Suspension of Disbelief (To Sex Toy or Not to Sex Toy… That is the Question) by Heather McVea


Happy Sunday, folks! Author Heather McVea is here again and this time she discusses an always relevant question about intimacy and sex toys.

Normally, I’d include a bit more of an introduction, but I don’t want to keep y’all from the main event. Be sure to chime in your thoughts when you finish reading!

Suspension of Disbelief (To Sex Toy or Not to Sex Toy… That is the Question)
by Heather McVea

Not too long ago, I was having an exchange with a fellow author regarding several reader reviews she had recently received. She was struggling with the reviews’ main theme in which her novels were seen as unbelievable.

“It’s fiction. Isn’t the entire point that you can go completely off the grid?” She asked during a particularly heated exchange. “By definition it’s all technically unbelievable.”

I agreed with her to a point. Since all of my books have some element of the supernatural or paranormal in them, I clearly embrace the suspension of disbelief.However, as our conversation continued, it became apparent the real issue was less to do with her plot devices, and more to do with her character arcs.

One of the more challenging aspects of writing is managing a character through a particular space within the story, while still maintaining the integrity of who the character is. The plot needs to move forward, and for the most part cause, effect, and character reactions make that possible. The essence of who a character is can’t be lost in the process, or readers will call you out on it.

When the story reaches a turning point, and the outline the author is working off calls for a proverbial left turn, all too often authors take the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, that means writing behavior in a character that’s not true to whothe character is, or indicative of the character’s experiences. This will almost always leave the reader feeling as if something isn’t right, or is unbelievable.

I’ll use my upcoming novel Fallen Elements as a good example. Specifically, looking at the sex scenes in the book (By the way, I’m an adult, and I write books for adults). The book is my fourth, and the first full length novel I have written independent of the Waking Forever series; so I worked hard to ensure the tone and tenure of Fallen was different from the series.

To that end, I didn’t want the sex scenes to feel and read like the other intimate scenes I had written. This was particularly important because, unlike Waking, the new novel doesn’t have vampires struggling with bloodlust while indulging in carnal knowledge.

My wife read an early draft of Fallen, and suggested I could set a different tone during the sex scenes by incorporating a vibrator. After all, what’s a sex toy or two among friends? I considered the recommendation as it was certainly a way of diverging from my previous, battery-free sex scenes.

But ultimately it didn’t feel right for the characters (pun intended), or the stage in their relationship the reader was being introduced to. I have also found, as a reader, the line between romance and erotica can be thin. The introduction of sex toys in a scene can often be that proverbial step over the line.

I was then faced with a dilemma I imagine many authors deal with, but unfortunately fewer are aware of. Am I going to have this character do this thing because I want and/or need them to, or because it’s honest to who the character is? I take the entertainment of my readers very seriously, and I know that failure to adequately address this question may lead to a reader being “pulled out” of a story.

This brings up another issue I have faced as an author, which I imagine is also not uncommon. I am not my characters, and as such I don’t have to like the characters I am writing or have them adhere to my personal moral and ethical standards. I have read books where clearly every character in the book conducts themselves by the same rules. This is obviously untrue in life, and in fiction leaves the reader with that dreaded feeling of a book not being quite right.

All of these considerations present challenges when writing a character that needs to move through the novel smoothly, while at the same time ensuring the reader is fully vested in their fate, and entrenched in their lives.

How does an author know when this has been achieved, and more importantly, know the reader won’t be left wanting? For me, it’s when I’m writing a scene, or a dialogue exchange, and something a character does or says surprises me. I know how that must sound. After all, I’ve created the character. I’ve outlined their biography, decided how they are going to look and sound, determined what car they drive, and even what liquor they prefer. So how can they surprise me?

It happens when an author allows the character to become wholly their own person. They are independent of the author’s needs, desires, wants, shortcomings, and eccentricities. The character is alive in the story, and the nearly flesh and bone of manifestation is what never fails to pull the reader in. It will always provide them a believable world… even if that world is riddled with vampires, lycans, and witches.


Heather McVea was raised in a small town south of San Antonio, Texas, and is the author of the urban fantasy series Waking Forever. Prior to escaping to the big city, she raised Hampshire pigs, rode motorcycles at entirely too young an age, and once snow boarded behind a Ford pickup truck. She relishes a strong gin and tonic, but leans after three. Shiny twinkly things make her cringe, up to and including Hollywood vampires.

Heather’snewest novel, Fallen Elements, is available February 20, 2015.

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