A friend of mine is reading a book. No big deal, right? Except that this particular book is written by a male acquaintance of hers and contains, shall we say, some sexy, sultry, oh-my-GAWD-is-it-hot-in-here-or-is-it-ME?! type scenes. Which is odd. Because this is not the picture she would associate with this particular friend. And not the picture she WANTS to associate with this particular friend.
This is the thing about writing. Most every author has friends, neighbors, children perhaps, who will very likely read a celebrated finished piece. During the creative process words are just spewing onto paper without regard to the fact that Mommy Dear may share the published work with all her bridge friends exclaiming, “But, OH, look what my daughter did!! She is a famous author! Isn’t this just WONderful!!” Might have been a good idea to clue dear Mumsie into all the Fabio-like love scenes first, but then I’m sure the bridge ladies will find those soon enough.
But people read this stuff, so somebody has to write it. My ninety-three year old grandmother has read Harlequin romance books every single day without shame for as long as I’ve known her. Last time I visited, she was showing me the latest title, asking if I had read that author. “Um, no Grandma. I don’t think I know him.” That was out loud. In my head, Holy yikies!! If I were reading THAT it would be in the privacy of my own bedroom and only then with flashlight and cover.
My favorite two-word sentence ever is “No boxers.” The author said SO much and left SUCH a visual with just those two words. She was setting up a steamy scene in a remote cabin with a hunk of an outdoorsy type—nice butt, flannel shirt, dark hair with a bit of scruff going on--one of those guys that leaves you asking Oh, baby! Where do I find me one of those?! and our it’s-been-a-long-time-sure-but-I-am-totally-ok-with-that independent needs-nobody-and-wants-for-nothing protagonist. The scene went something like this:
Description of the lovely drive up. Yada, yada. Some scenery adjectives. It’s all beautiful and woodsy and pine-y and stuff. You can almost smell it, she writes so well. It’s all very pleasant. You can hear the birds and the wildlife and the blah blah blah, whatever. Then, without another line, she gets right to business. You can feel from her words that the woman wants it, but she doesn’t want the guy to know. You can sense the tension, the sexual energy. No worries, though, our lovely lady is totally in control, completely in charge. But, without even a smidge of warning, the guy just takes over the scene in a totally unexpected and--might I say, “Props to the author!”--incredibly manly sort of way. Next two lines: “He drops his pants. No boxers.” Oh, my LORD!
But I could never write that. People read. People I know read. They would read THIS. And then what would they think? I’d be walking around acting my normal conservatively dressed, teacher-mom kind of self and people would be looking at me like she writes stuff I have to hide under my mattress!
But here’s the other thing about writing. I can’t let the idea of what I think others will think hamper my creative process. Some of you will be shocked that the words you’ve read here, even, have come out of my mouth. Some of you will raise eyebrows and gasp and say to yourselves, Well, now we know! Some of you may think less of me, may dump me in favor of a less crass friend. Some of you may have the opposite reaction altogether, but let’s just not go there. I can’t let myself worry about all of that. The second I start monitoring my muse is the second I stop writing. It’s the time I start speaking in someone else’s voice, from someone else’s head. And, frankly, I don’t think readers care to hear that Miss Psychology Instructor had a wonderful class today. They don’t want to know that the traffic was light and the songs from home to school were a good mix of thoughtful and upbeat, commercials few. They don’t want to hear that. That’s plain, everyday, boring. Everybody has that. We know that stuff about each other. What we want, instead, is the stuff we don’t know. We want the dirt.
So, I’ve come to this. Think of me what you will, but wherever the pen leads, I’m going to have to follow, even if that means taking myself and my protagonist’s pent up sexual energies to some remote cabin in the woods with nothing but a bit of attitude and a good-God-Lord-JESUS-he-IS-GORgeous hunk of a stranger. I'm just going to have to go there.