Sex and the Single Vampire

Or...Why This isn’t Porn

This is an essay in defense of life-altering sex scenes. But, first, the disclaimer:

I like writing sex. I have, in fact, gone so far as to suggest that writing sex is the next best thing to having sex. As it happens, my husband doesn’t exactly agree with this. Oddly, he has yet to realize his determination to prove to me how much better the real thing is, doesn’t actually motivate me to concede the point all that quickly. Or at all. Hey, I’m no dope. But that’s another story. Let’s move on…

So, the other day I was working on another of the interminable, ubiquitous scenes of life-altering sex for which I’m justifiably (at least in my own mind) well-known, and I started to feel just the teensiest bit depressed.

First of all, I was hoping the scene wouldn’t read as interminable or overly-ubiquitous (‘cause, wow, wouldn’t that be redundant) but after spending a multiplicity of days writing the darn thing, it was sure starting to feel like that to me. Yes, Virginia, too much of a good thing is still too much—even if you’re talking about sex or chocolate.

And, sadly for me, since the scene in question takes place in 15th century Spain—where, if you can imagine, people hadn’t even yet heard of chocolate—I was left with just the sex.

Just the seemingly endless, quasi D/s, 15th century, gay, vampire sex. WTF, right?

Not surprisingly, given the circumstances, I started hearing those nasty ghost voices in my head. You know the ones I mean. They’re the Ghosts of Snarky Reviewers Future, people who haven’t yet read this book I’m not finished writing and who already are telling me, “What is this crap you’re writing? Tell us how this isn’t porn.”

The worst thing about it was…I could kinda see their point. And, being the chronically self-doubting, borderline paranoid writer that I am, I naturally found myself second-guessing my own story. Was I writing porn? Or, even worse from my perspective, was I writing self-indulgent, trend-pandering crap?

Let me just spell it out for you again (‘cause, yeah, I do get a kick outta saying it, actually, thanks for asking). 15th century, gay, vampire, D/s sex—you have to wonder, don’t you? I mean is there any trend I’ve missed with that list?

Well, there’s always amnesia, obviously, but I really think once was enough for that.

And, it was life-altering sex too—let’s not forget that—which is when I started to get seriously depressed. ‘Cause, honestly, how often is real-life sex all that life altering? I mean, is it? Really? In your own personal experience? Even if you’re getting all Tantric about it?

Paradoxically enough, that’s also the thought that made me start feeling better about things. Because—duh—this isn’t real-life. It’s fiction. And if the fictional sex scenes you’re writing don’t have some kind of meaningful impact on the characters (even if the impact is a sudden realization that all the sex they’ve been having is relatively meaningless) then you probably are writing porn.

Porn, to my way of thinking, is when you’ve tossed a bunch of sex into a story for reasons that have nothing to do with the actual story. Possibly because there is no story. Boy meets girl, boy screws girl, boy screws girl again—or boy screws two girls, or two girls and another boy, or a whole bunch of boys and no girls, or whatever?

Yeah. Not a story. Not all by itself, anyway. No matter how inventive, well-written or even entertaining it may be.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the same can be said of any scene in fiction. If it doesn’t move the story forward in some fashion, if it doesn’t have impact for the characters or resonate with them, if it doesn’t illuminate some facet of the characters’ personalities (if it’s not, IOW, life-altering) it probably doesn’t belong in the book.

This is why I really like to plot my stories out before I start writing. It keeps me on the right (non-porn) track. Pantsing, i.e. writing by the seat of one’s pants (sounds kinda dirty in this context, doesn’t it?) doesn’t work for me. I tend to end up with a lot of those entertaining (possibly even well-written and inventive) scenes that don’t really serve the story and which need to be deleted because, like I said at the start, this really isn’t porn that I’m writing. It’s a love story. A sexually explicit, decidedly fantastical and, yes, thank you very much, life-altering love story between two of my absolutely favorite characters to date. And no chocolate.

Sigh. I guess you really can’t have everything.