Writing Treasure Hunt – Initiating hanky panky. Wow, awkward.

This here Writing Treasure Hunt is going to be a recurring segment, where I find hidden (writing-related) booty to plunder, and share it with ye. Yarrrrr!

On the subject of booty, the treasure I’ve unearthed this time around is about, well, just that. It’s a post about getting your characters from A to B in the romantic sense, and by “B” I mean coitus. Intercourse. Rumpy pumpy. The beast with two backs.
Ahem. Let’s begin, shall we?

The article is written by fellow writing blogger Fiona Quinn, and is based on research about attraction and physical intimacy, of which there is apparently a checklist of “Twelve Stages.”

What this neat, short, and very simple blog article puts forward, is a way of acknowledging the steps that many people go through in the start of an advancing relationship. It walks through from the first “checking out”, past the eye contact, the first exchange of words, and into the hand contact, hand to shoulder, hand to waist, hand to hair/head, kissing… and yeah you get the idea.

In real life, I’ve not given this stuff a lot of thought. I’ve always just winged it (wung it?), which:
a) doesn’t lend itself to writing believably on the topic
b) falls short of doing my characters justice by letting their relationships develop organically (read: gradually)
c) might go some way towards explaining my hit-and-miss track record

I don’t think I went through each of these steps every single time in my own pre-marriage adventures (such as they were), but I’m sure that most encounters were some kind of subconscious, mutant version of it. Following these steps precisely (when writing) isn’t the point either; for me this is still a very useful tool, because it gives a discrete sequence as a kind of “gold standard,” that I can then shoot-up all-to-hell and ignore completely.

How is that useful? Because by thinking about what the expectations might be you can figure out where the friction, the awkward screw-ups, the heart palpitating: “what the hell am I doing here?” moments, and all that fun fiction-writing stuff should go. This part (for me at least, as a non-romance author) is the real reason I’m including the love interest scenes in the first place, and the only way I’m putting actual sex scenes into my story is if it serves a central plot or character development purpose. It’s about ramifications, not titillations (though romance genre writing probably has a big dose of both)

Also, with the sequence: if a writer wants to mix up the order that’s fine. At least by giving it some thought, we’re not going to leave readers scratching their heads. Him? With her? No way… I’m sure I’ve read books or watched films that left me thinking the love interests weren’t developed properly (or much at all… I’m looking at you, James Bond)

And now I hear some of you saying that for Daniel Craig, steps three through eight miiiiiight not be strictly necessary… and to that I say: fair enough, but it’s hard to put that kind of thing on paper (without perhaps stepping into graphic novel territory). Until then, believability is king, and all the “rippling”s and “shapely”s in the world aren’t going to make up for some actual chemistry.

What are your thoughts on developing relationships in fiction? Is some kind of structure necessary, or just a “feel” for what works? I know Harlequins and other bodice-rippers tend towards the formulaic. Or do you just wing it, and maybe get this stuff right after your beta readers have had a fogged-up-glasses read-through?

So anyway, share in the bountiful writing treasures at the link above. Yahrrrr!

Best regards,


About D.R.Sylvester

A Clinical Research Associate by day (google it), writer by night, D.R.Sylvester lives in Sydney, Australia with his patissiere wife and Siberian Wolf. His interests include travel, music (predominantly Metal), reading, & archery.
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3 Responses to Writing Treasure Hunt – Initiating hanky panky. Wow, awkward.

  1. seleneymoon says:

    Romantic scenes should serve to forward the plot. Yeah, it can get kind of uncomfortable if you’re not used to doing that sort of thing, but if you keep it real (and I don’t necessarily mean graphic), it works. I go for the classy kind of coitus. Say enough without saying it all.

    If nothing else, think of how you fell in love and what that was like. Draw on experience and emotions. What went on in your heart and head? That’s what you put down. If it feels weird writing it, then it’s probably not right in the first place. If it flows out of you, then it’s good. Whatever you write shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable but natural. You’ll know when you write/read it.

    By the way, I mentioned you on the air (and a few other bloggers too)! Check out my latest blog: http://moonandstarsbeyond.com/2015/05/05/oh-to-be-on-the-radio/ – it’s a link to when I was on the radio. You and a few others are mentioned around 1:16:00.

    • You mentioned me on the radio. You mentioned me on the radio!!??!?!? 😀 Thank you! That’s definitely a first for me. Makes me feel like a true author somehow. I will listen to the broadcast when I get near some good wifi.

      What you’ve said absolutely reads true. I’ve written what is probably the only hanky-panky scene in my story (more of an intro, because the “action” happens off page) is slightly based on reality. An incident where my protagonist is trying to get a gun out of a sleepy drunk half naked lady’s holster, so she doesn’t shoot her own arm off in her sleep (IRL these were the car keys, and this lady needed to lock herself in for her safety while sleeping). Protagonist realises she’s intentionally making it difficult to reach them in order to bring him in closer… I’m thinking it reads as pretty hot on the page, and she’s definitely in control. It reveals a lot about her character later on, and it helps spur some character development for the protag. We’ll see what beta readers think anyway *fingers crossed*

      Thanks again for the mention on the radio!

      • seleneymoon says:

        You and the three others I mentioned say the same thing! Check out their blogs as they definitely are worth following (links on my most recent blog). And hey, we all need attention wherever we can get it. Writing’s an ugly business sometimes, especially when it comes to attractive ladies and men.

        Gratuitous sex won’t win accolades, but a scene that has consequences will. Sounds like you’re on the right track.

        When I wrote my first sex scene ever, I was kind of embarrassed at how stupid it first came out (oh gawd, just the thought of it makes me want to put a bag over my head and hide behind the couch) but after I read it out loud (something you should do with all of your scenes, and not just the ones with sex in ’em), it changed the way I wrote them. Sometimes that helps. My sister, on the other hand, writes women’s fiction and she leaves NOTHING to the imagination. But hey, the target audience is completely different and she isn’t a sci-fi writer like me.

        Got to tell you though, some of the sci-fi sex I’ve read comes across as awkward, so I try my best to be as graceful and natural as possible. One example: Greg Bear’s “Eon.” His sex scenes are TERRIBLE, making me say, “REALLY?” as I read them. He puts stuff in them that just doesn’t belong and it kind of wrecked what was mostly a pretty good book. So don’t use that as an example…

        All right, enough already!

        Yes, go to 1:16:00 or so when you get decent wi-fi and play that section over and over again. It’ll make you feel better about life in general.

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