Friday, June 24, 2016

Guest Post with author RJ Blain

Sex, Story, or Both: A Discussion of Intimate Relationships in Paranormal Fantasy by RJ Blain

The paranormal fantasy genre has developed an interesting problem. Paranormal fantasy, be it romance, suspense, or any other sub-genre, has become a catch-all for erotic paranormal fiction.

Werewolf fiction usually includes werewolves having sex—a lot of sex.

Vampire fiction usually includes vampires having sex—a lot of sex.

Name almost any creature beneath the paranormal umbrella, be it dragons, elves, or fae, and they’re likely written so you get a very personal and up-close view of their sex lives.

It’s gotten to the point where some readers are checking reviews for if the book contains sex… and walking away if they’re looking for a good story. This is terrible to me, because there are a good many books that have the story and the sex. Unfortunately, there are just as many that have the sex and leave the story at the front door.

A perfect example of this is in werewolf fiction.
1. Wolf smells, hears, or feels mate nearby.
2. Wolf hunts their fated mate down.
3. Wolf overcomes some form of hurtle, has hot, kinky sex with their fated mate.

Rinse and repeat, over and over.

I’ll openly admit it: I enjoy a good fated mate story as much as the next person. Some authors do this trope very well. They’re enjoyable reads. But, however much I like some stories, there’s a single uncomfortable truth I face over and over.

There are only so many ways to write a sex scene. The mechanics are basically the same. Some scenes are steamier than others, of course, but it ultimately becomes an interruption of story while the characters jump each other in bed, on the kitchen table, in the woods, or wherever they might be when they finally chase their partner down.

So often, paranormal romance has devolved into stories of primitive lust rather than relationships.

I can’t write sex to save my life—nor do I want to. I prefer reading and writing about the build-up to any intimate relationships, and as often as not, if the character just isn’t the type of person to be into romance—or a completely clueless dunce when it comes to sex—I won’t include intimacy at all.

In my debut UF, Inquisitor, I wrote about a hundred+ year old virgin. This drives some readers absolutely insane. She was brought up believing the first man she slept with would be the man she spends the rest of her life with.

Life is very long for someone like her. When it comes to sex, she’s na├»ve, innocent, and shy. If she had a mated fate (which doesn’t happen in my world) she wouldn’t know what to do with him even if he took his pants off and begged her to take him right there, right now.

She was brought up that way, and because she’s so old, she’s never surpassed that limitation of herself.

At least yet.

Inquisitor taught me there are readers who either absolutely must have sex in the books they read… or absolutely hate sex in the books they read.

There are those who don’t care either way, too, but they’re usually a lot less vocal about their opinion.

The second book in the series, Winter Wolf, also has a notable lack of sexual relationships—it’s not the right type of book. It’s a race against time type of story. The third book in the series, Blood Diamond, takes a totally different approach. There’s sex, but it’s all off the page.

The sex is nice, and it’s actually a large part of Blood Diamond, but to this day, I feel the inclusion of the actual act would have taken away from the book as a whole.

My stories aren’t about the sexual satisfaction of the characters. It’s about the relationships leading up to the sexual satisfaction. When I originally started writing urban fantasy, I didn’t like the idea of writing sex in my stories. Personal decision. I wasn’t comfortable with it—and being completely honest, I wasn’t comfortable with sex being such a front-and-center event in so many paranormal fantasies.

I wanted story, not sex, and too, too often, sex trumped the story—or the sex was added to an otherwise amazing story, and it didn’t live up to the build-up, which is very disappointing.

There’s definitely room for both, but it takes a truly masterful author to accomplish writing a great story with equally great sex. Far too often, one or the other suffers.

When I find that rare story with the perfect balance, it’s immensely satisfying to read.

Where do you stand? Do you prefer the story with the sex? Without the sex?

Or do you, like me, keep searching for the perfect story that manages to do both without sacrificing one for the other?

About the author:

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

When she isn't playing pretend, she likes to think she's a cartographer and a sumi-e painter.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.

Find out more about RJ Blain on her website.

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