but as far as meaningless experiences go, it's pretty damn good."- Woody Allen
Sex does help. Just not the way we would think in our novels.
You roll your eyes and go, "Duh!"
I mean, just look at the skyrocket sales of 50 SHADES OF GRAY and its two sequels!
(With the movie, not so much since the books did well because of the use of the imagination.)
Yes, sex sells ...
but not always for the reasons you might think.
Men, of course, are hard-wired to see a beautiful woman and have their hormones go into a conga line ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conga_line )
But we men are more complex than the cliches written in COSMOPILITAN.
Sex. Lust. Love.
The first two are primal instincts. The third gives birth to legend and magic.
Every writer is in much of his work. But it is not as straight-forward as that.
J.R.R. Toilken rarely, if ever, wrote love scenes.
Instead, he wrote distantly of Love, the concept with which Tennyson teased but never consummated in THE IDYLLS OF THE KING.
He was a shy man, and it shows in what he chose NOT to write.
He reflected his times -- as we must reflect ours in what we write and for whom we write.
But for whom do we write? And what exactly are "our" times?
We live in a lonely age.
From teenager on up, we feel outside, misunderstood, and alone --
the three labor pains that give birth to the possibility of love.
A reader is drawn to a novel by what is lacking in her/his life.
We've already touched on some of the things most people feel lacking in their lives.
It can be summed up in one word:
Sex is only the tip of that iceberg floating in the existential void of our modern times.
There is much more beneath the murky surface.
How many of us feels valued, loved for who we truly are - bulges, skin blemishes, and other imperfections not withstanding?
How many of us have such passion and fire in the night that we tingle in the morning light?
Many of us settle for half-relationships, tepid gropings in the dark that leave us feeling empty, not full, the morning after.
Why is that?
In the process of love-making, we leave a bit of ourselves with the other.
If we make love without feeling love, the other fails to leave a bit of themselves within us.
Inside we have become less ... not more.
Do that enough times and a void is carved within us.
That is why we have become the Hollow People,
seeking to fill that emptiness within with all the wrong things:
Sex without satisfaction.
Passion without permanence.
Lust wearing the mask of love.
Think of the words of John Masefield:
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
Why did I quote Masefield's poem?
We all long for that handsome, beautiful Other who will tenderly stroke our cheek,
fan the fires of our passions,
and fill our hearts and head with the laughter of two souls meant for each other.
Romance. Magic. Love.
Those are the stars a winning author steers by.
Fix them to your mast, and you will never go wrong.