Malley said...

Just when I was about to chase the market with my paranormal-werewolf-erotica! ;-)

ORION said...

I got the funniest email from the Japanese translator of LOTTERY - we have become friends and she was saying she was currently translating erotica romance for japanese women readers - it's HUGELY popular over there but uh...they take all the erotica stuff out and replace it with euphemisms...so it's pretty tame- we both thought hey, what's the point lol!!!

ChrisEldin said...

Can't comment on the grunts, but wanted to talk about Picasso.

There was a *huge* exhibit at the Abu Dhabi palace (ongoing through September)--DH and I took the kids. It was overwhelming. The man produced so much art. I began to think he threw pieces together without care by the end of the walk through. I forgot the number, but let's say 50,000. How can anyone do that? I better go check my numbers.
Great opportunity though. Was glad we went.

Bernita said...

Beth, I keep hoping - with all that bulging manhood - that they'll get the short and curlys caught in those zippers.

SURE you were, Steve...

Oh dear, Pat! At least there's a new home for all those "swords of love!"

"I began to think he threw pieces together without care by the end of the walk through."
Chris, I've wondered the same a time or two.

BernardL said...

Thanks Bernita, I really appreciate the compliment. I'm glad you're enjoying the serial. :) As the others have stated, I like a storyline with eroticism.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I just don't read erotica or romance at all so maybe I'm no judge.

I've run up against this, though, in my own books, in which the sex act in the first book isn't shown, just assumed. Then in the other books I show it.

Maybe I should take a look at that.

Barbara Martin said...

To me plot is more important than explicit sex, and that the latter ought to appear several chapters after the first if not by two-thirds through. Intimacy should support the story, not overwhelm the reader.

Chumplet said...

I'm more comfortable with spicy than explicit. If a couple are going to jump in bed on page four, I expect them to already be in a relationship.

When pressed to make my stories explicit, I wonder if I fit the bill? I'll check out December's workshop.

Luuurrrve Picasso. One of my WIPs is based on one of his paintings.

Bernita said...

Such great characters, Bernard!Really enjoy your stuff.

There's no "one true way," SS.

Think most of us agree with that, Barbara, unless the story is specifically erotica.


I have the impression the editorial pressure to add more sex is lessening, Sandra. That's the one with the Basques, isn't it? Very fitting.

Demon Hunter said...

Wow, I don't write sex unless it's integral to my story. I do write horror after all. :-)

Bernita said...

"I don't write sex unless it's integral to my story. I do write horror after all. :-)"

Am NOT touching that one, Girl!

Rick said...

Pendulum/fad effect aside, good sex is just plain hard to write - something you've discussed here before. So as with many things, less is probably more!

Lana Gramlich said...

Sex is so overdone in Western society in general it's no wonder people are getting bored by it. I've been sick of it for years, personally. No wonder I stopped reading fiction, now that I think about it...

Bernita said...

"less is probably more!"

Certainly allows for more imagination, Rick.

Lana, I've been wondering for some time if what you've said is part of it. Simple boredom.

Angie said...

Bernita -- I know that's part of it for me personally. [nod] When I was in my teens and twenties, I'd happily read any explicit sex I could get my eyeballs on. After a while, though, the enthusiasm wore off, and now I need a reason for that sex scene to exist, besides "Yay, sex!"

I've grown into a crotchety old broad. Been there, read that, written the kink myself. [shrug] Definitely a case of repetition breeding contempt.

Angie

Suzanne Perazzini said...

I think there are great writers of the erotic but it doesn't come naturally to me so I am very glad to hear this news. Once I was rejected because I didn't have enough sex scenes but they asked me to re-submit once I had 'inserted' them. I thought about it for a bit but then sent it somewhere else and it was accepted - without any changes.

Dave F. said...

You know, I think I saw that painting many years ago (mid 80's) when the Museum of Modern Art in NYC held a Picasso Retrospective. They filled the entire MMA, 39 galleries, with Picasso work on canvas. They could have filled the museum a second time with his sculpture.
This painting didn't stand out because it's late in Picasso's career and I saw it on the second day. I think it's fairly normal size. That's deceptive because "The Ladies of Avignon" is nearly 6ft by 6ft -- mighty impressive canvas. The late period of naked ladies at the beach was bigger than life, too. Geurnica was 11.5ft by 25ft long and occupied an entire gallery wall all by itself. It stopped people in their tracks.
The little metal construction of the chimp with the toy VW Beetle as the head was there too. It was nearby this picture with all the cubist stuff and constructionism.
Did you know that Picasso invented the art we call constructionism? Nothing like that existed before Picasso.

I know of a few geniuses in the world - Mozart for one, Picasso for another, Einstein in science, Shakespeare in his writings, and a few others.

Bernita said...

Me too, Angie, find I want a little more than a celebration of plain lust.

Not gospel, Suzanne, just an impression that hawt is no longer quite so hot.

Picasso was/is certainly a "popular" genius, Dave.
His reputation became such that anything he did was instantly hailed as a work of genius.

SzélsőFa said...

It must be very difficult to obtain a fine balance between writing about sex to develop the story AND writing too much, you know, to avoid the pornographic feel...
But again, I'm quite old fashioned in this issue :)))

Bernita said...

There's a chance you may be "new-fashioned," Szelsofa!

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