So you write a book. It’s fiction right? You can write whatever you want, right? Have your characters do whatever they want? Well, not exactly.
For many of us, our books are based in reality. I’m not saying that we’re rewriting true stories and touting them as fiction. I am saying that many of us are dealing with “people” who we’re sending out into the human race. We need to pay attention to the laws of reality. I think every author has two overriding responsibilities: research and safety.
We have to research? People know this is fiction. Can’t we take creative license? Well, mostly…no. If you want to write people living in a real-life society, you need to know history. You need to know how things work. You need to know laws. You need to know the actual lay of the land. Not only will it add flavour to your book, but there will always be someone to tell you a “2005 Taurus doesn’t have that option” or that the word gay to designate a male-male relationship didn’t come into use until the early 1900s, in fact meaning a womanizing man as recently as the 17th century. Therefore your character in 1352 wouldn’t use it in that context. (Yes, if you write historical books, you must be conscious of word origins)
If you want to be a credible author, you’ll know your facts. This leads me to the other half of what I call author responsibility. Safety. Some of us write some edgy subjects. A lot of us write steamy sex, but just because we write fiction doesn’t mean a reader won’t read something we write and think it would be a good idea to try. Heck, I have. Why wouldn’t someone else? As many of you know, I write a lot of BDSM novels. Everything I write has to go on the page with an eye to safety. Safe, sane and consensual is the BDSM credo, but it should be the credo of romance writers, too. Don’t write something that could potentially send someone to the emergency room. You’re not writing a how-to manual, but you still need to present things in a “this is how this is safely done” format.
This doesn’t just apply to edge play. I read a book recently where the characters were playing with food and my instant thought was “this isn’t going to end well.” And how about…condoms. Should we put them on our characters? Should we worry about STDs and unplanned pregnancies? Or should we make an unobtrusive public service announcement and just slip the latex on? Condoms are a sore spot with me. As a writer I still wrestle with the responsibility of this one. And I say to myself, “Come on…it’s fiction.”
Brynn, please read above…
Seriously, especially when it comes to sexual activities in a book, an author must be responsible in how things are presented. Our characters might run around performing acts of daring-do around the continent and a reader will read with vicarious enjoyment. This is interesting and things they might never dream of doing. But when our characters settle down with their lover and get basic…this is something the reader could do—and might.
Variations on sex are still somewhat taboo things. It’s not something that’s openly taught or discussed. And if someone wants to spice up their love life and they don’t want to go to a sex shop, order a sex manual or surf the net for porn, where are they going to turn? Perhaps that spicy romance novel, with that dashing hero and kick-ass heroine…the book that’s sitting on the bed stand…page 56…