Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Writing about body parts (and yes, those parts)

I was meandering aroung the internet the other day and read a blog entry about love scenes in romances, and the words used to describe various body parts. The blogger was quoting another writer, and the part that got my attention was this: "The bottom line: a writer who can only be comfortable writing about sex by resorting to these kinds of suspect terms and images shouldn’t be writing about sex at all."

The "suspect terms" were things like "throbbing manhood" and others of that ilk. Now, I've certainly used "manhood", but I don't think I've ever described one as "throbbing," although who knows? Maybe I did. I try to stay away from anything "over the top" and silly, but I sure don't use clinical terms.

Therefore, this writer implies, I have no business writing consumation scenes.

First, I don't think it's anybody's job to tell me what I should and should not write, or how to write it. In a romance, physical intimacy is a part of the developing romance, so I'm going to have those scenes and I'm going to write them my way -- the same way I write the rest of the book. Using the specific, clinical names for body parts is not my style. Never has been. Never will be. I did try once, and the clinical terms stuck out like, well, fill in your own favorite euphemism here . It just didn't sound like my writing.

One reason they don't "sound right" to me is because I write historicals, and most often medievals. Did a medieval woman ever really think of her clitoris? Did she know it had a name (or, I suppose, if it even existed)? To be sure, my heroes, being warrior types, surely had all kinds of slang terms, but if I'm writing a tender love scene (and I tend to make the macho guys gentle in the bedchamber, to show that they're not completely self-centered), I don't want them using those terms, or even, frankly, thinking them. Unrealistic? Guilty as charged, m'lud.

However, I think the level of realism in a historical is very much part of a writer's voice. I do try to make my characters as three-dimensional and realistic as I can, but as for the rest, I'm writing a romance, not a historical novel, or a textbook. I want my tender love scenes, so I'll stick with what works for me, and what my readers have come to expect.

If that makes me "wrong," so be it. But in my mind, I'm doing what's right for me in terms of my stories, my characters and my "voice," and that's my bottom line.


Bernita said...

I'm with you.

Margaret Moore said...

Thanks, Bernita!