Barely Able to Write a Post About Not Writing About…You Know

A while back I talked about how my friend and first reader Yvonne saved my book by wondering what the heck two of my characters were so mad about. I knew what they were mad about, and my characters knew. But I hadn’t been—explicit about the reason. Because the reason was, uh, explicit.

I added the scene I hadn’t wanted to write, and all was well. Nothing to see here.

This baby polar bear is embarrassed FOR me.

I don’t want to go into the who and what too much, of course, but suffice it to say that I’m not comfortable with the S-E-X scene.

In the mystery community, there are books that are known for looking away in moments of romance, and also for keeping blood off the pages. They’re called cozy mysteries. You’d think in the days of Fifty Shades of Gray that no one would be interested in sexless stories. But cozy mysteries sell like freaking hotcakes. Also, I submit to you the entire genre of Amish Romance.

That’s a real thing.

Not all cozies are as platonic. I’ve been obsessively reading M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series because they are so charming and funny, but Hamish has needs, apparently. Her other series character, Agatha Raisin, does too. Oh, and Beaton’s not afraid to drop some word bombs, which you usually don’t see in your average cute-covered cozy.

See what I did there? I couldn’t even write about writing about sex scenes without letting the focus drift.

I’m a prude. There. I said it.

Set aside the fact that I think every scene in a book needs to earn its keep to be there. Set aside that sex scenes written in detail have a larger chance of being goofy and icky than any kind of sexy. There’s an award for worst sex scene for a reason. Set aside that despite all this, there ARE sexy scenes in The Black Hour. Set that all aside. Let me just say one thing: My parents wanted to read my book.

So if a sex scene is necessary, OK. But if it’s not? Cutting-room floor, no question. Or the camera looks away. Or the whole act is deemed by the characters to be a bad idea and called off.

Besides, even though my romance novel-writing sisters would disagree with me, sex thwarted in a story is a whole lot more interesting than anything too…explicit. And if you don’t agree with me, I’m sure there are a lot of other writers less shy than I am to help you out.

Author: Lori Rader-Day

Lori Rader-Day is the author of the mystery THE BLACK HOUR (Seventh Street Books, July 2014). She grew up in central Indiana, but now lives in Chicago with her husband and very spoiled dog.

23 Replies to “Barely Able to Write a Post About Not Writing About…You Know”

  1. I go both ways about this…

    (Oh, wait, that sounds wrong. Let me start again.)

    I am of two minds about this. I definitely agree that every scene has to be there for a reason, and I pretty emphatically don’t write romances (in fact, as I talked about here:, I’m much more interested in writing about marriages and other long-term relationships than about courtship — it’s after a couple gets together that things get really interesting), but I have no problem writing a sex scene if it serves a purpose.

    The reason my mysteries are pretty G-rated is that they’re narrated by the detective’s assistant (and husband), and he’s not the sort of person who would write explicitly about sex with his wife. I even use a row of asterisks at those moments, because I’m all about tradition. 🙂

  2. I won’t go into detail about how I feel about sex scenes because I will on Thursday, but your post cracked me up. I used to be a prude…I think being a mom and housewife has made me into a “dirty old woman”

  3. Great post, Lori. I agree with you that sex should be there for a reason–but the best romances deliver that. In any case, you and I have discussed our love of Agatha Raisin. I often think about that character and how brilliantly she is written. She is not immediately likable and yet, the reader must keep reading. I adore her.

  4. ha Lori! Good for you on writing this post! 🙂 I feel the same way, actually. Mainly because I used to think about my parents reading my books. And because I started my books when I was a lot younger. Also because I don’t like gratuitous scenes. But a lot of people expect them, that’s for sure!

  5. Great post, Lori! You’re worried about your parents reading your book? How about if you know your 27-year-old son is going to read it? I know he knows about sex, but I wonder if he knows that I know about sex?

  6. Good post. I don’t mind sex scenes – but I’m with you, they need to serve a purpose. I used to really NOT want to write them. Then I did a scene-writing workshop where it was one of the assignments. The instructor was astonished I’d never done it before; “It reads like you do this all the time.” I’ve not had the cause to write one for my procedurals (yet). And yes, sometimes sex thwarted is much more interesting.

  7. This is hilarious, Lori.

    I had a friend tell me they loved Chasing the Sun but felt weird reading the sex scene. The whole time I was thinking, “YOU feel awkward reading the sex scene?! Imagine what I’ll feel like when my father-in-law reads it!”

  8. I don’t come up with story ideas that would require sex scenes. At least, I haven’t lately. But, I bet I could write them — maybe? Way back when, my mom used to urge me to write bodice rippers because it would be easier to get published that way. 🙂

  9. I was reminded of a story about Barbara Cartland. In an interview, she said that several elder aunts would not talk to her because she had written romance books with sex. That was in the 1920s or the 1930s? I bet they are tame by today’s standards.

  10. This is exactly how I feel about sex and nudity in film and television. It’s why I initially was turned off to Game of Thrones. If the sex is there for shock and awe only, then it’s meaningless to the characters and therefore meaningless to me. I didn’t know folks felt similarly in the world of fiction. Go figs.

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