Wednesday, November 16, 2005

sex outside the genre

people have been posting about sex in mysteries. mary louisa and pj parrish wrote about it in their blogs. if i weren't so lazy, i'd provide links.

there has always been talk about how most men of mystery can't write love scenes. or even sex scenes.

most people know this already, but before writing thrillers i wrote romantic suspense, women's fiction, and romance under another name. Thirteen books. So you'd think i'd have the sex and romance figured out. yesterday i spent a large part of the day removing the romantic relationship from my current project. it was just clunky. why? i should be able to do this. and it wasn't that there was no time for romance. it wasn't some ridiculous scene where gunfire is everywhere and the couple decides to make out. there was a place for it. so now i'm thinking that mysteries, and in my case thrillers, don't often lend themselves to deep relationships. the entire book is focused in another direction. in romance, it always leads to consumation, even if understated and subconscious. in romance, the unspoken goal is the bonding of the main characters. this is where the book has been leading from page one, no matter how many diversions it may have taken. in a thriller, the goal is to find the killer, stop the killer, defeat the killer. the reader is in that race with you. hopefully. and anything that takes them out of that race just feels wrong. or maybe i just can't write romance anymore.


Rob Gregory Browne said...

My thriller, A Measure of Darkness, has a thread of romance through it, but it's such a small part of the story that it's almost nonexistent.

I think it's important to have SOME kind of romantic thread, unless, of course, it just seems tacked on and, as you say, clunky.

But I think PJ was talking about sex. Are sex scenes really necessary, even if you have romance? To my mind they're a distraction. I don't care to watch the hero or heroine strut their stuff. Let me just IMAGINE that they're great in bed.

I'm not a prude. A good sex scene on paper can often be better than one on screen, but unless it relates directly to the forward movement of the plot, I see no use for it.

But that's me.

Jeff said...

Anne- I think unless a mystery or thriller novel contains a sub plot providing a basis for description of the romantic and/or sexual encounter, the reader can often feel detoured from the main story. Because sex is such a natural part of life it can certainly have a place in the story, but it's up to the individual writer to make it work and not have it come across as rushed or out of place. Sex scenes added simply to spice up the story or alter the pace rarely succeed.

anne frasier said...

but i haven't given up on sex in the morgue. keep your fingers crossed for that scene. :D i'm not there yet, so i don't know if i'll delete it.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

All of the above said, I've read many thrillers that have sex scenes and those scenes DIDN'T distract. I guess it all boils down to the skill of the writer...

Anonymous said...

If you take out the morgue scene, I'm going to be seriously PO'd. ;)

Mary Louisa said...

LOL Jason! Me too.

Ya know, the early sex scene with Flora and David in PLAY DEAD is really, really good, Anne. Not distracting. Rocking and real. It is even more compelling to me because David is zonked out of his mind. Does this make me weird?

anne frasier said...

rob -- I agree!
jason and mary louisa: i'll keep you posted!

mary louisa: yes.


Rob Gregory Browne said...

The difference with the David/Flora sex scene is that it was crucial to the story. That scene HAD to exist so that we could get inside Flora's head and understand her attraction to David other than the superficial.

Plus the fact that it was wonderfully written.

Sex just for sex's sake is rarely good (in a thriller, that is).