Don’t sleep with him/her? Rule #19 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #19

19: Don’t allow characters who are sexually attracted to one another the opportunity to get into bed. Unless at least one of them has a jealous partner.

Umm…. What?

I’m staring at this, and trying to think about novels that were good, where there was a little bedroom time, but no jealous lover.

I have to admit… there are a lot… and they are fine. A sexual triangle just is not the main conflict of the story.

Sometimes the strong relationship between two characters makes the overall conflict (not necessarily a jealous partner) a deeper conflict, because the characters really care about each other.

Maybe Allen Guthrie has never read a romance novel? Maybe he just doesn’t like to read bedroom scenes?

What’s your take on this?


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14 responses to “Don’t sleep with him/her? Rule #19 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. For me, writing for teens, the whole jumping into bed with someone isn’t always an option. I will create problems so they can’t have their bedroom scene, but that doesn’t mean I always have a jealous ‘other’ in the wings ready to pounce. Most often, the sexual tension between characters is enough to keep the reader’s interest without them jumping into bed together, except maybe as a ‘happy ending’. However, I even keep that scene from my teens, expecting them to imagine their own scenarios, if they think it’s appropriate. 🙂

  2. I’m guessing it’s one of those reasons–bizarre!

  3. Wow, I’m not sure what to make of this one. In our current culture, there are endless possibilities for two people who are sexually attracted to one another. Shouldn’t that be true of fiction? And I think the event could result in so many opportunities for conflict and tension in the story, whether we describe the sex scene or not—second thoughts or a guilty conscience, a compromised relationship….. I guess, as with everything else, sex should move the story forward and not be Chekov’s rifle. But ruling it out entirely? I don’t think that would be great advice.

  4. I guess I agree with him on this one, but that’s probably because I’m a huge fan of thrillers. I find relationship stuff, other than the attraction and sexual chemistry that can help give the characters more depth, takes the reader out of the story. But obviously, that wouldn’t work so well in romance novels. 🙂

  5. Perhaps what he’s trying to say is to keep the tension going, not resolve it too quickly, so the reader can savor that aspect of suspense. Will they or won’t they? It seems like good advice on any plot thread, actually.

  6. I like the build up, the chase. Jumping into the sack immediately isn’t enticing. On the other hand, Guthrie sounds a little up-tight for such a young fellow. ;-D

  7. I think any opportunity to put two romantically-attracted characters in bed together is one that should be taken! It’s the author’s job to amp up the conflict and determine why it isn’t a good idea, but I don’t think we need to limit ourselves to one character having a jealous partner.

  8. I find it distracting most of the time, especially if it happens more than once. As I woman, I liked to be wooed, courted. I like the anticipation. I also think it’s all about the story, too. For romance, I don’t like the act spelled out for me. Entice me, get my imagination going, but don’t spoil it all by showing me the picture. Let my imagination do the work. I also don’t think two characters that just met should jump in the sack together regardless of the intense heat between them. I’ve seen stories like that, too, where the action just happens way too fast. Maybe that’s what the author was talking about. Great post.

  9. It’s that Hitchcock style … Leave those thrills to the imagination, unless you feel qualified to write soft core …

  10. For me it has a hidden axiom that you are using the sexual attraction as part of a plot: a book where one character happens to be a happy philanderer would be more difficult to make realistic with no sex.

    However, I can see a wider point lurking: physical descriptions of sex are not as interesting to the average reader as emotion. So, he might be suggesting you do not include the actual sex scenes.

  11. I reckon that one had to be tongue-in-cheek …. because, seriously? – J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts) ‘In Death’ series … just to name one author, ’cause I’m too tired to dig any further, but there are lots … it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.

  12. I think women who read romance novels don’t mind if the protagonists sleep together–that’s why they’re reading them. But for most of the rest of us, it breaks the tension. Hard to keep it up (so to speak) once we know the answer to “Will they or won’t they?” Think of all the TV series where the two protagonists flirted and flirted and danced around each other for years, then as soon as Jeannie Married Tony, I Dream of Jeannie went off the air. Same with Get Smart, Moonlighters, Remington Steele, and probably a bunch of other shows that were gone long before you were born!