I just finished reading a book about how to get anyone to do anything, and the basic premise is that you figure out what a person’s self-concept is, and you play up to that. For example, if the person thinks of himself as a good father, you appeal to his father image: “If you help me, it will make a better world for your children.” If you go against a person’s self-concept, he will resist you and may end up disliking you. For example, asking the father to work on a night when he promised to be at his kid’s little league game is a sure way to lose his good will.
Since I have sex scenes on the brain — my last few posts focused on sex scenes — it occurred to me that one way to make a sex scene an important scene rather than just throwing it in because you felt it was time to add a sex scene, is to play on a character’s self-concept. What if a character were making love to a person other than a spouse? Would this lovemaking enhance his or her self-concept, or would it go against it? If the scene enhanced the character’s self-concept, we would learn more about the character. Perhaps she sees herself as a great lover, in which case nothing mattered except the lovemaking– not her marriage vows, not her husband, not her children — and so we know what kind of character she is. If the scene went against the character’s self-concept, then we have a character with inner conflicts. Perhaps the character sees herself as a faithful, till-death-do-us-part wife. In which case, no matter how exciting or tender the scene, it leaves her in turmoil.
I wonder if a character could have a sex concept that is the opposite of his self-concept — a great lover and a faithful spouse? In this case there would be no conflict if the character had an affair. Or would there?
I’m not sure what I’m trying to say—as usual, I am using this blog as a way of concentrating my thoughts. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that a sex scene is a good time to show a character confronting his essence. Without, of course, destroying the mood.
July 13, 2009 at 12:30 pm
Fun to read your musings – almost feels like writers’ group at the computer.
July 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm
Good exercise. Now I’m wondering if I can apply this to my WIP. If a man reflects on the memory of making love to his wife, who is now dead/murdered, what does that say about his self-concept? And if sex never enters the equation, what does “that” say about his self-concept.
You’ve got me thinking again, Pat.
July 13, 2009 at 9:27 pm
Joylene, It’s always nice to get someone thinking — why should I be the only one whose head is spinning?
Sheila, I’m glad my musings do some good. So far they aren’t getting me back to writing, but perhaps one day . . .