Since yesterday was that dreaded “aww let’s be overly lovey dovey and make all the singletons nauseous” day, I figured I’d talk a little today about my experiences with writing romance and sex into my novels.
As a YA author, romance of some sort is always involved, whether it’s puppy love, true love or ultimate heartbreak. Let’s face it, most teens let their hormones and their hearts lead them more than their heads.
I think everyone can remember their first love. The butterflies you got when you’d see them or talk to them, the nervousness of wondering if they were interested in you too, the panic over how to kiss, how to act and oh my God you’re supposed to do what with your tongue?! A lot of these feelings carry through to adulthood (although I think we have a little more confidence in ourselves and our uhh slick moves as we get older). We still get butterflies and hope that special someone likes us and worry about whether or not we’ll be compatible. I think those things keep writing romance easy for me. I can still relate.
If I’m writing it, I keep it fairly clean. I have no real problem with people writing more explicitly, but don’t feel it’s necessary for me. I’d rather write a steamy lead up and then imply something happens. Part of my reasoning is because I don’t want it to come off as sounding, well…cheesy. I’ve read enough Harlequin romances in my day to know 101 ways to describe/name a penis and the acts which involve it but the majority of them always left me snickering (that could have something to do with my 12 yr old boy sense of humor..but that’s not up for debate today). Writing in that style would kill the mood in my opinion, so I bypass it and leave the details to the reader’s imagination.
When it comes to a sex scene in which participants are…not willing, I find it very difficult to get the words out, even if I’m not going into explicit detail. In my novel, The Other Side, there is a rape scene that plays a major role in the storyline. I sat in front of my monitor for days trying to work up the courage to write it. As is my style, the actual act is implied rather than intricately detailed, but that didn’t matter. It was still incredibly difficult to write and made my stomach hurt.
Love and sex are a natural healthy part of our lives, so there’s a pretty good chance that you as writers will have to add them to your story lines. I think the key is to keep your writing realistic. While I’m sure we all have fantasies about the perfect experience, I would suggest sticking with what you know so you can rely on your own memories of feelings and reactions. If you’ve never seen fireworks while making out with someone, don’t write about it. If you’ve never had sex so good it’s caused you to temporarily blackout, don’t put your character through that. If your knees have never gone weak in reaction to an amazing kiss, then how do you really describe it well enough to make it believable to your readers?
Now I know there will be some people out there shaking their heads at me. “MB,” they’ll be thinking, “you’ve never crash landed on some distant planet or fought anyone with a sword, so how can you write about it if you haven’t experienced it?” It’s true, I haven’t done either of those things, but I can do some research and get a good enough idea of how it works to write about it. Also, the majority of the population haven’t done those things either, so I will probably get a little leeway. The difference being, that most of your readers will have been in love and/or had sex at least once in their life, so they’re going to know if you’re exaggerating things or adding unnecessary fluff. When it pertains to everyday events or actions or emotions, I think it’s best to stick to what you know. I certainly can’t stop you from saying the kiss from your hot bad boy character has left your heroine gasping for air like a fish out of water while fireworks bloom in front of her eyes and her knees turn into piles of jelly, but you can’t stop me from rolling my eyes and giggling when I read it either.
Just remember, realism goes a long way to connecting your reader with your characters and when the reader can relate, they will enjoy the story and want to come back for more.