16 April 2006

The place of sex in books

Not my usual style of post, but reading Anne Bishop's latest book got me thinking about this topic today. Now, it's inevitable that sex is going to play some role in many stories. It's more a question of how it's dealt with, for me. So I'm going to compare some authors that I read:

Robert Jordan: His is my favorite approach (and the one I take in my own writing whenever possible). That is, make it clear what's going to happen, then discreetly "close the door" and move away. No excess details.

Laurell K. Hamilton: Rather the opposite of Robert Jordan's. Now, she is very inventive, and so graphic that her sex scenes are actually so clinical as to be boring. Seriously. Partially this is because she overuses them. At least, in every recent book I've read. From Guilty Pleasures to Obsidian Butterfly, she did a good job. All the Anita Blake books after that... The first two were roughly 90% sex scenes, with the other 10% a very thinly woven plot. The next one was better. An ACTUAL plot, but still intersperesed with far too many sex scenes. I'm not kidding when I say there were so many, they got BORING. Especially one scene that SHOULD have been a pivotal reconciliation. Instead of thinking how wonderful that was, I was just thinking, "Oh. Anita's having sex. Again." My suggestion to Ms. Hamilton would be to save the excessive details for those sexual situation that are actually pivotal to the plot, and dump the rest.

Anne Bishop: Somewhere in the middle. She often describes sex scenes in more detail than I think is necesary, but they are ALWAYS pivotal to the plot. Also, she doesn't use them so much that I start dreading turning the page. They always fit, and she uses them appropriately.

Now, my take on sex scenes when I write them is that they should have just enough detail to get the point across. In most cases, I do not need very much detail, and take the Robert Jordan approach of quietly moving away to give the characters their privacy. Occasionally, I need more than that. But I still take a minimalist approach. Especially after reading Laurell K. Hamilton's recent Anita Blake books, I consider excessive detail a turn-OFF.

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