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So You Want To: Write A Sex Drugs And Rock And Roll Story
Ahh, the Darker and Edgier side of the arts (especially music and writing). Maybe you find the works of writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs and Ken Kesey interesting, or maybe you want to tell the true story of your time as a groupie or write bandslash that actually resonates with people other than just the Yaoi Fangirl alone. There's many stories that fall under this generalized umbrella - the Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll story can be anything from its own self-contained story to a smaller part of a larger piece of any kind of drama possible.

Necessary Tropes

A Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll story must at least use the following tropes in some way, or generally tends to do so.

Choices, Choices

When writing a Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll story, you have three options for your story in general.

Played Straight / positive portrayal: You're wanting to make the reader part of the party, and/or give the story a generally fun, approving, wild atmosphere, or at least do so to set them up for the Drama Bomb when you deconstruct it. Your sex descriptions/scenes will be explicit or riding the very line between explicit and not, and can feature almost any combination of the sex tropes imaginable, though kink and A Party Also Known as an Orgy are almost givens, and Everyone Is Bi / Everyone Is Gay is definitely workable in some contexts (everyone actually in the story is bi or gay e.g. it's about a bisexual couple, it's set in an accepting setting). Everyone will have Std Immunity or it's not mentioned. For alcohol and drugs, tropes such as Alcohol-Induced Idiocy (or drug induced), the Bar Brawl for fun, the Drinking Contest / Drinking Game (or a variant involving drugs), Drunken Montage, the Drunken Song / Ode to Intoxication, Wine Is Classy, Everybody Smokes, Random Smoking Scene, Smoking Is Cool, Addiction Powered, Artistic Stimulation, Better Than Sex, Contemplating Your Hands, the Dr. Feelgood as a source of drugs, the Drunken Master (a character is better at something drunk/high), the Functional Addict (any addicts portrayed will tend to be this if you're going for a completely positive story, or there will be no addicts at all), Higher Understanding Through Drugs, Hookers and Blow (obviously for this story), Immune to Drugs, Intoxication Ensues (a MAJOR one), Junkie Prophet, The Stoner, Erudite Stoner, Stoners Are Funny, Wacky Fratboy Hijinks, What Did I Do Last Night?, and many more.

Deconstructed / negative portrayal: The story is itself the Drama Bomb, or is in a work leading up to it, and/or is being retold in a regretful way, or there's other reasons you want the story to show the less pleasant sides of Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll. You can still do explicit sex here, or you can cut away and use a lot of Fade to Black and discretion shots. If you want to do explicit sex, you can play with the sex tropes to make the sex awkward/unpleasant/strange (but still good, or alternately awful for at least one person involved), possibly due to the alcohol/drugs. (For example, some drugs, in the absence of adding ED pills, will almost always invoke The Loins Sleep Tonight for a male-bodied character - ecstasy/MDMA is absolutely notorious for this due to its effect on serotonin.) You can also, in a negative portrayal story, invoke characters being victims of the Rape And Sexual Harassment Tropes or contracting an STD, though you need to be very careful to avoid Unfortunate Implications. For your booze and drugs tropes, you will be using stuff like The Alcoholic, Alcohol-Induced Idiocy, the Bar Brawl as a less fun/funny event, Can't Hold His Liquor, Drinking On Duty, Drowning My Sorrows, Drunk Driver, the sad version of the Drunken Montage or Binge Montage, In Vino Veritas, Off The Wagon, Sorry Occifer, Unsuspectingly Soused, Cigarette of Anxiety, Good Smoking, Evil Smoking (and a non-tobacco variant on this is possible if the story is not anti-all drugs, e.g. the weed smokers are "good" and Erudite Stoner or Stoners Are Funny, the people smoking crack cocaine or methamphetamine are the "evil" smokers), Compressed Abstinence, Compressed Vice, Drugs Are Bad (the point of this story is pretty much that drugs or some drugs or irresponsible use is bad), Going Cold Turkey, and many, many others, usually subverted or inverted. You may also want to take a look around the tropes under Medical Drama since this story could well end up in the hospital... or in the morgue, so Death Tropes might be a place to look too.

Balanced portrayal (some of both): Your story can pick and choose from any of the above, combining them in a way to tell a story that has good sex, not so good sex, and everything in between, that has some characters who drink, smoke, and do drugs and some that don't, that has everyone from the Functional Addict and non-addicts to the most stereotypical of addict, that can be anything from a realistic take on drugs as opposed to drugs being one big party or Drugs Are Bad. It can be a Slice of Life or a Shaggy Dog Story or a true story very deftly disguised.


Anatomically Impossible Sex: Make absolutely sure you know how sex works before taking on a story like this, and/or fade the sex to black.

Ikea Erotica (when unintended): Also, unless your goal IS for the sex to be mechanistic and emotionless and boring and weird (which can be done well in a negative or balanced story), you want to make your character and the readers/viewers get into it, find it enjoyable.

Artistic License - Pharmacology and Marijuana Is LSD: RESEARCH ANY DRUG YOU ARE WRITING ABOUT. No that doesn't mean use it, it means pop on over to the vaults of Erowid and, if you're running anonymizing software or can justify it for writing, and drugsforum and other places with users discussing their experiences. Official government/medical information may be useful to a degree, but you have to keep in mind all of it is written from a perspective of Drugs Are Bad and can only help a little for positive or balanced portrayals.

Everyone Is Bi / Everyone Is Gay without justifying it, even if your story is slash or yaoi,: It's very easy to slip into this, especially if you really are writing in an accepting setting (e.g. your story is to be posted online instead of being an attempt at mainstream genre fiction or lit fic) and you like the idea. Unfortunately, it carries some major Unfortunate Implications, throws reality out the window entirely and breaks all suspension of disbelief, and pigeonholes your story if done wrong. To do it right, you need to justify it in some way (e.g. it's at a gay club/resort/etcetera, the character in the story is gay or same sex preferring bisexual so of course the character is not seeking out tons of heterosexual sex or the het is offscreen, everyone in the band is an out bisexual, etcetera...)

No Bisexuals (or no gay people): Alternately, if Everyone Is Having Lots Of Sex there's going to be some people having sex with people of the same sex, and no, not all of them are going to be lesbians. Statistics are roughly that anywhere from 1 in 10 to 3 in 10 people in real life will be bisexual or homosexual so, unless you're writing solely heterosexual porn, don't ignore that at least some people might not be heterosexual.

The Critical Research Failure in general: if you are writing about musicians, for example, at least know a little bit about what they are, what their culture/subculture is, how they play their instruments, just general stuff other than the sex, drugs, and the music. One should know how any drugs depicted are used and how different methods of use can cause different results.

The Rape And Sexual Harassment Tropes, if depicted positively or neutrally: There are a select few exceptions for this (such as your character being very very very evil and an Unreliable Narrator, the story happening in an culture/era when it could be argued that the culture/era itself permitted such behavior, such as your victim character not understanding that what happened really was an assault, for example) but generally, if you depict one of these tropes as a good thing or just a way for the boys to have fun... it's going to make your story at the very least a lot less enjoyable for a lot of people, and full of Unfortunate Implications. And if you're writing Real Person Slash or even worse, a roman a clef based on true persons, if you throw in these tropes without proof, you can be sued. These tropes should be handled with the care afforded dynamite - and usually have no place being depicted as "fun" or "partying" behavior.

Unfortunate Implications in general: They are very, very, very easy to stumble into. You might want to check out Avoid Unfortunate Implications.

Potential Subversions

  • Having your musicians be something other than rock, metal, or hip-hop/rap is one mentioned at the beginning of the article, and one that would bring a fresh take on the idea. Especially because this can be Truth in Television - for example, EDM and outlaw country can easily rival rock and metal for amounts of drug users and sexually promiscuous people.

  • Setting the story in a setting different than the usual. For example, the Visual Kei band is touring America for the first time, or alternately, the protagonist is an American in the underground in Japan. This carries some major pitfalls of doing the research on the locale, but if done well can help the story.

  • Having the characters with the worst problems (or at least some of them) survive in a negative or balanced but mostly negative story. This is a sometimes Truth in Television subversion that also handily gives balance to the story and makes it more deep than An Aesop about "don't do drugs"/"don't live the party lifestyle" - it can instead become something about the fragility of life and the luck of the draw, that a character who does all the "right" things (e.g. tries to quit, gets rehab and therapy, gets religion instead) dies or gets seriously messed up, while the character who has used and is using every drug under the sun in every way possible is alive and (somewhat) well as long as he has his fix.

  • Having a character be the Ethical Slut, interested in having sex for their pleasure and that of their partners, rather than just the often sexist/misogynistic "pump and dump"/"use 'em and lose 'em" attitude many of these type of stories have toward the sex involved. Or deconstructing someone who takes the selfish approach toward sex.

Writers' Lounge

Suggested Themes and Aesops

  • The Family-Unfriendly Aesop is your friend, unless you're writing an entirely negative story, you'll be using many of these. Although, you can include straight Family Friendly Aesop aesops about friendship, about looking out for other people, about finding joy in the moment in any kind of these stories.

  • Everybody Must Get Stoned or the Stoner Flick: A story centered around cannabis culture, with in-jokes and other stuff that is most truly funny/mindblowing/interesting to those watching under the influence or who have once been.

  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinks and Sex Comedy: Anything by, say, Judd Apatow might be an example.

  • The Road Movie / The Quest: The band is on tour. A writer needing inspiration packs up and hits the road to find it. Many, many similar ideas, but the common theme is there's a road trip, a tour, some form of travel, and it becomes this story.

  • Drugs Are Bad (or a certain drug/irresponsible use of drugs is bad), Casual, promiscuous sex is dangerous and meaningless, and/or celebrity/art/music/fame is empty and shallow: If you're writing a negative or balanced but heavily negative leaning story, this is possibly the territory you will enter. Keep in mind the pitfalls of Unfortunate Implications, which are just as common here as in positive stories, but it is possible to tell such a story and have it be believable and real.

  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: You're bringing the reader/viewer as close as you can into the world of being on the drugs involved, with a psychedelic, trippy ambience for the story, a Kudzu Plot at best, and possibly everything degenerating into either enjoyable or horrific batshit insanity. This can tie in with the next...

  • The Shaggy Dog Story and Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Many of these type of stories will become like this.

Potential Motifs

Suggested Plots


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