Sex (or not)

IMG_3788I love my publisher. I really do. They are lovely people and they’ve just partnered with Amazon to bring their authors out in audio. I’m not a fan of audio books, but apparently there’s a huge market. We don’t HAVE to get our books onto audio, but why wouldn’t you? It costs the writer nothing, it’s no work for the writer, the writer collects royalties. All we need to do is sign a contract for each book we want to go audio. It’s for 7 years, but I wasn’t planning on taking those books anywhere else. Seemed like a clear win to me.

Then I remembered the other contracts I signed. There was a clause I wish had not been there. I didn’t remember agreeing to it. My eyes must have gazed over the words about my being required to write a “consummation scene.” Or maybe I didn’t exactly know what it entailed–maybe I just thought, okay, sex scene. Check. So I wrote my first book and sent it in and my editor wrote back to say “you know, you need to write the consummation scene.”

Me: “How is that different from the scene I wrote the first time they had sex?”

Editor: “You don’t describe the moment of consummation.”

Me: “Like, graphically?”

Editor: “You can be euphemistic. But readers need to see it.”

Me: “That was in my contract?”

Editor: “Yes.”

Me: “Okay.”

I checked. It was. Listen, I’m no prude. I have nothing against sex scenes, although I usually skip them. Because nobody knows how to write a good one. Or it’s rare. So why not just shut the bedroom door and leave it at that? But I’d signed the contract so I researched how to write a good sex scene. I learned that romance authors call these scenes “love scenes” ~ there’s got to be a romantic build up to the scene. The characters must be in love. Consummation is about emotional surrender. Sex is about allowing your character to be vulnerable, to trust, to hope, to need. And you don’t want it all to sound like stereo instructions, but neither do you want the metaphors to obscure the reality of the physical thing happening.

That sounds difficult. And it is. That’s why almost nobody does it well. So how will the consummation scenes I wrote (one for each book)  play on audio? I don’t know. A contract extension is a simple document. However, it assumes all language of the original contract. So what I do know is that the bedroom door will be wide open.

Consummation 1, 2, 3

Sex scenes used to scare me. I wrote kisses &  desire & closed the door. When my editor called me on it, I read my contract closely and sure enough there was the word: “consummation.”

 1. The Way In

I love a challenge and every once in awhile, I’d read a really well done love scene and wished I could do that.  I say love scene instead of sex scene because my characters who engage in sexual activities are falling in love, so for me it’s an emotional journey as well as a physical one.

That was my first way in. I thought about intercourse as not just about sex, but also about falling in love and discovering every inch of another person, inside and out.

2. What words?

So yeah, that word. Intercourse. Making love. Doing it. Scoring. Screwing. Fucking. Copulating. Having sex. Getting some.

Not just the act, but every body part has many name choices, from ridiculous to sublime. The proper biological designations are a bit sterile for my taste. Other words can seem sleazy or silly, depending on the readers’ moral compass. And metaphors can backfire or explode with unintended puns. Silly lily and sunken treasure will never measure up to the beast with two backs.

I solved this dilemma by figuring out that word choice in love scenes is deeply personal. I go with what works for me and my characters. I don’t want to offend readers (I think this stops so many of us) but those offended by my words are not my readers. Or won’t be for long.

3. Surrender

This one came late to me. I had to learn to slow down and enjoy the ride. That’s not a metaphor. I had to get comfortable enough in my own skin to enter into the mind and body of my POV character in those moments, to be her, to feel what she was feeling. I’m not a prude, and I’m not sure what took me so long to fully give myself over to love scenes, but once I did, I began to enjoy writing them.

How about you? Do you enjoy reading love scenes or are you someone who skims those pages?

*Photo courtesy of Flickr: chadh-flickr / Creative Commons

Please Mister Postman

I’ve been waiting patiently. Almost missed my BFN’s (best friend neighbor) birthday surprise. But, just in the nick of time, Mr. Postman came through. I live in a tiny town and everyone except me knows him by name. I think it’s Ron.

Love my dirt road even though Al refuses to wash my car anymore because I can’t help but drive down it. All the bright scarlet maple leaves have blown away after a windy storm, but’s it’s still so pretty.

I can’t get used to the fact that this is my town. And that these are my books. Every dream I’ve ever had and a few I never even considered has come my way. Well, there’s just one more thing. (There always is.) I want to finish and publish the book I’m working on now. It will happen. Just like everything else did, in its own good time.

After the books came, I quickly signed and wrapped a copy of Blue Heaven for BFN Jan. Her birthday was yesterday. We were both in the middle of cooking dinner, but I turned everything off for a sec and ran across the back yard to hand it to her. She took it and felt it and said “Is this your new book?” Jan has been reading my books since they were just manuscripts on typing paper. In fact, she read a few that were so bad I recycled them instead of trying to mend and publish. So of course I gift her my print books, even though she really needs a Kindle! In answer to Jan’s question, I said “You’ll have to open it and find out,” and then flew back across the yard to my own kitchen.

Another thing happened the same day the books came. I got an email from a fellow DWW member who invited any of us interested to take part in a book fair. So, I had bought these books pictured above as gifts for family and friends and now I am taking them to a book fair. Better get a new order in soon. And those of you who won my 11th Blog Birthday package, I will get the books out to you Monday. Better send my mom one, too. After I find the page with the consummation scene and warn her not to read it:)

Bringing the Sexy

My publishing contract states there must be at least one consummation scene in every book. Most people call these sex scenes, but an article I read on writing them (yes I need instructions!)  said they are really “love” scenes because  when the hero and heroine make love for the first time, it’s a turning point in the story. They are committed.

Last time my critique group met, I gave them pages with the love scene deleted. Just a little note where the scene went. They insisted I send it to them. This is a first for our group, and we’ve been together for several years.

These scenes are the most difficult to write. When I reviewed romance novels and women’s fiction for a living, I saw too many mixed metaphors and cliches. The only consummation scene I’ve ever read and liked was in Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation. I prefer the flirting and the attraction and the yearning. When they get there, I want to close the door.

Still, they’d all asked for it, so I sent the scene, which was less than a page and a half. Here are my favorite comments:

“Can you begin the the sentence with a word other than ejaculation?”


“I don’t think she’d be thinking of biology class at this time.”

Ha. Those critiques were both from women. A male member, no pun intended, asks me to switch paragraphs. I need to look at that a little closer to see how it flows. The other male in our group gave his wife the pages and she commented for him:)

I like writing the first kiss, the first touch, the major attraction moments, the almost did it but were interrupted scenes. I have lots of those. Consummation? Only what the contract calls for.

Actors always say things like “filming a love scene is anything but romantic.” Same goes for writing one. At least for me. If you’d like to read my consummation scene from The Paris Notebook, it comes (sorry!) early, Chapter Four, pages 22-25. Page 24 to be exact.