October 3, 2012

Day Sixteen and Thirty (nonconsecutive) Days of Writing the sex edition

Posted in challenges, thoughts, writing tagged , at 9:58 am by z. l. sasnett

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it. – Tennessee Williams

Fall is on the move. It was rather chilly when we woke this morning. Not cool enough to crank up the wood burning stove but enough that I had to put on sleeves.

Although, that’s not saying much. I get cold easily.

Glad to see the cooler weather moving in. It was a dreadfully hot summer. Time for a change. Stay tuned around February when I start complaining about how cold it is and whining about Spring not getting here fast enough. :/

Day Sixteen!

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? 😉

Heh. This is a two-prong question for me. To start off, I really don’t like much of the current offerings of ‘romance’ in much of what I read. I don’t deliberately set out to read the romance genre. I will and I do enjoy it but I am not what could be referred to as a aficionado  of romances.

In that genre, romance is fine. It is, after all, what the story is about.

That said, I don’t set out to write romance either. The exploration of the bond between two people is admirable and laudable and simply not for me. I prefer men and women to be tested on a sharper blade of extreme adversity than how they interact on a romantically-intimate level.

Much is written about romance and sex. Writers talk about it a lot. When to include it, how much is too much, how much are they comfortable writing. And, as per usual with writers, there’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

Write as much as is needed, make sure it has relevance to the plot or illustrates character growth, all that jazz.

My issue is that in so much of what I read, romance always feels like it’s being jammed in because that’s what the reader expects and not because the story actually calls for it. I’ll be reading this fabulously gritty fantasy with blood and swords and magic whirling around everywhere; there’s gore and sand and violence and political machinations…and then we’ll get to the ‘romance’ and the ‘sex scene’ and I’m like…what? We’ve just seen the hero get tested on the field of battle. He was subjected to life and death decisions. We’ve seen him metal tempered and hammered until he’s a living weapon and read as he made decisions that show his growth as a character…

…and now we get to see him fuck. Yippee.

Yeah, about that? Really not interested, thanks. Especially since this romance scene, this sex scene that is supposed to show us more of his character growth? It hardly ever does.

I hear the arguments all the time that many don’t find a character believable if he or she doesn’t think about sex at least once. I’m sorry, but if they’re running for their life, if they’re hanging off the ledge of a window by their fingertips, if they’re trying to maneuver in front of the bad guy just to get back on even footing, racing to stop whatever big, bad catastrophic event is about to occur, stopping to have ‘sex thoughts’ and actually get their groove on?


I know when I’m under extreme stress I’m not thinking about sex. Or how hot the guy that is working next to me is and how much I’d love to be banging him about now.

‘It’s part of the human condition! It’s natural to think about sex and the attraction!’ it is said.

So? says I. Maybe it is for you and maybe for you, it’s something you want to see.

For me? Not so much. And I know I’m not the only one out there who thinks that. Many times I’ve sat with readers and they have had the same complaint. ‘I’d just love to read a book that doesn’t have some romance shoehorned in. I’d really rather not read about the character’s romantic thoughts and follow through at all. Can we stay with the plot, please?’

If it had been one or two people who’ve said it to me, I might be inclined to say that we are a small segment of the population. I’ve had enough say it that I think it’s a real issue for writers to consider.

You need a subplot to beef up the narrative? Romance is the easiest to throw in. Almost ready made conflict, I’m told.

And just like the worn out old trope of using rape to set their character into angst mode and to kick their ass into motion in the plot, romance is fast becoming the trope of insta-conflict for the main character to ‘test their metal as a human being’.

Honestly? It smacks of laziness. Instead of finding something within the main plot to complement it, just tack on a romance.

When it reads like that in a book (and even in movies) for me? I’m instantly put off. When I can see the introduction of a character that has no other use in the plot except as set dressing and automatically go ‘yep, love interest’, it disappoints me in the author when it’s proven out true.

I haven’t read something where I was surprised that it didn’t happen. That’s because it always does. Maybe it’s just what I’m reading, I don’t know. I don’t set out to read fiction with romantic subplots. They are simply that prevalent, these days.

And I won’t touch on how dreadful much of it is written.

But remember me saying something way at the beginning about being a two-pronged question?

The SSP (SuperSecretProject) is about erotica. Sex. Romance with doing the deed. Sometimes, just about plain ol’ lust and fucking because they can. So, I’m definitely willing to go all the way and get down to the nitty gritty.

I do write it. I do enjoy it, in its proper context.

I’d really rather not be beaten over the head and shoulders about how ‘humans are sexual creatures’ when I’m reading. I know that already. I’d really rather read about how the MC is going to get out of that current pit of vipers they’ve fallen into armed only with a pointy stick than to try to negotiate the forced landmine-seeded field of his ‘sexual and romantic thoughts’ for another member of his party.

Unless, that’s the goal of the story. Then carry on. Otherwise, I’ll in all likelihood skim it, even skip it and I definitely won’t shoehorn it into my plots just because some say that a character is not believable if they’re not thinking about it.

I’d hope that if the fate of the world rested on the shoulders of one individual, their mind would stay out of their pants long enough to get on with the saving.

The funny thing? If the writer sets off, at the beginning, and establishes the character as being a very sexual being right from the start? I’ll totally buy into their thinking about sex and the sex scenes that crop up.

Most of the time, that’s not how it pans out and the sex and the romance feels forced, shoehorned and disappointing.


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