S9E6 – Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

There are some crimes people can commit that aren’t punishable by law. This series is dedicated to those involved with writing, whether they be committed by the author or the readers. To be clear, this series isn’t designed to help writers better create crimes (murder, theft, etc.) within their novels. The kinds of crimes we’ll talk about range from boring the readers to abusing the control you have over the book and characters.

There are all kinds of themes in books that authors hesitate to use for fear of offending the audience. Often, though, the authors worry too much. It’s okay to include sex, drugs, and a bit of Rock & Roll in your book because it makes characters real.

First aired April 20, 2020.

About the Author
I'm an editor and cover designer for AspenHouse Publishing. I am also a host for AspenHouse's poscast, Writing Roots.

4 comments on “S9E6 – Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll

  1. David C Russell says:

    Leigh and Ley, hello,

    I found your episode, Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll, timely and helpful. I just submitted a story to an online story publisher where my main character has the opportunity to fulfill an unspoken desire with his neighbor, same gender. I have the character in the end refrain from indulging in sexual activity with the help of his friend.

    This hits close to home for me, and find myself asking the unanswerable, When does personal get too close to where you might be?

    I like the resolution in this story, and like the process taken to get there.
    Another way to ask the central question is, How much of what you know about you should be story content?

    Thanks for your podcast and this episode in particular.

    1. Ley Esses says:

      Hello David and thanks for listening!

      In answer to your question, “how close is too close?” I’d say never. The more intimate your story is to you, the better it inevitably is. That’s why we’re always encouraging authors to write selfishly.

      As for how much should be included in your story, that’s up to you first, and your audience next. If you are pursuing an online publisher, they may have decency guidelines that you should edit to prior to submitting. In your first draft, write everything. Then edit out what’s irrelevant to the plot or necessary to be implied for publication reasons.

      Thanks for the great question.

      Write selfishly!
      ~ The Writing Roots team

    2. Leigh Hull says:

      I’ll also jump in on this. First of all, thank you for your comment and I am so glad our episode was timely for you.

      Writing can be a very cathartic experience, even if those scenes have to be edited out. I agree with Ley, write it all if that’s how you need to get to the resolution, then edit later (with the help of an editor if you find yourself too attached to scenes).

      As for how much of what you know should be in the story, I like to use the iceberg theory. It suggests about 10-30% of what the author knows is actually in the book. The rest of it is implied. This is usually used for worldbuilding and character backstory, but it can apply to the scenes that some publishers may want edited out for the decency guidelines. In my current work in progress I wrote an assault scene that will most likely be cut. As is, though, about 70% of the scene is describing the emotion and 30% is describing the actions, and even those are vague.

      When it comes to what parts should be included, always lean toward deep emotional connection, even if those emotions are frightening. Readers want to connect with a book and often know those emotions themselves. If it provided you with a sense of release and relief, it may do the same for the reader.

      I hope this helped answer your question further. Please feel free to contact us if you have more questions!
      Leigh Hull

      1. David Russell says:

        Hello Leigh and Ley,

        Thank you each for your comments and in more less agreeing with one another by what you said. Yes, I agree, editing later will be helpful to sort out what is necessary and not. I like your idea to lean toward the emotional aspects in making a decision rather than the physical, erotic step-by-step events. My draft does that, but the element of erotic is there, too. Wisely, names are changed to increase the fiction element. Thanks again!


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