Love Scenes: Kissy Face or Full Monty?
By Scott Nicholson
One of the challenges of writing is learning how much romantic description to include in your stories.
Early in my career, I tended to keep most of the physical love play offstage, either avoiding it or referring to it without direct mentioning of body parts. My characters tended to be in romantic attraction and might kiss, but only rarely did it get to S-E-X. One of those occasions was my story “Constitution,” where a man has died but wills himself to keep his flesh integrated so his wife won’t be alone. At one point in the story, he must come to grips with his crumbling bits on the marital bed.
While I do have a romantic element in most of my novels, sometimes it’s the typical “family under duress” that’s fairly common in thrillers, especially in supernatural tales where normalcy is challenged. Of course, we expect order to be restored and families to bond and everyone to live happily ever after, so that sort of tension is expected (and the resolution is expected, too, which is why so many modern stories are predictable.)
My first real sex scene, in Forever Never Ends, is handled in a stream-of-consciousness flow of sensations and impressions, switching back and forth between the two lovers. It’s a little poetic and unusual for a thriller, and there’s nary a heaving bosom or swollen manhood in sight.
My novel The Manor (now out in UK as Creative Spirit) has trappings of a Gothic romance, with an early tension developing between the two lead characters, Mason and Anna. While as best I remember they don’t so much as kiss throughout the book, by the end there’s the suggestion that they have a possible future together. My book Troubled features a budding romance between two young teens, so obviously I keep their clothes on.
Solom features an important sex scene early on, but it’s the delayed consummation of a second marriage, and the woman basically channels the man’s dead first wife to evoke a response in him. Technically, it’s a nice piece of sexual description and acrobatics, handled well, I believe, though looking back it is kind of creepy because of the woman’s displacement. A local grandmother wrote me a note praising the sex scene, saying it was “nice and unhurried.”
I got a little more cynical by the time They Hunger (now called The Gorge in the UK) came out, and there are at least three sex scenes, and none of them are the products of healthy relationships. There’s the ongoing aloof affair between two characters, a brutish sex scene between a killer and the woman who’s become enthralled and later disgusted by him, and one totally gratuitous hook-up that takes place with little motivation and an unlikely situation—while under threat of imminent death.
The Skull Ring is your basic romantic suspense, with an ongoing subplot of attraction/paranoia, with the two main characters eventually coming to rely upon one other before the climax. Drummer Boy has a scene where a teen confesses his love to his best friend, who freaks out that his friend is gay and almost kissed him—but the entire theme of that book is “otherness,” and that foiled kiss is just a symbol of being a misfit kid.
Speed Dating with the Dead has one sex scene, but it’s a fairly aggressive, demon-spawned bout that I’ll probably rewrite later. At the time I was thinking I needed to write an “adult” thriller, but the most interesting characters are older teens who have attraction but no hanky panky.
I like to think of my books as written at a PG-13 level, but I’m not sure I’d let my daughter read them all at that age.
Maybe we’ll start with October Girls, my YA paranormal romance by LC Glazebrook, and let her go from there. The teen witch Crystal has a serious thing going with her steady beau, but Bone, who has come back from the grave, is determined to make up for all she missed due to her untimely death at 16. And, when you’re dead, you don’t have to worry about pregnancy, disease, or the fallout from bad decisions. Which is good, because the unborn twin of James Dean has the hots for her.
Sex. Romance, Love. How do you like the steaminess of your sex scenes, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being a firm handshake and 10 being raunchiness that would make Tiger Woods blush?
Scott Nicholson is author of 12 novels, including the thrillers Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, Forever Never Ends, The Skull Ring, As I Die Lying, Burial to Follow ,and They Hunger. His revised novels for the U.K. Kindle are Creative Spirit, Troubled, and Solom. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and more than 60 short stories. His story collections include Ashes, The First, Murdermouth: Zombie Bits, and Flowers.
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