Everyone loves romance, and inevitably it is tied to sex. Writing sex scenes often presents a problem when trying to write at a comfort level for both the intended audience and the writer. Questions such as how much sex? Do I want sweet, steamy or erotic sex? Do I want to delve heavily into descriptions of the sexual act or barely touch on it? Do I want to stay exclusively in my heroine's head, her partner, or both mutually? Do I wish to go more into the emotions of the characters than the actual physical side? And of course, Will I be embarrassed if friends/family read this? There is little doubt that sex is a part of romance, but not the totally defining element. The writer may use sex as an exposition of a character's nature, for progressing the plot or for the sheer titillation and in rare cases÷ comedy. The exploration and enjoyment of intimacy between two lovers separates good sex scenes from trash.
Writers are often told to write about what they know, but without imagination, both the writer and the reader can be come bored by formulaic style. The only real litmus test is whether the reader liked the scene or it was accepted as a reasonable part of the story. When it comes to the online writing environment, sex often appears to be mandatory and frequent to the point that there is no plot, only steamy sex. Sometimes the inexplicable sexual positions can lead to unintended chuckles at the limberness of the characters. In contrast, there are many stories with only the barest hint, yet rich in emotion. Just as there is variation in physical attributes, so too are the various styles and content in writing love/sex scenes. The participating writers have agreed to comment on their perspective about writing love/sex scenes.
Joining us today are:
Mavis Applewater [Wednesday Afternoon Series, The Brass Ring, Legend of Faith, Finding My Way, Just One of Those Things]
Friction[Awakenings, Callisto's Antidote, Enchantment duet, Fire and Ice, Somewhere in Time, Wet Dreams]
LN James [Bedtime for Warriors and Bards, Both Hands, Breaking Bread, Chicago 5 AM, Far Away/So Close, The Gala, Hints, Magnetic North, Outlaw, Queen, Relinquish, Swan Song, Welcome Home]
LJ Maas [Meridio's Daughter, Tumbleweed Fever, None So Blind, Conqueror & Queen series]
SX Meagher [I Found My Heart series, Cupid, Moonlight Serenade, No Fool Like a Young Fool, The Right Thing, Surrender duet]
Radclyffe[Honor & Justice series, A Matter of Trust, Passion's Bright Fury, Love's Melody Lost, Safe Harbor, Love's Tender Warriors, Innocent Hearts]
Sharon Smith [Into the Dark, Learning to Climb]
Ali Vali [Ramses series, Game Set Match, How Do You Mend a Broken Heart duet, Guilt, Play It Again Sam]
Vertigo[Private Dancer, Reece's Faith, Caution Under Construction, Hidden Desires, Just the Beginning, The Real Thing, Tethered]
Xena's Little Bitch (Julia Noel Goldman) [Being Everything, Better Than Ruling the World, The Conqueror's Touch, Constancy, Dancing In the Moonlight, The Empress and the Playwrite, Everything I Know, The House of Lao, The Hunt of the Unicorn and many more]
EM: What drives you to write a love/sex scene [romance, exploration of feelings, hot sex]?
Mavis: I enjoy what I write, although the first time I tried to write a romantic scene I kept asking myself, "can I say that?" Now after writing so many short stories, I'm a lot bolder but still I don't write anything that I wouldn't be comfortable reading.
LN: [In my case], a dry spell. In the past, I've only felt compelled to write love/sex scenes when I'm not in love and not having sex, which is a sad commentary of my life in the late 90's, I realize. Basically, it was a nice release from work and life and frankly, if I wasn't having sex, it was nice to let Xena and Gabrielle have a crack at it. More power to them, you know? [chuckles]
Friction: Unquestionably, it's my endless fascination with the many aspects of love and desire that motivate me to write about them÷ well, [smiles] that and the desperate longing that comes over me when my partner's away on business. Passion is my drug of choice. Writing about it is one of my outlets between fixes.
Every tale I've written developed initially from a very explicit sex scene. It's the seed that with a little luck and a lot of daydreaming eventually blossoms into a complete story. For example, a staff plays a key roll in a love scene from my story Awakenings. It took nearly a year to build what I hoped would be an effective storyline around that one scene÷ but that's what drives me. I focus on the emotions in those scenes to develop the tale. Clearly, it's a backward way of putting a story together, but there you have it.
Ali: As a reader, I'm a big fan of a well-written sex/love scene, and as a writer I feel they're necessary to move the plot along in what usually is a natural progression of most relationships. I mean in life you can only go to dinner so many times, buy so much jewelry without some expectation that at some point you want to scream 'take your clothes off now' if you haven't progressed to that next level. Hopefully you're not in the restaurant or the jewelry store at the time you're doing the lust induced screaming.
SX: I don't set out to write sex scenes. It's not like I say, "I need X number of sex scenes in this story, now I have to figure out where to put them." I think a love scene only works if it's an organic part of the story. I'm trying to tell a tale of women loving one another, and at various points the characters want that intimate connection.
Sometimes the characters are feeling sexually charged, and they want some hot sex. Other times they're expressing their love for one another, and it turns into a physical encounter. And sometimes it catches them --and me -- by surprise.
Ali: Knowing you want to put them in is the easy part; the mechanics of actually writing one is where it gets complicated at times. What drives me to write them is to show the beauty of the physical side of love, but that doesn't mean it can't be hot. The laptop, a quiet house and a beer usually help out too.
The best way to sum it up is to say, I try to pen them in a way they don't sound clinical, and are psychically attainable without landing you in the emergency room. They also have to fit. As much as some would like to believe that you walk into any given situation and say "hi" just the right way, the good looking woman who responds is more than likely not going to have sex with you just because you have a really good greeting. Then again I could introduce you to some friends of mine and this could be a distinct possibility.
EM: So at times it's visceral for you as an author, a way of connecting your characters on both the physical and emotional levels.
LJ: Actually, there are different types of love scenes for different stories, characters, settings, etc. I never write sex scenes merely to titillate. I do try to make them romantic and steamy, but they always let the reader in on some aspect(s) of the character's emotions [and] psyche. Love scenes are perfect vehicles for allowing the reader the opportunity to see inside of a character.
Radclyffe: Regardless of the flavor of the primary plot, 'pure' romance, action/adventure, mystery, I consider myself first and foremost a romance writer. To that end, my goal has always been to marry the traditional elements of a romance with what is often considered erotica. In a romance, it is a given that the two central characters will at some point have an intimate, i.e. a physical relationship. The question then becomes how to depict that, or more to the point, how graphically to depict the sexual aspects of their physical relationship. I think how an author chooses to accomplish this is a result of a combination of multiple factors, including the flavor of the book, the intrinsic personalities of the characters, and the philosophy of the author along with the presumed comfort level of their readers.
Vertigo: Most of my sex/love scenes are about character growth as well as the obvious. All the way back to Private Dancer, I have given my characters learning [or] growth experiences within the sex scenes.
What drives me is the need to get the two characters together on an emotional level that they can only achieve through intimacy.
Sharon: [Well] many things drive me to write a love scene, but most importantly the situation the characters are in at that specific moment define what kind of a scene I write. The UX character in my Into the Dark series, Jordanna, happens to be a famous drummer in a rock band who is struggling with a sexual addiction. With that in mind I knew that the story would be more on the dark side sexually, but I wanted it to be realistic and written with taste. When I started the series the sexual situations I wrote for Jordanna were sort of trashy, quick-gratification type of scenes. There's one scene in the story that when I re-read what I wrote I blushed and was actually shocked that I had written it. The scene apparently went over well with the readers, because I still to this day hear comments about the 'hot' backstage bathroom scene in the first part of the story. I wanted her character to ooze the stereotypical "I'm a famous rock star and you are a sleazy groupie willing to do anything to be with me" type of an attitude that some musicians have, and I really didn't want the readers to like her character at that point. I wanted the readers to grow to like her as the UG character, Rebecca, grows to like her. When they finally do make love, the sex scenes in the story change from trashy to more of a romantic type of exploration of feelings between the two of them.
Radclyffe: The sexual dimension of the relationship between the characters I create is an essential part of their interaction, and I attempt to develop it as fully as their emotional connection. I use sex as a means of expression between the characters, both physical and emotional, that is every bit as critical as dialogue. Often, in fact, the dialogue during sex is more revealing than at any other time. For me, the sexual relationship is a natural and powerful extension of the romance.
XLB: One of my main motivations for writing XWP fan fiction was my obsession with the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. I was so deeply involved in their world, and as a single person, I found that enjoying a romantic relationship vicariously through them, though still a far cry from the real thing was amazingly satisfying. My desire to find love for myself, and my desire for Xena and Gabrielle to Finally Admit They Were In Love With And Desiring Of Each Other, drove my obsession with first time stories, which I read and wrote almost exclusively. There are few moments in life that feel as amazingly good as the moment when you realize that the person you're in love with loves you back, and if you identify with a character strongly enough, reading or writing about that experience can be incredibly pleasurable. Most of my stories are about those moments, and the build up to them.
EM: Is sex essential to romance and how much graphic detail do you include; does it matter?
Ali: How much detail I put in depends on the story and the character makeup of any given tale. My own personal view, and how I go about putting them into the storyline, is the balance between the rest of the story and the sex scenes. What I mean is, sometimes if the storyline is good enough you can get by with more muted love scenes. But if we're totally honest, don't you sometimes keep hitting that down page key hoping it leads to some action between the sheets, or the shower, the outdoors, trains? The list is endless. The term 'sex sells' isn't just a myth. Even if the writer doesn't give you a checklist of the whole thing, the act of sex itself is essential to the story. Sex is one of the main things on the hierarchy of needs if I remember anything from my college psychology classes.
They do matter to me, and sometimes I like to cut loose and give my betas a treat. When they're reading and forgetting the fact they're supposed to be making corrections I'm happy.
LN: For me, yes, sex is essential to romance because I think it's essential to most intimate relationships. The point at which sex becomes absent is the point at which two people lose a way of communicating and relating to each other. Some things are better said through the physical/sensual world, in my opinion. Romance without that element is certainly possible, but it's just not a part of my notion of what a romantic relationship is about or at least what I'd want out of a romantic relationship [...] and what I'd want for my characters.
Radclyffe: Sex is certainly implied in a romance, otherwise one does not have a love story in the conventional sense. I prefer what many people term graphic detail during love scenes. By that, I mean using language that explicitly refers to body parts. For me the body is the basis of the sexual encounter and it is the canvas upon which the scene is portrayed. Leaving out the physical nature of making love and discarding explicit language is, for me, to lose a critical component of the experience and to diminish the impact of the interaction. I don't believe that love scenes necessarily need to be graphic to be effective, although I do find sex scenes carried out offstage to be disappointing. This is highly individual for both author and reader. As in all things, I believe that readers self-select the types of fiction with which they are most comfortable.
Friction: [Hmm] I don't necessarily believe sex is essential to every love story.
There are many components to romance. Sex is just a piece÷ an extremely compelling piece... [smiles] but still just part of a bigger picture. Does it matter? Is sex crucial to a story? That depends on what the writer is trying to communicate.
Mavis: Is it essential? No. But it is nice when two characters click in a romantic way. As for how graphic it gets, that depends on what is happening in the story and the characters themselves. Sometimes it can be an all encompassing over heated moment and others simply a soft gentle exploration. It all depends on where the characters lead me. In a story like, Miss Larilia's Lesson the characters were nervous and exploring their feelings so the romance was very tender. On the other side is a story like Starting Over where the characters are driven by a raw need and the romance was more like spontaneous combustion.
Sharon: [I agree...] I don't feel sex is essential to romance, but they usually do end up going hand in hand. I don't think that it's always necessary to tie the two together all of the time, and I find that I am more satisfied reading and writing a cuddling scene over the actual act of sex. I use the amount of graphic detail I feel will invoke the most feelings in the readers, and in the characters.
Friction: Although, I personally believe that a well-written love scene enhances just about any tale, I think that for the majority of romance stories 'graphic' sex isn't necessary. Most of these stories are driven by their plot lines.
I should clarify here, that I do not categorize my stories as 'romances' but 'erotica'... at least, that's what I'm striving for as I dream them up. [smiles] While romance plays a key role in them, desire is the focus.
EM: Ahh, so it seems that it is a balancing act that is dependent upon both the nature of the story and the characters.
LJ: I don't think sex is essential to a story at all. I have found that women today [...] at least from the fan mail I get and from speaking with other authors, do like to see a good love scene within the story. It's not necessary, but according to the fans, it definitely adds something. I think it's simply important to the author to decide whether it would help or hinder the plot. If the author isn't looking at it in those terms, the reader will be the one to suffer.
Vertigo: It's not essential to romance, romance can be in the simplest of gestures and sex isn't necessary to convey it. I include much graphic detail, I try to be tasteful, yet I don't keep the reader in the dark at all as to what is going on with and to whom. I suppose the extent of detail matters to each individual writer, to me it matters because if I'm telling you every thought that passes through these two women's heads, it's only fair to continue into the bedroom where the learning doesn't stop.
XLB: Graphic descriptions are certainly not necessary to romance stories or romantic scenes. For me, it depends on the story. Some of my stories are straight-out erotica, meant to make people feel happy and romantic and turned on. Some of them have sex scenes that are less graphic or only a few words long, usually when the story has a more spiritual or particularly romantic tone to it. Often the excitement of Xena and Gabrielle finally admitting their feelings is so intense that it's just as satisfying as more descriptive sex would be.
LN: As for graphic detail, I'm all for 'most' of it. I included it because I thought I wanted to at least characterize what was being communicated between two people. I kind of hope the sex details I put in my stories, aside from being all about the physical, also managed to say something about what the characters were thinking/feeling at the time. I suppose those same emotions/feelings/thoughts could have been communicated in a different way, but in the context of X&G's relationship, it felt more natural for me to write about their sex life. And really, it wasn't all that hard imagining [...] and writing, two hot chicks having good sex, truth be told. Not a chore.
Friction: In 'erotica', passion is not just an element of the story; it's the theme. Since desire drives both my characters and the storyline, the love scene is extremely important. For the reader to identify with the character's motivations, they need to experience the urgency of their emotions as fully as possible. To accomplish this, it becomes necessary to throw back the sheets and reveal the physical as well as the emotional.
SX: I think it's just fine to write a romance story that merely alludes to intimacy. That's not the type of story I write, but there's nothing in the world wrong with it if that's what appeals to the writer.
In my stories, I include a good deal of detail. I do that because I include a lot of detail about everything, and I don't see any reason to put a sexual encounter into a special category.
EM: What role does 'reader imagination' play in writing a love/sex scene [i.e. can less be effective]?
Radclyffe: I don't see this as an either/or issue, meaning "is graphic versus implied sex more effective?" Done well, either can be satisfying.
Sharon: I love the way Missy Good writes romantic scenes between her characters. They say so little graphically, but yet that is more than enough for me and I enjoy reading something like that over an author who describes their characters' lovemaking like I would describe lovers playing a nude game of 'Twister.'
XLB: I tend to assume the people reading my stories are really into Xena and Gabrielle, so their own anticipation and desire becomes part of the story when they read it. When I write sex/love scenes, I get into the character of my narrator, and just see where their desires and the scene leads me. If I like the scene, I assume the reader will too.
LJ: There's nothing wrong with leaving it up to the reader to imagine if that's what the plot calls for. Not adding a love scene or 'fading to black' because you, as the author, are too embarrassed or don't know how to write a love scene isn't a good enough excuse. I've developed a reputation for my ability to write a love scene, but there was no sex at all in Tumbleweed Fever. Rebecca's Cove [being published this summer] has one love scene, but all the way at the end of the novel. There are times when it's just doesn't seem 'real' to throw them into bed right away, other times when it feels right to have none at all. A lot of it simply depends on the story the author wants to tell.
Sharon: I originally wrote the first time Jordanna and Rebecca made love as a fade to black scene, mostly because I was uncomfortable at writing a true lovemaking scene and really hadn't written one before. When I re-read the final product, I didn't think it was affective in conveying the character's actual feelings for each other so I changed it. I re-wrote the scene a bit more graphically, putting myself in the mindset of a woman who never felt any type of love while having sex (Jordanna) and also in the mindset of a woman who had never made love to another woman before (Rebecca) and I was much happier with the way that version came out.
Vertigo: I've written some 'fade to black' scenes. Sometimes it wasn't integral to where the story was at the moment to go into what was happening in bed. However, at that point in the story, the readers already had a good grasp on the sexual goings on between the characters. Imagination is a very good thing and I often urge my readers to use theirs throughout my stories.
LN: Well, there are always going to be unknowable elements of a written sex/love scene, things that people might notice normally in their own sexual context. Skin temperature, taste, sound, feel... elements that you can attempt to capture with the written word but because they're senses, you can't quite describe exactly how soft someone's skin feels behind their knee, or how the essence of someone's skin tastes. Words just don't do those kinds of things justice. That's why you rely on the reader's imagination to picture/feel that softness and that taste, let them decide just how great it sounds to hear someone whimper, let the reader draw from their own experiences of what feels good. If you can give them some direction in terms of what message you want to communicate via the physical aspects [...] i.e. a sense of safety in a hug, or raw aggression in a kiss, or reassurance, or tenderness, or intensity, or danger, etc.; then they can use their own imagination to actually feel or see that message. Or at least take away something personal that's all their own.
EM: I know that my imagination has kicked into overdrive by the authors here.
SX: It's difficult to write a scene that allows room for the reader to put his or her imagination to work. I try my best to leave something for the reader to fill in, but I'm not always successful.
In many ways, I think that less is more in sex scenes. I think it's harder to write a sexy scene where the love and connection of the partners is shown without naming body parts. It's easy to get carried away with the details when writing a "which hand goes where" scene and forget the point of the story -- whether that's showing love or connection or fun.
Mavis: Despite how graphic the scenes I write can be, the reader's imagination is pivotal. I try to create the scene but if I didn't leave some things up to the reader the scenes would feel too clinical. I may bring the candlelight and the caressing and if I have done my job you can picture the atmosphere I've created and just know how they ended up in one another's arms.
Ali: The 'reader's imagination' is a very important part of any story line. Remember all those old movies where they'd pan to the window and the music would crest? In short stories (about 30 pages or less) you either have the sweaty scene or you don't, but in novel length work you have to lead the reader to a point every so often where you wink and elude with a few lines what's going to happen. This is because if you have characters that are turned on by everything from strawberries to the big blue sky it gets boring to give a blow-by-blow description of every encounter.
Sex boring? What are you nuts Vali? True, it's never boring, but after 250 pages you start to run out of words like slick, wet heat, hard nub and silky folds. You have to save them up so in the parts where you're thrusting, moaning and praising the heavens, they carry more impact. This would be every 70 pages or so. My only question is - why doesn't Webster's have a good sex thesaurus? [laughs]
Friction: Certainly, the reader's imagination plays a crucial part in how effective a story will be. Nevertheless, I think it's important to remember that in reading someone else's work, we are in effect taking a journey into 'their' imagination seeing 'their' vision.
When all is said and done, it's the storyteller's responsibility to draw the reader into the world they have created. To do that effectively, they must make the reader care about their characters... become somewhat emotionally invested in them. I attempt this by painting as vivid a picture as possible. Ideally, I want to pull my readers into the scene÷ have them experience the urgency÷ the heat. Because of this, my stories tend to be quite graphic.
In my mind, the key to making a sex scene truly erotic is communicating the powerful emotions that accompany the physical act. Often times it's the characters actions and words while making love that bring forth these emotions. This element is simply too important to my stories to leave it entirely to the reader's imagination. Could this be done with less detail? Very likely it could be, if penned by a more talent writer. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a woman prone to extremes. Driven by the desire to involve the reader to the fullest extent possible, I tend to push the envelope.
EM: How do you think 'negative' sex [rape, prostitution, abuse, or exploitation] should be handled in a storyline?
Vertigo: I am very opinionated about this subject and do not find 'negative sex' the least bit entertaining. I don't need the minute details of a rape or abuse scene to be entertained. I understand that sometimes people want to build a story around the trauma of one character, but to me, its better left to the imagination.
SX: I think those topics should be handled by someone else. [smiles] I don't mean to be flip, but life's hard enough without spending my time writing about such emotionally wrenching topics. I appreciate that some writers tackle these issues, but I won't be one of them.
Mavis: That is a difficult situation and one I don't tend to include in my work. I write what I am comfortable reading and therefore don't include sexual violence in my stories.
XLB: I think other authors can handle it however they feel is appropriate. I don't usually write about that kind of stuff in detail, because I like people to feel good when they read my stories, and those topics tend to be disturbing, to say the least. I've written about characters who have [...] or have had those experiences, but my characters are always strong and able to endure without having their spirits completely broken, and I never write graphic descriptions. I never write about those experiences with the intention of turning people on, but as a way of showing what a character has had to endure that has made her the person she is now.
LJ: [nods head] That's a very personal thing from author to author. My personal feelings are not to show the actual abuse with any sort of exposition. I'd rather describe the aftermath. It's just one of those "I can't go there" things.
LN: Less is more, in my opinion. I know it makes for good drama and has, at times, an important social message, I just don't need to read the details. If it's central to the story, I'm fine with knowing it happened but I don't want a play by play. Life itself is full of negative sex in the newspapers every day, I prefer my entertainment to be less intense in that regard. Just not my cup of tea.
Friction: Although I believe the use of 'negative' sex in a story should be handled with great care, I also think it can be extremely valuable to a plot line. There are many fine examples of this in Xena fan fiction. One of the best being BL Miller's, A Queen's Sacrifice.
As a reader, it pains me to see characters that I care about abused. There's a fine line between maintaining suspense and causing undue discomfort to the reader. It has always been my rule to protect my characters from any type of abuse that could not be quickly overcome. Unfortunately, some storylines make this impossible.
When that becomes the case, I believe it's critical to instill the reader with the hope of a favorable outcome. For me, it's also key that the abused character be permitted to maintain some semblance of power, even if it's only psychological. Nothing is more frustrating to me as a reader than to find myself emotionally invested in an utterly helpless heroine. I never was able to buy into the whole 'knight in shining armor' theme÷ not even when that knight is Xena.
Sharon: Negative sex should be handled delicately, maturely and also realistically. You never know what type of past your reading audience has and how it is going to affect them when they read something negative. When I started working on Jordanna as a character, I was unsure of how the readers would react to her past and present actions, and was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction I received. When I made the decision to make her a promiscuous character I knew that I had to be responsible about it so I made sure I covered things like sexually transmitted diseases in the story. I am still amazed at some of the feedback I get regarding my characters, some from readers who are actually struggling with sex addiction. I am surprised at how much they actually do relate to the story, and how open and honest they have been with me about their lives.
Ali: Negative sex is a reality in the lives of too many women so it should never be glossed over or passed over as a topic for writers. The educational value alone, depending on the story's outcome, is invaluable. Here again the question is, what's too much detail of the actual violent act? In How Do You Mend A Broken Heart, I touched on abuse and marital rape and got a good response from women who had survived the same kind of relationships and ordeals. I can't begin to express how much it meant to me that they shared their stories with me. If you're in a healthy full relationship it's hard to image some of the atrocities some people have to overcome everyday.
The concept of adding it to a story is important because in a trite way, you can offer a sense there is hope of survival and a chance there is still happiness to be found. The most important though, is to show no matter whatever the act of violence was; it wasn't the victim's fault. I haven't seen in it in any story on the web, but the sentiment some have of she shouldn't have been wearing that, or what was she expecting going there at that time is a good way to get a boot in the ass.
Radclyffe: As with any other plot event, I think the manner of the depiction of abusive sexual situations should suit the purpose of its inclusion in the narrative. If the specific details of the event are critical to explaining the impact on the character, then I include the necessary details. I do write these scenes consciously, trying to be sensitive to how this may affect a reader who has experienced a similar circumstance.
EM: What is the value of a 'Plot, What Plot' story, if any?
XLB: I always say: badly written PWP is bad porn, and well-written PWP is erotica. Though bad porn has its uses, I prefer to write erotica. When I set out to write pure erotica, that is to say, a story that contains more descriptions of sex than of anything else, I try to write something that is passionate and sensual and romantic and interesting, as well as really really hot. XWP fan fiction has a tendency to include graphic sex scenes, and I believe many many readers read the stories for the erotic experience, whether they want to admit it or not. Though some people claim to want to 'cool down' after reading these stories, many of us don't, and continue our sensual experience to its obvious conclusion. There's something about the sexual energy between these two characters that fascinates, and I know many people's interior sexual lives have been changed because of them, mine among them.
LJ: Oh, definite entertainment value there! [laughs] I've read them and enjoyed them. Let's face it, some days we want to make sweet gentle love and there are days when we just want the hot sex. To me, that's the difference between sex scenes as an integral part of the storyline, a story that just happens to have sex in it, and some sex scenes that just happen to have a little story around them.
Sex scenes in lesbian fiction? Not essential, but if they're written well they can add so much more to a story and the characters involved.
LN: I choose to believe that should John Ashcroft ever run across one of my stories, he would be simultaneously turned on by it and disgusted at his own response. His potential discomfort is value enough for me.
EM: Okay that merited a 'spew' warning! [laughs]
Radclyffe: At least one purpose of fiction is to entertain. PWPs can certainly do this, and that is justification enough. I don't think, however, one can write an entire romance novel with what is traditionally thought of as PWP [... that is] sexual encounters with minimal characterization as the sole foundation, for the simple reason that a romance novel is about the emotional as well as the physical.
SX: I think a PWP story has the same value as any other. It's meant to entertain and to reach a certain audience. A well-done PWP is a nice way to cut to the 'good parts' when you're in that kind of mood. I haven't written a PWP, but I certainly wouldn't be averse to doing so.
Sharon: [Hmm...] to see how many times an author can write the description 'dripping wet apex' in one story? I've only read a few PWP stories and I'm not particularly all that fond of them. I know that there is a market for them, and I think that it might be a sexual outlet for some people. It's a good way for a new author to test their sex scene writing skills, especially for someone like me who is still uncomfortable writing them even after writing quite a few of those type of scenes.
Vertigo: I think they're a kick. There really can't be much value to rampant sex, but it sure is fun. I wrote a few X/G PWP's and got such a terrific response I decided to write an uber, and that's how it all started.
Mavis: A well told story is just that no matter how long or short it is. I'm finding that a lot of so-called PWP's really do have a plot. Of course sometimes you do have to look really hard for it. Admittedly I have penned more than a few stories that there just isn't any plot to them at all. They are just fun little stories meant to entertain and if that is what they do then, great. The value is in what the reader gets from them, if it is just a little break from the daily grind knowing that in the end there will be a happy ending then I'm thrilled that my small contribution could make someone smile.
Friction: As a both a writer and a loyal fan of erotica, I feel compelled to defend it in all its various forms. Isn't the value of any written work determined by the needs of the reader? Is a short story less valuable than a novel, a historical work more valuable than a science fiction piece? In my mind, they each have their place. There are a number of PWP stories that I consider classics÷absolute gems.
I confess that there are plenty of times I find myself in the mood for a message that 'stirs' rather than a 'stirring' message. A short story that arouses me sexually is no less valuable than a full-length novel that puts me through a range of emotions. For me, the value of a work of fiction is the emotion it evokes÷ the entertainment it provides. As they say, "different strokes for different folks" [...] no pun intended [grins]. If there are readers out there, albeit horny ones, that derive pleasure from PWP's, then they have value. It's simply a matter of individual taste.
For those who doggedly maintain that PWP's have no value because they lack substance, I would argue that it all depends on what you're hungry for. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a seven course meal and other times the temptation to skip right to dessert is simply too strong to resist.
Could one starve on a steady diet of them? I think that there are worse ways to go.
Ali: I absolutely love the PWP stories out there. Folks like Mavis "The Goddess" Applewater totally rock. Hell I'm waiting for a cute blonde to rock my world when I'm trying on clothes, getting my mail, car hunting - you name it. Just because I said the girl isn't going to sleep with you just because of your nice voice and friendly smile doesn't mean you can't fantasize about it, right? Of course if this were to happen you are all free to send flowers when my girlfriend finds out about it and I end up hospitalized to remove the frying pan from my skull.
Every written word has value, and the PWP stories are no exceptions. I can understand why some might not like them, I take that back, no I can't understand why you wouldn't love these things. My best analogy is restaurants; bear with me here I live in New Orleans, good food capital of the world.
Imagine dining at Commander's Palace [...] voted into the five best restaurants in the U.S. every year since the beginning of time, and you've just eaten your way through barbecued shrimp, fish to die for, and some vegetable they've put on the plate to cover up the part not swimming in cream sauce. With me so far? Next comes the bread pudding soufflé that you had to order first because it takes forty minutes to make. It's so fluffy sitting there in its tureen waiting for some attention. The waiter then takes a spoon and thrust it right into the center covering the whole thing in a warm, creamy hot whiskey sauce that'll leave you moaning and licking your spoon.
About two miles down the road is the Camilla Grill. Definition as compared to the fine dining at C.P. - neighborhood joint. Here there are no tables, linens, only a long counter with stools bolted to the floor, paper napkins and you get to watch the guys cook. A burger, fries and a chocolate freeze later you're ready for a piece of pecan or apple pie (it's the only two choices). You watch as the cook throws a big wad of butter on the griddle that melts instantly before putting your slice down to heat up. Top it off with vanilla ice cream and there you go.
Is there a difference between the two places and desserts? You bet. Is one better than the other? It depends if you want the long sensuous buildup with all the frills, or you're looking for a sinful treat that takes as long to enjoy as it takes the butter to melt on that griddle. Both have their place and purpose. For the PWP story, if written well, it's to make your hair stand on end and curse yourself for not reading the 'Do not read at work' warnings.
EM: We've sure had a plethora of views, which is exemplified in the diversity of writing that never fails to grab the reader's attention. I've enjoyed the insights our authors have presented and I hope you will take the opportunity to let them know their efforts are appreciated. My thanks to our participants for freely contributing in this fascinating discussion.