Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Have To Write What?

I don’t know about you, but there are certain scenes that give me trouble as a writer. Everyone’s “trouble scenes” are different; for me, they’re sex scenes.  Unfortunately for me, those are some of the most important scenes that need to be written.

There are all kinds of variety and heat levels to sex scenes, and the type of story and characters determine how explicit they should be. I get that. In my first book, A Heart of Little Faith, the hero is in a wheelchair. Now, I’m not making any conclusions about how people in wheelchairs have sex—I know from the research I did that they do. But I made the decision to put sex scenes behind closed doors because I didn’t think I could write the scene well enough, with the additional difficulties that there might be, without making it sound clinical and unwieldy. Yes, that might be a reflection of me as a writer, but it making that book a “sweet romance” really worked. It fit the characters, the story, and the mood. However, reaching that decision was very difficult for me. I didn’t want readers to think I was making any kind of social judgment—I wasn’t. And once I decided to put the sex behind closed doors, I wanted there to be enough sensual scenes so that the reader was completely confident in the sexiness of the hero.

That night, after Lily paid Tara and looked in on Claire, she lay in bed and thought about Gideon’s kiss. She touched her lips, which still felt marked with his imprint. The kiss had been soft, gentle, yet filled with so much promise. His lips had been smooth and dry, with a trace of stubble that scratched her mouth. She ran her finger over the spot, back and forth until she ached with the memory. Hugging Gideon had been like hugging a rock. His hard chest and vise-like arms had pinned her against him. His heart thumped against hers and created a complementary rhythm, as if to warn her how futile it would be to resist him. As if she had wanted to.

In my second book, Skin Deep, the sex scenes were more explicit, and that created a completely different problem for me. See, I can’t help thinking about who is going to read my books after I write them. Sure, I really hope there will be lots of strangers reading it—who DOESN’T want to be Nora Roberts—but I’m confident that my parents will be first to do so. Yes, I said parents, plural. My dad likes to read what I write too. With the first one, there was nothing I could do to stop him from reading it. With the second, I was better able to convince him that since he isn’t a romance reader, even though the book was written by his daughter, he really wasn’t going to like it very much and I would not be offended at all if he chose to skip it. He did, luckily for me. Because I blushed, literally, every time I pictured him reading the sex scenes. I blushed writing them—yes, I’m probably a prude—and knowing that he might read them sent me over the edge. I wasn’t even that comfortable picturing women I knew reading them, but my DAD? No way!

John handed her the soap. She rubbed it between her hands and washed his body. Her touch was like a caress. She began with his broad chest and ran her fingers through the curly black hair that tapered off by his navel. He closed his eyes as she soothed his skin. It tingled as she slipped behind him and soaped his broad shoulders and back. He fought the urge to grab her hand as she traced the tan line at his waist with her soapy finger.(You’ll have to read the rest for more—this is a PG-rated blog!)

So, what scenes do you have trouble writing?


  1. I don't mind writing love scenes, but it is strange to think about certain people reading them. My dad's not much of a reader, but my mom reads all of my books...which are all designated 'spicy' and it's a little odd to think about. But, at least I'm not in the same room with her as she's reading! My aunt commented on one 'chocolate' love scene in particular.

    I don't think there's a particular type of scene that's hard for me. If I'm not in the mood to write and/or the muse just isn't flowing, every scene is difficult. Chapter twos are kind of tricky. I get over the opening and the big hook at the end of chapter one and realize the story has to continue!

  2. I have a problem with the sex scenes just like you. It's not my father I worry about, but the kids in the family. I tell their mothers to read the book first, but they say, "I don't censor what my kids read". Maybe they should. I don't like the idea of them getting a sex education lesson from Aunt Sandy.

  3. I have trouble with sex scenes too; actually, they don't come up much i my writing, but I don't enjoy reading them. Unless they really are there for a reason, to convey something about the relationship of the characters. Otherwise, yes, keep them behind closed doors:)

  4. I don't see why we're agonising over this. If you don't like writing sex scenes, don't.
    I can't see they're necessary and as a reader always skip them, sometimes even abandoning the book.
    Some of the greatest romance writers in the world have never written explicit sex scenes - Joanne Trollope, Anne Wesley, the lovely Maeve Binchy. Clearly you don't HAVE to have sex to sell.

  5. Debra, you're right, some days the writing comes and everything is easy. Others, it clearly doesn't and everything is much more difficult. And knowing when my parents are reading my books gives me incentive to steer clear and avoid them until they're done. :)

    Sandra D, you might be the best aunt ever!

    Sandra T & Jenny, I don't like extraneous sex scenes that are included for no reason other than shock value. And if I find that in a book I'm reading, I'll skip the scene or put down the book. But if the scene works with the characters and the books and seems organic, then I think they can often help to give more insight into the characters--what kind of people are they--do they give or just take, etc. And Maeve Binchy was one of my favorite authors.

  6. I don't mind writing love scenes as I use them as a way of deepening the relationship between the hero and heroine and so I write them more from an emotional angle than a physical one. I really dislike the 'explicit' kind of sex that so many writers think is 'erotic' - (even though that seems to be in the fashion right now!)
    When I'm writing, I don't actually think of the reader. I write the story I want to write and include the scenes I feel are right for the story - and no-one's complained (yet!)

  7. I may have to look at it from that perspective, Paula.