Guest Post by Ellen Byron
Of course I don’t hate sex. But I do hate writing about it, or writing romantic scenes in general. It takes me forever to craft verbiage that’s remotely passable and not a total cliché. That’s one of the reasons I’ve gravitated toward writing cozy mysteries. I’m spared coming up with creative ways to describe sexual contact and human genitalia. To be honest, it’s not easy for me to read that stuff, either. A friend and I once did an Amazon.com “Look inside” for Fifty Shades of Gray, and I literally recoiled. Well, first because E.L. James actually used the expression “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle” – seriously, E.L.? Was there ever a time when anyone on the planet sounded cool saying that? - but mostly because I could not stomach the graphic details. I might as well have been a tween going, “Eeewwwww… gross!”
I don’t know why I’m so stunted in this aspect of my writing ability. Maybe it’s because I developed an obsession with Victorian literature in middle school. While other kids passed around The Godfather and whispered “Page 24,” where a salacious scene lurked, I was swooning over Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever found anything hotter than Cathy and Heathcliff’s tortured passion.
Speaking of torture, in my quest to overcome this aversion to a crucial literary element, I actually took an online class titled “Sex on the Page,” offered through Sisters in Crime’s Guppy sub-group. The class was laid out beautifully; each online class covered one of “The Twelve Stages of Intimacy.” Again, I’m being totally honest when I say that I cringed just reading the lecture topics. Topics ranged from “Hand to Body” (okay, I can handle that) to “Mouth to Mouth” (um, getting uncomfortable) to “Genital to Genital” (eeewwww, gross!!).While other participants enthusiastically shared their sexy homework assignments, I hung back in the virtual corner of the classroom like a shy spinster. I could not seem to get past describing any couple as “locked in a passionate embrace.”
I’m currently mulling over the storyline for a third book in my Cajun Country series and it looks like this is the one where my protagonist, Maggie, will finally get-it-on, do-the-deed, have-sex, make-love – see? All bad! – with her boyfriend. I’m months away from starting an actual outline, yet I’m already agonizing over how I can make consummating a relationship fresh and well-written.
So once again, I reference my chosen genre. The unofficial cozy rules are that they must be devoid of graphic language, violence, and sex. Phew! But I’m not completely off the hook; my protagonist does need to have physical contact with her boyfriend. So my task will be creating the romance of that moment, and then discreetly closing the bedroom door, or the door of wherever they bump uglies (See? Terrible!). I’m committed to writing the best scene possible. But I can’t promise that my characters won’t end up “locked in a passionate embrace.”