I’ve had a number of discussions lately about realism in books and just how much is too much and also, how much is enough?
For instance, the presence of condoms in erotic romance. For me, when I write a contemporary, I’m going to address the issue. HIV and pregnancy are too much of an issue not to address it. I don’t need to give a lengthy screed about it, but I feel some responsibility to have the hero use a condom. I may just note that he does once and not go over it again and again. I find it tedious over and over, it’s not very romantic or even very sexy, but again, I do it. Even with my paranormals I address it in at least a “vampires/werewolves/faeries don’t carry STDs” sort of way.
When I wrote Second Chances, which deals with BDSM, I wanted to approach it in a way that hightlighted the emotional connection between Dom and sub. To do so, I made sure to talk to a wide variety of people, to see how their relationships worked as well as using my own feelings on the matter. I did my research, I tried the different things I used in the book, I talked to people in the scene and made sure to incorporate it into the book. I think you can tell the difference between someone who writes a flogging scene and has never held a flogger before and someone who has and knows what it feels like. In that case, realism makes the story better, IMO.
But there are other things in which fantasy is better than reality. Too much realistic detail detracts from the overal impact of the scene. Anal sex for instance. I do always put in the basics of lube and stretching for prep but if I wrote all of the mechanics in, it would be less than romantic. Sex is messy and noisy and less than graceful at times. You read erotic romance to escape the messy details of life. I get that and I try to walk that line of responsibility and yet providing an enjoyable escape to my readers.
What are things that you as a reader feel must be there and also would rather not see?