Saturday, May 26, 2007

Blushing at the Good Parts

By Kirsten Scott

Because we’re all friends here, and Caren started it with her sexy pirate cover, I’ll let you in on a little secret—I skip love scenes. That’s right. I don’t read ‘em. I may scan a line or two of dialogue, but on the whole, I close my eyes and flip past those pages like a kid looking away when his parents kiss.

Why do I engage in this odd behavior? I mean, aren't these the "good parts"? Well for one, I get embarrassed, particularly if I’m on the bus or anywhere in public. Wouldn’t want to be caught reading that sort of thing, if you know what I mean.

For another, to paraphrase a heroine from one of my favorite historicals—George from Gentle Rogue, by Johanna Lindsey—they makes me feel funny inside. Yes, yes, this is a little too much information, I understand. But frankly, I’m not comfortable getting that funny feeling, and then sitting down at my desk for a long day of work. Or worse, getting that feeling and then having to go make my kids’ lunches.

And finally, for some reason, rather than drawing me deeper into the story, graphic sex scenes often throw me out. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sexual tension, I love the build up, and I want my hero and heroine to consummate their relationship. But I’m just as happy to give them a little privacy while they do it.

So I skip ‘em, at least while I'm reading the book. I might go back later and read them. For research, of course.

The odd thing is, I not only write love scenes, I’ve begun writing erotica. An odd choice, you might think, for one so obviously repressed as me. Yet I love it. I love to play with fantasies and imagine beautiful and romantic intercourse. I’ve even learned to revel in the titillation that is part of the writing. But when I sit down with a good romance, I still pass by the sex scenes. They still make me blush.

I think I need a little counseling. I’m coming to you, the Banditas (you are all Banditas, now, I hope you realize) because you are wise and thoughtful. Do you read the “good parts”? Do they make you blush? Why or why not? What’s the secret to a good love scene, and how do I get over this reluctance to read them? Please, tell all!

And while you're at it, don't forget to check out Caren's sexy pirate blog from yesterday--arr, matey, there's treasure for a lucky few who comment!


Tawny said...

*sniff* You realize you'd be skipping most of my book, right?

;-) kidding. I admit it, I've skipped love scenes before. I really have. But only if they felt gratuitious. I love being drawn into the building tension, the sexual intensity between the characters. If I'm invested in the characters and their emotions, reading the love scenes is an easy extension of that.

But it has to be from the emotional standpoint of the characters and it has to move the plot and story. Has to... or I commit that heinious crime of skimming LOL.

Anna Campbell said...

Inara! How can you miss out the good bits? It's like eating the vegies and not the steak. Or the packet and not the M&Ms inside! Mind you, I laughed at you skipping those bits when you read and then having a lovely time writing erotica.

I must say in this day and age, I find it really unappealing when writers shut the bedroom door on me. Those scenes are so important for the characters and their relationship.

Interestingly, I had to learn to write a love scene (whether they're good or not is in the eye of the beholder). I think the key is focusing on the emotional impact of what's happening. So that every physical detail has an emotional reaction. Frankly, I find just tab A into slot B stuff pretty boring. It's those particular characters I want to see making love and I want to know how what is happening affects their interactions with each other.

Great post, Kirsten! And I laughed at the photo. That was a stroke of genius!

Anonymous said...

Tawny, I loved DD! And like I said, I do read them, I just tend to skip over them the first time! (blush)

I thought DD was great because there was so much sexual tension and fun without it being all just sex, KWIM?

And darling Anna, CTC is a great example of lots of good sexual HUNGER and tension and need that is 100% real and integral to the story. It takes a really special story, in my mind, to do that.

I love the veggies and steak analogy. How did you know I refuse to eat my broccoli? ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

You had a refuse to eat your broccoli look about you, dear! And thanks for those kind words about CTC. Actually, in many ways, I think that book's story was told in the sex scenes. I couldn't have written it without all the rumpy pumpy! Actually, I agree with you about the sexual tension being the heart of most stories. I think that's what keeps you reading.

Christie Kelley said...

Okay, I will admit that if I'm reading a book in public, I'll skip over the love scene. Luckily, I don't read in public that often :-)

I'll admit I like to read the love scene, but writing them is sometimes the toughest part of the book. You want it to be perfect and not just insert tab A into slot B. You want the emotion and the tension, and that's darn hard to write sometimes.

And I have to say some authors are sooo good at this it makes my brain hurt. How do they do it so well?

Anonymous said...

Rumpy pumpy? Oh my goodness, that's funny, Anna!! :-) Never heard that one before!

Christie, I agree that it's incredibly hard to do a love scene well--and think about how difficult it will be when you've written 15, 20 or 25 books! Yikes!

Caren said...

I love this discussion! I have had the great benefit of hearing Sabrina Jeffries (honorary Bandita) do a workshop on "Writing the Unskippable Love Scene". Her point was that the love scene should do the work all the other scenes in the book do: move the story forward, highlight goal/motivation/conflict, raise the stakes and/or reveal information.

Done well, you can't skip the love scenes without missing critical parts of the story. As Tawny pointed out, gratuitous love scenes don't need to be read. But necessary love scenes do.

These days, I find most of the books I read (and I'm pretty selective) have unskippable love scenes. Certainly Tawny's and Anna's do! I give all love scenes a chance (even if I'm at work or waiting for the kids to finish choir practice) and only skim if they don't seem to be doing their job. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'll have to check out Sabrina's latest--I've been reading a lot of YA and (ironically enough) a lot of Harlequin Blaze books lately, and haven't read historicals for about a year. Except for Miz Stacey Kane and Anna Campbell's FABULOUS books, natch!

Ya'll are inspiring me to try again with the love scenes--but be very selective!

Sandy M said...

What a great discussion! I'm curious, tho, where are ya'll reading in public that you're embarassed? LOL, I got this picture in my mind's eye of a stranger standing over you perusing the pages as you're reading! Or is it just the cover giving you away that does it? The only time I get a little nervous when reading in public is if the love scene is a fantastically great one and I end up squirming a little because I get all hot and bothered! LOL, I can't even imagine what someone would think if they glanced my way at that moment!

I never skip a love scene. I mean, that's why I'm reading romance. I want my hero and heroine in love, and sharing that intimacy with them pulls me closer to them and into their lives, and that's one of the things I'm hoping an author gives me every time I pick up a book. I think I would miss way too much if I ever skipped a love scene. Yes, some leave me cold, but the majority of authors give me what I'm looking for when it comes to the main characters, and it's well worth the few minutes it takes to read a great love scene.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sandi! I sometimes read on the bus, but I'll admit, the embarrassment factor is all in my head. I doubt anyone's really reading over my shoulder. LOL.

Sounds like you know exactly what you want out of a romance--I love that! I clearly need to rethink my priorities! :-)

Anna Campbell said...

Caren, I love Sabrina's books. Do you think some time in the future we could talk her into giving us her thoughts on writing a great love scene as a guest? Perhaps you could interview her for one of your posts?

Snorking at increasing your vocab with rumpy pumpy, Inara. My dad had a real soft spot for British comedy, including Benny Hill. I suspect as a result I know a lot of silly terms for the DEED!

Sandy, I so agree with you about the importance of a good love scene. It's where we see them naked - and I don't just mean the dangly bits.

This is a great discussion!

Christine Wells said...

Kirsten, that's so interesting that you write erotica but you skip the 'good bits' in romance novels!

The last time I took the train I was thoroughly absorbed in a romance with some kind of nekkedness on the cover. It wasn't until half way home that I realized I should probably be embarrassed. I've come a long way!

I don't mind gratuitous love scenes (ducking for cover!), IF I'm invested in the characters. Even pivotal love scenes don't interest me if the characters are cardboard cut-outs. For some reason, in those novels, sex scenes are even more boring than any other scene.

But I agree with Anna--sex is so crucial to a romantic relationship, I think at least the first encounter needs to be there. The emotions the couple experience during that scene set the relationship on an entirely new footing. I'd feel like I'd missed something if they closed the bedroom door.

Anonymous said...

Christine--hey, way to put in a good word for the gratuitious sex scene! ;-) Love the train story. Hopefully I'll get there myself someday.

And I can completely see why you'd want to have lovemaking take place in plain view. I definitely feel the importance of the scene when I'm writing it. But the reading part...well I'm entirely inconsistent, I know.

Woman's privilege, right? :-)

Stacy S said...

I don't skip the love scenes. When I first started reading romance yrs ago I did some. I was a little embarrassed but it doesn't bother me now.

Caren Crane said...

Anna, getting Sabrina to guest blog is part of my evil plan.*g* I just have to find a time that works for her, since she has to write those books and all. I mean, if she doesn't even have time to tell me she got North & South on DVD (!!), when is she going to find time to blog?

Actually, you know she blogs all the time at The Goddess Blogs, so we'll get her over here. I asked her for some June dates that might work, so she's on it with thinking.*g*

Joan said...

Wow. And I've been reading in the Atlanta airport this week!

I have skipped sex scenes before but not because I was uncomfortable with them but because they were gratuitous and did NOTHING to develop the characters or they were literally the SAME sex scene only different beds.

We're talking about developing a relationship between two people. A relationship that is to lead to a HEA. Connections have to be made on all levels including physical as well as emotional etc.

I recently read a medieval historical by a well established author whom I had never read before. It contained a very chivalrous hero, with a very demure heroine. I think they kissed chastely maybe three times. Suddenly, I was at the end of the story and epilouge where they had two babies. Humph...must have been the water.

Conversely, the anthology I was reading so publically in Atlanta "Wild Thing" contains one of Alyssa Day's Atlantean Warrior stories. Bastion and the heroine (a shapeshifter) have been fighting a primal connection since meeting. As I left off, he had discovered her watching him standing naked in her yard. Instead of keeping to his commitment to be "hands off" he decides to go for broke. Turning, he plants his feet apart, arms crossed, arousal evident and pretty much dares her to deny the attraction.

Umm....excuse me I have to go read.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Peeking over Joan's shoulder to see what's happneing in her book...uh, oh yeah. Love scenes.

I adore them. I want to revel in the emotions the characters feel as they share the most intimate of emotions. I want love scenes in the bathroom, the kitchen, the laundry room, the garage, the beach, in the pool at night. But I don't really want a sex scene on page one. I need my characters to commit emotionally before just jumping into bed. Somewhere I have to believe that this is something special for both of them. They may not recognize they're falling love, but I NEED to.

A friend of mine has her first erotica coming out in August, "Raina's Fanatsy". I've read the whole thing twice now. (Isn't being a CP a grand thing?) The sex between the main characters is fantastic. It shows the depth of the characters emotions. It's integral to the story, which has a very strong non-erotica plot. I couldn't quit turning the pages.

Uhm, Joan, can I borrow that when you're done?


Joan said...

Huh? What, Suz?

Oh,sorry....been in my happy place. LOL.

Sure, you can read it. Just drive right over those bridges here to Louisville. Oh, dang. You can't either. It is worth the money. Great book!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you brought this up because I know exactly what it feels like to be embarrassed to read these--in public or otherwise. :)

I do skip them a lot because a lot of the time I'm not feeling the buildup, I'm not feeling they are really attracted to each other. Furthermore, I don't need tab A in slot B description because it doesn't move the story forward for me.

However, if I'm really caught up in the story and the love scene changes the relationship because of how it unfolds (e.g.,, she takes control for the first time; he overcomes his fear of leaving; because of his tenderness she overcomes her fear of intimacy, etc.)then I get into it and it works for me. Though I still wouldn't read it in public. Because when I get that "funny feeling" I start blushing like crazy--Yes even 50 somethings still blush.

As for writing love scenes, yeah I do it. It took me a good year to allow myself to do it. But even those, I write in the late hours of night or early morning hours when no one will walk in on me. Why? Because those "funny feelings" I want to keep all to myself and enjoy them without interruption. :)

Hrdwrkdmom said...

I read every moment I can, at break and lunch at work, while waiting in line at the drive through bank, etc. I don't read the sex scenes at work because it is quite likely someone would be reading over my shoulder and that would make me blush (I agree Maggie, 50 something women can and do blush-profusely)at home however, I read the sex scenes unless my son happens to be leaning over my shoulder at the time. I do agree with some others that if it doesn't flow in with the story I skim over it until we pick up with the story again. If it seems it is just stuck in there so there is a sex scene in the book then I don't see the point in wasting precious reading time in reading it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie! Nice to see you here! Sounds like you and I are soul sisters on this one. We can blush while Joan and Suz pass their naughty book back and forth IN PUBLIC (eek!). ;-)

Joan, welcome back. Sounds like you didn't even mind your layovers, thanks to Ms. Day's story! I have to get her new single title. It's been doing incredibly well and she's a really super person.

Suz, you're really sacrificing alot for your CP, huh? snort!

hrdwkdmom, I agree, we are all way too busy to read something that doesn't work for us! Too many books, too little time, KWIM? I'm afraid I tend to skim read a lot--if I'm not totally captured by the story and the writing, I don't finish.

Thanks everyone for writing in and helping me with my little, er, blushing problem. I'm going to try to read the next one straight through--and it sounds like it will have to be Ms. Jeffrey's book! :-)

Alyssa Day said...

Thank you Joan!! And Kirsten! I love you all!! And here's one for you - do you ever find it a little uncomfortable to WRITE the scenes? I mean, I confess to locking my door when my characters are becoming intimate, because nothing breaks the mood like one of the kidlets popping in to ask me about homework. Sigh.

Anna Campbell said...

Alyssa, the kids asking questions would definitely break the mood! Actually the naughty bits are places that I visit and revisit and polish and polish because they're so important and I never do them right first time (hmm, I hope I'm not sending you all into gales of laughter with double entendres. I'm talking serious writing business here, darn it!). I usually write them long and sort of floppy and then I go back and cut and cut and cut and intensify and intensify and intensify. A bit like reducing down a sauce so you get maximum flavor. Mind you, a bit like this post, I always find a lot of repetition that can go!

Joan said...


I LOVE the Atlantean series and in fact this past week when I was in Florida would gaze wistfully out at the ocean thinking...what if?


Can't wait till the next installment.