Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Great Minds Think Twice About Bedroom Scenes
By Steve Piacente

In my new novel Bootlicker, a reporter has a drink with a source. It begins innocently, but the spark between them touches off a hasty move from the barroom to the bedroom. 
As author, do I stay outside, peek from the window, or jump right in there with the lusty couple? And, are reader expectations any different in the wake of Fifty Shades?
Yes or no, I have some rules, because navigating the line between sex and sexy can be tricky. The fact is that there’s an audience for both. 

Some readers want front-row seats to every move and counter-move that take place between the sheets. Others are happy to wait downstairs and perhaps smile as telling sounds ring out from the upstairs bedroom. 

The act – and the writing of the act – is intensely personal and subject to an interesting truism, that the more you practice, the better you get. That’s a fact and everyone knows it, even if speaking so candidly makes us squirm a little. 

My first rule is, don’t indulge in sex scenes simply because you can. There must be a point, and the scene must reveal something you haven’t shown yet about the characters, and carry the story forward. 

My second rule is, don’t lapse into porn, or worse, unintentionally funny porn, full of acrobatic acts and contraptions that are better left to professionals.

Think of all that can be revealed by a well-done sex scene: confidence, creativity, knowledge, skill, consideration, and patience, or - ouch - insecurity, ignorance, clumsiness, and selfishness. 

What does the reader take away from a character who wants the lights left on, or who chooses the kitchen over the bedroom, or who gently slides a zipper instead of tearing it open? 

All of us are born with powerful instincts to communicate and procreate. Bedroom or barstool, we know when someone’s faking it. To score, authors who venture into the bedroom must understand the difference between sex and sexy and make their choice – and their scenes – compelling, believable and purposeful.

Oh, and that reporter who slept with his source? I hope it was worth it, because he’s in some serious trouble. 

Steve Piacente (@wordsprof) has been a professional writer since graduating from American University in 1976. In 2010, he self-published Bella, the story of a widow’s quest to uncover the truth about her husband’s death on an Afghan battlefield. The forthcoming Bootlicker (available Sept. 1) is the prequel. Steve started as a sportswriter at the Naples Daily News, switched to news at the Lakeland Ledger, and returned to D.C. in 1985 as Correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. In 1989, the native New Yorker moved to the same position for the Charleston (SC) Post & Courier. He is now deputy communications director at a federal agency in Washington, D.C., and teaches journalism classes at American University. Contact Steve at Bella is available at 


Steve Piacente has been a professional writer for more than 35 years. The award-winning journalist started as a sportswriter for the Naples Daily News in Florida before switching to news reporting at the Lakeland Ledger.

His career brought him to Washington D.C., where years earlier he graduated with a communications degree from American University, to write as a correspondent for the Tampa Tribune and later the Charleston Post & Courier.

He went back to school to earn his masters in fiction from Johns Hopkins University, and later self published his first novel Bella, the story of a widow’s quest to uncover the truth about her husband’s death on an Afghan battlefield. In 2012, Piacente publishes its prequel titled Bootlicker.

Piacente was recognized by the National Press Club three years in a row for his fiction writing, and in 1990 was the club’s runner-up for the Robin Goldstein Award for Regional Reporting in Washington. He was selected as one of the “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” by The Authors Show after Bella’s release.

Originally from Brooklyn, Piacente grew up on Long Island and now lives in Rockville, Maryland with his wife. He began speechwriting for a federal agency in D.C. where today he heads the agency’s web, new media and graphics teams. He has taught journalism classes at American University for 15 years, and he writes as an expert on self-publishing for numerous websites.

Steve Piacente
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An unholy union exists between a racist U.S. senator and the candidate poised to become South Carolina’s first black congressman since the Civil War.

The year is 1959, the setting, rural South Carolina. Poor, black teenager Ike Washington stumbles on a Klan lynching led by a white judge. Caught, he must choose: join the dead man or begin hustling black support the ambitious judge needs to advance. In trade, Ike is handed a life of comfort and power.

Decades later, as he is poised to become the first black SC congressman since Reconstruction, guiltwracked Ike winds up alone in the same forest, a long rope in his fist. Rookie reporter Dan Patragno uncovers the truth just before Election Day.

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