Handling the Physical with Tammy Lash

How far is too far? Kissing? Handholding? How do you handle the physical part of writing your romances? (I mean, it has to be addressed unless your romance is confined 100% to letter writing).

I have Tammy Lash here with us today to talk about just that. Tammy's the author of a lovely romance novel called White Wolf and the Ash Princess, a book that was completely not what I explected and reduced me to a sobbing mess of tears. (Internally, at least.)

Over to you, Tammy!

Tammy Lash
Christian/Romance/Historical Fiction


 Keep Monsters from Your Romance
 (Tried and True Monster Rules
on How to Handle the Physical in Our Books)
  

Can you believe it? I’m pushing fifty! I know, I know. I can’t believe it, either. Other people have a hard time believing it, too, I guess—well, at least that’s what my kids tell me. No, I’m not vain enough to think that everyone’s disbelief about my age is due to my well-preserved exterior. I’m nearly a half-of-a-century-old and I think I’m about as well-preserved as a bog mummy. I bet my mummy wrap I know what’s up. My husband and kids say I act nowhere near the forty-eight that I am—and I totally agree. I think I’m about as mature as a green tomato.
I have a lot of spastic-crazy in this body. I’ve been told that my “quirks” and “silly” work with me against time and they create this blinding illusion of youth. I wish I had time to share all my zany experiences with you so you can begin to create your own fountain of youth, but that would take up more time and space than I have here today and that will totally get me off subject—I have a blog post to write—so, I’ll share the one thing of mine that I feel contributes most to my internal youthfulness: my monster rules…and my monster rules just so happen to fit in perfectly with our subject on how to handle the physical in our stories. How is this going to work? Hold tight. You’ll see.
The rules pertaining to the crack next to my bed hasn’t changed much over the years. I can still imagine that the creature of my childhood with the wild hair and long fingers lives there. I never use the crack next to my side of the bed to get into it at night because a) it would be trespassing, and b) sneaking into this area would be breaking my first rule of four. I dive over my husband nightly to get to my side because following these rules is important. They work—because, well, I’m still here.
Rule #4: Blankets and/or sheets must be used at all times and during all seasons. For ultimate protection, bedding must be pulled up to the neck and tucked in tightly under the chin.
Monsters can be crafty critters. The above rules will work—if you follow them meticulously. Word has gotten around in the monster community, however, that these rule work. Monsters aren’t the unintelligent, dark-lurkers that you think they are. They have tactics and they have learned to adjust them. They have learned to evolve with the times—with the changes to our culture and our trends—and the age of “everyone-needs-their-own-cell-phone” has made it easier for them to get kids closer to the bed’s edge than ever before. I know all about their skills. They are masters of deceit. Why, it feels like just yesterday that my own monster tricked me.
By the time I reached my teens, I had my rules down well. Realllllly well—so well, I could obey them in my deepest sleep. My monster had to find a way to get me to come to him. He found it through a book I wanted to hide. He told me his dark home would make a brilliant stash spot and he generously offered to hold on to it for me. He was so nice about it—so polite—I took him up on it. I wouldn’t be breaking any of my rules, I thought. Technically, it would be the book. I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have said no.
I began to get these weird side effects shortly after I stuffed the book down in the dark. I couldn’t stop thinking about my book—and I couldn’t stop thinking about when I could get my hands on it again. The book was chocolate, French fries, and gummy orange slices; it gave me a delicious injection of shock and exhilaration. My monster loved it, too. He said he wanted more of them, and if I were to bring them to him, he’d happily hide those for me, too. The book would be our secret. No one would ever know.
Monsters are crafty.
      Monsters are intelligent...
           …and monsters lie.
I remember my cheeks burning twelve shades of crimson when my mom sat on the edge of my bed and told me she found my book—in the darkest spot of my room, guarded by the fiercest creature that I knew. She held it in her hands and when she did, I didn’t remember the book looking that hideous before. My mom said Satan was a trickster and that he used things like this to pull us away from the Light. I didn’t follow my rules. I was lured into my monster’s dark world through a book. I didn’t guard my heart. My monster didn’t say anything about side-effects or scars, but my mom knew about them. That’s why she braved the dark for me to see what I was reading. It’s hard to believe that it’s been thirty years. My eyes tell me it can’t possibly be that long—I can still see the pictures on the insides of my lids… scenes that the author and I painted together. There hasn’t been much fading to them. They are almost as vivid and as bright as the day we put them there.
Monsters mean business. They have watched us for our weaknesses and they have discovered one that all of us have. Some will struggle with the monster’s bacteria worse than others, but all of us will battle the disease from it in one way or another. None of us are immune from the far-reaching effects of it.
Sexual immorality is a serious issue that affects us all. Sexual sins don’t normally begin as the “big dogs” that we know them to be (pornography, pre-marital sex, extra-marital affairs, sexual abuse, rape, etc.). Satan presents them to us as innocent, sweet-smelling pups. Like all things infant, however, they rarely stay that way. His plan is the same as my monster’s plan with my book. He has hopes we will allow our pups to grow into savage, relationship-damaging wolves. Saved and unsaved alike struggle with sexual sins. Why? Because God built within us the desire for intimacy. He created us to be sexual beings. The physical relationship between husband and wife intensifies the spousal bond and it creates one being out of two. Sex within the confines of marriage is a beautiful thing. It is fulfillment and completion.
 We, as writers, have a powerful choice—to participate and bring readers to the edge of a dark abyss closer towards Satan’s clutch or we can choose to stand apart. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that there is death and life in the power of the tongue. As writers, our words can lead our readers to destruction by opening the floodgates to impurity—OR—our words can paint them a godly picture of a love that abides in the confines of marriage.
So, fellow writer, how do we keep our books from becoming the ones the bed monster covets? How should we as Christian writers handle the physical in our books? What is permissible? What isn’t? The best way to find out is to use God’s Word as a magnifying glass. Let’s look closer at my four rules, beyond the monster aspect, and see what our Lord says about the physical aspects in romance:

Be Careful Where You Venture
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8
It is Satan’s job to know our weaknesses as authors, and it is his mission to destroy us and our readers with them. Christians are called to be a light in the darkness. When we as authors are called to write for Him, we need to remember that our Lord is our Editor-in-Chief. The scenes that we create need to be done with His desires in mind. Our thoughts should line up with His thoughts, and our ways—His ways (Isaiah 55:8). Our mission with romance shouldn’t be how realistic and steamy we can get it to be, but how God-centered and God-honoring we can get them to be. It should be our mission as a writer to show love and romance in a godly way that: protects the eyes of the young, the purity of the unmarried, and the faithfulness of the married.
·        Protecting the Eyes of the Young
Keep in mind that no book is under lock and key. There are no security guards standing watch over your book to keep your kid brother or sister out. Close your eyes and imagine your Christian romance book in his or her hands. If you can feel the burn of shame and if you feel overcome by an intense desire to snatch your book away, you have scenes to rewrite.

·       Protecting the Purity of the Unmarried
Not too long after the book incident, I gave up reading all romance books—and that includes the squeaky-clean Amish romances. I gave them up because…
o   It made me discontent in my singleness
o   A deep kiss or a passionate embrace was enough to wet my appetite and scan the pages for more (Notice my word choices? How did these make you feel? What did you see?)
o   The relationships in many of the stories that I read painted a picture of expectation too high for any man to reach (pressure on my future spouse)

Confusion is the word that comes to mind to describe the time when I started dating my husband. Sexual abuse, the literature that I read, the movies that I watched—all of it shaped my world view towards dating, the opposite sex, and marriage. I found that prayer and spending time in God’s Word were the organizing factors that helped me line up my thoughts with God’s. It took time and commitment on my part, but I was successful in discovering His plan for me regarding my thought life and sexual purity. As you write your romance scenes…please pray for the Lord’s guidance. Work to keep your readers thought life pure and uncluttered as they prepare their hearts for marriage or as a single person in service to Him.

·       Protecting the Faithfulness of the Married
But I say to you, that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28.

It’s important to keep our married readers in mind when we are our writing our romance scenes. A writer’s job is to evoke all the senses of the reader. As you develop your scene, visualize what your reader will be seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling. Would God approve? Or are you poking puppies into wolves? Steamy scenes will thrill your reader, but they leave eternal shadows. Keep your reader from feeling discontentment towards marriage and their spouse. Help them keep their husband or wife at the forefront by writing romances that encourage and mirror godly love and relationships. Give them something to admire and strive for—not something to hunger and lust over.

Keep Your Eyes Closed/ and Don’t Dangle
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness…” Matthew 6:22-23
The easiest way to protect your reader is to not have any physical aspects in your book at all, but a well, thought-out scene, written with care and with the Lord’s guidance, can educate your readers as to what a godly relationship is—especially if this is something you have experienced yourself and would like to share through story. The question you may have right now may be: “But how far does one go? The Bible is our go-to and our example, right? Well—what about The Song of Solomon? That’s the steamiest book in the Bible!”
The Song of Solomon is a beautiful book of poetry that is found in the Bible and it is often used as part of the debate to “bare all” when writing romance. The Song of Solomon is a celebration of marriage and it is the exchange of admiration between husband and wife, but what the book doesn’t do should snuff the flames out of the whole “show and tell” debate. The Song of Solomon does not give us any details about the act of sex itself or of any of the other physicality that husbands and wives participate in beforehand. Solomon does not give a play-by-play of their honeymoon for all to see. It is left as a beautifully private moment between husband and wife and it has remained that way for centuries. The language in The Song of Solomon is also different. The words that the king and his wife use to paint pictures to describe each other just do not provoke the feelings that our modern-day literature does. I have yet to hear a person say that their sexual downfall was due to the book of The Song of Solomon.
Still lost on where to draw the line? Do a book study of The Song of Solomon to discover the boundaries.

Keep Your Armor On
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flows the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23
Communication is key while writing a Christ-honored, Christian novel in any genre. We can find out what is acceptable and unacceptable to Him by talking to Him in prayer and spending time in His Word. The Holy Spirit is here to teach and to guide if we are but quiet enough to listen (John 14:26). Keep those lines open and it will be harder for Satan to lead you down a dangerous path in your writing. Finding godly brothers and sisters in the faith to keep us accountable in the fight towards clean content is also helpful. We are, after all, all in this fight together. This is a battle that takes effort and vigilance— teamwork—and where there is obedience, there is great reward.
Writing clean romance is a difficult stance to make, but we are asked to do it. Romans 12:2 asks that we “not conform to this world.” We are to be set apart and different and it should be our earthly mission to be a guide to the lost. We can lead them to the Truth and protect our readers' purity and our own by following God’s guidelines for a healthy, pure thought-life. Glorify Him and follow His will to keep passion in its proper place. Follow His guidelines and you will keep your book from sharing space with monsters.


Comments

  1. Thanks for the words of advice, Tammy!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Amazing post! Very truth-filled and thought-provoking with those analogies and word pictures. Amen!

    ReplyDelete
  3. As another pushing that 50 mark (a few weeks!) ... your advice is great. Loved how you set them up as monsters. Very appropriate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congrats on the coming, big 5.0, Mama Eagle!! Thanks so much for reading!

      Delete
  4. Wow, this was beautiful, Tammy! Such important things to think through while writing. My goal in writing romance is to make it satisfying for the teens who (like me) want a substantial romance in books but keep it clean and demonstrate a healthy, meaningful relationship. But it's hard to find that balance sometimes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Way to go, Laurie! You're setting an amazing godly example in Christian romance. Hugs!

      Delete
  5. Excellent reminders, Tammy! Thanks for sharing with us today! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, buddy! Thanks for stopping and reading!

      Delete
  6. This was really good, Tammy! Thanks for sharing! These are great thoughts to keep in mind as a reader, as well as a writer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading, Angie!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Find this post helpful? Leave a comment and let me know!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular posts from this blog

Introducing: The Arista Challenge

Golden Braids - Submission Now Closed

Magic Mirrors Release - Submission Now Closed