ACA: Assembly of Christian Authors
Alright I've noticed that there are a lot of Christian Authors on this site, so I had the idea of making an assembly where Christian Writers can come and talk about their stories and their faith. Enjoy!
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Clever Lass

I'll try to keep this topic family-friendly, but I'd love some discussion because it's something I deal with in almost all of my stories. I write love stories, almost exclusively. I've written them in a wide variety of fandoms, and often with non-canonical pairings (no slash, though), but almost all of my stories feature a man and a woman falling in love with each other.

For the record, I have never and will never write a "love scene" between people who aren't married to each other... but in today's world, that standard sometimes calls for some pretty imaginative plot-twisting to keep it! Especially in some fandoms.

So... how does a believer portray the physical romance without either drawing a curtain on the marriage bed or making it all smutty? I do believe it's healthy for people to read (to some extent) about the physical joy that a husband and wife can find in each other... but on the other hand, I am not comfortable writing out every throbbing detail. In my stories, I've tried to aim for "hot but tasteful," in which there's plenty of snuggling, some innuendo, and then the scene gets blurred-out until after the "act" is finished.

So what do others do? If you're a romance writer, how do you handle the "love scene" part of a story? Do you give details? Or just close the bedroom door, as it were? How do you feel about reading stories that handle it differently?


6/12/2012 #1
The Righterzpen

Well, I know this is a bran-spankin new thread. I guess I just happened to be on when it was first posted; so I suppose I'll take a stab at it. Or attempt? LOL

Well, in both stories I wrote; which had references to "love scenes" in them, I approached it from a spiritual vanish point. A place of being grateful to God and "described" what was happening in the characters' minds and hearts, as opposed to what they were actually doing. (One scene was a couple and the other was a single person's reflection of "figuring it out" alone.)

It was a hard one and I tossed around in my head how to write it. I didn't want it to be too descrip; but I didn't want to leave it out either. That aspect of life is important and I wanted people who were generally used to "something else" to see it from a different perspective. To some people, it may have turned out hokey because some of the description entailed quite a bit of symbolic language. (i.e being thrown into a river and carried away into the sea) But I can't say I disliked the portrail either. I'm in the process of doing rewrites on the one story and when I get to that part, I'm not sure if I'm going to be doing some rewrites there too? I guess I'll just see as the "new" story unfolds what I think needs to be done.

For the people who liked the over all story, but maybe didn't want to read "that" in any format; I'd written it in italic. And I think it worked because there was no talking in the scene; just the thoughts in the mind of the character telling the story and descriptions of the emotions coming from the other. When the scene was over, the script went back to "regular" from the italic. So thus a reader could see on the page where it started and where it ended. Thus giving them the opertunity to skip it if they wanted.

So there's my two cents - for what it's worth.

6/12/2012 #2
Clever Lass

I'd like to see what you're talking about, but I want to keep this thread as G-rated as possible. What do you think of posting a link to what you're talking about? (Moderators, please feel free to edit or delete as you see fit! I'm very new here and don't want to cause problems or step on toes!)

Here's an example of my style from a Phantom of the Opera story I wrote: (direct link to the chapter in question). My stories tend to be dialogue-heavy, so they talk as they get undressed for each other, and then I just sort of backed out of the room (figuratively speaking).

Here's another from a Buffy the Vampire Slayer story: This was a scene written 8 years ago when I wasn't nearly as good a writer, so I just sort of skated quickly over it here.

In my novel Letters to Erik the description of the consummation has words like "sated" and "shattered" but that's about as graphic as it gets.

Righterzpen, I'd like to see your examples, if you wouldn't mind linking to it. I guess I'm trying to get a general idea of what other Christ-followers consider to be an acceptable level of detail in a love scene. I do like the idea of setting it off with italics, but I don't know if that would work with my style. I often feature some character development and/or emotional healing along with the coitus, so I'm not sure it can be skipped!

One thing that keeps me from getting too graphic is remembering the young ages of many of the readers on here. I had a wedding-night scene all written out for my current "Pirates of the Caribbean" story, and then I got a series of reviews from a reader whose bio page says she is 14. Eeeek! Time to edit some more! LOL.

6/13/2012 #3
The Righterzpen

Clever Lass

I'll have to PM you and just send the segment that way, because I'm in the process of doing some rewrites on the story and it'll be a while before I get "back" to that part. So there's no link to (one of these "scenes") as of yet. The other is a descriptor of someone's memory. and I can post that link once I go find it in the story. LOL

My stories too tend to have a lot of healing in the character's development. A lot of times though it's an over all healing of the whole person and their attittudes and understandings of their bodies and what they can feel and experiance is part of the healing of the whole person. Our relationships in the outside world, families and intimate relationships don't develop in seperate spheres. The grace of God affects our entire lives, so all these things grow and change in us at greater or lesser paces depending on experiances and where (or if) we feel kind of stuck somewhere.

So that being said, my stories tend to have a lot of tragic themes in them and the story it's-self is about the person's developing of their relationship to God and how He changes their understanding of themselves, and their connection to Him and the world around them.

As far as younger readers. That is a tough one. I'd done the first posting on one story and after getting some feed back from some of the people who'd put it on their favorites; I found out that one girl was 12. Yikes - yeah! She said though that she loved the way I wrote the "love scene" because it made her think of it in a different way. And that's what it was meant to do and so I left it "unedited" because it served the point I was trying to get across.

So, I'll read your postings here and send you a PM

6/13/2012 #4
ElvishKiwis Venerated Ancestor

At the risk of being the Prude of the forum, I would like to suggest that for a Christian writer, not even a hint to what takes place in the privacy of the master bedroom should be the standard.

I guess I have to defend that standard now... *grimaces*

We live in an age where public foreplay and soft p*** are so normal that they are put in advertisements screened during children's TV time. People do them on beaches and in public parks, they are displayed on billboards and many churchgoers regularly watch them for entertainment.

We need to ask the question How would we feel if Yeshua were walking or sitting beside us while we were in such places or activities? The fact of the matter is that he IS. His spirit is indwelling us and God is omni-present (a fancy theological work for 'everywhere'!) And if that doesn't make us extremely uneasy

I am a married woman, but I have to tell you I don't talk to ANYONE about what goes on between my husband and I when we are alone. Nor would I ever want someone observing us while undressing or snuggling, thinking we were alone. So why would I not give my characters the same kind of respect that I would wish for myself?

We have no idea who might be reading our novels and what level of temptation to lust will be a stumbling block to cause them to sin in their minds. Personally, since I was shown p*** as a pubescent I have had a real struggle with lust and even reading about the 'racing-heart' type glances are enough description to make me feel very uncomfortable as a Christian and far too fascinated for my own good. This is one reason why I love Jane Austen's writing. I sometimes wish she would give us a little hint of what exactly Darcy said to Elizabeth to convince her of his feelings, or how Mr Knightly responded to Emma's admitting that his feelings were reciprocated, but to tell you the truth, I am content to enjoy her assurance that they were each "the happiest of men" and her satirical little postscripts about the nature of the marriage that ensued (usually financial and relating to extended family), are more than enough for my imagination.

The closest I get to mentioning the copulation of my characters is the simple obvious fact of their having children. That is sufficient I believe. If any of them have character development issues that need resolving I believe conversation is a better way to resolve them than some hyper-sensual experience in the marriage bed.

It has taken me years of discipline to get my innocence back, I used to seek out such writing as you are describing to feed my addiction in my teens (despite the shame and frustration it caused me), until I understood how radically God wants us to be in our avoidance of sin:

"If your left eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better to enter heaven with one eye than for your whole body to burn in hell..."

Interesting: I wondered how much of this discussion would be edited out by the FF censorship filters. It seems that only the word for pictures of nude people is deemed too much at this point. I know in the past if I have written the word 'hard' followed by the word 'on' regardless of context (usually 'tough on' would be synonomonous!), I get double asterixes. It is helpful to know these things.

7/2/2012 . Edited 7/3/2012 #5
Clever Lass

I respect your opinion, and considering your experiences I can certainly see why that would be your standard. However, not even Song of Songs in the Bible lives up to it--that book is fairly graphic about some of the things that go on between a husband and wife. Poetic, but graphic. And no, it's not just allegorical! :)

I feel that one of the places where the church fails its members is being too hush-hush about what goes on in a married couple's bedroom. My experience is that so many people refuse to even mention it that it leaves a Christian with absolutely nowhere to turn when there are problems. If I hadn't found an online message board whose focus is on sex for married Christians, my husband and I would probably be divorced right now. When there are marriage problems, they find their way into the bedroom, and when there are bedroom problems, they spill out into the entire marriage. And with sex being such an important part of marriage, you can't solve the marriage problems and not address the bedroom ones. However, because so many Christians are uncomfortable talking about it, it leaves others with nowhere to go, and sometimes with even a feeling of guilt over wanting to talk about it, or even for having problems in the first place! Pardon my vehemence here, but just as your experiences have colored your perceptions, so have mine colored mine.

One of my friends from that board had been sexually abused, and had never understood that sex is supposed to be fun and pleasurable for both husband and wife, until she read a novel that portrayed it. (I have read that same book, and it was quite tastefully written and not at all graphic; the author never told what the couple were actually doing at any given moment, but it was clear that they were both enjoying it.) She still says that that book was what started her on the road towards healing. God can use even love scenes in a book to work healing for some people, even if they cause others to stumble. That's why I say it's really up to the individual.

There needs to be more discussion of healthy, Christian, married sex, to offset the nasty, coercive, and perverted sex that has pervaded our society. It has robbed us of the true meaning of sex: physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy between a husband and wife. If Christians are afraid to talk about it, then the only input that anyone gets about sex is from the world and its perversions. How is that a good thing? If no one teaches them what sex should be like, then the default setting is the way the world teaches them it is like. That's one thing that I try to (gently) do in my fics, because I write stories about people being redeemed by love. On the surface, it's the love of another person that redeems them, but there's always a deeper aspect of it as well.

I know some will disagree with me about the importance of marriage, and I don't mind being disagreed-with. :) However, my point of view is that if the characters are married, then there is no sin in what they do. Whether or not someone is sinning by reading about is between them and God. I can tell you that I, personally, can read a tasteful description of a love scene between a husband and wife, and not be sinning... and if Yeshua were sitting beside me while I did it, well, that would be perfectly fine. I understand that other people, with different experiences, may have different convictions from the Holy Spirit, and that's perfectly fine, too. I wouldn't want to cause them to stumble, which is why I posted the question in the first place.

I see what you're saying about who might be reading our stories; however, one person can't take on the job of being the conscience of every reader on FFN. One person can't be the Holy Spirit for others; they need to figure out for themselves, between them and God, where their limits should be. Something else to consider is that the vast majority of readers here are not Christians, but people who have fully been brainwashed into the perversions of worldly sex. I take reasonable precautions in my writing: nothing graphic, and a fade-to-black when it comes to the act itself, and post a warning at the top asking the readers to be responsible and show good judgment about whether to read it or not. However, if the story calls for it, I'm not going to pretend the act didn't happen, nor do I think I should. Like I said, it's up to the individual. I want to make this clear: I have a strong respect for your opinion and your standards. I would not want to cause any problems here, especially since I've just met you and you welcomed me so warmly. I hope that my respectful disagreement with you does not cause any division between us.

7/2/2012 #6

While I one hundred percent see where Eva is coming from, I find myself tending to agree with Clever Lass in most aspects. The fact of the matter is that sex and sins of lust happen, and ignoring it in the church and in our own lives only causes problems. I advocate abstinence before marriage, but telling a hormonal teenager "Don't" and then leaving it at that is a ridiculously naive approach to the problem. Teens (younger and younger these days) have questions, and they want answers, and they are going to find answers one way or the other. The church should be able to step up and provide them, not step cautiously around them, and not give the same stale, blanket answer ("Abstinence is Biblical") over and over again. It's like when you asked your parents why you couldn't do something, and the only reply was "Because I said so". That didn't answer your question, and in many cases, it probably didn't stop you from doing what they told you not to, if not at the moment, then at a later date. When you're faced with temptation and you try to remember why you shouldn't, "Because I said so" isn't always enough. I know "Because the Bible says so" should be enough, but we're human and it's not. Pretending like it is, as I said before, is naive. So the question is how does all of that overflow into literature? It's a hard question, and that's where I find myself leaning back towards Eva's opinion. Truly, we should strive not to be stumbling blocks to our fellow humans. On the other hand, I've never thought about it from your perspective, Clever Lass, and I concede an excellent point. It's tricky, I think, and that's again where I agree with you: that it's a question of the individual and their convictions. But, on the other other hand, maybe it's not so simple. I think this is a great topic for us to be discussing in this forum, where we can respect each other's opinions and really try to see it from all angles.

7/2/2012 #7
The Righterzpen

While, I being one of the original responders on this topic and it being silent a while - interesting. I'm glad to see it get going. Captain Fantastic and Clever Lass have good points. It does need to be discussed. And how we portray something like this in literary form; we are absolutely accountable to God for.

On the other hand though; Eva I feel your pain. I have been around people my entire life who've been locked in the grip of addictions; alcohol, drugs, relationships, pornagraphy, gambling, homosexuality. It's a long road out. There's lots of twists and turns and an incredible amount of pain. An absolutely incredible amount of pain! As an i*** survivor myself. I know that, been there done that! Where the healing process begins for any of us though is in bringing it out into the open and talking about it. A common phrase I've heard in 12 step recovery programs is "Your only as sick as your secrets". And my life experiance has told me absolutely that that's true. "Came, came to, came to believe" "Came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity" It was no secret to me that the world inside my head was insane and I came to the conviction pretty quickly that if I was ever going to get out of that insanity; only God could do the restoration. Of course it never came overnight and the issues of the heart are never as simple as just "don't do it". There is a process involved. A process of learning to trust God and learning to trust the people He's put in our lives to help us get through stuff.

I'll dare to step out on a limb here and tell a little bit about my recovery process for anyone who may be reading this, have come across it and may be conforted simply by the fact that they are not alone. In the words of Michael Card "The great need of us all, a true mentor, a Paul, who has traveled the road that's before us. He has made good the pledge to take the light on ahead. We will follow his footsteps before us" (Song - Bearers of the Light by Michael Card)

Like Captain Fantastic had eluded to with teenagers; I'd come to a point in my recovery. What is this? This love / sex thing? I was about 18 (I'm 41 now) and sitting in 12 step i*** survivor recovery groups and listening to a few women who were in their 50's talking about the difference between their abuse experiances and loving supportive husbands who they trusted. At that point I couldn't make the connection to a positive "romantic experiance" because I'd never had one; but I did pick out that a key element in their relationship was trust. So I went on my way, asking myself - well who do I turst? The only person I could come up with at the time was Jesus. I trusted Jesus, I could say I trusted Jesus. I felt like I did at least. Than one night, I went to sleep and I had this really strange dream - that had who else in it - but Jesus. Well, when I finally started to wake up and realized what was going on. I felt so much shame that it took me almost 10 years to tell anyone. The first time I talked about it was to a therapist in a Christian counseling center. It took me years to work through all this; but in the end I'd come to the conclusion that I did make the right connection. It really was about trust. My whole spiritual walk was about learning to trust in God. And looking back now, I can see where learning that trust kept me from shooting myself for fear of getting captured during the Gulf war. It kept me from jumping off a bridge when I couldn't take the nightmares any more. It kept me from fearing death during the birth of my son when my blood pressure and heart rate were so high I couldn't breathe. And it kept me from fearing what was going to happen to my son when they loaded me into the chopper after the car accident and I didn't think I was going to make it to the hospital.

In the end, I've learned that I'm loved. I'm cared for and have been blessed beyond anything I could ever imagine, even despite my very real hardships. So to tie this into this forum - regardless of what I'm writing - I want it to reflect the grace of the God I know can heal any wound!

(And all God's people said - Amen!)

7/3/2012 #8
ElvishKiwis Venerated Ancestor

I spent about two hours last night writing a lovely long post on this topic and then, when I went to post it, I found I had no internet. I wasn't too phased as FF has improved in so many ways I was confident that it would have saved it somewhere for me, but after finally figuring out that it was the modem, not my new computer, I have somehow lost it anyway :( I think it must have been all those 'back' arrows I was pushing to try and get my post up so I could save it. My old computwer would have allowed it, but this one just kept repeating the 'page unavailable screen.

Anyway, I do not not have time to repeat it all unfortunately, but the gist was that I am not offended in the slightest Clev, so please don't be worried about that. Your argument was very convincing and made me wonder if perhaps I am unusual in this particular type of sin... Although I find that hard to believe in the times we live in -where our innocence is assulted on every side...

Could it be that it is only when we try to raise the standard of holiness to the 'not even a hint' level that it becomes a problem? I guess I wouldn't have thought much of reading about discrete marital intimacy in my teens when I was troubled with so much heavier temptations, but now that my relationship with my precious holy pure saviour and our Father has become such an important part of my life I guess my own immorality moniter is turned up higher.

Anyway Thankyou so much Righter for sharing part of your own painful journey with us. There is something very encouraging and hope-filled about the testimony of God's work in a spiritual siblings life. *hugs*

I need to clarify my original post on this topic. I am not against discussing sex in the right context or even writing about it in a form which will be helpful to those who need to know stuff. I was just against the use of it in our 'entertainment writing'. I have (and fully intend to do more in the future), written articles about things which singles can avoid or do which can prevent marital problems later in life, some people here have even read those articles and found them helpful. I also started to think of all the exceptions to my theory about the inappropriateness of sexual content in novel writing and waxed lyrical for a bit on how wonderful Francine Rivers Redeeming Love is and how it ministered to my still vulnerable heart. I had to conclude that that particular book, was never written to be 'entertainment'. Francine regards it as her act of re-dedication to God. Inspired by him and saturated in scripture and prayer. She wrote of a time following her conversion when she lost the ability to write for several years but then God gave her that story and the gift came back but the significant difference was that God and his truths were now the driving force behind all her writing.

I cannot attribute my healing to a novel as it was God's word and his great and precious promises which really brought me healing, deliverance from slavery to habitual sins and freedom from shame about the past. However I admit that God can use the medium of fiction in powerful ways. When one reads a novel they are often more able to accept and consider legitimate theories and behaviors which they would reject outright if they encountered them in a speech or non-fiction article. This makes novels very dangerous in the wrong hands, but also a very powerful medium to bring God glory if we use it wisely and prayerfully.

I think it is the awareness that a readership is a huge group which covers people from every age group and life circumstance which would hold me back from putting even the hint of a sexual act in my stories. I my lowest periods it took only a sentence describing the heightened senses of sexual attraction (racing heart at the hero's touch, hot flushes, and longing hopes that he would not stop), to plunge me back into the cycle of lust addiction. There is no way I want anything I write to do that to anyone else.

Anyway, I have a Birthday cake to decorate so I will leave it at that for now. Au Revoir *skips off to the forum kitchen with her laptop set back on the pictures of the Arc de Triumph*

7/3/2012 #9
Clever Lass

So sorry to hear about your computer woes, Venerated. Isn't that frustrating, when you spend a lot of time writing something and end up losing it all? I once left an entire fandom here because in the course of uploading a 50-page story we had a power failure and accidentally deleted the whole thing!

Being drawn toward lust is hardly unusual, I can tell you. One thing you said made me pause, though: you mentioned when people "raise the standard of holiness to the 'not even a hint' level..." and then went on to say, "our Father has become such an important part of my life I guess my own immorality moniter is turned up higher."

That made me stop right there because it sounds as if you're still equating sexuality with sin on some levels. I can understand calling it immoral if someone is reading a story about people having casual sex, or polyamorous sex, or some such thing. But if the couple you're reading about is committed, monogamous, and married, then why is it necessarily immoral? God is glorified by married couples enjoying each other's bodies. If there's some amorous activity in a story, and it makes me think of my husband in that way, that's not a bad thing! :) The church has a tradition of thinking that sex automatically = sin, but it seems as if hardly anyone does any teaching about when it's not sin. Sex in a piece of fiction does not automatically equal immorality, any more than "not even a hint" of it equals holiness. I see that as a faulty comparison, because as Francine Rivers shows us, sex in a piece of fiction can be a very godly thing to portray. It is possible. And I've seen plenty of "not even a hint" types of stories that I would certainly not call holy! :)

Now, if it causes you to sin, that's different. That's a boundary you have to set for yourself, and it sounds as if VeneratedAncestor has done this. That's great, and I respect her for doing so! This is why I say it's up to the individual: what is a stumbling block for some is no big deal for others, and they have to be aware of their own limits but not impose them on anyone else.

For example: my husband and I have a very dear friend who used to be an alcoholic. Now, he does not drink any alcohol at all, ever. He is aware that drinking is a stumbling block for him, so he refuses it. We are not as strict with our own drinking; we might have one drink a month, if that, but we do sometimes have a drink. Our friend has never tried to tell us that no Christian should ever drink alcohol, but he has told us that HE shouldn't drink alcohol. I'm starting to think that reading love scenes in a romantic story may follow the same principle.

Sexual abuse is rampant in our society, and it is tragic. God can heal any wound, but we have to remember that He isn't limited to just using what we tell him is okay to use. He can use pamphlets, sermons, prayer, novels, even fortune cookies. And yes, even fanfiction. :) Healing isn't always comfortable, especially when He takes us out of our comfort zone to do it.

I have read Francine Rivers' Redeeming Love, and one of the things I loved most about that book was the fact that she didn't sugar-coat anything. She did not shy away from sensitive topics that most churchgoers politely pretend don't exist. She tackled it head-on, dealt with it, and brought forth healing and redemption from it. Her other book The Scarlet Thread, did the same thing, only dealing with adultery--but once again, she didn't shy away from dealing with it, and once again showed healing and redemption coming out of it. I think that fiction--novels or even fanfiction!--can sometimes be more healing than the best self-help book in the world. As VeneratedAncestor said, they can be a powerful tool for either good or bad.

However, someone who either has not been sexually abused, or who has completely healed from their abuse, may be in the same position as someone who has the freedom to have an alcoholic drink from time to time. They may have a freedom to read more suggestive material than someone who has been abused or who has not yet been completely healed from their abuse. And here again, I hope no one takes offense at this--I am NOT AT ALL making light of sexual abuse of any kind, NOR am I saying that if someone is sensitive to sexually suggestive material it means they're not healed yet! I'll leave that between them and the Lord, but like I said before, our views are colored by our experiences. Some people may have freedom in an area where others have to set a boundary.

I really appreciate this discussion, folks! Thank you!

7/3/2012 #10
Clever Lass

Righterzpen, I also wanted to say what an amazing story of healing yours is! Very touching. I really thank you for sharing your story here.

7/3/2012 #11
ElvishKiwis Venerated Ancestor

No, Thank YOU Clev.

I guess there is a part of me that has never really completely healed in this area. Kind of like a scar. I was thinking of the alcoholic analogy too.

BTW please call me EVA. Everyone else does and Elvishkiwi's Vererated Ancestor is such cumbersome name to type.

7/4/2012 #12
Clever Lass

Eva, then. A much shorter mouthful, that! :)

I've been thinking about this discussion for a couple of days now, and talking it over with my husband, who is a very godly man and whose opinion I respect. So bear with me if this response gets lengthy. I do have a problem with verbosity in general.

A good pastor-friend once told me that he thinks much of society is actually set up to abuse women sexually. He's a marriage counselor, and he says that a lot of women who have never experienced any sexual abuse of any kind sometimes still have the symptoms and wounds from it. It comes from how sexualized our society is. On the one hand, men are told to respect women, but on the other hand, they're also expected to watch p***, buy cars from adverts with scantily-clad blondes draped over them, "score" before they even finish school, and engage in locker-room talk with their buddies that victimizes women and reduces them to a series of body parts. And if they don't, then their so-called "masculinity" is challenged.

And women are taught nearly from the cradle that their only purpose is to please men. Teen girls' magazines are all about how to get a boyfriend, and they're filled with fashions that show off the body and articles about sexual matters (even magazines aimed at younger teens!). Men's magazines tend to be about interesting things: cars, sports, model trains. Women's magazines tend to be about men, either directly or indirectly.

In such a society, even if a girl or woman never has anyone actively abuse her on a sexual level, she has her whole environment passively abusing her. If that makes sense. Again, not to make light of actual, genuine abuse, but in a way it's all related because the men who abuse are produced by the society that passively allows, if not encourages it.

So how does this relate to writing, especially writing "love scenes"? Madeleine L'Engle once said something about how she doesn't write "Christian" novels, but she wrote novels as a Christian; Christ permeated her whole being, her entire worldview, and that came across in her writing. And because she didn't limit herself to writing just "Christian" stuff, she had a much broader audience than someone who did. Tolkein: same thing.

I guess I view fanfiction and novel-writing the same way, as a very subtle sort of ministry, because I write mostly redemptive fiction. Not overtly Christian, but containing principles of grace, forgiveness, and love. The romance I write is another tool of ministry for me. Because I finally have a healthy marriage (it wasn't always), I'm able to write about that and show what a marriage is like when it contains grace, forgiveness, and love rather than just worldly selfishness. Showing, or at least hinting, at a healthy and generous sex life for the couple is a part of that, because I don't think sex can--or should--be treated separately from marriage, any more than a healthy and generous marriage can or should be separate from sex. Sex is an indispensable and inextricable part of marriage, and that's pretty much how I treat it in fiction. (My pastor-friend always says that "For the Christian, marriage without sex is just as much of a sin as sex without marriage!" (1 Cor 7).)

So that's why I disagree with the "not even a hint" attitude about sex in fiction; however, I completely understand and respect the boundaries that other people have drawn for themselves, which is why I sometimes post a warning beforehand so they have the option to skip it if they want to.

Eva and Righterzpen, thank you both for showing me that perhaps I need to have a little more sensitivity toward my readers in this area. You have both shown me that perhaps I should be more vigilant and diligent about posting the warnings so that people know what to avoid if they have a personal need to avoid it. I don't think my method of writing love scenes ought to change, because so far the readers have given me pretty much the responses I was looking for, which tells me that what I'm doing is working. "Not gratuitous, but full of gratitude" was a remark I particularly liked. :) But I will definitely take more pains to label things beforehand, and I thank you for gently showing me its necessity.

7/5/2012 . Edited 7/5/2012 #13
As a Christian writer who has dealt with this issue, I'll put my two cents in. Smut is p***, p*** is sinful. Therefore, no smut. Sorry, kiddos, but if you're writing it, you're promoting sin. If you're reading it, that's just as bad. But the original question was how to write romance without being smutty, correct? Let me give you a clue: once you get your head into the zone, it's easy. Don't look at it by today's standards. In this modern society, sex is seen as a normal and acceptable part of a developing relationship, and it's even encouraged. In fact, if you're of a certain age and you haven't had sex, a lot of qeople think that there's something wrong with you. That's plain, outright immoral, and if your letting any of that affect yourself and your decisions in life or in writing, you should learn to make your decisions based on what God expects from you, not what people expect from you. If you want to imply sex happened, fine. But don't tell us all about it. That's not necessary at all. If you want to imply that it happened between a married couple, that's great. It's realistic. If you want to imply that it happened between a not-married couple, that's okay, as long as you don't make it seem right or okay. Imply, outright state that sex happened, have people talk about it, but don't write smut, no matter how mild or non-graphic it is. Some people will say, "Ah! But what about Song of Solomon! That's pretty graphic, don'tcha think?" I've read SofS before, and I read it again just to be sure, and let me tell you something: it talks about love between a man and woman, husband and wife. It mentions kissing, and yeah, it mentions sex, but it doesn't graphically describe sex. It implies sex between husband and wife, which is a perfectly ok thing to do. The Bible is not prudish. Sex happens. Example. The book "Christy" by Catherine Marshall is a gorgeous romance and tale of the spiritual journey of a 19-year-old girl, and is probably one of the best Christian works ever written. Ever. And it was published in 1967. And you know what? It discusses sex. There's a wedding scene, and after this scene, the couple go upstairs to have their wedding night while the guests have a party downstairs. Two main characters, Christy and Doctor MacNeill, discuss sex, mostly because Christy, a Christian city girl, is surprised that the newlyweds are having sex in the roof of a barn (which can clearly be heard downstairs , and MacNeill, a non-Christian mountain man, says this: "Here in the mountains, folks see sex for pleasure and for procreation. They're right. Leave out either one, and you're in trouble." You don't have to be prudish about sex. Don't pretend ot doesn't happen. But the sexy details, or even blurred overview, of what happens in the act is not necessary to the plot and not safe for writing. Portray married sex in a positive light, but keep it behind the curtain, not onstage.
11/17/2015 #14
ElvishKiwis Venerated Ancestor

I like that summary Lady- Knight, and thanks for reminding me of this excellent discussion. I had forgotten all about this thread and I am glad it is still useful to someone.

11/18/2015 #15
Clever Lass

Just wanted to toss in a quick comment about Lady-Knight Writer's assertion that Song of Solomon doesn't graphically describe sex. Well, it's not graphic like p***, and it is poetic and euphemistic... but it's a bit eye-opening to know that "feet" was a euphemism for male g***, and "navel" was a euphemism for female g***. With that in mind, and with the lovers starting at the top and going down (as it were), it *is* possible to get a pretty clear visual idea of what they're doing together. No, it's not a graphic description of sex by modern standards, but by the standards of the day, it kind of was.

Oh, and LKW, thank you for reminding me about _Christy_! I had forgotten about that book, and you're right, it's wonderful! I'm going to have to find a copy in the library or something--I'm definitely due for another read!

Oh, and also--I respectfully disagree with one of your last statements: sometimes at least a blurred overview *is* necessary to the plot. Regarding your assertion that it's not safe for writing, well, as I said above, the writer is not responsible for the consciences of the readers. If the writer is using the love scene as just that--a scene of love, physically expressed but not graphically described, between a husband and wife, and is not intentionally using it to titillate the readers' sensibilities, but to express or grow the characters' relationship, then I would say it's a valid reason.

Here's the thing: one of my readers, partly on the basis of one of my novels, decided to divorce her Christian husband and move in with a young man the age of her children. Granted, she had been falling away from the Lord, and from her husband, for a while already, but she said my book helped her make her decision. I was APPALLED! I cried for weeks afterwards. That was the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of my intent! I felt so guilty, and decided not to write again. However, absolutely no one else had that reaction, and in fact, the vast majority of reviews said that it was good, and a couple of my friends and my editor even said that it was very healing for them. My husband helped me to see that not writing what is in my heart to write, or not writing at all, would be just as wrong (for me) as writing the wrong thing. So the divorced reader twisted and mis-used my characters to prop up her own sinful choices. Is that my fault? After months of prayer, discussion, pastoral counseling, and introspection, I realized that no, it's not. My heart just *breaks* that my characters were mis-used like this, but the fact is that the reader sinned her own sins. She has free will, and she chose to exercise it poorly and to blame my very much pro-marriage novel for it. So after that, I've decided it's too great a responsibility to be the reader's conscience. As long as my own conscience is clear about what I write, and my very wonderful, strong, Godly husband is okay with it, I leave the rest up to the reader and the Lord. Thank you for resurrecting this discussion! I've enjoyed it very much.

11/18/2015 #16
ElvishKiwis Venerated Ancestor

How awful for you Clev! I am so sorry that that woman distorted your intention so terribly and also that she chose to tell you about it. It is every Christian writer's worst nightmare! The fact is that God's word is very clear about adultery in any form being sinful. If people don't want to see it then they are already condemning themselves. If they chose to let the perceived example of fictional characters enforce their own decision (despite the authors intention to promote the opposite), then there is nothing anyone can do about it but pray for her to repent and return to her Father in heaven one day. Have a virtual hug. I can only imagine how horrible that must have been for you...

11/18/2015 . Edited 11/18/2015 #17
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