1. aClem
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    aClem Active Member

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    Theme How sexy/graphic?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by aClem, Feb 23, 2016.

    The novel is about the adventures and misadventures of a not-quite-successful rock musician many years back. Sex was part of the scene, as one might imagine. I would like opinions on just how sexy or graphic would be optimal. The book will not be erotica, but there will be sexual situations and I am unsure just how much sex to include, and how graphic it should be.

    I realize there is no market for heterosexual male erotica, but as part of a story about sex, drugs and rock and roll, it would seem that sex has to be there, one way or another. Thoughts?
     
  2. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    You can write sex scenes without going into detail; it works well if the sex is implied rather than explicitly stated. If the really explicit stuff is not integral to the story and the character development it can usually be left out.
     
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  3. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Decide after the fact. Write it as graphically as is enjoyable/interesting to write then when you come back you can decide if you want to cut it or not. It's really easy with this stuff to just fade to black anyway; it's not like it's something that'll lead to big re-writes so unless you have to really force yourself to sit and write sex (which I suppose is plausible) just write it as it fits the characters and then pull back later if that isn't serving the overall story once the whole story is down on the page.

    It's worth pointing out that being graphic doesn't have to mean lengthy descriptions of labias and spurting and such; it doesn't even need to involve naughty words particularly at all to get pretty damn sticky. The goal, as with everything, should be to write well, to keep consistent tone and not to be gratuitous and you can be graphic while still doing that.

    It does depend a lot on the themes you are working with but if it were me I'd run with being pretty graphic myself. That's partly because I like that sort of thing, but also because (just how I'd be writing it) I'd be looking to make sex look kinda tawdry and unpleasant and you need to get in there, as it were, to show that. I think that in these cases, where you are perhaps showing sex being something other than warm and lovely, being fairly graphic is the only way to really get across how unfulfilling (or even destructive) sex can be and cutting away is akin to glamorizing it. By letting the audience fill in themselves with whatever depraved macho fantasy they like they come away with a different message and it's only by not giving them that opportunity to fill in the blanks that you can break the audiences perception and show them something starkly different to what they imagine.

    When I was writing a very complex, very emotionally charged sex scene that's written to be ambiguous if it's rape or not (and if so who's fault it was) the only way to show just how traumatizing and painful it was was to be graphic. It was to put the reader into that woman's head and see her screaming at herself trying to find any way to say no and make it stop but not quite being able. And it's awful. It's supposed to be. Without being graphic all that power is lost. Cutting away would invite the reader to believe that it turned out ok when it didn't.

    Be fearless when you write these things. Do not let anyone tell you that you should cut some significant part of your book simply because it's too graphic. Bad things are graphic.
     
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  4. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Another way to look at it might be to consider how "graphic" you are about the drug side of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. If you're giving a lot of detail about drug-related experiences, it would feel consistent to give a lot of detail about sex-related experiences as well.
     
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  5. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I would say that it depends on how much your story needs it. If the scene is required for you to be able to show what's going on inside the head of one of the participants while it's happening then go ahead and write it. If it's a sex scene that is only describing physical acts then it's probably not needed.
     
  6. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    The level of graphic should be equal to the necessity of depicting it. What I mean by that is the story should 'tell' you how graphic it needs to be.

    I wrote my second novel with some very NC-17 sex scenes that described in some detail what the two people were doing and riddled it with dirty talk. Why? Because my MC is a very damaged person who acts out through sexual exploits. For it to jar the reader the graphic depictions needed to be amplified. I didn't much care for writing it but ultimately didn't believe cutting the nasty stuff out would make the story work.

    Try writing it one way and see how it feels afterward when you read it. It should either ring true or sound forced. If its the latter, try again.
     
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  7. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I agree with the idea of context. How gritty/erotic you want to it to feel affects how explicit you should be with sex. I tend to write dark, serious stuff so for me some degree of explicitness with sexuality is usually there.
     
  8. Ezekiel2517
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    Ezekiel2517 Member

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    I would say this, don't write sex just to write sex. Focus in on some detail that either makes it real or is related to one of your themes. Then you have something going on other than softcore porn.
     
  9. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Just one small thing "there is no market for heterosexual male erotica". What? Why? Are heterosexual males just interested in pure porn, and don't want story (pah!) getting in the way of their good times? In that case we have even less in common in taste than I thought.I usually prefer a romantic element to erotic stuff, it makes it more exciting when it means something.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You're the writer, so you make the rules.

    Of course, by the time you want to get published and you start looking for a publisher, you'll notice that some publishing houses and agents have listed no-nos on their websites, and sometimes they want to steer clear of graphic sex, sometimes of graphic violence, sometimes of any kind of depictions of certain topics (like rape). The fact of the matter is that you'll usually reach a wider audience if you keep things on the vanilla side because then you won't offend/turn away that many people. Those who are okay with graphic stuff are usually okay with vanilla, PG-13 stuff as well. However, you will also find explicit stuff on best-selling lists, even when they aren't erotica. One pretty raunchy novel I usually bring up in these type of threads is Brass by Helen Walsh. It's got it all: drugs, booze, swear words, and, of course, explicit straight and gay sex. It got published and sold like crazy, no problem. I also remember a couple of pretty steamy scenes in Nicholas Evans' The Horse Whisperer, which I read when I was way too young for that shit, but hey, it was there, the book sold well, was made into a blockbuster movie, and I came out of the reading experience unscarred.

    Sounds like graphic depictions would fit your story. Sex, drugs and rock'n roll kind of call for a gritty presentation. If you skirt around the sex but indulge in drugs, it could come off kind of... double-standard-ey. Like, "hey, drugs are ok but sex is evil." You know?

    If I've deemed a sex scene important to whatever manuscript I'm working on, I'll go all out with it. I like to keep things realistic, be it sex or violence. I'll show it as it is, or more like, as the characters experience it, even down to the nitty-gritty if I feel that's pertinent, but I will never censor myself for fear of turning someone away. They are free to do so. It may not be the best of business decisions, but then again, I'm not in a position where it'd really matter.
     
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  11. Holden LaPadula
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    Holden LaPadula Member

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    I prefer symbolic sex. Remember that old movie that ends with the train shooting through the tunnel? Or scenes that begin with passionate kissing and pan to billowing curtains? Read a scene where a fighting spouse returns home and slams their keys into a bowl, symbolizing angry sex? It's far more tasteful and literarily appealing to translate events such as sex into symbolic acts. I remember reading a novel where a preteen boy is described for three pages riding a rocking horse while thinking about his aunt. The description of his ride becomes oddly intense, noting the intensity and movements of his body on the horse. I know that incest and child masturbation is far more taboo than heterosexual intercourse, but my point is still there; would you rather read straight-out about sex or read a scene and have that clicking moment where you say, "Oh... Alright..." and figure it out yourself? It's far more clever that way, after all. People who enjoy reading about explicit sex will read hardcore romance or erotica. Keep it subtle and with literary justice.
     
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  12. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    But I think the point is this is supposed to be gritty story so "tasteful" isn't a huge concern. And I don't see why you need to stigmatize the depiction of sex like that. It's so incredibly normal, why is it so bad to depict? Do you think toilets should be censored in literature to be more "tasteful"?
     
  13. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Filthdaddy wip

    I stepped the quiet, dark streets of suburbia, montage of trains flashed through my mind, tunnels, long tunnels, big, fat tunnels lasted forever, the rocking horse on my face would not go away. With my key I opened the front door, tossed two free newspapers into my children's eyes. My wife covered her mouth, her palm, was it shock, was it horror, what had I done to offend her sensibility? Had I, had she betrayed me? She took the key from my hand, squashed it into a fat pear sat in the door-side fruit bowl. Dry thirst gripped my throat, I climbed the banister behind her ample, big slippers, she had very big slippers on her feet, nnnh, mmm, tbc.
     
  14. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I presume that's a sarcastic response to @Holden LaPadula?
     
  15. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    His post was very interesting, I took details, headed different ways, inspired to greatness with my pen, metaphorically - ironic, brilliant.

    I like the idea of a film noir, like he creates in my mind, or a b & w 1937 crammed suggestibility, relentless, exhausting.

    However, Clem's project requires a skilled hand in the writing, at least. It's a matter of voice. Some men can be lumpen, ugly in the description of grown-up stuff, and foul - but then that might be fun as well, to write as a flawed narrator, a weighted, horrible prejudice:

    oh

    I shall ask a moderator to stick this rather adult theme into the over 18s wing. You cannot read anything in there, not yet Oscar, heh heh heh, heh, because you are little.
     
  16. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I'm four months from eighteen and I've read and watched porn like every other teenager. Your not going to hurt me with sex. It's nothing new.
     
  17. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Behave yourself Oscar, stop watching porno and speak appropriately when you talk to old fellas.

    ...bad lad.
     
  18. Holden LaPadula
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    Holden LaPadula Member

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    Read up on some Thomas C. Foster, he wrote an entire section of one of his books about depicting sex in literature. If you look closely it's everywhere, in most of everything.

    Also, note my first sentence: "*I* prefer symbolic sex." I'm sure that many other people reading your work would wallow in your depictions of throbbing, exposed flesh. Yes, sex can be humorous and tasteful, such as in "This is Where I Leave you" when the protagonist walks in on his wife having an affair. She's fingering her boss's rear and when the protagonist throws her birthday cake on them his lube catches fire and his junk and his ejaculation are in flames. Funny stuff. But I PREFER symbolic and well-written sex.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I, for one, have been known to wallow. ;)
     
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  20. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    No throbbing gristle from me, Holden. I enjoyed Anais back in the day...but then, well I suppose I have written, narrated some erotica at events. That was a dead-end for me, supposed to be spoof erotica, but the erotica overwhelmed all spoof, me reading slow and delicious, terrifying experience for me, like being 6th Beatle,
     
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  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. Going full-bore with one and primly Victorian with the other would feel off.
     
  22. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    What does speak appropriately mean? I didn't insult you or anything. I'm not bein rude, am I?And seriously: like you didn't use porn when you were seventeen? (Scoffs) Yeah, no. Unless your a repressed Christian extremist: you wanked when you were a teenager. Again, like everyone else.
     
  23. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Oscar, you've not met Mawoolf, it seems. Matwoolf is employing humor of the cheeky sort. He means no harm.
     
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  24. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Yeah, but it's so often and without the benefit of tone to indicate joking. It confuzzles me. Yes, I did mean confuzzle.
     
  25. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    At least you are seventeen, Oscar, pretty lucky for that. Here's one I used to scream at the mirror when I was just seventeen years old, grrr, hope you like angry punks, I mean if you don't like angry punks I'll go again, find you something else that is good...



    @Clem should have a look at the Led Zep bio, the Motley Crue, maybe? I was so disappointed with the Joy Division bassist, his bio, to finally read how thick he was, your heroes from adolescence, dammit. Maybe it's okay, I only read it quick in the book-shop.
     
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