Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sexual Encounters

Harry Turtledove is one of my favorite authors.  When I was 20 years old, I discovered Guns Of The South, and it took my breath away.  He kept on putting out quality work, from the Worldwar Series to The Great War Saga.  If more authors could write like Turtledove, I might never put a book down.

Unfortunately, I do have one problem with Turtledove's work - he oversells the sexual aspects.  I don't mean that he slips in the occasional innuendo or describes a bit of titillation.  No, sometimes Turtledove's work reads like a soft core porn novel(soft core?  There are times it's hard core).  His depictions of sex leave little to the imagination.

I'm no prude.  Sex happens in life.  I've even been known to enjoy it on occasion myself.  Leaving it completely out of our novels would sanitize life to such a degree that it would lose realism.  Therefore I'm not saying to ignore both the acts and the effects.

However, know how to exercise discretion.  What you put into a novel doesn't have to read like a letter to the Penthouse Forum(no, I won't link to that...get your minds out of the gutter).  Sometimes simple allusion can achieve an effect within the minds of our readers without getting graphic to the point where we'd be embarrassed if our grandmother read it.

I bring this up because I've had to try and figure out this balance in my most recent novel, Fight Or Flight.  With the end of the world, people are more prone to lose themselves in whatever pleasures they can find, and sex is always available if two people are willing.  Additionally, one of the dilemmas my main character is figuring out is how to deal with a serial rapist onboard a ship escaping Earth, and describing the crime is part of that story.  So...what to do?

The shower scene in Psycho has always been known as one of the greatest horror scenes of all time, not because it showed a pretty girl getting stabbed into ground beef, but because of how it alluded to that fact.  Sex in our books can be the same thing.  I think we can provide allusion without getting cheesy and achieve a greater effect upon the imagination rather than sounding like a 15 year old who found his dad's porn stash.

Sex is part of life, but what one person enjoys, another finds uncomfortable, and vice versa.  I think getting too graphic, while drawing in some, turns off others.  Why turn people away when we can draw from both crowds by using just a little discretion and writer's tact?

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