So for those of you unawares, I also do a writing thing, which means I pay some attention to the writing world of books and things. There is a blog out there called Query Shark where people submit their query letters, and those letters are taken apart by a sharp agent eye so the author can put them back together. (I believe) It’s run by Janet Reid who (again, I believe) primarily reps thrillers and some scifi and then some other stuff.
Here is an excerpt from a relatively recent query letter:
What the house doesn’t know is that Abe’s girlfriend, a punk-rock stripper named Alice, has been snooping around for clues to the old woman’s death–if she ever died at all. First the house was content to consume Abe with its dark mystery; now it wants Alice, too.
And Query Shark’s comments:
Is there any possible chance you can have the main female character NOT be a stripper? I can’t tell you how sick I am of seeing that. It’s utterly lame and unless it’s an absolutely key part of the story (which it doesn’t seem to be) make her a damn geologist.
And truthfully, almost any query where the main female character is a stripper gets a pass from me. It’s shorthand for “women are one dimensional in my world.”
Query Shark correctly calls this bullshit out. The author maybe thought they were being So Damn Edgy making their female MC a stripper. It says that while Alice is here for part of the plot, she’s also here to take her clothes off, because the (male) viewer would like to see such a thing. It reveals less about the character and more about the author. (Not to mention there are a lot of problems in media portrayal of the sex industry (fetishization, dehumanization, illusion of full consent, erasure of human trafficking, etc, etc, etc).)
Buddy, I’d bet dollars to donuts you didn’t talk to a single stripper before writing Alice.
This is absolutely hitting the nail on the head. Unless it’s relevant, don’t go for something just to push the big button of Sex Sells. It’s stupid and cheap and honestly just makes you look like a lazy fucking writer.