Tuesday, 22 May 2007

The SEX question...

So Marcy asked this...
How much ..umm..s-e-x do you have in your mss? ...I need to add in some sex, but not sure how much. I'd love to hear how much you use.
And Rachel said this...
I finished All night With The boss yesterday. WHOO HOO - loved it! Rory is just my kind of hero,impossible not to fall in love with. And Marcy, get hold of a copy, the S-E-X was very good! No spoilers but I've read quite a few Moderns and this book went one step further on that front than I had encountered before.
Which tickled me pink and totally made my day and Kat said this
Is there a certain number of sex scenes per book that you need to include? Was thinking thats probably hardest bit to write- all those diff synonyms and adjectives and verbs you have to come up with. Ha ha!!! Anyway loved it loved it
Which just made me giggle.
So I’ve spent the day in bed trying to rid myself of this hideous cold (lurgy = bug, Marcy – in this case a common cold). I have that horrible blocked sinus thing and bad head with it. But ENOUGH. I’m not allowed to get sick. Hubby worked from home today but must return to office tomorrow and so I need to be back on deck… blah, blah.
Let’s get to it! ‘Cos to be honest I’ve been thinking over this and laughing away in bed most of the day… such fun.
So how much sex does there need to be in a Modern Extra/Sexy Sensation?

Let me begin by warning you I am NO EXPERT - about the sex in books that is, in real life I have four kids… ok, not going there ;)
So, I’ve sold two books to them and have more in the works – but these are not definite sales at ALL. And these are my first ever books and I am completely green when it comes to it. So this is just my personal take and not to be taken as anything remotely authoritative.
In short, my answer is (and you’re gonna hate me for this)…. It depends!
OK. Seriously – there is no ‘set number’ of love scenes required, it doesn’t have to happen by page whatever, there really is no rule.
BUT having said that let’s remember the focus of the line. The hero and heroine are invariably (mine anyway) in their twenties. They are confident. She is the hottest thing he’s ever seen and he’s the hottest thing she’s ever seen. No way is she going to pass up a night with him – even if she knows she really, really, shouldn’t get it on with him, she’s going to - because he’s too fine not to. We’re promising the reader a sexy read – our hero is younger but still alpha – he knows what he’s about – and she’s gonna have some of that thank you very much and we’ll sneak along for the ride. Ultimately (and maybe sooner rather than later) they can’t keep their hands off each other.

‘Adding in some sex’ is not possible. If your characters have sex it will utterly alter your manuscript – it can’t not – because sex always, always complicates things. It totally changes the relationship between those characters – even if they refuse to see that for a while. The change, often, is for the worse - even if they keep having sex (which mine tend to).
I think this is the hardest thing with MX – you have this gorgeous couple of characters, who fancy the pants off each other from the word go, and yet there has to be some really good reason why they can’t be happy ever after for a whole book – character driven conflict is the key and it needs to be sustainable. The other thing that is hard is maintaining the sexual tension once they’ve actually done it. Even if s/he decides not to go there again, s/he can’t not because the temptation is way too strong.
Again I think the answer comes back to the characters themselves and the core conflict that ultimately drives them apart – leaving them seemingly without hope of reconciliation. Even though they have great sex.
I can’t just write a sex scene – I have to know my characters very well before I have them get naked – even if they get naked in chapter one, I still know them well. Let’s face it – it is the most intimate thing you can do. And it reveals a lot about the person. What do they say? How do they say it? What do they do? Are their eyes open or shut? Is it all over in two minutes, do they take the time to ensure their partner is ‘cared for’? Writing about their love-making is a fabulous way of revealing more about your characters to your reader – and to the other character – things that the other one doesn’t really want to reveal. We’re at our most vulnerable in that moment. So even if they’re regarding it as ‘just a fling’ or ‘just a one night stand’ its not going to work out like that for them because that person is special, and sex is special. (See, I’m a romantic!). Of course, it tends to be the woman who realises this first – men seem to be able to bury their heads in the sand for longer. But ultimately they get it – the kind of intimacy and comfort (and ok thrill) they find with that one woman, is unique and irreplaceable and as precious as life itself.
This will no doubt disappoint my mother but I can’t imagine writing a romance and not describing a love scene explicitly because it tells us so much about characters and how they relate to each other and also let’s be honest – sex is pretty fundamental to a boy/girl relationship – no getting away from that!
Regarding describing the actual act – I think it can pretty much be as detailed as you like – barring a few choice words that really aren’t romantic. We still want the romance and the fantasy element. Raunchy but not kinky. Ultimately loving.
I also like playful and fun – this is important for me because I think fun and laughter is essential in a long term relationship and we want readers to really believe that this couple are going to have fun and be together forever and if they can’t have a laugh in the bedroom well there isn’t much hope I say! But again its not all hi-jinks and frolics – you can use a love-scene nicely to show the increasing intensity and seriousness of feeling one character is developing for another – and the fact s/he's feeling uncomfortable with that deepening feeling. It’s all about balance.
Bear in mind Modern Extra is not a long book (the required word count is now 50-55k) and you can’t really have nothing but love scenes from start to finish – some plot required! But I do think the sexual tension between the two needs to be obvious from the minute they meet (pretty much page one) and be on the boil fairly smartly. Then you can have lots of fun with the fall out.
Sigh. I don’t suppose that has helped at all has it? So nuts and bolts? In All Night with the Boss, Rory and Lissa have several quite raunchy encounters from word go before finally consummating their passion about halfway through the book. Then they have one very full on weekend – with some fun teasing… then a bit of a split before some pretty intense angry/make-up sex… then things get really complicated…
I think the progression for MX characters is they go from ‘having sex’ to ‘making love’… even if that’s the last thing they wanted to happen, because with this person, there is no other way.
And for me, I just have to, HAVE TO have happy ever after sex. I hate endings that aren't fully explored.
Righto – thus inspired I’m off to help Rhys get his kit off!

You know, if you’re nice to me, I might give you a racy excerpt from book two… Bedded by Arrangement.
Want that? Do ya??!!


Rachel said...

OOH yes please!

Best wishes,

Marcy said...

Hey Natalie,
Thanks so much for this post. It does help a lot and is really appreciated, especially since you're feeling so crappy.

I'm still trying to figure out whether Modern Extra is where I 'fit'(I'm a misfit right now ;). So reading one of your racey excerpts would really help.


Judy Jarvie said...

Here comes CP with the 'nosy beak' chiming in (Nat will laff at that one cos I always do as she knows well of old!)

Great discussion on the sex issue...for what it's worth my take is that it's not necessarily the 'quantity/type' of sex featured in a ModX (though those points that Nat makes are certainly valid and useful) it's the sexy/sassy/young tone and vibe. In essence it's character over the physical act - i.e. today's Mod X readers want to read about the woman they aspire to be so let that be your guide. Kelly Hunter's debut wasn't sex filled and the heroine was a virgin but what developed was 'totally aspirational sensuality' for today's young woman.

I know I've read Mod Xs across the gamut of 'degrees of sex' so I don't think there's a barometer on it. It's about attitude and convincing, real characters. I.e. the kind of thing we want in a good book anyway, it just so happens that these books have a particularly young fresh voice - but never fluffy or whimsical. I would tend to say - go with what you're comfortable with and focus on your characters/storyline/voice being the essential 'traits' of a Mod X.

Hope that makes sense. And anyway what do I know - I'm a ModX wannabe and Nat has made it to the pedigree ranks of a published (woo hoo!) But I always like to keep my CP hat on and add some views to the pot!

Great discussion guys.

Donna Alward said...

Nat- obscenely late to this discussion but what a great question and set of answers!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yay for you ModXers!

I just had a brief convo with a friend about my books because I keep hearing the word "Sweet" which makes me giggle. But I think I probably do write "sweet" books...I just hope the tension underneath is a *little* simmering...because my current hero already has me hot and bothered. And he's going to be so gentle....


Kris said...

I'm even later here - followed the link over from Julie Cohen's blog :)

But from the point of view of someone who's still building up the courage to send in the next book after having the first one rejected, (albeit a few years ago) your post was great. Have bookmarked it to refer back to when things are flagging.

I've got four small ones too, so also found the question of when you write quite pertinent - although I need to wait for these hormones to wear off so I can start writing again. My brain is still about as much use as fruit salad...