Rebecca Coleman on the Perils of Writing a Love Scene Plus COOKIES
My dear readers, thus far you have joined my guests and me for Coffee and Cocktails. Well, today we have something new for you: Cookies! Of course, this is decidedly unfair as I am still quite a distance from my weight-loss goal, but I think it's good to shock the metabolism occasionally with a splurge! Right? Good, I'm glad you're coming along with me on that. My guest today has become a dear friend just by virtue of her being so wonderfully kind and providing guidance from her wisdom and experience. So don't skip ahead to the recipe—this blog post is great! I have had this exact problem and find myself texting my daughters asking them what they and their friends call various, um, body parts.... (They have been less than helpful.) It is my honour to introduce the amazing author Rebecca Coleman. I bet she is good cook, too!
The Perils of Writing a Love Scene
by Rebecca Coleman
"Crotch?" puzzled one of my friends, when I griped about this on Facebook. "It sounds like something my mother would say. 'Honey, are those pants too tight in the crotch?'"
It's a perilous business, trying to evoke lust in readers, when what is hot to one can be ridiculous to another. As my Facebook crotch discussion evolved, my friends happily revealed their most-hated words and phrases in love scenes. "Member" was a big one (ha! We hope). "Her sex" was another. And scientific studies have shown that women loathe the word "moist." How can a writer play it safe?
My muse has yet to tell me. Several years ago I proudly submitted the beginning of my titillating new manuscript to an online writing workshop-- a story about a 16-year-old boy caught in a secret affair with a dangerous forty-something teacher. This book, The Kingdom of Childhood, would eventually be published to a good amount of fanfare and receive a nod from Library Journal as one of the "Best Books of 2011." But as a novice writer then, I sat in front of my computer and eagerly waited for feedback. At last an email came in, from a concerned man in Australia: "I don't know if you are aware of this, but the teacher's behavior in your story is illegal. You will want to make the boy at least 18."
Another time, I wrote a rather lurid love scene with two characters of legal age, and I did everything right-- no crotches, no members, no moistness. Everything was going well until my daughter made a birthday card for a baby using a discarded printout from my manuscript, and we caught an eight-year-old wandering around at the party reading the back of the card with a slack-jawed expression on her face. I'm still repenting for that one.
My rule of thumb is simple: never use a term for the naughty bits beyond "him," "her," or variations on those pronouns. The reader will get it, they'll be immersed in the scene, and you'll never find yourself weighing the goofiness of "member" versus "manhood." Above all, your reader must never, ever stop, mark the page with her finger, and think, "That sounds like something my mother would say."
While you mull it over, enjoy a cookie.
REBECCA'S MUSE-SUMMONING CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or more, because you can never have too much chocolate)
In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugars, egg and vanilla; mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to the sugar mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Divide by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet, and bake at 350 for 8-11 minutes (depending on how crisp you like them). Enjoy, or, if you are especially fearless, enjoy the cookie dough raw.
Rebecca is the author of The Kingdom of Childhood, an ABNA 2010 semifinalist. She received her B.A. in English literature from the University of Maryland at College Park and speaks to writers' groups on the subjects of creative writing and publishing. A native New Yorker, she now lives and works near Washington, D.C. Visit her at www.RebeccaColeman.net.