For me, reading a book is about escaping to a new world, diving into that world through the medium of the senses that are stimulated by well-chosen words, precision instruments that play a symphony of emotions, smells, sights, sounds, touches, tastes, balance and harmony. I’ve never really appreciated books that are written with gratuitous scenes of violence or sex; sometimes it seems to me (as a reader) that writers throw in scenes willy-nilly to spice things up or to patch over the fact that they haven’t researched and developed their characters thoroughly, or because they run out of plot ideas and just spin their wheels. Such scenes grate against my senses just as much as random punctuation or bad spelling does. If such elements are not organic, logical, and a natural development of the plot, they do not belong there. Period. It’s an insult to my intelligence and a brazen demand on my “believability credits” that is frankly not the author’s to demand… those credits are something that I as a reader give gladly to a good writer, but a writer has to earn them, and has no right to demand that I suspend disbelief to dive into their story when they haven’t bothered to make it believable. The writer’s job is to earn those credits through good writing, good writing, and good writing, i.e. plot, character development, grammar, syntax, orthography, and structure.
Don’t misunderstand me: There are times when the darker scenes are organic; they are necessary to portray the character, or are a natural outflow of the character’s flaws or decision process, or lack of positive input earlier on in life. Sexual scenes can be sexy without being vulgar, sensual without being slutty. Sometimes I read books that deal with such issues, but more as a writer than a reader, to see how they are structured. I read part of a book recently (I gave up quite early, which not a good sign for the writer) where the author had seemingly tried to cram as many vulgar terms as they could into one chapter, or one page, or one dialogue. It got so ridiculous that I started reading as an editor, slicing out entire passages to improve the script. As far as I’m concerned, there’s not really a point in publishing something that will likely offend half your demographic sector away from buying a second book.
Give me something to read that’s intelligent, entertaining, witty, smart, deep, and that I can come away from the experience wanting more – not just another book with those characters, but that I come away having learned something about myself or the world around me, having been positively changed, encouraged, enlightened or satisfied.