Wednesday, October 20, 2010


In an early scene in Monday's episode of Hawaii Five-O, McGarrett is in bed with a woman. We would never have seen this in the original Five-O. In that series, we knew nothing of McGarrett's personal life. In fact, he seemed rather monkish in his dedication to fighting crime without entanglements.

Agatha Christi, the Grande Dame of mysteries, proclaimed that mysteries should have no sex. Her famous detective, Hercule Poirot, was a lot like the first McGarrett in that regard. In the all the many stories, he appears to have been smitten by only one woman, Countess Vera Roussakoff, but nothing appears to have developed from it.

Sex appears often in modern mysteries, sometimes gratuitous, but sometimes to a point. I happen to like characters with passion and messy lives. I like plots which are complicated by the main character's personal story. In Monday's episode, the sex was probably more gratuitous than pointed. It gave McGarrett a backstory, but didn't complicate the plot. In fact, the sex provided an easy out. When he needed a military satellite retasked for surveillance, he simply called his paramour, who conveniently works in a naval communications center. I'm hoping to see more of this particular backstory, but with some real complications.

I find sex hard to write about, so I tend to avoid the graphic. Instead, I try to inject it with some humor and then turn out the lights as in this passage from Pilikia Is My Business:

He gestured to the table set for two. “Do we really want this now?” he asked.
“I think it can wait.”
“Race you to the bedroom?”
“Okay,” I said, “but it’s the only point you’ll get for speed.”

So, as a reader, how do you feel about sex in a story? As a writer, how do you handle it?

Mark Troy


Terry Odell said...

As a reader, I'm all for well-rounded characters, and I love watching relationships grow. As an author, I like the same things (which is why I write what I want to read). If it fits the story, then go for it, but readers will spot the "insert sex scene here" ploy from pages away.

And readers might not be aware that often it's the publisher that dictates how much gets on the page. My 3 publishers all have different "guidelines"

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Mark Troy said...

Yes, publishers have different audiences in mind set their guidelines accordingly.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I don't care much one way or the other.

What bothers me more about the remake is the fact they have basically decided to take it the way of CSI Miami style with lots of flashy graphics, babes in bikinis, explosions and little substance.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Sex sells--usually--and I've written a few scenes that were not graphic but touching and tender. All my novels have romance in them although mostly it's unrequited love that progresses from one novel to the next. I don't think mystery novels need graphic sex unless maybe they're hardcore crime.

Tim A Martin said...

I think if it's part of the story then sure. I tend to not get too graphic with it. Readers have imaginations and can see what went on.

Putting it in the story just to put it in I don't think accomplishes much in the long run.

Besides, I want to write novels that I won't be ashamed to have my daughters read someday when they're older.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Sex is part of life, thus at times, a story. Having said that, the more that's left to the imagination, the better.

Dana Fredsti said...

It entirely depends on the story and the genre. Since I'm currently writing erotic romance, I have to have sex in there, but I won't put it in unless it moves the story (not just the earth) along. Gratuitous sex is irritating...

Morgan Mandel said...

I leave a lot to the reader's imaginations. I don't go for reading or writing graphic illustrations of body parts.

Morgan Mandel

Kevin R. Tipple said...

And then there is the successful Stuart Woods who is adding more and more sex to his novels in recent years. The scenes do nothing to move the story forward.