The ladies of the guild have been talking and we’ve decided we would like to let readers peek behind the curtain a little. We already do that somewhat by putting up our free stories. These are usually first drafts that may or may not make it into a finished novel. Sometimes we write a one off piece to celebrate a holiday or such, and these will continue. We would also like to let you see how we as individuals make decisions about what we write.
I figured I’d start because I’m the one who started this blog and through various degrees of coercion got the others to help me keep it going. Being the pushiest, I thought I’d jump in with why I choose not to write explicit sexual content using Jane Austen’s characters.
If I wanted everyone’s good opinion, I’d tell you I have such a high regard for Jane Austen that I could never compromise her characters for my own profit. I would feel uncomfortable compromising until my checking account balance began moving farther and farther to the left of the decimal. I know myself, if I’m not vigilant, my morality begins to work on a sliding scale.
A good deal of the reason is that most of us writers don’t really write sex scenes as well as we think. That’s a topic for another day, but in my opinion, you readers do a heckuva lot of heavy lifting when it comes to sexually explicit scenes. I’m egotistical and don’t care to share the spotlight.
Another reason is that I know for myself, sex scenes can get in your head and they crop up at the most … intimate of times. Now, I know I don’t want my husband thinking about other women when we are martially engaged. That being the case, I’d be a flaming hypocrite if I got in the habit of bringing Captain Wentworth to bed with me. (Oh my, what will the search engines do with THAT?)
One of the biggest reasons I don’t write explicit scenes is that most readers of Austen-based fiction come by way of the movie adaptations and not the novels. I came to the novel by way of the 1995 version of Persuasion so I understand this perfectly. Each of these movies has a group of actors who signed on to play characters in a movie, not become playthings for my imagination. What you do with them is your own business.
In the past, I’ve said that the actor Ciaran Hinds is my ideal Wentworth. By default Amanda Root is my Anne. I know many of you prefer Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth and Sallie Hawkins as Anne. The who doesn’t matter for my example, just the fact that many of us fill in the blanks of what the characters look like with actors.
If I write an explicit scene, most of us will “see” Hinds and Root or Jones and Hawkins. I’ve already said it is problematic for me. If it’s not for you, fine. Now here’s where I make a decision. I may have a little pre … snuggle conversation and some kisses that leave one or the other breathless, but I like to drop the curtain before anything else happens. Again, you all have to do some heavy lifting but without my choreographing the scene.
One day I realized the actors in Austen adaptations are people.
If Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root each read a script and sign a contract which requires them to strip down so they can pretend to do the horizontal mambo before cameras, that’s their business. (I think they should not as both are too darned old to be showing all the sags and bags of middle age.) If I write them in a sexually explicit scene, they had no choice and I am using them to further my career while giving them no compensation.
I know to many this is a fine line they don’t even see. Some of you may think I’m looking for kudos, but you’d be wrong. The older I get, the more deeply I know that being faithful in these small things makes being faithful in larger stuff a trifle easier. And it makes for a better writer.
This can be a volatile topic so we do ask that you bring your best reasoning to the question, don’t call anyone names, and use your indoor voice, please.
Take care–Susan Kaye