Erynnwrites shared a wonderful post on when and when not to include a steamy sex scene, and I immediately thought about one of the Big Things in Asylum. In the first draft, we’ve included lots of explicit sex time, almost as if we’re rewarding our characters for being cooperative. Thank you for showing us your story, now you get to go have lovely sex. Plus, it’s been a lot of fun to write (I’m not gonna lie, I’m probably one of Seth’s biggest fans). And, it’s helped us to really get to know the characters themselves, who they are and how they interact.
But honestly, most of it could easily be cut.
Except for the Big Thing.
In my first round of mental pre-editing, I’ve waffled and wavered about what to do with this scene. There’s a bit of very complicated magic that simply would not happen if not facilitated by sex. There is straight up no way. And it’s too important a scene to just gloss over. It really needs to be explained in at least some detail what’s going on. Does it a need a blow by blow, stroke by stroke? No, and it’s not currently written that way, but that leads me to another thing.
The scene is completely and totally a Darling of mine.
Do all darlings have to die? No. Do they all need very careful scrutiny and a firm hand? Oh yes. But part of the trick is that a darling is a scene we love, and we might love it for a very good reason. It might simply be a very a good scene. And there’s no shame in liking your good work. All writers are readers, after all. All it means is that you have to pay very careful attention, and know that it’s a potential weak spot.
So how does this knowledge help me? Not at all. 😛
The fact of the matter is, I will simply have to send this scene out to beta readers, and get some less biased feedback.
But all of this has me thinking about the role of sex in Asylum, and the myriad of sexualities and relationships represented in it. At one point, Caitlin actually stopped and had to actively search her mind for any heterosexual monogamous relationships in our nest. She found one, but even that is an inter-species couple, and Matthew had to leave the wolf-pack because he was tired of dominance fights to prove he was allowed to marry his arctic fox sweetie Carrie.
I got to wondering what all this might say about our work. We’re not setting out with any deliberate messages, that’s just the way the Asylum dancers are. Many of the supernatural cultures in our world differ from what we’ve grown up with in the real world. Fey don’t even have typical parent/child relationships, why would they feel the same about needing to have one mommy and one daddy as humans do? Serpents are raised village style in community nests, so their ideas on physical closeness and interpersonal relationships will be more fluid than what we see in our real world society. The Asylum dancers reflect that, but I do have to stop and wonder if, narratively speaking, including such information is world building or distracting. Will people misinterpret Chris and Lena’s open relationship to mean that they love each other less? Will Naj’s fondness for Kain detract, narratively, from his deep dedication for Nica, especially with Seth to muddy those waters? Will Kain’s interactions with Nat leave people wondering who is there for Marie, now that her best friend is gone, if it seems like her girlfriend is going after someone else? For the dancers themselves, they know how things are and are happy with each other-jealousy is just not an issue. They’re one big happy family and who sleeps with who isn’t important as long as no one has to sleep alone. That’s them and how they work.
But as an author, you can’t ignore how your audience works. I’m not saying everything has to be hetero-normative whitewashed, just that it helps to think about the head space your audience is coming from. Just because it’s a non-issue for you and your characters doesn’t mean it won’t be a huge issue for them, and a potential distraction.
I have no ready answer for this, but these are my thoughts. I’d love to get a good discussion going on this, get some view points from people who aren’t bisexuals in an open/poly relationship – we’re coming from a very distinct perspective here, and one that’s undoubtedly a minority.
How do alternative sexuality/relationship styles affect your experience as a reader? Is it distracting? Hard to relate to? Not something you really notice unless it’s narratively relevant? Does it enhance or detract from your reading experience, or does it not affect you at all?