In the most recent of her always interesting posts on History Hoydens, my friend Pam Rosenthal talked about writing a seduction scene. Which got me to thinking about writing love scenes. Or to be more accurate, sex scenes, as there are certainly love scenes that don’t involve sex, except as subtext.
When I first began co-writing Regency romances with my mom, under the name Anthea Malcolm, my friends teased me that our books started very chaste and slowly got more explicit. In our first book, The Widow’s Gambit, the characters barely embraced. In the second, The Courting of Philippa, there were more detailed kisses. In the third, Frivolous Pretence, which focused on an estranged married couple, there was an actual sex scene, though it faded to black. Our fifth book, A Touch of Scandal, had ex-lovers who resumed an illicit affair. Sex scenes were part of the story. I told my mom she had to write them. Our sixth book, An Improper Proposal, was a marriage of convenience story. My mom said, “You have to write one of the sex scenes this time.” I wrote my first draft of the scene on a day when my mom was out shopping. And (this is true, thought it sounds so funny now), I turned down the screen on my computer, so I couldn’t look at the words as I typed them. When my mom got home that night, I said, “Okay, I wrote the scene. Go look at it and tell me what you think. But I don’t want to be there when you read it.”
Oddly enough, after that first scene I stopped being embarrassed about writing sex scenes. I got to find them quite a fun challenge, especially trying to make each one true to those particular characters and that stage in their relationship. But when I wrote Secrets of a Lady, it was quite obvious to me that after the opening interrupted sex scene, Charles and Mélanie were too focused on finding the Carevalo Ring and getting their son back to be stop to have sex. On top of the fact that their relationship is so strained that Charles finds it difficult even to look Mel in the face let alone make love to her. In fact one of the reasons I had Mélanie be attacked fairly early in the story is to break through some of the distance between them so that Charles at least touches her. If you examine the book, their physical contact slowly increased through their desperate adventures in search of the ring and Colin.
In Beneath a Silent Moon, (which thematically is in many ways all about sex), Charles and Mélanie do make love fairly early in the story. When I wrote the scene, I automatically faded to black without thinking about it. I did the same with a later sex scene in the book. I’ve come full circle, in a way, from from being embarrassed to write sex scenes to enjoying writing them to liking the mystery of not showing everything. Of hinting at exactly who does what and how and what it means to them but leaving a great deal up to the reader’s imagination.
How do you feel about sex scenes in the books you read? What makes them work or not? How detailed do you like them to be? Writers, how do you approach writing sex scenes? Do you enjoy writing them or find them a chore? How much detail do you go into? Has your approach to them changed through the years or with the type of books you write?
This week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is Mélanie’s reply to Isobel Lydgate’s letter from a few weeks ago about David and Simon.