Friday, August 5, 2011

A Little Humor, a Little Romance, A Little Murder

A guest blog by Marja McGraw

I write two mystery series: The Sandi Webster Mysteries and The Bogey Man Mysteries. My logo is “a little humor, a little romance, A Little Murder!” It suits my books. They’re lighter with a little humor, and while there is some romance, there are no sex scenes. They aren’t necessary to my stories, and I’m old school – I’ve always felt like anticipation and imagination are much sexier that reading about it with the details all laid out for me.

Some books have sex thrown in just for shock value. It doesn’t progress the story at all. I’ve also read stories where this element was pertinent to the story. In addition, there are books that don’t have any sex and they’re as entertaining as any story can be. I believe that the anticipation of what’s to come can be very titillating, especially when you fill in the blanks yourself. Think about it. John Doe whispered something in Jane Smith’s ear, and smiling, followed her through a door, pulling it closed behind him. Do you want someone to tell you what happened behind that door? Or would you rather dream up your own scenario? Hmm. All kinds of possibilities there.

I have a friend, Shirley Kennedy, who wanted to write contemporary romances. Well, she wrote a good book and submitted it to a publisher. The publisher was interested, but only if she’d add sexual content. So Shirley sat down in front of her computer and started adding sex scenes. It turned out there was a problem. She suddenly realized that as she wrote this graphic, sensual scene, she couldn’t bring herself to look at the computer screen. She looked up, to the right, to the left, and out the window – anywhere except at the screen. She’d been asked to write something that she wasn’t comfortable with. When she told me this story, I laughed. I could picture the whole thing in my mind. Still wanting to write romances, she changed from Contemporary to Regency romances, where she didn’t have to include sex scenes. By the way, Shirley is a terrific writer and now writes other types of romance stories, too.

The thing is, when I laughed at this story and pictured it in my mind, the woman sitting in front of the computer unexpectedly turned into me. Talk about surprising yourself! I write mysteries, and the stories I write don’t involve graphic sexual encounters. They’re about mysteries and solving crimes. They center around the characters and their growth, and they include some humor.

I won’t knock any author who writes graphic material, because there is a market for it – and some of it is extremely well-written. I simply prefer something entertaining and mysterious. I won’t even try to change any minds here. However, I will add that a young woman approached me after reading my first book and told me two things. First, she said that she never, ever reads anything that doesn’t contain graphic sex. Secondly, she said that it was two weeks after she read the book before she realized there wasn’t any sex in it. Draw your own conclusions.
Take a chance and try reading Bogey Nights – A Bogey Man Mystery, which was released in March of 2011. It will entertain you, even without sexual content.

Jean, thank you for inviting me today. I’ve enjoyed my visit.

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Jean Henry Mead said...

It's a pleasure to have you visit Murderous Musings, Marja. I enjoy your series and know that others do as well. Thanks for the great post.

Wanderingminstrel said...

Love your mysteries. They brighten my days.

WS Gager said...

Great post Marja! I struggle with the same issues. It might be why A CASE OF INFATUATION has a lot more steam than either of the two that came next. I thought it would be an easier sell. Not sure that is true or not but there is a lot less sex in A Case of Accidental Intersection or A Case of Hometown Blues. Marja, I just read Bubba's Ghost and loved it. It was great and I loved the dog!
W.S. Gager

Palmaltas said...

Great blog, Marja! Because I write both contemporary romance and wild and crazy dark comical mysteries, I include one sex scene in each romance novel--usually--and none in my mysteries--so far.

Looking forward to your next book!

marja said...

I'm having problems leaving comments here for some reason, but I just wanted to say thank you for your thoughts. Deciding whether or not to put sexual content in a story is an individual decision, and we each have to take our own path.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Sex scenes are hard to write. My first two books had lots of them--they weren't mysteries, historical family sagas. I moved onto mysteries and some of my earlier Rocky Bluff P.D.s do have some sex scenes--but later ones don't. The sex is there, it's just that the characters shut the door.

Good post, Marja, as always.


marja said...

Thanks, Marilyn. This is a subject where I can only speak for myself.

Jackie King said...

Loved this post! I agree with you on sex scenes. I've only read one book where I thought the sex scenes moved the story forward and helped define the characters.

Best Wishes,
Jackie King

marja said...

Thanks, Jackie. I guess it's all a matter of taste, and I want everything in the book to further the storyline. Oops. I hope everything in my own stories does that.

RYCJ OEBooks Publisher said...

Great post, and interview. Really enjoyed the ending;-)

All of my novels contain sex scenes... one extremely graphic, however it was never my intention to write these scenes for attention. I truly had no idea... never so much as blinked as I wrote. Next thing I know, WHAALA!!! Sex is a hot market!

Personally I don't think it's necessary to write those scenes, and have enjoyed reading many, many stories without them.

Jaden Terrell said...

Marja, it's an interesting topic. My first book has one offstage and one on, which I felt it was necessary to the plot (since it's how my guy gets framed for murder). But it's all about perception. One afternoon, a reader approached me and said, "Wow. Your sex scenes are really graphic. Did you make a conscious decision to give so much detail?" A few hours later, another reader came up and said, "I notice your sex scenes aren't at all graphic. Was that a conscious decision?"

Of course, I had to go and reread them. I thought they weren't very graphic, but they seemed like they were. I think Jean would say they are, LOL.

Holli said...

I don't have a preference for sex or no sex in my books, as long as what is written is logical and makes sense to the story.

In addition to moving a story along, sex is particularly revealing as far as character is concerned, because during sex, the masks usually come off, quite literally. I find it is difficult for characters to hide when they are naked. You can tell a whole lot about a person from how they engage in sex, even if you blur the scene and don't write it like a how-to book. So while sex may not necessarily be integral to the plot, it is often integral to the character.

I usually include sex scenes if it is at a point where my character would have sex, and usually end up editing out most of the actual sex in the scene.


marja said...

Thank you for your comments. A small group of us were talking about sex scenes, and I told the story about not being able to look at the screen while typing one. There were varied opinions, and someone said that I needed to write a blog about it.

I think it's up to each individual writer and what they're looking to present in their story. What works for one story might not work for another. I'm glad this blog works to open up the conversation.

Thank you all for stopping in, and thank you, Jean, for having me as your guest.

Anne K. Albert said...

More terrific advice for any writer. Write what feels right!