Why I keep it chaste: 2013 365 Challenge #228

I believe I thought only of you

Watching the last episode of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice by the BBC this morning (I can’t believe it’s nearly 20 years old), as research for my post, I realised why I don’t read or write erotica or even mildly graphic sex scenes. 

The emotional tension as Elizabeth and Darcy (Ehle and Firth) walk along a muddy lane trying to tell each other they’re in love, is gripping. I feel it right through to my fingertips. It churns in my tummy. I’m fully involved in the moment, in their story and their characters.

The scene brings to mind the early tension in a new relationship. The brushing of hands, the accidental touches, maybe the gentle rubbing of feet under the table. All the anticipation and uncertainty as two people try and discover if there is mutual attraction. I felt it when I wrote the feet massage bit in Claire and was unsure where to take it next. In a modern book or movie, Claire and Neal would be in bed naked in the next scene. Maybe in real life too. It’s even happened to Claire already in the novel (although she wasn’t naked). But it doesn’t feel right for my writing. 

My favourite moment in Nanny McPhee

My favourite moment in Nanny McPhee

I’m not suggesting I’m a prude or that I haven’t jumped into bed with someone I hardly knew. But with the relationships that lasted – the ones that mattered – the testing-the-ground courtship went on for longer. There was so much more emotional build up in trying to work out if my regard was requited. I guess it goes back to my post on delayed gratification. Anticipation is good.

Even though I’ve been in a relationship for nine years, married for seven, I still get goosebumps remembering some of those moments (and, sorry hubbie, they weren’t all with you!)

Erotica is too obvious for me. Yes it’s sexy. Yes I do like to read it occasionally and, as a hormonal teenager, would flick through Mills and Boon to find the naughty bits. But even they were mostly about suggestion and less about explicit description. For me a book, or a TV show or a movie, is all about working the imagination. If too much is presented, there isn’t enough opportunity to invest your own emotion into the scene. Less, in this case, is definitely more.

The power of a swoony look

The power of a swoony look

There was originally a fairy graphic sex scene at the beginning of Baby Blues, but it’s since been toned down. It’s there for a reason: to show something about Helen’s relationship with Daniel. It’s not a coincidence that we don’t see a sex scene between her and Marcio. Their relationship isn’t about the physical (especially as she’s pregnant when they meet) although they are physically attracted to each other.

Even as I’m writing this I think I’m going to add a few more ‘will he won’t he’ moments, more accidental hand touches and lingering looks. Because that’s the stuff I like.

Even though I know they’ll get together in the end, that’s the stuff that brings back happy memories and makes my skin tingle. And given how many people watched and keeping watching the original BBC Pride and Prejudice I can’t be the only one who likes good old fashioned swoony romance, right?

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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“Found you.”

Claire turned without volition, then cursed her reaction. Dragging her eyes back to contemplation of the cave in front of her, she didn’t respond to the triumphant words. She felt him lean against the rail next to her, and shivered.

“You do make me laugh. Why are you playing these games? I fancy you, you fancy me, what’s the big deal?”

Dropping her hands from the railings, Claire turned and continued on her way through the reserve. Despite the beauty of her surroundings, she barely saw the towering trees and tumbling streams. She had enjoyed the first part of her walk in glorious solitude, as most people had chosen to chill out by the bus rather than wander through the woods. Trust Neal to catch her out.

“Are you playing hard to get?” Neal gave one of his deep chuckles as he caught up with her in two strides. His hand grasped her arm and she shook him off, even though his touch left a trail of goosebumps.

“I’m not playing hard to get, I’m not chicken, and I’m not interested.” Claire ignored the rhythms of her body that belied her words and lengthened her stride. She felt the man hesitate, before catching up with her again.

He walked at her side along the path, matching her quick strides with ease. She felt her breath quickening and knew she couldn’t keep up the pace for much longer without panting. Not wanting to give him the satisfaction of seeing how much he affected her, she shortened her steps a fraction and gazed out into the green depths.

The path ahead narrowed to a wooden bridge over a rushing stream. Claire longed to stop and take in scene. She wondered if Neal would get the hint eventually and let her enjoy the walk in peace. It didn’t seem likely. 

At least he’s shut up.

He followed her like a shadow around limestone cliffs and past gorges and waterfalls. They reached a natural tunnel through the rock; the highlight of the walk, according to Claire’s guidebook. Claire eyed it with dislike. It wasn’t long, but it was narrow. She didn’t fancy being in a confined space with Neal. He was considerably taller and stronger than her. So far he’d been gentlemanly in actions, if not in attitude, but she still felt his presence like that of a predator.

Correctly interpreting the stiffening in her shoulders and the tension on her face, Neal gave a low laugh.

“Don’t fancy getting cosy with me? You didn’t seem to mind on the beach.”

When she said nothing, he shrugged. “I’ll go first, if you like.”

With another laugh, he walked round her and entered the tunnel. His broad shoulders filled the space and stole the light. Claire waited until he was almost through before entering herself.

Neal waited for her at the other end, blocking the exit. His face was in darkness and the only thing she could fathom of his mood was that he wasn’t smiling.

“Now I have your attention, let’s clear the air. Tell me this isn’t what you want.”

Before she could speak he bent down and grazed his lips across hers. It wasn’t the crushing kiss she had braced for and it unnerved her. Before she could tell whether it was welcome or not, the pressure was gone.

Inhaling deeply, Claire caught the scent of moss and aftershave and sweat. Her ears filled with the sound of her ragged breathing above the rushing of the river somewhere beside them. Neal took a step back and his face became visible. Claire looked up into his chocolate-brown eyes and tried to read the expression held within them. For a moment there was seriousness and fire. Then his features shifted and the deep laughter was back.

“Chicken,” he murmured. Then he turned and strode away along the path, leaving her standing confused and alone.

***

16 thoughts on “Why I keep it chaste: 2013 365 Challenge #228

    • It made be go back and rewrite the first date between Marcio and Helen. I’d like to rewrite the whole book, actually, but I guess that’s normal, 100 pages into a (mostly) final edit!

  1. I absolutely agree. Added to which, sex is so subjective. What sets one person on fire might make another cringe. There’s nothing worse than getting to a sex scene with a hero you rather like only to discover he does things in the bedroom that would have you running for the hills! Phnark. That’s why I don’t describe anything more than a kiss in my books. I always think readers prefer to be pointed in the right direction rather than lead by the nose.

    Cheers

    MTM

    • I agree completely. This is such a valid point – if left to our own imaginations we can concentrate on the sensations rather than trying to visualise accurately something we might not want to watch!

  2. I agree. It’s about the romance, the tension, the build-up. I do read books with more explicit scenes as well, but, frankly, if there are too many of those scenes, I get bored and start skimming.

  3. Ugh BBC Pride and Prejudice is the most romantic thing ever. I totally agree with you about the will they won’t they moments being more swoon-worthy than erotica. Also love the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility. Elinor and Edward never kiss in the movie…but whenever they are together I get the chills.

    • I’ve never read any Hitchcock. I don’t think i could read anything too subtle at the moment as I’d miss things with my sleepy brain. That’s the great thing about Austen – you could sleep through a few pages (especially in Emma) and not miss much!

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