Deeanne Gist Leaves the Bedroom Door Closed
Deanne Gist, author of novels such as "It Happened at the Fair" and "Love on the Line," knows a thing or two about writing romance. However, there is one thing she doesn't include in her books: sex. Gist revealed to Bookish why her writing stops short of the bedroom.
I got a call from my editor. "Dee, Bookish wants you to write a piece about sex."
Silence (on my end).
"Well, actually, about not having sex."
My eyebrows lift. More silence.
She carries on, giving me word counts, due dates and other editorial essentials. "Can we give them the green light on this?"
I hesitate, but only for a beat. "Well, okay, but … um … I'm not really sure I have a firm grasp of the topic. Can you elaborate a bit?"
"They want to know in 800 words or less why your books are so popular when there's no sex in them."
Ah. "Got it. I'll do my best."
I pull up a new page in [Microsoft]Word and stare at a blank screen. What an impossible question. I mean, how am I supposed to know that? Sure, readers might express their pleasant surprise that the door closes before my characters consummate their relationship, but as to why they find that refreshing, they usually don't say.
And truly, it depends on a person's perspective. I've had plenty of readers tell me they threw my book in the trash because it was so explicit it wasn't worthy of even being donated to the library. (No lie.) And with these readers, they unrestrainedly specify why. It all has to do with sexual tension. Which, I confess, is my favorite part of the whole courtship dance.
You know what I mean: You see an attractive guy. He sees you. The eyes connect. You speak to each other. Maybe your fingers graze when he hands you a glass of wine. The evening wears on. He leans in. His arm brushes your shoulder. He walks you from the cocktail party to your car. Being the gentleman, he guides you through the crowded room and puddle-filled parking lot by placing the lightest of touches on the hollow at the back of your waist.
On the outside, you give nothing away, but on the inside your nerves are hypersensitive to the smallest nuance of physical contact. Your tummy contracts and tingles. Your pulse has taken it up several notches and, well, you get the picture.
Some people, evidently, consider the above description as explicit. But to leave that out would be, for me, confusing. It's how we court. It's the way we're wired. The rush of falling in love is heady. Intense. Every part of our body responds. And yet, so much of it is beneath the surface. No earth-shattering physical contact actually occurs. And yet, in those moments, bonds are forged.
If I were to write an entire book about two characters who connect on every level, yet never portray the physical attraction between them, then wouldn't you presume they were what we call "best friends?" I would.
So, my novels include all the nuances of first love. The ups, the downs, the anticipation, the disappointments--and, ultimately, the happily ever after. Closing the door before the characters have sex is no different than riding off in the sunset. We all know what's gonna happen after the credits roll. To me, the fun is in the journey. (Fictionally, anyway. In real life, the destination is clearly awesome.) But in fiction, it is how they reach that "happily ever after" which most intrigues me and the majority of my readers.
That's a wrap. Roll the credits.