A small percentage of writers are lucky. Their parents are published authors, and they sit their writer-offspring down for “the talk.” You know what I mean. The talk about writing sex.
Their author-moms must say, “Don’t show off. We all know those words. Remember, you’re writing a novel, not a manual.”
Oh, sure, some of the dad-authors must take issue with that. They probably tell the boy-writers that creating super-lover protagonists will make them look like ferocious stud-muffins. But hopefully those published author families engage in interventions, telling those author-dads the truth: that creating unattractive protagonists, which all the female characters still throw themselves at, make the writers of those books come across more as dorks than studs.
Okay, so maybe going through the “how to write sex talk” with presumably knowledgeable parents might not be all its cracked up to be.
But most of us don’t have a choice. We don’t have writer-parents. We don’t get “the talk.” We have to pick up the birds and bees of writing love scenes on the playground. Well, in the halls of writers’ conferences, that is. We pick up phrases in the corridors outside of panel rooms, or in the elevator, and we try to make sense of it all.
Perhaps we hear some jerk in the bar pontificating about the “obligatory sex scene,” and that gets us to thinking. Are such scenes obligatory? Why should they be? There’s no obligatory cow-milking or nose-picking scene. But since real sex presumably trumps cow milking, maybe written sex does, too.
I never worried about writing sex before. Especially not in my Tracy Eaton mysteries, featuring the unconventional daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars and her stodgy lawyer husband Drew, since a cyclone life between the sheets seems to be the basis of their unlikely marriage. I’ve been told by countless readers that I really hit the mark with those scenes. But Tracy and Drew are normal people — well, as normal as characters get in zany, madcap mysteries. Even without the guidance of author-parents, I’m on safe ground there.
But my latest book, High Crimes on the Magical Plane, presented a real challenge to me for which I was unprepared. My nooky scenes were between Samantha Brennan, my fake psychic protagonist, and Angus, the ancient Celtic god of youth and love and laughter. Angus has been around forever, but since he's immortal, he still looks hunky.
But what did I know about writing encounters between gods and mortals? Nothing I heard in the writing conference playgrounds had prepared me for this.
So, I approached it systematically:
Angus would have endless stamina, right?
And he wouldn’t be confined by such pesky concerns as gravity and reality. My characters have always treated reality like it’s an okay place to visit, but they wouldn’t want to spend their whole lives in it, but Angus is the first who has a good reason for that belief. Doubtless, he would be imaginative. And I bet he wouldn’t be subject to pillow hair or morning breath, either.
Still, when you’re learning a new writing skill on the fly, you never quite know if you’ve hit the mark.
But I think I must have nailed it. A friend of mine, who read one of the first copies of High Crimes on the Magical Plan, pronounced the Samantha-Angus scenes as “steamy.”
Steamy? Is that a word I should know?
Nobody on the writer-playground has used it yet.