Years ago, I was in a writer’s group with my dad. We all wrote in different genres; I was the only romance writer at the time.
I remember hearing a successful author one time bemoan the fact that his mom read one of his books that contained a sex scene. He was embarrassed and awkward about it. Huh, I remember thinking. At least she didn’t have to read it with you in the room, an hour after it came of the printer! There’s nothing like having your dad sitting across the chips and salsa at writer’s group reading your first sex scene. Not only that, this was my first book (which thankfully disappeared in one of my computer upgrades over the years).
I’d been a big fan of Judith McNaught at the time who wrote male characters who were “damaged” (i.e., assholes) and female characters who were “pure” and way too understanding. She had a few sex scenes that were…uncomfortable. Needless to say, I followed suit in my characters’ first scene. And MY DAD HAD TO READ IT! GAH!
A few years ago, I had a friend start reading my books. She’d never read romance before and she loved them. But she couldn’t get away from the fact that she knew me. Reading sex scenes I’d written made her feel like she was peaking in my diary, apparently. I tried to explain that they weren’t my scenes. Yes, I wrote them, but I certainly didn’t replicate experiences from my own life.
It’s sometimes hard to explain to a non-writer how these people (characters) live in your head and you try to massage
their story, but ultimately (at least for me), their experiences are entirely theirs. I don’t feel like I create the characters so much as I discover them. As I write their story, if I’m doing a good job, they begin to trust me and share more about themselves.
I know that sounds like I’m channeling the dead or something equally paranormal, but it’s the only way I can explain it. It’s the only thing that explains to me how something that I wrote in chapter three with no plan for that something to become a major plot point suddenly turns up in chapter eighteen with major significance. Yes, I plan my story, the timeline, the progression of conflicts and challenges, the character arcs, but only loosely. It’s the characters who ultimately flesh it out and make it real. I just get to put the words on paper.
So, if you know the person who wrote that spicy scene you’ve reread three times, don’t worry that you’re some sort of voyeur. Chances are, the writer was just as surprised by the turn of events as you!
Great, all I need is one more reason to procrastinate! As if Instagram wasn't enough...