Those of you who have read my novels will know that there is a fair amount of heterosexual activity included.
I think that, for most adults, sex is something we enjoy, and we have a natural curiosity about the experiences of others (short of being voyeuristic). But, from a writer’s point of view, there is more to it than that. What we do, with whom, when, how, and the way we feel about it are character-defining aspects. For example, Ellen’s first real boyfriend in Sin & Contrition is Rick, whom she admires greatly: he is good-looking and two years older than she. She engages in some heavy petting with him, but she dumps him when he pressures her to go further. Later, however, with Rick’s younger brother, Gene, she lets down all her barriers. Ellen is self-confident and intelligent; she recognises that Rick wants to use her, while Gene really loves her.
Also in Sin & Contrition, Gary, who is bright and has a big ego, but not much common sense, makes his life-defining mistake: he cheats on his wife. She takes their daughter and leaves him. He slips into alcoholism. But, with the prospect of getting her back, and, with a little help from his friends, he gives up alcohol, and becomes a model husband and father.
In my opinion, the problem for a writer is: how far does one go? At one extreme, one doesn’t ‘go there’. This is the ‘romance but no sex’ school of thought typified by Victorian and earlier novels, where two characters get married, and the story resumes a month later. I can guess what might have happened, but I’d like to know! People are capricious and unpredictable. That’s what makes them so interesting.
At the other extreme, one goes there and wallows in it. This is the ‘sex before romance’ school of thought typified by some chic lit, where even the size of the equipment is described. This is probably intended to arouse, but for me, it gets confusing. I wonder, “am I reading something arousing, or am I reading something enlightening? Which is it? It can’t be both!”
So, I struggle to steer a middle course, trying not to let the reader doubt what has happened, in at least a general sense, but more importantly how the characters feel about it. I don’t use slang words, except when a character would be out of character not to use them. I try to keep the passage somewhat oblique and non-descriptive, using non-traditional words. In a later post, I’ll discuss some rare instances where I’ve written explicit (but brief) passages, and I’ll explain why I did so.
Comments from the readers are welcome!