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    Should Sex Be in Your Novel?

    Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns, What's New.

    Should Sex Be in Your Novel? If you write romance or erotica, then, of course, the answer is yes. For children books, it’s a definite no and questionable in Y.A. and religious books. But what about the other genres like historical fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller, fantasy, science fiction, and even memoir? The fact is that no truer words were spoken than “sex sells.” A look at the longest running best sellers is proof. Fifty Shades of Gray didn’t make the list for the terrific writing, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, while a great thriller, the readers talked about the violent rape and victim’s revenge that sent them in droves to buy the book.

    (Do agents Google writers after reading a query?)

     

    susan-klaus-writer-author       secretariat-reborn-cover

    Column by Susan Klaus, author of fantasy and thrillers. Her thriller,
    Secretariat Reborn, published by Oceanview was released in Oct, 2013.
    The sequel, Shark Fin Soup, comes out in August, 2014. Most of her
    stories concern animals or the environment and wildlife. Klaus is also
    the host and co-producer of the web radio show, The Authors Connection,
    with 18 million listeners in 148 countries and is the president and founder
    of the Sarasota Authors Connection club with 230 members. She has an
    extensive career with animals, owning pet and groom shops, working for
    a veterinarian, and for the last 13 years, she has bred and raced
    Thoroughbred horses. Find her on Twitter.

     

     

    Sex is also part of the human condition, as natural as breathing, eating, and sleeping. For an author to exclude it entirely from his novel is not only cheating himself but also the reader. A healthy protagonist who doesn’t at least consider it comes off as unrealistic, a comic strip hero. So if the opportunity arises, sex should be in a novel even if it’s a subtle glance and insinuation, a tender kiss and romance, a steamy encounter, or as bad as a brutal assault. Sex gives the characters credibility, an opportunity to show their confidence or insecurity, their passion, jealous, joy, disappointment, or twisted thoughts. In the end, they betray their diverse humanity. The story then becomes equally character and plot driven, making it believable and interesting.

    I’m sure some authors, agents and publishers will disagree with me about having sex in a novel but this is what I have learned from querying my readers. They want their emotional strings pulled, and sex can be the driving vehicle. It portrays the selfish, vindictive partner we love to hate, the rejected, down trodden lover, the wanting, having, or heartbreak of a relationship, or the euphoria of two soul-mates finally connecting. Think The Thorn Birds, the priest finally giving in to the girl on the beach. Every woman with a pulse climaxed after wading through that long story.

    (What are overused openings in fantasy, sci-fi, romance and crime novels?)

    Another thing, readers can imagine a family’s sorrow with a murder victim, but few have actually experienced this dreaded dilemma. But most of us can relate to sex, the love and loss. A subplot with sexual tension brings life to the story and gives characters their character. Of course, the decision of how tame or graphic the scene can sometimes fall to the publisher.

    No, I’m not a romance author but write in two different genres, fantasy/sci-fi and thriller/suspense and would never rule out sex in my stories. There might be pros and cons on this subject, but it’s something to consider when writing your next novel.

     

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    One Response to Should Sex Be in Your Novel?

    1. vrundell says:

      Agreed. Sometimes the sex is over-the-top crazy in-your-face slippery hot mess, and other times it’s a “Baby, grab a condom” fade-to-black. I really enjoy the stories that match “heat” with “character”.

      In erotica, I have an expectation for gratuitous sex, but even if I’m reading YA romance I expect there to be at very least a discussion about some type of physical relationship. It is natural for attracted couples–of any age–to have some inclination toward the physical.

      In middle grade, maybe it’s just noticing that the other sex doesn’t suffer ‘cooties’, and tween books may have characters longing for a first kiss, or remarking about holding hands fir a partner for the first time. In YA, many times there are clear flirtations and discussions regarding “Experience”–or lack there of. There is an elemental joy in physical connection, and there is misery in the lack/loss of that connection. To deny those emotions in one’s writing leaves the story somewhat sterile.

      For crying out loud, there was no graphic sex in Pride and Prejudice, and yet, the banter, flirtations, and a few passion filled kisses all telegraph the emotional-physical connection being forged between Elizabeth and Darcy. Without this romantic plotline the book would be flat–the relationships sterile. No one believes these two firebrands will have a chaste marriage, do they?

      In Divergent, the attraction between Tris and Four is clear. They are young, yet responsible. Their physical connections are what help each of these characters survive. The same is true of Hunger Games. We love these characters because we can experience their capacity to love and the sacrifices they make to protect those whom they love. I don’t need Peeta to strip Katniss and tie her to the bed, but I do need to believe that he will pour every ounce of his heart into keeping her alive.

      Finding the heart of your character will tell you what type of physical relationships the character needs to be well-rounded and ‘human’. Sex is part of life. It should be part of fiction. How it is incorporated in a story is a creative decision, but ignoring it does a disservice to your character, and your story.

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