16 Comments

The First Time in More Ways Than One.

I was writing a novel in which the main character decided to remain a virgin until she got married. Her reasons and her boyfriend’s reaction and attitude toward her decision played a role in the story. The fact that their wedding night would be their first night together, and her first time having sex would impact their lives later.

After a friend read the manuscript, she said, “No way. A guy would not wait five years for a girl no matter how much he loved her.” I was surprised because she likes to view the world through her tiny little rose-colored glasses.

life, relationship

I didn’t like her response. My rose-colored glasses on the subject were still firmly perched. So, I went to the next most reliable source I had on male behavior, my husband.

“Nope. Never happen,” he said resolutely.

“Not even if he loved her very much?”

“I would say a guy would wait four or five months tops, if her really loved her.”

OK, I realize it’s hypocritical of me to be disappointed. Not only did I not wait until I got married, I lived with him for two years first. Still, for some reason it made me sad to think it was impossible for a couple to wait. I reluctantly changed the story slightly.

I met a young newlywed just a few months later. She had read my manuscript and we were discussing it. I told her about my original plan to have the characters wait to make love until their wedding night. She told me that she and her fiance–yes, this is true–waited five years until their wedding night. I wiped the smudge off my rose-colored glasses with a smile. But I didn’t change the plot of the story back to the  original. Five years is just too unbelievable.

What are your thoughts? If you read a book and the characters waited until their wedding night, would you think it was unbelievably unrealistic? Do you have an opinion about a couple waiting to have sex until they are married?

This is a revised post from March 2011.

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16 comments on “The First Time in More Ways Than One.

  1. It really depends on other circumstances like religious beliefs or medical reasons, but it is true, people do wait or not have sex for a multitude of reasons.

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    • I agree, but I wanted to keep my plot realistic and I wondered if it was even possible to wait in this day and time. I’ve learned that life is stranger than fiction in this situation.

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  2. Yes I’m sure there are people who wait. The question is would your target audience relate to or be interested in this situation. The trick is to write a story that people want to read but not compromise the story you want to tell. The story you want to tell can change after the initial draft so it’s ok to change basic plot if you want to.

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  3. Yes it is believable. I know many couples like this in real life. Of course, I also ready Christian fiction, so this happens frequently. When I read about people waiting, especially in contemporary fiction, it gives me hope that people see themselves as more than just sexual beings, though that is definitely an important part of life. I think society, in general, focuses too much on sex, so it’s refreshing to read about this from a variety of authors. But I understand your reasons for changing it.

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    • I wrote that novel a few years back and I’ve learned a lot since then. First of all, to be true to the character and the story. Since I’m writing the story, I could never write something diametrically opposed to my beliefs but I’m not writing to promote my views and beliefs. Fiction that preaches from a soapbox is so annoying. Second of all, I’ve learned to have some back bone and not worry about people judging things that happen in my writing. The last thing I learned after talking to some girls about a YA novel I’m writing is that teens are not the sex crazed beings that the media portrays them as. I agree about society focusing too much on sex. There is so much more to life and relationships. After I posted that article the first time, I was happily surprised by all the people that told me they had waited or wished they had.

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      • That’s wonderful! I’m so glad to hear that the “truth” from society’s standpoint is not as accurate as I thought. That’s fabulous!

        Sorry if I was a bit of a Negative Nancy. It probably stems from the way I’m treated for waiting for sex until marriage. It’s amazing how cruel people can be. So sometimes my anger wields its ugly head. Sorry about that.

        Many of the characters in my books are not at all sexually abstinent, but I do try to interweave a moral lesson. I hope it doesn’t come across too preachy. Because I know how much of a turn off that is as a reader.

        Thanks for a great post! And a response that really has me thinking (and sheathing my hurt). 🙂

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      • I didn’t notice any anger in your response. I think it’s great people are being honest about a sensitive topic. Thanks for sharing!

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      • Okay, phew! That’s seriously a load off my mind. Commenting makes it hard for me to pick up on the nuances of language that express emotion, kind of like in texting, so I’m never sure how it sounds. Thanks for reassuring me. I mean it. It helps.

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  4. Following your passion is the cornerstone of writing well, and in terms of believability, the writer’s job is to persuade her readers to suspend disbelief. Of course, as a writer, this is something you’re already well aware of.

    Good to know that you’ve learned the difference between constructive criticism and other people’s bias, a lesson which proved difficult for me.

    And I think every couple is different. America having been founded by the Puritans seems to have resulted in a sex-obsessed culture. If only we were all more relaxed about it.

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    • It is very important to differentiate between constructive criticism and bias. Actually, I didn’t realize it until you put it into words but now that you have, I’ll make sure to keep it in mind, especially when critiquing other’s work. You’re right about every couple being different (obviously) and relationships can’t be pigeonholed especially in writing. Thanks for the feedback.

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  5. Yes, it’s totally believable to wait! This is how life worked for centuries! It’s only recently that the media has started to tell us that nobody waits, that the wedding is just a formality. I am firmly of the opinion that more people place importance on waiting for the wedding than society would have us believe. Furthermore, I find it slightly disturbing that the “unbelievable” criticism was based on the fact that no man would wait for a woman that long. Does the woman have no say in this? Does the man have no respect for her morals and feelings?

    Ahem. Sore point. Sorry for the rant.

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    • I’ve learned that waiting is important to more people than I imagined. I think I tend towards pessimism when it comes to things like this and it’s encouraging to find out I’m wrong.

      Unfortunately, my experience in my younger days was that a woman did have a say, but the guys I knew wouldn’t stick around. They moved on to a sure thing.

      I’m glad you shared your opinion. Believe me that wasn’t a rant. 😉

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  6. These days, unless there is some religious or deep cultural reason, waiting 5 years would seem unrealistic to me. I’ve heard of couples who abstain for several months before the wedding to give them that feeling of excitement and “the first time” on the wedding night…

    I know the difficulty of changing your story based on the opinions of others. I’ve had to do that, too. But, I suppose, that’s why we have beta readers and editors. If we didn’t want their input, we wouldn’t ask for it!

    I’m in the midst of a fairly extensive re-write of my novel based on the input of a writing coach and my beta readers (all who disliked my ending). I had to weigh all the comments and come to the conclusion that they were right without feeling as if I’m selling out my story. It’s a tough balancing act, isn’t it?

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    • It is a balancing act, alright. But many times other opinions help me see things I hadn’t noticed, and I realize changing something will improve the story. That was the case with the one I mentioned. My ideals weren’t the issue. Staying true to the characters was and they wouldn’t have waited five years.

      I hope you’re happy with your new ending.

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