DeJa Vu: Should I Have Faded to Black?

Yahoo, it's time for the much anticipated DeJa Vu blogfest!  Hosted by D.L. Hammons, Katie Mills, Lydia Kang, and Nicole Ducleroir.  I look forward to reading lots of great posts today. :)

For the fest, I decided to dust off the very first blog post I ever wrote.  I still stand by everything I said in it, and I've noticed that the topic of sex in writing comes up a lot in the blogosphere---particularly during Insecure Writer's Group.

So here you have my musings on the matter:

 Should I Have Faded to Black?
Originally posted March 6, 2010

My mother read the sexy chapters in my book.  She is less than happy.

I s'pose I could end this particular blog right there; I mean, it's no big shock that a mother would have trouble with her daughter writing such a thing, right?  But what really bothers me about it is that those few chapters seem to have skewed her overall view of the story.  The message that I hoped to convey has been lost amidst her shock and horror at the admittedly graphic depictions.

But it isn't only my mother's reactions that have me bothered. Most readers don't seem to mind those particular chapters one little bit, far from it, and yet I've become concerned that what they'll remember most when it's all said and done is the sex rather than the themes from the book that were my driving force to write it in the first place.

And so I have to ask: was I wrong to include such descriptive scenes?  Should I have faded to black?  Did I sabotage my own message by distracting readers with sex?

To be fair, the overriding theme of  "Three Daves" is sex.  But not necessarily the carnal act of it, more like when to have it, when not to have it, who to have it with, who not to have it with, and what are the emotional repercussion of having it?  Those are the kinds of things I hope readers will think about.  But I guess if I'm being honest with myself, I didn't need to inform the readers of whether or not Jen swallowed to tell those parts of the story. So why did I do it? 

Because another goal of mine was to keep "Three Daves" feeling real.  And in reality, sexual intimacy doesn't fade to black.  Neither does eating a meal, you may argue, nor attending an economics class, and I certainly didn't bore my readers with those details. But the story isn't about fine cuisine or university studies.  It's about sex, and so I need the reader to feel it, to understand the emotions and thoughts that pass through the characters when they are having it.  I need them to see it as more than just a kiss or a caress.  I want the experience engraved on their consciousness so they realize that it isn't something easily forgotten when the lights flick back on.  It's real.

This story is also about relationships.  And sexual intimacy leaves marks on a relationship, sometimes good, sometimes bad.  I want readers to know what the characters said to each other just before, during, and right after. I want them to see which guy kisses her forehead and which one pulls on his boxers and promptly falls asleep.  I couldn't depict the whole relationships without depicting those intimate moments that show the very different dynamic between Jen and each of the three Daves.     
So that's why I did it, and now you can feel good about yourselves for enjoying those particular scenes so much. ;) 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry, I read the word sex and got distracted...
Just kidding! It wouldn't distract me because I'd probably skim that part.
But I understand your overall concern, which isn't the sex, but will readers remember the gist of your story.

Anne Gallagher said...

Funny, I skipped over the sex, but got the themes imparted through-out. Maybe it's just me. Not that I minded the sex bits, but they just didn't interest me the same way Jen's emotional upheaval did.

Great post.

Ciara said...

I've struggled with this lately. My upcoming release, The Curse of Gremdon, contains my first on screen sex scenes. My hubby just read most of the book, and loved it. I was shocked, he said the sex scenes were done well and didn't distract from the storyline. That is a huge compliment from him. He isn't one to sugar coat things. I guess my point is, we just have to make sure the story is the main focus, and that the sex is there as part of the story, not just a scene to be remembered. Does that make sense. Of course, this is only my humble opinion.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

I think you should write the story as you see it. Don't worry about what others think. Sex is a controversial subject. This is mainly due to the variety of perceptions about it.

People with hang-ups think it's a dirty little secret that should never be acknowledged in a public venue. What they fail to see is the human body is a beautiful thing. We come out of the womb naked. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeing the human body as it was meant to be viewed. People with dirty minds are the ones who make any subject with sexuality taboo.

There are also those people, like myself, who love sex, but find it is a private matter that should only be discussed with a lover. It's about sharing an emotional and physical connection with a person. Sometimes we pursue these feelings in an animal like way, and other times we do so with the utmost tenderness and care. I don't have a problem reading about the act itself, especially if the author brings me into the minds of the characters. However, if the excerpt is nothing but mindless sex, I think it would be boring.

Since I'm not sure what approach you took in your story, it's hard to define what caused your mother so much discomfort. In the end it doesn't matter. This is YOUR story, write it as YOU see fit. As it is with all things in life, some will enjoy it and others won't. You can't please everyone. Wishing you all the best this holiday season.

Tara Tyler said...

woah! that was your first post?!

you do touch on erotica, but we wouldnt get how intimate the relationships are w/o it. this story needed further explicit exploration. and you're braver than me for doing it - i couldnt!

sorry, mom =)

Arlee Bird said...

There's a proper approach to every genre and you're doing what is suitable for yours. So far my writing has faded to black when it comes to the topic of intimacy, but that's not the focus of my stories either.
Besides, if it's like my blog, anything that I write that's out there, my mother and my kids will most likely be reading.

Tossing It Out

Anonymous said...

Great post. I know what you mean about wanting to write sex scenes that are more than just descriptions of making out and sexual mechanics. I've never used a ton of sex scenes in my books, though I feel a lot more comfortable and confident writing such scenes and even going into some detail since I made my belated sexual debut when I was a bit older than average.

Lydia Kang said...

Ya know, if we were all writing to please our moms, our writing wouldn't be ours. It sucks to write something your family may not be thrilled about, but in the end, hey, it's not about them.

Thanks so much for joining the Blogfest!

DL Hammons said...

The way you explain it doesn't sound like the sex was gratuitous, it was actually part of the premise & plot, so yes it needed to be included despite what mom or anyone else thinks. Leaving it out would have hollowed out the story. Good for you for sticking to your guns!

I can't believe this was your first post. You were a veteran right out of the gate! :

Thanks for taking part in the blogfest and making the day so special! :)

Jennifer Hillier said...

From the sounds of it, I can't imagine you would be able to convey the relationships inimately in your story without those sex scenes. Which means it's not gratuitous. Not every one is going to appreciate it (and mothers are so hard to please!) but if it works for the story, then it works.

This coming from a writer whose book stars a sex addict... haha

Loved this post! Thanks for sharing, and happy to be a new follower!

Steven said...

Yes, some mothers will never be pleased, not matter what you write. I constantly have to remind myself that if I am not writing gratuitous sex, violence, etc then people who get offended by what I write are obviously looking for offense. I guess I am the type of writer who likes controversy, since it means I stirred a deep emotion in readers, versus an apathetic response to my writings.

LOLA said...

My mom is dead, so she doesn't know how skanky I am; but my (adult) kids know. They are very embarrassed by me, and I don't care. They embarrassed me when they were babies and they pooped all over the place whenever we went out. Take that, you people who used to be my pooping babies.


LynNerdKelley said...

If you feel the story needs it, then you should include those scenes. To tell you the truth, I've read some books and watched movies with sex scenes and then reread or watched the movie again but had forgotten about those scenes! I reread the book or watched the movie again because the stories were so good, I wanted a repeat, which doesn't happen very often. So I wouldn't worry about the sex scenes!

Sarah said...

Oh, man, I remember when I decided to send my romance ms to my mom--and it had no fewer than 3 of those SCENES in it. I was cringing for a week straight. However, she's a romance reader, and she didn't end up having an issue with it. But I totally sympathize with this dilemma. Sex is not only an intimate thing in general, but it's even intimate to write, and have others read. What did you end up deciding? I hope you trusted your own judgment! Nice to meet you through this blogfest, Nicki!

Carrie said...

The power of moms to make us question things. I sent a Middle Grade ms to my mom and I was so worried about what she would think of it and there was no sex in mine.
I think that you are right not to fade to black in your scenes.

Jeremy [JMH Digital] said...

i too got distracted on the sex, but wait i am back.

Thank you for re-sharing.
Part of the Deja Vu Blogfest...

Jeremy [2thumbs]
Two Thumbs

Margo Kelly said...

Sex. Sex. Sex.

Such an interesting topic. haha

I'm a new follower from the DejaVu Blogfest. Nice to meet you!

Suze said...

Nick, I think this was an excellent post to 're-air.'

I started reading 'Three Daves,' again, this week. I had begun when I first ordered it -- misplaced my copy!!!! -- and ordered another one, which you signed. (Nice autograph. Very friendly. I quite like.)

I have been thinking about what I would write to you in response to the text. I'm glad, very glad, I read this post. More food for thought.

Jennifer Lane said...

Reader reactions to sex scenes is as varied as you'd suspect. Before I started reading a ton of romance, I was scandalized by an explicit sex scene in a novel or movie. Now, I really appreciate them as long as they don't go on forever or are too graphic. I think you struck a great balance in your novel. Does your mom still feel disturbed?

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

You've made me want to read your book. I don't tend to like sex scenes (that I'm not participating in) but I like your candor and goal of imparting the complex nuances of intimacy.

I've joined your following too. I'm going through the blogfest posts and am so glad to have made this stop.

Britta said...

Dear Nicki,
Thank you, I loved that! Sex is part of life, so it does belong into a story when it belongs there. Why should it distract from the text? It is text as well - written good or bad. By the way, I often think that youth is often more rigid and shocked by writing elders :-)

The Golden Eagle said...

If sex is a factor in the story, then I think it can be appropriate; for me, it's when it's thrown in for shock or drama that changes my view of the overall book.

Interesting post!

M Pax said...

I did not think you went over the top in Three Daves, Nicki. In fact, I thought you did a really great job with the sex scenes -- you struck a great balance. So, I thought. It was a great read. I remember the relationships and feelings the most. So, I think you made the right decision.

Lost_without_a_Map said...

You know, we mothers never see our kids beyond diapers. Yes, even when we begin wearing diapers, we are in denial about it, but we still 'see' our kids as wearing diapers. Do you remember how you felt when you visualized your mother having sex? Well, dearie, it's the same for us...

Cherie Colyer said...

I have always wondered how I would manage to let my parents read one of my books if it was an adult book. I know there will be sex scenes. I'm not sure how much detail will be there. It would depend on the story. That right there is the key and if the details were important for the Three Davies then it's great that you have them. Don't second guess yourself.

Theresa Milstein said...

I think it's personal for the reader and writer. I read so much YA that I don't read too many sexually explicit scenes. It also means when I read something more adult, it tends to shock me more.