Month: December 2013

30 facets of protagonists

1. sometimes, the narrator is not the protagonist

This rule tends to apply more to 3rd person narrative, since you can have an “omniscient” narrator.  But this can work with 1st person too, especially if this an interview or memoir  in the novel. Yes, it can be confusing but it works best if you want objective, rather than subjective, perspective.

2. who does the action follow?

Who pushed the doomsday button? Whose flashback is this? Whose side are we hearing? Even though we can have a chapter about another character, it tends to link back to our protagonist.

3. what do they believe in?

Whether it’s justice or aliens, your character must have faith in something. What if new evidence was found to prove that fairies are real? It can be a real cannon ball for the action to jumpstart.

4. Let me just find your profile…

Carefully reveal as much as you can about a character: their name, age, job, ethnicity, marital status etc. Storybook is excellent for doing this, and it helps you create an identity for your character. You are like a fictional biographer, so make it that way!

5. are they a hero, villain or medium?

Are they a paragon of virtue? Are they a hell-raising devil? Or are they somewhere in between? Ideally,they should be somewhere in between, because nobody’s perfect. Or, to be more precise; “good” and “evil” are flexible, and people often have reasons for why they are who they are. Your protagonist isn’t Popeye; “I yam what I yam”.

6. what makes them good/good at something?

Why do we want to like – or at least listen to – this character? What makes them break away from the mold? Everyone has a status quo, and it must be challenged. This can be morally good or good as in incredibly skilled.

7. neutral protagonists need not apply

And by neutral, I mean boring. Lemony Snicket’s Jerome Squalor is the epitome of this; he always says “I don’t like to argue…” which means ” I have no thoughts or opinions”. And even when he comes back for the orphans, he disappoints! The entire series has no closure AT ALL, and this is horrible for the audience.

8. who does the audience identify with?

I get that certain members of the audience will empathize with a particular character. But we are often encouraged to identify with one more than others, because they are three-dimensional and complex.

9. the human collage

No, I don’t mean Frankenstein’s monster – or at least not in a literal, body-parts-from-everywhere way. Basing a character off one fictional or real person can be very limiting. Fictional characters are often a mixture of several people, like the ingredients in a recipe. Just like real people, we can be “like” many things and people. This doesn’t mean that a character isn’t an individual, however — sometimes this mix can be more broad, like “primitive” or “future”.

10. who do they meet?

Although it’s interesting to know who the character already has in their life, it is even more interesting to find out who is new. Nobody has a fixed number of people they encounter, so there must be a new guy. Plus, it indicates who or what has changed, because everything is constantly changing, one bit at a time.

11. do  they age?

no, not literally (unless you’re writing about vampires or ghosts). Does the character stay the same age throughout the novel? This naturally excludes backstories, since they occurred before the story began, but whether your character goes from child to OAP is up to you. Flashback narratives are exempt because all the action is over, but flashforwards are not because of my point on backstories.

12. Do not let them die

If your protagonist dies, they are a false protagonist. And when I say “Die” I exclude ghosts. This is especially a killer if your narrative is in 1st person.

13. they are not your puppet

Or, to be more clear, you should not merely voice your opinions in this story. Step outside your comfort zone; have a black, gay or male character if you are any of these. It may be true that you cannot live another life, but it’s only fiction and you’re allowed to speculate. That’s why it’s imaginary :p

14. be a literary atheist

the omniscient author/narrator does not control the characters. Whilst this may sound odd to you as a writer, your character has free will. Unless you want to represent deities/ antagonists as manipulative, mind-controlling forces, you must allow them to be spontaneous.

15. who has inspired your protagonist?

reading and writing go together like gin and tonic. And, whether you know it or not, someone — yourself, Batman, your sister or Saint Nicholas — has been in your mind whilst you gave birth to this character. Did you think to yourself “yeah, i think Huckleberry Finn is great, but I think I could write him better”? What would you change about a character?

16. don’t just communicate with dialogue

description helps, as do epigraphs and thoughts. there are two types of communication; exterior dialogue and interior monologue. Anything that is not in speech marks is usually a thought belonging to the character, or the narrator if they aren’t the same person.

17. beware Everyman

It’s impossible to have one person represent all of humanity. Even Jesus, who is supposed the messiah in the Bible. My point is, not only are the same everyman stories told over and over, but everyman is more of a spirit rather than an actual person. Like the spirit of christmas.

18. “Average Joe” is not really average Joe

Otherwise, we’d have everyman. Something about Joe – be it his cock eye or schizophrenia – is interesting. Whilst these examples may not be the focus of the plot, he still has something going for him. If we were all average, we’d be 100% clones.

19. avoid The Chosen One/ Ultimate Chaos

The Chosen One is too perfect and Ultimate Chaos is too flawed. They’re unrealistic and these characters are created if you have blinkers on. And as for destiny, it’s something the characters decide. Chance can only go so far; getting a character into trouble is good, but how this is resolved shouldn’t be down to luck or chance.

20. think about your audience

Give the people what they want. They probably want drama, conflict, intimate scenes and a few taboo subjects. And your protagonist is at the centre of the story, so everything should revolve around them.

21. tragic flaws

a character doesn’t have to get better at the end. Sometimes, it can all go downhill with one major mistake. You don’t need to make nearly everyone dead like in a Greek tragedy, but the audience can learn from their mistake. In many ways, the audience is the protagonist. After all, who is reading your book?

22. Anti-heros

Whilst an anti-hero doesn’t have to the protagonist, they often are. Broadly speaking, this can mean qualities which aren’t ideal, such as selfishness, rebellion and egoism rather than being evil. Even being hideous or plain can make a character an anti-hero, because leading good characters were seen as beautiful.

23. redeeming qualities

For the audience, if no-one else. Why do we cope with this character? Or how do they save themselves, if they do at all? You must get them to accomplish something, even if it’s being a failure.

24. why me?

Why choose this particular person? Why Jane Eyre and not Mr Rochester? It may be that one is better than the other, but Jane could be more relatable to more people than Mr Rochester. But all the same, YOU decide!

25. false protagonists

So we get the Evil Queen plotting against Snow White, but all the action is about what happens to Snow. This is one possible route. Another is when Bernard Marx gets tossed onto the island in Brave New World and John the Savage becomes the protagonist. John is the protagonist because he shows change and individualism, unlike Bernard who never changes.

26. everyone hates deus ex machina

If your main wo/man won’t resolve the conflict, or least have a significant part in doing so, then why let an unrelated, outside force do so? The characters should interact, not merely react to what’s going on, otherwise you’re just writing fake history.

27. he isn’t balanced

Your novel isn’t black and white. Nobody is boring or fascinating, and nobody is a genius or an imbecile. We’re an unequal mix of factors, and we’re unstable too.

28. person vs?

Whether its himself or nature, your character must oppose something. Otherwise, there would be no antagonist and no story. That said, the antagonist is the protagonist from a different perspective, so each reflects the other exactly in that sense.

29. It’s a game

We have the antagonist a possible game master, and we have the obstacles that must be overcome. We have the aim of the game and why it’s dangerous. There is often something or someone who is defeated. There might not be a reward, but there’s definitely a reason to play. And our audience is the observer.

30. forget about masculine and feminine writing

Like I said, step out of your box. Men can write about women and vice versa. Men could even write like a woman (thus proving that it’s gender we’re concerned with, not sex). We are all composed of the same stuff, so gendered writing need not be a bother. And anyone – writer, critic or reader – who says “you write like a man/woman” is sexist and old-fashioned.

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30 facets of supporting and minor characters

We all need to have characters other than the protagonist and the antagonist. But we also need to remember that these characters are not props, either. They serve a purpose, even if it’s a small one.

1. They are the protagonist in their own life

Each character has their own version of the truth, as the Jains point out in the elephant parable. Therefore, there is always more than one side to each story. You don’t need to have multiple perspectives to do this but it can be hard. Nobody sees themself as a sideline act, so you must hold up this mirror to portray this.

2. The difference between a minor and a supporting character

supporting characters are often close to the protagonist – or antagonist – in some way. They could be useful or they could be a foil, and can provide insight which our protagonist has missed. A minor character often makes only a few appearances in the fiction, and is often static. Long story short, supporting characters are connected to our major players.

3. A supporting character doesn’t have to support

In fact, they can be many things; a character who plots, a character who foils or a character who disappoints. Just so long as they are important in some way, a supporting character can assume any form. Take Lamprey in Pinocchio; he acts like a friend and  is streetwise, complementing Jiminy Cricket’s (or The Talking Cricket’s) role as a guide.

4. Why are they there

How do they relate to the plot, or members of the audience? When writing, you have to think about how complex your character needs to be. Their purpose is often a little more than making the protagonist look better. In fact, they could be better than them in some ways.

5.  Deuteragonists and tritagonists

A deutoragonist can be a sidekick, or a human companion of sorts. They can also be a confidant, like Emilia to Desdemona in Othello. A tritagonist is often a caricature, minor character who has a signature trait. And this one memorable trait is what makes them tick, such as being idiotic.

6. One-stop characters

This can be an odd minor character, like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, who only appears a few times, but is very popular. The Red Queen is interesting because of her bossy, pompous attitude and is therefore a satire on the Monarchy. But this can also be a character in the protagonist’s past who they were close to, like Henry Clerval in Frankenstein, who acts as a cheerful character to Victor’s depressing voice.

7. sub-plots and multiple narrative threads

In frame narratives like Frankenstein, or works with subplots like The Changeling, a minor or supporting character can become important. In Nights at the Circus, Walser becomes a protagonist when the novel changes to his perspective when he is with the shaman. In certain modes, like crime fiction, this works better because there are witnesses and people who know the victim.

8. the henchman, the fan and the advisor

These are all different supporting characters. Henchman characters might come in pairs to include a two opposite characters such as smart and dumb, kind and cruel. These might observe the protagonist and make sure they fail, whilst serving as a decoy antagonist. The advisor can be deceptive or helpful, such as Dr Watson in Sherlock Holmes or Iago in Othello. Either way, the influence the protagonist in strange ways. The fan is usually an ardent admirer, and can be obsessive about whatever it is they are fanatical about.

9. conflicting or matching goals

Are the protagonist and the supporting character fighting for the same cause? Do they have the same desire expressed in different ways? Sometimes, two seemingly similar characters can end up having internal differences. And it’s the internal similarities that bring two people together.

10. the real world

As a writer, think over all the people in your life who have been there. There might be your lovers, your family, a favourite teacher at school, or an interesting girl you met on a cruise line. Travelling a lot helps, as well as reading the newspaper and hearing about other people’s lives.

11. Don’t let them steal the show

Yes, they’re interesting, but they aren’t the character who stands out the most. That is the protagonist, even if it’s that everyone else around the character is interesting and they are the boring one (Beware of characters like Napoleon Dynamite).

12. a protagonist?

There are two ways this can go down. The first way is to make them a false protagonist – someone who occupies a lot of the novel, but is not someone who the audience identifies with. The second is if our protagonist is killed off – like in Alfred Hitchcock’s psycho, or Tess in Hardy’s novel, and Angel replaces Tess right at the end.

13. How do they affect the protagonist?

Does the protagonist hate them? Were they a childhood sweetheart? What’s their 15 minutes of fame in the protagonist’s history. Whether the protagonist acknowledges them or not, they will have an effect on our protagonist.

14. are archetypes a good thing?

stereotypes are fine for minor characters, but not so much for supporting ones. Whilst it’s almost impossible to avoid stereotypes, all it takes is one difference to break away from the mold.

15. are they a friend or lover?

Best friends and true loves make excellent supporting characters. They are like the cement that holds the protagonist together, or they can destroy a them through betrayal. Our protagonist will often live with their lover, or spend a lot of time thinking about them for some reason. Their closest friend has been with them through thick and thin, and can be counted on.

16. circles of trust

A minor character, such as a housekeeper, might the closest character to the protagonist because of their closeness to our protagonist’s private life.

17. do we like them?

Are they neutral, lawful or chaotic? I’m using these because these lines can be crossed or blurred, and it’s a more accurate picture of real life rather than “good” or “bad”. The media often gives us chaotic evil characters, and lawful good ones, but there are others. For instance, a lawful evil character would be very traditional, conformist and very business-like in the way that he does his dirty work, whereas a chaotic good does good deeds very erratically, and can actually cause mayhem whilst attempting to save the world or whatever — whether it’s causing the paper-boy to crash his bike whilst saving a baby from a fire, or just accidentally getting into trouble. Beware, if you don’t deal with these traits in the right way, a chaotic good character can be the victim of the deus ex machina and the lawful evil can be seen as, well, too “lawful”.

18. what do they think of other characters?

If the story is anything but about them – which it probably is – they will probably observe characters and comment on them, particularly if they are a supporting character.

19. are they a narrator?

Do they exist in a frame narrative, or are they actually narrating these events? It’s almost a double-bluff by having a minor character as the narrator, because we’re led to believe that the story is about the narrator. The Great Gatsby is a good example; although Nick Carraway is our narrator,  Gatsby seems to drive the plot and Nick is just a vehicle and outside spectator – or at least that’s one reading of the work. Either way, it elevates their status and gives them more depth as a character.

20. make them active

Any character who is passive can get rather irritating, since they might as well be a vegetable. Some waver and dance around of the line between active/passive, such as J.D. Salinger’s Holden, but that’s another kettle of fish.

21. give them strengths and weaknesses

Like a protagonist, they are not perfect. A supporting character can be more round and complex with illusion of a character arc, but minor characters are usually flatter because of their less frequent appearances. Minor characters often have a single trait, which spreads into their lives, such as collecting seashells or appearing at random occasions. Unless you intend it to be this way, this can turn into a running gag, because it caricatures the character and often satirizes them.

22. are they present in the action?

Is this character actually there when the action takes place, or are they having the events narrated to them? This is particularly important if you are writing a flashback narrative; your character could be listening to the protagonist relay the events that happened 50 years ago, when the story takes place.

23. ghost characters

these might be long-lost relatives or dead characters, whose identity do not go much further than their name. Originally meant a non-speaking character on stage, the usage can be extended to a brief nod to old lady at the bus stop or a pretty woman in a red dress.

24. cameos

A cameo character is the king of the minor characters. Often a tribute or the wit in the troupe, a cameo character is character who appears once in the novel, and doesn’t need to appear again  because they are so interesting. They are similar to a ghost, but the difference is that they are talked about, like a legendary figure. Kilgore Trout in Slaughterhouse-five is a vague tribute to Theodore Sturgeon.

25. does the antagonist know who they are?

If the character, especially a supporting one, is important to the protagonist then their opponent will probably notice. Or, if they are a fake friend/ frenemy, they might side with the antagonist. The plot thickens!

26. the trouble with talking objects and animals…

Could Toto count as a supporting character for Dorothy? Or what about a skull that can talk as if by magic? (such as Bob in The Dresden Files – he’s not really a skull, just an invisible sprite) The former, probably not since Toto is only a dog, even if he’s loyal. The former might work because of the power of speech, thus making them more human.

27. what do they represent?

In Wyndham Lewis’s Tarr, each character represents a country – Kreisler is Germany, Tarr is England, Anastasia is Russia and so on. Is the Vicar supposed to represent religion, or a teacher education? An allegorical representation of money, greed or so on is especially interesting in fables.

28. are they at the beginning or the end?

It’s highly unlikely that the protagonist will be alone at the beginning or the end of the novel with 7 billion people on this planet. Are they with the random baker? Their mum? Whoever they are, somehow they get extra brownie points if they appear in a significant part of the story. Even if their appearance is a fallacy.

29. give them a catchphrase or gag

Not only is this funny, but it subtly says something about who they are. A catchphrase can sometimes be a personal philosophy for a character, or the way they react to a situation. As for running gags, be careful. They can be satire at best or pretentious politics at worst.

30. they aren’t extras

You are writing a play/novel. There is really no need to have endless lists of characters serving no purpose and wasting words. As for a play, this is different if it will be performed on stage, but the actual text of the play will only include the dramatis personae.

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30 facets of sex in fiction

Okay, when it comes to writing about sex, it’s not always straightforward. And it’s not always sexy, either – something which ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ made us forget. So what does writing about sex  involve?

1. Where is this going?

One of the first things you should think about when writing about two characters getting it on is the significance of this scene. Why would you include this scene? (light relief is a terrible idea because you get sidetracked from the storyline), so make your characters’ events in the bedroom functional! From the description of the curtains to the smell of perfume, EVERYTHING MUST COUNT.  Angela Carter’s Evelyn, for instance, focuses heavily on how exotic Leilah’s “hot, animal perfume” and “sexual black nylon” make her “a devil in female form”. It’s not a very pleasant description, but it says something about Evelyn as a man. 
 
2. What are your character’s motivations?
 
Give your character a reason to get between the sheets (or wherever) with their sexual partner. There hundreds of reasons why our characters might have a romp; money, power, status, revenge, jealousy – the list goes on. If you just have your secretary and her boss having coffee on page 31 and by page 33 she’s on her back whilst her boss is doing his thing, not only will the reader be quickly bored, but this is a waste of words! (It’s also a massively overused cliche, but that’s not the point). It’s sex for the sake of sex, and it kills any good plotline. 
 
3. Is this prose or porn?
 
Granted that porn is usually in visual form, writing can be the closest thing if you go down the wrong route. Language that is too emotionally charged and extreme focus on genitals and sex positions are symptomatic of pornographic fiction. Intimate acts are not a vacuum; there is more to a character than whether she is sucking his nob. My point being, if you just rabbit on about people rabbiting on, you’re failing to tell the reader your story, and what the message of that story is. 
 
4. Clichéd romantic fluff 
 
A moonlit exotic island? red candles? silky cushions? All boring and uninspired! Surprise the reader, try to catch them off guard with something fresh (no, this isn’t BDSM – unless you actually want to be E.L. James, forget it). clichés start with “classic” ideas being trivialised, so don’t fall into that trap. 
 
5. Human relationships
 
Attention writers, you are writing about people. Even if they are cats, fireflies or a couple of bacterium, you should make them appear like people. This doesn’t necessarily mean making them walk, talk, sing and dance – that’s fantasy, not personification. I’m talking about thoughts, emotions, physical senses, and communication. How do these two people feel about each other, and why do we need to know? What is it about sex that brings them together? (physically if nothing else). 
 
How do these people relate? 
 
Are they friends, colleagues, strangers? How do these people know each other, and how might the audience feel? It doesn’t have to be soppy, it can be a sex offender abusing a child, a gang rape like Ugwu raping the barmaid in Half of a yellow sun, or an incestuous relationship like Margaret and Francie’s in The Magic Toyshop. Unfortunately, Mills & Boon have not yet realised that sex is all sunshine and lollipops, but it doesn’t have to be sinister hell either. You can, ahem, have “shades of grey”. 
 
6.  Setting
 
When and where is this act of lust taking place? Sex in the Victorian era is probably going to be quite different to sex in the year 4000. Are they a mythical fairy or mermaid? Are they a cyborg/android? An alien? A pig? Mention where they are, what they do, and any relevant politics. Be warned, these details are minor, as is the actual sex. Get the right balance of  ingredients goes a long way.
 
7. Avoiding the obvious 
 
Essentially meaning that you shouldn’t be too blunt or use slang. Nor should you blatantly describe the act of sex, unless for a specific reason. This is sex, not an examination of the human anatomy. Baroque/eloquent prose is fine in moderation, and especially if your characters are quite ‘flowery’. Go on, be creative!
 
8. Sexual imagery 
 
Anything has the power to be sexual. A tall building is more obvious, whereas a shepherd’s pie is less so. It’s all about analogies and metaphors – create an unusual link. Call it psychology if you will, but sex can often symbolize something else (which Freud was fully aware of). Is your character lacking something, or have too much of something? 
 
9. Genre 
 
Don’t fall into the trap of following strict genre conventions. A story with vampires in it doesn’t always make it supernatural fiction. 
 
10. What happened next 
 
What occurred after the sex? Whether they saw each other in the street or one of them dies, the moment was important. Even if your character loses their memory, it has still impacted on them. De Flores knew that once Beatrice had gratified his desires for her, she was stepping outside of her class as a noblewoman. It sounds clichéd but actions have consequences, and a night of passion is no exception. 
 
11. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
 
We all have attractive features, as well as unattractive ones. Does your character have a blotchy complexion? Sparkling blue eyes? A bad temper? A nice voice, or a sense of humour? 
 
12. Barriers and conflicts 
 
Are there any problems that might taint the sex or cause strife? A cheating partner, sexual impotence and body hangups are just a few, but that’s just a few. Is your character a pessimist, or controlling? Are they mentally ill? Sex can drive people apart as well as bring them together, and it’s your job to show how. 
 
13. Sex as a life experience 
 
Sex can be seen as something which causes change in your story. Has your character changed after having sex? Did they learn anything? How did they and do they view the world? These are all questions to consider when writing fiction. 
 
14. Fetishes and desires
 
Is your character a necrophiliac? Love Uniforms? Are they afraid of body hair or strange piercings? Everyone has turn-ons and turn-offs, and fictional people are no exception. Characters have weird quirks or strange hobbies, and they might find their way into their sex life. The nerd down the street is probably drooling over a virtual elf princess, but you might be surprised at their actual desires. The goth down the road might not go mad for the punk princess clad in faux leather, even if we expected it. 
 
15. Where should you put it?
 
There is no rule in stone stating at what point sex should occur, but it’s not usually a good idea to go with extremes. Put it at the beginning and sex can come across as ruling a character’s life (unless this is what you are aiming for), and putting it at the end can be a shock to the reader. 
 
16. Sex is more than the physical 
 
Memories, emotions, the language etc. Thoughts on quite a basic level, because any kind of heated act – fighting or the like – seems to boil down our thoughts on a fairly basic level. Unless your character thinks a lot, I can’t imagine thoughts fogging this scene up much.  
 
17. Passion 
 
This can range from anger to happiness in a broad spectrum. What makes your character tick? This in part will be influenced by what they are like as a person, but it can also be mini goal that they work towards. 
 
18. Taunting the reader
 
You can always bend the rules by leading the reader up the  garden path. The reader might think that sex is about to happen, but ambiguity can block the way. 
 
19. Length 
 
How long is your story? Is it a novel, flash fiction, a scene in a play? The medium of writing and how long it is meant to be gives you a framework for how much sex is included in your writing. 
 
20. Boundaries 
 
Does this act say something about how men and women are supposed to behave? Does this challenge or reinforce stereotypes about race, gender, class? If so, how? Since sex often creates the next generation of humans, it is interesting to see how two characters can symbolically represent the change 
 
21. Family Values 
 
One theory about why we are attracted to certain people is because they reflect our parents. The parents of these characters are always in the picture, even if they’re right at the back, and not least because they created your characters. What is their religion, their job? Have they been copying their parents, or going off on their own? Or, since you are the godlike author figure in many ways, how many of your own traits are you imparting into your character? 
 
22. Author values
 
Surely your own life has influenced the writing of this novel? Think over your husbands, one-night flings, boyfriends, girlfriends, sexuality and upbringing. How have they manifested in your writing? Your memories about losing your virginity or your wedding night can prove as invaluable experience. 
 
23. Culture and the media
 
Where do our ideas about sex come from? Think about Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” and how the clones all watch sex scenes from films and pornographic magazines to learn from them. Sex in art, literature, music, humour can change the way we perceive sexual acts. School heydays can leave us mystified as we go through hormonal changes as teenagers, and sex is part of growing up. And, of course, porn. 
 
24. Myths 
 
From “the stork” to “Pandora’s box”, these fables are just the start of how babymaking is introduced to us as young children. As we get older, we learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and the story of Adam and Eve. Then we start to wonder what happened with Adam and Eve, along with how animals keep their race surviving. 
 
25. What’s it doing there in the first place?
 
Apart from spice, what function does sex play? It can be comedic, moral, dramatic or disastrous. Sex doesn’t always equate to drama, but there’s usually a reason why it’s there – and it can go beyond “heehee, I like naughty prose”. It can be about how men view women, how people are different from animals or what makes a sinner or a saint. 
 
26. It’s not about human anatomy 
 
There’s really no need to ramble on about the human body at great length. It’s sex, not a science lesson. That said, there’s no need to have an excess of anything. Whilst the characters may be feeling hot and bothered, trying to pile it onto the reader might make them dizzy and confused, leaving them burnt out. 
 
27. Don’t be boxed in 
 
Whilst there may be “men’s” and “women’s” writing, you can and should allow your prose to appeal to everyone. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on the fence and being ambiguous, but you can try to include experiences that anyone can relate to. If you are wanting to specialise in an audience, do so with care. 
 
28. the anticlimax 
 
What was all the buildup for? So you’ve given us sex, and it counts for nought. Unless there is a specific reason why you chose to do this, you should always do what you intend to do. It’s why it’s called a “plot”!
 
 29. Sex isn’t always sexy 
 
Only porn glamorises sex. Allow your characters to have weaknesses and quirks, otherwise they are difficult to identify and relate with. You aren’t allowing women or men to drool over their fantasies, or write a sex manual. You’re here to effectively represent a certain type of person. 
 
30. Sex adds to the plot 
 
Like in Tess of the d’Ubervilles, there is often a reason why the author includes this scene. Like Hardy, you can leave something to the imagination, since as I’ve already said that this isn’t porn. Drip feeding the reader with subtle details goes a long way, and allows them to think over this moment. Remember, the plot doesn’t – and shouldn’t! – revolve around sex. 
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