19th February 2021.
Have you ever wondered why there’s so little sex in crime fiction?
Maybe there is and I’m reading the wrong books. Maybe sex and murder are not good bedfellows.
Some categories of crime fiction, such as cosy mysteries, exclude explicit sex, graphic violence and excessive swearing. In my book, literally and metaphorically, this doesn’t exclude romance, sexual tension and people sleeping together. It simply frowns on graphic description.
But sex scenes should only be in a story if they are essential to the plot or character development. This should be the case in any book in any category. If a killer, for instance, seduces his or her victims before killing them, does this need to be shown in detail?
You could argue the same for murder. Does it need to be shown in great detail?
It depends on the type of book and the writer, I guess. With so much emphasis on the collection of forensic and DNA evidence at crime scenes, detailed description that may lead investigators closer to the killer would be essential.
It’s up to writers to show the world as they see it.
Personally, I’m not a fan of torture scenes or any graphic descriptions that involve violence or someone inflicting pain on another human being or animal.
That’s not to say I live in a closeted world where everything’s rosy. I simply don’t need to read the details. I have an imagination. If someone is being tortured as part of the story, tell me. I need to know. But do I want to know every detail of what the killer’s doing?
Some writers like to get into the minds of killers, to show how they’ve become who they are. We’re all inquisitive and the subject’s fascinating, but that doesn’t mean it needs graphic descriptions.
It’s the same with sex. My readers can imagine a sex scene much better than I can write it. And let’s be honest here, each person will imagine it a little differently, making the story more personal to them.
Surely, that’s what we want as authors – readers to enjoy our books. Reading is an emotional experience. The imagination fills in the blanks. We see characters in a particular way, even when they are described in detail. It means readers are more likely to get something personal to them from what they read.
Of course there are times when you have to lay things out in detail, if only for accuracy or credibility, but I would suggest there’s always some room to allow the reader’s imagination to personalise what they’re reading.
If I want everything laid out for me, I’ll watch TV.
Then I can complain on social media that the main character is nothing like the one I pictured in the books.
Not that I really picture them. I’m more interested in who they are, not what they look like.
And that’s the point, ultimately. No two readers are alike. Every one of us has different tastes, values and attitudes. I prefer to read books that aren’t graphic or filled with profanities. I know people swear in the real world, but they also belch, fart, pick their noses, scratch their bums and so on.
If the story and characters are engaging, some swearing and violence won’t put me off a book.
If the swearing and violence feel excessive or unnecessary, I can stop reading – and often do.
I want people to enjoy my books. I want to entertain my readers. I want to tantalise them with complex plots and mysteries in a contemporary world that feels real.
I don’t need graphic sex, foul language and excessive violence to achieve that. It doesn’t make my books soft and fluffy or unrealistic.
I’m writing a murder mystery not a bonk buster.
How do you feel about swearing, sex and violence in crime novels?
Learn more about the Kent Fisher murder mysteries.