Friday, May 23, 2008

Let’s talk about sex

Charles posting today folks.

( First, Debby - great post - so many things to comment on, but as promised, I'm posting about sex. Next week it'll be genres. Not sex genres, fiction ones. But then sex genres could be interesting too...)

So Rick brings up the ‘sex in books’ question (see his entry below and the comments). Sex in books is something I struggle with as well. I mean, first you have to find a big enough book…

Carolyn Hart wrote the blurb for the cover of Relative Danger, and it says, in part, “the non-stop pace, exotic locales, exuberant sex and swashbuckling hero combine for splendid entertainment.” Now I’m not one to argue with a legend – especially a legend with such nice things to say about me – but exuberant? Like any scene, the sex scenes in RD were written to both advance the story and reveal something about the characters involved. The first scene to which Ms. Hart refers, shows the female lead, Aisha, to be strong, controlling and exceptionally assertive. In the second, we learn just how far out of his league Doug is when he’s with the wild and self-confident Aisha. They are hardly titillating scenes – unless you’re the kind of reader who finds words like titillating titillating – and there’s a lot more humor written into them than erotica. Same with Out of Order – one sex scene, fondly remembered the next morning in hazy, vague detail. Again, I wrote a punch line into what should have been the “hot” part, which I guess tells you more about me than it does about the characters. And even though good chunks of Noble Lies take place in Thai whorehouses, there is no sex scene. There is one implied sex scene, but I’m always amazed by the attentive readers who miss it (page 130).

The first bit of fiction I ever had published was a Letter to Penthouse Forum. If you don’t know what Penthouse Forum is, a) I don’t believe you and, b) just ask for a copy the next time you’re at truck stop magazine stand. I was working at a small, mostly female college in upstate New York at the time with my pal and fellow late-night security guard, Frank Neville. Combining our less-than-original ideas, we composed a letter about the sexual adventures of two late night security guards at an all-female college in upstate New York. It was one male-fantasy cliché after another, but I’m sure it earned many a round of applause. Well, one-handed applause anyway. It was also awful and not in the least bit erotic or believable. Worst of all, it was written in first person. Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a book and the characters starts in with the old, “I cupped her tight breasts in my hand…” I’m flipping pages. Seriously, are we in high school? No, that’s not fair – even in high school we didn’t brag about our exploits (mostly imagined, but still). I find that even some of my favorite authors do this stuff and it always creeps me out. Know what’s uncomfortable? Sitting at a bar with an author pal whose book you just read and he/she asks you what you thought about the sex scene. It’s like the morning after a double date and the guy who was in the back seat coming up and asking how it looked in the rearview mirror.

There are some things better left unsaid and for me, that’s the sexual details. I tend to do as Rick has done – pull the curtain and let what happens happen with out us knowing the details. Speaking of which, time to close this little missive as Rose is busy pouring me a glass of wine – which is quite tricky what with me cupping her tight breasts and all.

NOTE: This Sunday guest blogger Lorraine Bartlett (aka Lorna Barrett) regales us with tales about here new series launch.

1 comment:

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Charles, well said! As in RELATIVE DANGER, sex scenes can go a long way in defining characters and their motives, but if the scene begins to have titillation as its primary goal, I begin to feel manipulated. It's paradoxical,this dislike of feeling manipulated, because I often read to be entertained. It boils down--again--to the writing, doesn't it?