Sexual Connections and Character Secrets

Sexual Connections and Character Secrets

Writing sex for smart readers is an art form. Why would a smart reader be interested in a sexy kitten character who withholds her human vulnerabilities and sexual connections, conflicts and secrets? The smart reader wouldn’t. However, if the narrative gave the reader something up front, some vulnerability, some real and human evidence of sexual conflict, then took the reader into the sexy kitten role, the reader would anchor the internal sexual conflicts. This character arc would then give the reader a secret connection to the character. And readers adore secrets. Readers love to know something about a character that no other characters know.

In Requiem for a Dream, Marian is a reprehensible portrayal of a very real and broken young woman. Her choices are horrid. And yet, we feel for her because we’ve connected to her perspective early in the narrative, even if her boyfriend and all the other male characters in her life have ignored it. She feels she has no value. She is an addict. She’s bereft of any real parental guidance. She feels she lacks choices.

By the time Marian is being sexed by a double-dildo on a table, in front of a room full of men, the sexual discourse of the scene is not really about the sex. The smart reader wants to know what is inside her head, not inside her bum. The smart reader already knows what is inside her bum. The smart reader wants to know how Marian feels about it. Not how it feels, but rather, how Marian feels about how it feels. Get it?

What has led Marian to this low, misogynistic state in which she has put herself. And the key is: put herself. This is when sex in literary fiction is strongly ironic, dichotic and startling. It forces the reader to think and consider. It poses difficult questions. It is both tantalizing (J.C. being sexed is enough to get anyone hot, no matter how abhorrent the scene) and morally/intellectually rigorous.

Writing Sexual Connections and Character Secrets Exercise

Choose a character you’ve already written and who has a sexualized scene within your narrative. Now, in a separate document, write this character’s first sexual experience. What about this sexual encounter will your character keep to self? This sexual secret is now a recurring internal conflict that will be with the character throughout the entire narrative, not only in the sex scenes, but also subconsciously at every point of the narrative. 

Go back and rewrite/revise your narrative so to include your character’s sexual secret(s). 

Given the importance of sexual identity and sexual awareness, would it not make sense to give each character in your narrative the same sexual origin and secret focus study?

Course Materials


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