Messy Sex and Calls of Nature;
The Importance of Being Human

Copyright Cynthia VanRooy - All Rights Reserved


As creators we want our readers to believe in our characters, to visualize them as people living beyond the covers of our books. Too many romance writers, though, create heroes and heroines as unreal and sanitized as Disney animations. Real men and women use a bathroom on a regular basis, sweat and develop body odor, need to brush their teeth occasionally, and have untidy sex. It’s part of being human.

If you want me to identify with your heroine, don’t have her reveling in a deep, tongue-tangling kiss from the hero as she slowly awakens in the morning. Doesn’t she worry about what her mouth tastes like? Or his? I’d be more inclined to live the story through her if she insisted on a quick trip to the bathroom to brush her teeth first (at the least).

Have you ever been reading a great book where the hero or heroine is stranded on a desert island, lost in a forest, or trapped in a powerful laird’s castle for days on end and you really want to be immersed in the story, really want to believe the far-fetched plot could happen except . . . the heroine apparently has a bladder that would put a camel to shame? There is no mention made, ever, of how the characters handle basic excretory functions.

I don’t have to know—don’t even want—the details, but I do need to have this problem addressed in some way. My suspension of disbelief demands it. I‘m not going to believe that the heroine went three hours, let alone three days, without needing to use the facilities, however primitive they may be. The writer doesn’t have to draw me a plumbing diagram for the castle—just mention the existence of same and I’m a happy reader.

Many years ago I read a romance set in medieval England. The hero chained the heroine to his bedpost for several days. I’m afraid the drama was lost on me. I was too busy rolling my eyes and wondering about where the chamberpot was and who was emptying it.

These days we’re all aware of the need for safe sex, and most romance writers have begun including the use of condoms in their love scenes. With the blossoming popularity of erotica, we have authors penning scenes kinky and explicit enough to embarrass a porn star. In the post-coital moments of the scenes these same writers can become as reticent as nuns when it comes to mentioning any actions the characters make in the way of disposing of said condoms. Instead there will be a phrase like, "He drew her close as her breathing quieted and let himself join her in sleep." Are we to assume the hero slipped the used condom under a pillow? A brief mention of a visit to the bathroom would handle that niggling concern.

And how about those love scenes that end with both the characters hopping out of bed and pulling their clothes back on with no clean-up whatsoever? No clean-up means they’re going to be sticky and messy. Unless their names are Ken and Barbie. Give your heroine a Kleenex at least.

If you can handcuff your heroine to the bedframe with no blushes, don’t turn shy when it’s time to let her get up and deal with the aftermath. The reader wants to believe in the story. Help them by having your characters do what the reader might.

The following passage, told from the heroine Claire’s point of view, is from Dragonfly in Amber, the historical time-travel by Diana Gabaldon. Jamie and Claire have just come together in a desperate coupling before Jamie pushes her away, forcing her to run and escape the British troops about to overtake them:

I pushed my way through the brush and branches, stumbling over rocks, blinded by tears. Behind me I could hear shouts and the clash of steel from the cottage. My thighs were slick and wet with Jamie’s seed. The crest of the hill seemed never to grow nearer . . ."

The detail about Claire’s thighs wet with Jamie’s seed is not offensive or distracting. Rather it lends further verisimilitude to an already exciting scene. It prevents the reader from mentally going, "but what about . . .?" and momentarily (or longer!) leaving the story.

In your writing you don’t need to belabor the less attractive aspects of being human. I’d just as soon not read about the heroine’s constipation or the hero’s jock itch. A recognition of and nod toward the more nitty-gritty functions of being human, however, will go a long way toward making your characters living, breathing people rather than just anatomically correct dolls.


About the author: Cynthia VanRooy is an award winning romance novelist with eight books published by both print and epublishers. She is also the author of etips booklet The Secrets to Query Letters That Work. Check out Cynthia's website.


Easy Way to Write Romance - by Rob Parnell