To Show or Not to Show?

Posted Sep 30 2018, 4:11 pm

I’ve received a couple of invitations to talk to local book clubs about The Demon Always Wins and it looks like one of those will actually happen.

The second invitation got rescinded after the friend who offered me the invitation read the published version (she’d read an early draft) and realized how explicit the loves scenes in the book are. Her group, she said, don’t really like discussing books like that.

Okay, that’s fair.

On the other hand, she also said that she liked how much stronger a character Dara was in the final version.  Here’s the thing: those two things are interrelated. One reason Dara seems much stronger now is because we see her gritting her teeth and resisting a gorgeous demon who is the embodiment of temptation.

In the early drafts of TDAW, the physical interactions between Belial and Dara were limited. Anything beyond kissing happened behind closed doors.

That was because I was uncomfortable writing sex scenes. Opening the door to Belial and Dara’s bedroom felt like I was opening the door to my own. I remember when I met with my writing group about a later manuscript, the first I’d ever shown them that had an actual sex scene, I told them any verbal critique of that scene was off the table. They could give me written notes, but we weren’t going to talk about it.

For Dara and Belial’s story, this prudish attitude proved problematic. Belial’s three tried and true snares for entrapping his victims were:

  • Wealth
  • Fornication
  • Corruption of the sanctuary

Having the plot revolve around something I wasn’t prepared to show maimed my story.

After an agent told me she loved my book and thought it was amazing but didn’t think she could sell it because it lacked sexual tension, I went back and took a hard look at what I’d written. Not only was I making half the battle between my characters happen off screen, I was failing to show the part of the battle where Belial finally succumbs to Dara, something crucial to his character arc.

The thing is, if you’re writing in deep third point-of-view and you really want your reader to feel like she’s inside your characters, experiencing what they’re experiencing, you can’t shut the door in her face when the most intimate and significant part of the story takes place.

(This presupposes that the loves scenes are an integral part of the plot, not just a salacious version of an Ikea instruction sheet.)

I truly want my readers to feel immersed in my stories, so I womanned up and wrote the damn scene.

How did that turn out?

Keyrsten Robinson over at Smut and Bon Bons said, “Dara’s attraction but deflection of Belial and his efforts in the beginning was quite the turn on. The more she denied him through her attraction, the more the sexual tension grew. Once it hit the sexual tension peak, it was like a damn explosion … one I would gladly stand in the middle of.”

I’m taking that to indicate I was successful.

So what do you think? Door open or closed?

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