26 June 2007

REPOST 7/1/2006 Score cards and reading...

No, not judging score cards but...

So, here we go...on a list, discussing people who actually tally the number of love scenes in a book, as if that holds some meaning. Am I disdainful of this? Not really. I'm sure it works for some readers and in some situations (like certain authors they've discussed who tend to forget other aspects of the book in favor of the sex scenes), but I have a real problem with judging a book by the number of sex scenes or number of pages of sex scene between the covers, in general. Why? Well, let's break it down.

Can there ever be "too much sex" in a book? That depends on how you define too much sex.

There can certainly be too much for a particular reader's personal tastes. There's nothing wrong with that. The reader will simply have to gravitate to authors who fit in that way or skip the sex scenes and go to the meat of what he/she wants to read.

There can be too much sex for a genre. If you CALL something romance then focus ON the sexual journey of the principals, complete with multiple, involved sex scenes...you either have an erotic romance or erotica. You do not have traditional romance genre and shouldn't be billing it as such. Readers want to get what they pay for, whether they choose to purchase an erotica book or a sweet romance book. As authors and publishers, it is in our best interests to market and label things to correctly identify what is inside.

Can there be too much sex? Well, if you have sex scenes banded together without a cohesive plot driving them, you may still have a genre of book you're writing/reading. It may be porn, which I personally don't care for, but there you are. It still fits somewhere, since that is acceptable in many porn subsets.

I don't think you can really say "there is too much sex" as a blanket statement. No matter how much sex there is, it's probably appropriate to some genre, though it may be grossly mislabeled in the case of the book you're reading...and it may be too much for a person's own tastes.

AHA! Appropriate sex. Now, we're getting somewhere. No matter what the sex is in a book, it should be appropriate. Read that to mean that it should fit neatly into the book without distracting from "the rest." It should further the book... (I'll get back to that point. I want to finish this one.) If the sex has just been added in to have more sex in the book, it's going to be obvious that it was. That's inappropriate. Like any truly frivolous scene that serves no purpose, it should be REMOVED from the book to make a stronger book.

In the same way, the sex should be true to the characters involved and the world rules as set forth. For instance, if you're dealing with two completely neurotic, sexually inexperienced, self-effacing characters, what are the chances of hot monkey sex in the first chapter after they meet? Probably not too high. If you're dealing with a world where the sexual taboos are very strict, there had better be some serious pre-thinking to breaking them, unless the character is a rogue that breaks them all the time and has long since abandoned such thoughts, in which case, the author should make that painfully clear to the reader.

Okay...back to the issue of the sex furthering the book.

Sex is NOT just bodies in motion. Who doesn't THINK while having sex? Who doesn't FEEL? Who hasn't had a partner who did everything physcially "right" and still found him/herself not in the mood or thrown from the mood, because something in the feelings or mind just wasn't "right?" It happens. Sex is 90 percent mental/emotional and 10 percent physical. A good sex scene in a book should be similarly heavy on the emotions and thoughts of the participants. If all the author wrote was tab A and slot B, why would anyone bother?

A GOOD sex scene should build the characterization. It should build the plot...the
romantic connection at least...to the next level, even if the book isn't focused on a sexual journey or discovery. A GOOD sex scene serves a purpose. If it doesn't, it's inappropriate to the book and shouldn't be included in the first place, just as any scene that follows the hero going to the bathroom for no good reason should be taken out of the book to make it a stronger book.

In the same way, a fight scene serves a purpose. It heightens tension. It resolves conflicts...or it makes the situation worse and serves as a roadblock in the plotline that must be overcome. It allows for feelings of triumph, loss, etc. Sex scenes do much the same things for a book.

Neither a love scene or a fight scene should weaken or otherwise ruin a good story. It should be an integral part OF that story.

If an author is writing sex scenes that don't serve a purpose in the book, advancing plot and/or characterization, it's poor writing, IMO. Let's be honest. If you're sacrificing world building and characterization for meaningless sex, what is the point? Even in erotica (where the point of the book...the PLOT of the book may well BE the sexual journey or discovery of the principals), a good book has the sex driving the greater quest of the book. Anything that doesn't... Well, I already said I didn't personally care for porn, so we can leave it at that.

So, I still question why score cards about the AMOUNT of sex in a book alone serve much purpose. The end all of sex in books should be whether the amount of sex and heat level of sex fits the genre, whether the sex serves a purpose, whether it's appropriate and true to character/world and whether it's fully integrated to include emotions and thoughts to offset the physical aspects of the sex described. If you set up a score card for that, it would be one heck of a detailed score card.

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