Sex … In or Out?

You’ve written a great story. Do you need sex amidst the guns, fighting and mayhem, the psychological trauma and mystery, or the tenderness and promises?

When I say ‘do you need sex’ I’m obviously referring to the requirements of the story—not your personal urges. I digress … .

This blog post was born from the need to offer my opinion on a regular comment I see on social media, and if we’re all honest, it’s getting a bit tedious. The comment usually follows similar lines to: ‘… and when I reach a sex scene I move on …’

There is usually a bit more to it, but in essence, we have two main areas to address.

Question 1 – Is the reader a prude, or simply someone who knows when a sex scene could have been done more tastefully—if it were needed at all?

Question 2 – Did the author make a mistake by getting carried away, drifting from the primary genre, thus adversely affecting the plot of the story?

The answer to Question 1 is not as simple as it sounds. For some readers, if an author goes beyond: ‘… she stood with her back to the door and raised an eyebrow …’ it’s too much. For others, it’s frustratingly brief, and they want to at least know if one person is wearing matching underwear and if the other person is wearing underwear at all.

Now, Question 2 throws up a whole new dilemma. As authors, it is not simply a personal choice, but in my (humble) opinion, it is our duty to remain true to our craft. No, I’m not getting high and mighty because I’ve written more than two books—I’m simply telling it like it is. The reputation of indie authors is being destroyed from within by some people with low standards. Those of us who work long hard hours and go beyond the first draft must persevere to produce the best we can.

You cannot refer to yourself in your branding or promotional material (of whatever level) as a thriller writer if you have the main character kill someone and then for the rest of the book he/she beds every other person in the ‘adventure’. You can dress it up, or undress it if you wish, but one of the aims of any author should be to focus on the job—in this case, a good story based on the primary genre.

I write a wide variety of genre and among them is erotica. I may allow a kiss or a caress—even partial undressing in some stories but graphic, no-holds-barred sexual activity is kept for my erotica.

If an author writes thrillers, westerns, sci-fi or other genres there ought to be sufficient time invested in character development, dialogue, imagery, pace and the accurate choreography of action. Any mention of sex will usually be incidental, except, of course, for romance, some paranormal and fantasy where it may go further.

An author who writes erotica is not out to shock—they are aiming to indulge their readers in the type of material they sought. This is not to say that character development and those other ingredients I mentioned earlier are not required in erotica—they are just as important. The erotica author must avoid sex becoming the ‘story’; an opportunity to be self-indulgent with repetitive and meaningless scenes of gratuitous carnal jiggery-pokery (mainly pokery).

In my ‘mainstream’ genres, there may be terms of endearment, a kiss or an embrace but they are strategically placed. Occasionally, in my erotica, there is less need for such romantic overtures, activity or subtlety. The characters might be more interested in mutual physical gratification than an emotional rollercoaster ride but there will still be character development and the activities are created with a purpose. It depends on the story.

I believe the author should strive to be faithful to the principle genre and whatever extended subjects it entails whether it be an action-packed or psychological plot, and plot or character-driven.

If you’d like to see ‘erotica’ as it once was, read ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. Like most other genres, erotica has moved on and readers are no longer satisfied with what was once considered shocking—people want to envisage themselves in scenes which will (in most cases) forever be a fantasy. With the greatest respect D.H.Lawrence, move over my friend.

I’m a great believer in the use of metaphor if it spells something out clearly. I’ll summarise with two questions to authors who are trying to work out if sex ought to be highlighted in a story?

Would you wear flip-flops and boxing gloves to run a marathon, or perhaps mask, snorkel and flippers to ride a bicycle?

Let’s be honest—if it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t belong.

Thank you for reading, and any comments.

Mid-year Magazine

This year I’ve enjoyed the solitude of my study, reading, writing and generally continuing as I have since retiring thirty months ago. Two holidays have been cancelled and a considerable number of one-day  ‘shopping’ trips to other towns. I cycle early in the morning and work at my chosen creative craft every day.

In January I published Light at The End: Surviving the Apocalypse. It may not have as many reviews as I’d like but those it has received have been good and gave me the confidence to write a sequel. Light to Dark went through several drafts prior to going out to beta readers. It has since been printed and attacked again with my red pen so the manuscript is now resting before a final read.

If the international crisis has affected me in any way it has increased my productivity. A lack of holidays and away-days has provided me with many extra hours of writing time. Shopping trips are done when a necessity only and are local. I sit in the car maintaining social distance, with my clipboard and pen so I can continue writing.

In March I created the eBook Bank International website with the objective of making eBooks more affordable during the Covid 19 crisis. I set a closing date of 1st July and with the support of 17 other authors, the site carried 135 titles at one time. It was a site to offer books at a lower price, but I’m happy to say it stimulated sales for more than one author.

I’ve continued to work on Time after Time: and other stories which is almost ready for publication. I have again invited guest authors to submit stories. This is not a money-making venture but will provide a platform for authors. There are 18 stories covering a variety of genre, but all on the theme of ‘Time’.  Good value at 99p/99c.

In the pipeline, I have Dark to Light (Book 3 of the Light at The End trilogy), Czech Mate, Codename Foxglove and my next mixed-genre anthology Around the Bend: and other stories.

In the background when stories are ‘resting’ between drafts, I’ve indulged my pseudonym by building on ideas which have been simmering in the background over a few years. Most of Katya Cumming’s stories originated as short stories or passages which didn’t work in other books.

This year so far, Katya has produced a two-part novel, an anthology of short stories and a novel. After three more novels she will stop. This will meet her target of a dirty dozen novels and an anthology. She has her own website at Katya Cumming – Erotica.

Apart from reading purely for pleasure, I’ve also been a beta reader for several authors so far this year. For me, beta reading is not a task, especially if I like the author’s work, it makes me feel that I’ve been instrumental in some small way helping to raise their game with a story. Isn’t that one of our responsibilities as indie authors?

Lest I forget, Light to Dark – Light at The End Book 2, will be available 10th July 2020.

Thank you for dropping by.