I’m a child of the ’80s – I had this on a button.

Here’s a huge shocker, my book contains some sex scenes.

I know, big surprise, right?

And I’m currently editing another book that contains (gasp!) sex scenes.

No, these aren’t erotic fiction, though I’ve been known on occasion to write erotica (and have even gotten paid to do it). These are standard fiction stories. Not even in the romance genre.

So I was more than a little interested when a fellow writer posted a link to this article on Facebook – Do condoms kill the mood of a book?

It was an interesting read, and the answers weren’t simple.

Neither of my stories include condom usage. However…

In Fallen, the characters do have “the talk” about STIs and sexual partners and make an informed decision about condom usage (or the lack thereof). In the current work, there is general talk of sexual safety awareness and routine testing, one character is mentioned as always using protection, but there is no specific discussion between the two characters who have sex. There’s no “should we or shouldn’t we” discussion, no “on page” disclosure of sexual history, etc.

I don’t really think about it as me choosing to not include condoms in these stories so much as me choosing to write the story without thinking about sending a message about safer sex. These are novels, not how-to manuals. I’m not writing thinly-veiled “edutainment” for the condom industry. I’m trying to write an engaging story, and sometimes those stories include sex. If condom usage were important to the storyline, I’d include it.

It’s an interesting thought process. If a novel includes a sex scene, should it also automatically include safer sex practices, or explain the lack of them? Does the genre of the novel make a difference? Say, one answer for erotica, another for historic romance, still another for contemporary romance, and a whole different set of requirements for young adult.

Does the level of explicitness make a difference? If we’re talking blow-by-blow description (pun so very much intended), should safer sex be there, but it’s okay to skip it if the story starts getting sexy, we know what’s gonna happen, then the next thing we see is the morning after?

These are the thoughts that occupy my brain when I really should be working on editing my book.

Stephen King at the Harvard Book Store.
Stephen King at the Harvard Book Store. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

42…

I just had to get that one out of the way. And now, on we go.

I looked at the writing challenge for this week and after a few moments of furious debate with myself decided to give it a giant pass.

Well, sort of a giant pass. It got me thinking, really. I started thinking about when I decided I wanted to write. And how that came about. And who influenced me. And…

And then I realized that even though I have won awards, been published and paid for my writing many, many times, and that for the past many years, I’ve made my living primarily because of my ability to write, and write well, I only recently started considering myself a “writer.”

That in itself is a long story, full of political incorrectness and stuff. And the editor in me says it doesn’t belong in this post.

Suffice to say, I finally realized if you express yourself in written words, you are a writer. Whether good or bad is open for debate. Every now and then, I even think of myself as a pretty good writer.

When I was young, I was a voracious reader. I devoured everything I could get my hands on. When in 9th grade, I refused to read Lord of the Flies a second time (I’d read it in 8th grade). My wise English teacher offered me A Separate Peace instead. While the rest of the class plodded through their book, I went through that, and Catcher in the Rye plus one other totally forgettable novel.

Somewhere along the line I discovered Poe and Lovecraft and then Stephen King, and a lifelong love of horror was born.

It’s King I turned to for this piece. Not to imitate, no… because that would turn a short blog post into a gigantic tome. But his personal, real man tone is what made his stories so catchy, and so frightening.

What I always loved about King’s writing, and what I’ve worked to achieve in my own, is the tone of reality. No matter how fantastical the set up, no matter how far fetched the plot, King could reel you in with sheer humanity.

Over the years, I’ve had to write in a variety of styles not my own, and I’ve turned to various writers to get “in the mood.”

Judith Martin is my favorite for crafting pieces that require acerbic wit combined with impeccable manners and well-thought-out phrases. If I need inspiration for marketing I turn to Dr. Seuss (yes, you read that right!). I have a variety of authors to whom I turn for inspiration of various sorts.

But in the dark of night, when it’s just me and the glowing screen, I don’t want polite. I don’t want funny. I want raw. I want real. I want King.

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