Honey Brown is an Australian author of dark thrillers. She loves setting her plots in confined spaces (often making use of the natural environment) and putting her characters through unusual ordeals. All her books are great page-turners that will keep you up until the early hours of the morning. We recently had the great pleasure of talking to Honey about her latest novel Dark Horse. You can watch our chat with Honey here. Honey explores a whole range of human states and emotions in her novels. We asked her to share her thoughts on one aspect in particular, sex and her treatment of it in her writing. We found her response fascinating.
TheReadingRoom.com Guest Blog By Honey Brown “The Sex Test”
Thank you for inviting me to guest blog. In the past I might have wondered if I’d be stretching the friendship by cutting straight to the chase and discussing sex, but not anymore, not with erotic literature so firmly in the spotlight. I’m keen to steer the topic away from “erotica”, though, and back onto sex – simple, home-grown, garden-variety sex. The type of relatable sex we should see, and need to see, in novels. Not that “normal” sex in writing can’t be erotic – it can be. If the story calls for it, and the characters are up for it, an erotic sex encounter can enhance a book immeasurably. However, that doesn’t mean the book is suddenly “erotica”. All it means is that the novel contains some sexy characters and that their sexuality is an important part of the story and character development. The same way an awkward or unsettling sexual encounter can be revealing of a character’s personality, and can be a major plot point. Real sex is sometimes lacking in novels. With all the hype and buzz about erotica, there’s some concern we’ll see even less real sex in literature. Readers are within their rights to groan and roll their eyes when writers abandon all creative sense, drop the plot ball completely and write an over-the-top and pointless sex scene. Worse still is if this meaningless bedroom romp culminates in an orgasm of biblical proportions: it’s an insult to a reader’s intellect to fob them off with such a thing. When it plays out this way, it’s understandable that sex scenes have garnered a dodgy reputation and have stigma attached. Novels, of any genre, should use sex as a tool to move a story forward. Sex should be used as a way to explore a character’s uniqueness. To tell our tales, we have no qualms about utilizing all other aspects of being human: love, death, marriage, romance, parenting, spirituality, working, warring – you name it, it gets the full treatment. A proper showing too – honest portrayals, creative minds delving deep to find emotional truths. Human sexuality should be equally in the mix. Sex presents as a perfect way to flesh out a character – no pun intended, because it truly does achieve this result. Sex will put meat on a character’s bones. It will round them out and give them depth. So much so that a writer can apply the “Sex Test” to their work: if their main characters can’t come up with anything believable in the sack, or in front of the computer, or in the car, or wherever and whenever the need arises, then there’s something wrong. If a character has so little sexual identity that they can’t muster a single sigh in relation to it – whether that be a good sigh or a bad sigh – then they’re cardboard cut-outs masquerading as characters. It’s often society’s preoccupation with great sex that trips a writer up. How frustrating that a novelist can be insightful, thoughtful, raw and frank throughout a story, but the moment it comes to sex, their vanity takes over. A good writer leaves their ego at the door, outside in the cold, pale face pressed to the office window. Let me in, vanity will keep on mouthing. Storytellers have to ignore their pride and be unflinching on the touchiest of topics. Sex included. Creative writing should strive to see things from all different perspectives and test boundaries; through stories we get to dip a toe in the water, judge the moral temperature of things. If the writer runs the same old warm sex bath, sweetly scented and bubbly as it might be, a reader steps in and feels nothing new. Not everyone has great sex. Fictional characters should reflect that. Some people have little or no interest in sex. It’s a focus regardless, and shouldn’t be shied away from. A character struggling with asexuality could be every bit as interesting as a nymphomaniac struggling with that whole other set of issues. I’m not advocating that every novel released should have a sexual insight or sex tidbit on each page; I hope, though, that sex at least gets a look-in. It’s a fundamental part of being human, so it should be factored in. And when sex is included in a story, when it is held up as a key character trait, I hope it’s done in the true spirit of creativity – explored with candour and honesty. Maybe a sex scene should be integral in every novel, if only in a raw draft – so that the “Sex Test” can be applied. Then there will be no doubt about how fully realised the characters are: if the sex scene reads like a pair of shopfront mannequins going at it, the author will know they’ve got some fleshing out to do. Happy reading all.
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