First, my ROW80 update, because it is a huge pet peeve of mine to click on someone’s link-up just to find a long rambling post about lettuce or something and the ROW80 update is an afterthought at the end, or worse, buried somewhere in the middle.
So, I’ll give my summary first, then if you feel like reading about sex, scroll right on down!
I was derailed not just once, but several times this week. There was supposed to be more writing happening since I have a project with a deadline. Fortunately, it’s one of those deadlines that, if missed, no one knows. If I submit my story on time, great! If not, no one cares but me. But instead, I had several days with no writing at all, and every time it was something very important that came up, and unfortunately writing time is usually the first thing that has to go.
Today is better. I didn’t let the derailment stop me forever. I might not make the deadline, but at least I’m writing again.
On the bright side, I have both my conference registration and plane tickets for the PPW Conference in April!
And now, the sex.
Why write a story about sex? The more prudish in society would say that sex should be banned from all storytelling, just like we never hear about how the characters in a story use the bathroom. It’s vulgar and unnecessary.
Yet the sexual revolution of the 1960’s did accomplish something, including allowing society to think of sex as not just titillation, but a natural, beautiful function that all humans share.
Most writers I’ve interviewed say that they don’t necessarily have rules about how steamy their sex scenes are. It is a good idea to write whatever is necessary for the characters and their relationship in any given story. However, if you know that your intended audience must be PG13, those scenes by necessity must be toned down. If you know your audience is expecting erotica (the call for submissions I’m answering specifies erotica) then the story needs to be pretty darn hot.
The BIG mistake is to think you can write the same story and simply apply the appropriate heat level. Have you ever seen a sanitized episode of Sex and the City? It simply doesn’t work. The characters’ sex lives are integral to the story’s plot and the character’s arc.
Say you’re writing a story about a young man’s rise to success as he inherits his grandfather’s failing business and turns it around. Or perhaps you’re telling the story of a man with a passion for walking the beach with a metal detector who one day finds something of great personal significance. Or you could tell a story about a boy who has his first sexual experience at a rather tender age, and then he shuns physical intimacy until well into adulthood.
These three stories could all be about the same person, taking place at the same time. Although both the business story and the beach combing story may include a mention of the man’s sex life (or lack thereof) it’s not integral to the plot and can be avoided altogether. However the story of a boy who experienced intercourse before he was emotionally mature enough definitely must include at least a couple of sex scenes.
My story In the Closet in the anthology Felt Tips tells about a woman who is expecting sex to be part of her anniversary celebration, but something intervenes. (The story also involves a voyeuristic AI, but I won’t get any more spoilerish than that!)
The story isn’t about the woman’s job or her role as a mother or wife or daughter or best friend. The sex in the story is absolutely necessary to the plot. The story is about sex, it doesn’t simply include sex.
My story Abandon in the anthology Precipice does not include any steamy sex, but it does mention how the character feels about having her breasts handled by a tattoo artist. Although there is no sex scene in the story, the main character’s identity as a sexual being is explored.
When I wrote To the Earth and Back and Point of View, I knew my audience was adult, however the expectation was that the stories be family-safe. The magazine is called Get LF8d (read that as Get Elevated) and is put out by the Liftport group, who is working to further the technology necessary to build a space elevator. This is primarily a scientific magazine. A titillating story would be inappropriate.
Note: the first issue of the magazine is available as a free download.
So why write about sex? Human sexuality is necessary and basic to our self-identity. What better story could be told?
OK. Sometimes the sex is just for titillation. Especially in 80’s Rock!