I want my book to be appropriate for my potential readers, but my main character is having a problem with a person who is s~xually harassing her. It is driving me crazy trying to figure out how to hint that this problem is happening without it sounding either prudish or too loose with my language. I really like how you handled the swearing situation when it comes to writing and being LDS. PLEASE HELP.
Dealing with s~xual situations in an LDS market is like walking a tightrope. We all have different comfort zones. Personally, I can handle it if characters go into the bedroom and close the door, but I don’t want to watch. As for s~xual violence—and I include harassment in that category—I need to know what’s going on, but subtle is better.
One of the best ways I’ve seen this handled is in Josi Kilpack’s book, Sheep’s Clothing, about an Internet predator who kidnaps a teenage girl. Josi writes, “The first time he touched her…” That’s all I needed to know.
Keep in mind that if you’re writing the scene in real time with sensory details, it’s going to draw the reader in, which will be offensive to some readers. If you have your character tell someone about the it, it allows for some distance between the reader and the event. This is one case where, in my opinion, telling is better than showing.
One thing I do when I’m going through a book that deals with possibly offensive material is to imagine my mother reading it. She’s your average LDS Relief Society sister and the target audience for most of the novels I work with. If I think she’d be offended and put it down, I lighten it up.
My best advice is to write your scenes the way you feel it best serves your story. If it’s too harsh, your publisher will let you know.
Readers, authors: How do you handle these types of situations? What advice to you have?