Keeping it Clean - Writing YA Without the Sex
By Lisa T. Bergren
Here’s the thing. We know teens are full of hormones. Those of us who are adults remember it well! Add to that a serious physical attraction between hero and heroine and there’s gotta be some va-voom in the relationship described or the reader has a hard time accepting it as real. That’s where I like to come in.
In all of my YA novels, I describe that raw draw, that sensual thread that we’ve all experienced (or want to!). But I also like to depict kids who understand the line they’re reaching, the boundary they’re repeatedly tempted to cross. Sexuality is a powerful pull that begs us to bend the rules, revise our morals. But I think it’s also something sacred, a treasure we want to hold for our one, great true love if at all possible!
Here’s an excerpt from a heated moment in REMNANTS (p370-371), where physical attraction is clear but at least one character knows he has to draw a hard line:
He turned toward me, and his forehead fell against mine, giving in. His warm breath flowed across my cheeks, my lips, feeling like a kiss in itself. “You are beautiful, Dri,” he whispered, speaking words that no one in the Valley ever did. At least in public. “He was right, that brother.” He lifted a hand to my cheek and I looked up at him, wanting him to grab hold of my face and kiss me. Barely moving, afraid I’d mess it up again. That we’d miss another moment.
He touched me, but his hand was feather-light on my cheek, as if he didn’t quite dare more contact. “Like Helen. Like Clytemnestra,” he whispered, “but far finer. Andriana.”
I swallowed hard, waiting. I took his other hand in mine, wanting to will the invitation and courage and recklessness I felt within me into him. That he might give in, act at last.
“We should go to sleep,” he said softly, and I knew the grief within him, the cost of it, to utter those words of honor, loyalty, integrity, so different than my own traitorous heart was speaking. I didn’t care what our trainer had drilled into us. What our elders had decreed. This, this could not be wrong…
“Morning will soon be upon us,” he said, his voice sounding strangled.
“Yes,” I said, not moving away, lifting my chin up, offering him my lips.
His breath was ragged, a war raging within him, but after a moment he turned and pulled away.
I frankly think that depicting the dance just on the outside line of that decision is sexier than reading an actual sex scene. When I read other novels that depict sex happening, I’m very grateful when they “fade to black” before the deed occurs. Even in adult novels, I’d rather not be in the front row to witness what is happening in a most intimate situation. If I get the idea of what’s happening, that’s enough for me.
I get some heat from some of the conservative crowd who read my books for including racier scenes or characters that get so entwined. But to me, not depicting such action wouldn’t be true to my characters. I’d rather write realistic characters who face realistic pressures and pulls, and manage to make the right decisions eight times out of ten, and when they don’t face the repercussions of those decisions. That’s how my characters become real to me…and I think, to readers too. That’s how they become genuine heroes and heroines.
The year is 2095. Gifted teens known as Remnants have been chosen and trained to act as humanity’s last hope to rectify the horrors that are now part of everyday life.
The Community has trained these teens as warriors and assigned them Knights of the Last Order as protectors. Together, they are a force that will be difficult to bring down.
But the Sons of Sheol, of course, are determined to do just that. As the Remnants begin their mission to course-correct humanity by saving and protecting key individuals, their enemies move to stop them, placing the entire world in peril.
Bestselling author Lisa T. Bergren presents the first book in her new YA futuristic dystopian series—The Remnants Novels—fitting in with the current dystopian trend in the marketplace.
ABOUT THE AUTHORLisa Tawn Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 40 books, with more than 2.5 million copies sold. She recently finished a teen series called River of Time (WATERFALL, CASCADE, TORRENT, BOURNE & TRIBUTARY and soon will be done with the last installment, DELUGE). She’s also written the Grand Tour Series (GLAMOROUS ILLUSIONS, GRAVE CONSEQUENCES, GLITTERING PROMISES), and is now at work on the REMNANTS Series. REMNANTS: SEASON OF WONDER, releases in April 2014.
Lisa’s time is split between managing home base, writing, consulting and helping Tim with his business. Her husband Tim is a sculptor of ducks-out-of-fenceposts (RMRustic.com), graphic designer and musician. They have three kids–Olivia (19), Emma (16) and Jack (11).
All five of the Bergrens make their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.