Jul 31, 2009

"Where Do You Draw the Line"

While writing women's fiction and LDS Romance, I find a great degree of difference between what some consider acceptable love scenes and others deem as smut. While at the LDStorymakers Writer's Conference this past April, someone asked the board of LDS publishers what they thought was acceptable in a romantic scene. One in particular laughed and then said, "One and a half kisses is our limit." Of course, the comment brought laughter to the entire room, but I didn't think he really answered the real question. Where do you draw the line?

I was told once that you don't go any further in your writing than you would be willing to go yourself, and that helps when you're writing about an LDS couple who hold true to their LDS standards, but what if they aren't. What if the book is about making mistakes and overcoming them? What if you have to show the reader what the character has gone through in order for them to realize how far they've come and what they've learned? Where do you draw the line then?

I've given this a lot of thought over the past few months and have come up with my own hypothetical line draw in the sand, but was curious what the rest of you thought. How far should a love scene go and under what circumstances would you let your character slip past the line you've drawn? And just in case you're wondering, I'm not interested in any graphic details or examples. Keep it clean girls...LOL


  1. Wish I could tell you, Christine. Unfortunately, I think everyone has a different opinion on this. The best I can say is that you write what you feel comfortable writing. Go with your gut. And if your publisher or potential publisher thinks you've gone too far, they'll tell you and you can change it.

    And if you have a character who has to make mistakes so they can overcome them, then as long as it's written in a tasteful way, I think that's an important part of most stories. After all, everyone needs redemption from something.

    Just my thoughts.

  2. Thanks Nichole, I know exactly where my line is. I just think there are so many ideas of what's right out there that it's hard sometimes for others to decide. I think it's a lot like picking a book to read. If it isn't done tastefully, we turn the page or put it down, or at least I do.

  3. I have a scene that goes well beyond one and half kisses and I'm not even writing romance.

    The scene is there specifically for the sake of realistic temptation and repentance.

    I kinda wonder if some people would think its too much, but I don't think it goes beyond PG-13.

  4. My characters are real people and real people screw up. Real people make bad choices--even sometimes without learning from them. As for what my characters go through, sometimes they go through a lot. As for how in depth I write about it--I tend to stay in the shallow end of the pool. For me, I don't need to go in the deep end just to know that it's there.

  5. I agree with Nichole. This is a personal decision each author has to make. I recently read a fantastic book by an LDS author where the character engaged in premarital sex before knowing it was morally wrong. But I had to re-read the page because I missed it the first time. The resulting child plays hugely in the further development of the character, and I was almost left wondering how the heck the kid got there in the first place. I think a touch more exposition than that is necessary.

    My first novel has a near rape scene. I fought with myself about skipping it, taking it out, or something to avoid writing it--but when it came right down to things I couldn't. It wouldn't be true to my characters or my plot to leave it out. But it's not remotely graphic and is over almost before it begins.

    The second and third books deal exclusively with married people who, as usual, have babies. In that context though you can be quite romantic without being graphic. In my opinion, romance and sex are separate issues. Though one does often lead to the other, some of the most romantic things my hubby does are things like doing dishes or folding clothes. :)