Sex! Have I offended you? If so, I sincerely apologize. And also: SEX! BOOBIES! PENIS!
…There. Now that the easily offended and prudish have been frightened away, the rest of us can have a mature and responsible discussion on the topic of sex in fiction and the psychology of sexual attraction and intercourse as it applies to the various characters and their evolution within the pages.
…And that should have chased off all the pervies who just showed up because they saw the word “sex.” Now on to today’s real discussion.
I do not write young adult any more than I write paranormal romance. I sometimes write about young adults…although mostly older teens. My series, The Temple of the Blind (notice how I shamelessly plug this title into my blog posts whenever I see an opportunity? Sorry about that.), is populated primarily with young college students. I also sometimes write stories that are perfectly appropriate for young adults to read. My short story, “From Such Small Things” is a creepy ghost story, but contains no sexual or overly violent elements and I don’t think it is anything any teenager shouldn’t be able to pick up and read—although I’ll leave those kinds of decisions solely to the parents out there. However, much of my work, including The Temple of the Blind (did it again, sorry) and many of my shorter works, contains ample elements of sex and/or violence, sometimes graphically. This is not necessarily because I set out to write a sexual or violent tale. I don’t write erotica and I don’t write splatterpunk. But I also never force my stories into any kind of predetermined package. I begin the story, sometimes without even knowing the ending, and then let it take me where it will. I let the characters evolve naturally. I let the events of the plot unfold as I go. Sometimes, it surprises me.
After the release of my first novel, The Box, I was faced with distributing it to all the people I know. Including my mother… (Awkward!) Overall, I’ve gotten nothing but good feedback on it (the trouble seems to be getting people to buy it in the first place), but a few people have found it difficult to look past the adult content in the book. “It was good,” they’ll tell me, “but a little graphic… But it’s good! …but it’s a little graphic…” And they’re right. It is a bit graphic. In chapter eight, the characters discover something that turns their sexual desires against them and they find themselves unable to maintain control. I don’t sugar-coat it. The camera doesn’t pan away. I don’t cut to another scene. I drag the reader all the way into it, forcing it onto him the way it was forced upon the characters. My intention was never to blatantly make the story more graphic, but rather to immerse the reader in the wild emotions of the scene. It’s shocking! It’s embarrassing! Oh, the awkwardness! What have they done? How will they deal with it? You can’t believe that just happened! If you’re blushing when you read this chapter and glancing around to see if anyone might somehow be able to tell what you’re reading, then the story has had exactly the effect on you I intended. Because this is also what the characters feel when the scene is over.
As a result of what happens in this scene, the characters lose their clothes and end up traversing the frightening, dark, labyrinthine setting naked, compounding the awkwardness of what happened between them and the vulnerability of their situation. It was something of an experiment in character development. And I was very happy with the result. So happy, in fact, that I revisited the idea later in book three, with a larger group of characters, and carried it forward. (Don’t worry. My books won’t always be about naked people. I promise.)
If you happen to be the type of person who is offended by graphic material in a book, I do apologize. But this is my blog, not yours, so…SEX! Seriously, though, nobody’s making you read it, so just don’t get mad at me okay? Don’t make me say “penis” again. (Isn’t that a funny word? What’s even funnier is how angry my wife gets when I say it while she’s trying to record a voice mail greeting!) For the rest of you, I hope you’ll enjoy my work for what it’s meant to be. The adventures in my tales are like the adventures in your life: you simply don’t know what might happen at any given time. Sometimes it’s the things that shock you that are most memorable.
And if this discussion has aroused your curiosity at all, feel free to check out The Box, book one of The Temple of the Blind, available at Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. (Okay, even I found that one rather shameless…)