Shannon Stacey

Helmets…like condoms, only stiffer

So last night I’m reading through a scene in Crotch Rocket (working title, of course). Hot guy, smokin’ bike, everything’s moving along smoothly, until the voice in my head pops up.

Now, this voice is not some smooth James Earl Jones saying “Oh dear, you’ve made a mistake here.”

This voice is Gilbert Gottfried screeching “You screwed up! Massachusetts has a helmet law, you dumbass! You suck!”

Helmets are just like condoms, dammit. They’re not sexy, they screw up the pacing of a really hot scene, and nobody likes them, but if you skip them, all of a sudden your heroine’s TSTL and the author’s irresponsible. And the donning of said helmet/condom is almost always awkward enough to cause a skip in the flow.

Now, my hero (oh crap his name is Danny which is the little boy in 72 Hours and WHY does my muse limit itself to recycling the same ten names?) isn’t wearing a helmet. He’s a bad-ass, of course, and there wasn’t really time to worry about a helmet. But now he’s picking up the heroine, and well…

She’s never ridden a bike and she’s a Responsible Adult, so I’m sure she would say something like “Shouldn’t I have a helmet?” And when he says no because we don’t have time because the bad guys AND the cops are after me so just jump on, her response would be “Thanks, but I’ll call a cab.”

So, right smack dab in the middle of this scene, he has to pull the helmet out from under the cargo net, and she has to put it on. Then it’s going to take her five minutes of fumbling the buckle before he steps in and does it, no doubt pinching her neck and making her cry because his fingers are big. And then during this awesome chase scene, she’s going to be whacking him between the shoulderblades with this big, heavy helmet.

Oh, gee. Let me fan myself. Not.

Helmets and condoms. What’s a writer to do?

18 comments to “Helmets…like condoms, only stiffer”

  1. Heather Rae
      · May 12th, 2006 at 10:05 am · Link

    :hide: I worry about this too. I don’t have a motorcycle in one of my current books I’m writing, but the whole fumbling with the condom package, getting the lubricant on your fingers and it slipping and sliding as you try to put it on in the heat of the moment–sucks. Then, I worry if I do get it right where it doesn’t interupt the scene and I use it again, that the reader is going to tag me. However, I have noticed in some eroitca’s I’ve read, a condom is never mentioned–not even during anal sex.

    What if she knew he only had so much time to get her out of there? Then perhaps the adrenaline of the situation wouldn’t make her think about her safety or the law–just the imminent danger–and then she could think about how damned stupid she was after. Have her trembling when they stop because it’s a wild ride from hell…I dunno if I’m helping here or not.

  2. Jaci Burton
      · May 12th, 2006 at 10:10 am · Link

    since we’re currently discussing this in IM, you know what I think.

    No helmet. Toss her ass on that bike and get movin’


    Jaci….who frequently ignores the condom issue too and will probably get blasted for it :neener:

  3. Karen Templeton
      · May 12th, 2006 at 11:07 am · Link

    No motorcycles, but I actually enjoy figuring out how to work in those pesky condoms (as anyone who’s read my books knows :)).

    In the book I just turned in, I believe the line was “. . .and faster than you could say Who’s got the condom?, they were naked. . .”

    Or something like that.

    As for your motorcycle scene. . .see, I think what you just wrote works just fine. It has a great Crusie-esque quality to it. Especially the part where she cries because his fingers are too big. Well, unless it’s not a comedy, in which case, you’re screwed. But seriously, here he is trying to get the hell out of Dodge and she’s whining about “Where’s my helmet?” and he’s like, Oh, good grief . . .

    Well, I think it works, anyway. :wink:

  4. Anna Lucia
      · May 12th, 2006 at 12:48 pm · Link

    Well, as someone who lives where there are helmet laws for the whole country, and no one would ever think of riding without one, Every Damn Time I read a character riding without one I want to hit them. No, actually, I don’t care about them enough to engage with them, I just want to walk away in disgust…. :shrug: To me, anyone who rides without a helmet is TSTL, which is okay, because if they fall off, or get side-swiped, they’ll have been proved TSTL.

    And (I’m really sorry Shannon love) I’ve never had a problem with writing or reading a condom. Am I REALLY the only one who’s batted one round a bar when a friend’s blown it up? They’re occasionally annoying, and fiddly, and odd, and FUNNY.

    But then, so is sex.


  5. Anna Lucia
      · May 12th, 2006 at 12:51 pm · Link

    Oh, and if we can ignore the bits during sex where she coughs and it pops out, or he changes angle and, um, causes wierd compressed air noises, or where he pulls her pubic hair by accident or where she knees him in the balls when they’re changing positions, then we can ignore the bit where she bangs him between the shoulder blades with the helmet.

    Stop angsting and :type:

    And please, God, say that to me regularly. :wink:

  6. Mel
      · May 12th, 2006 at 1:09 pm · Link

    lol, Set the book in Indiana… no helmet law here :neener:

    yeah, I know responsible people DO wear one, but at least it’s not breaking a law when the moment requires hurry up and go without one. Just be prepared for your heroine to have a really bad hair for the rest of the day.

  7. Shannon
      · May 12th, 2006 at 5:13 pm · Link

    No helmet law here, either, which is why it didn’t occur to me until now.

    But what DID occur to me is that, while she doesn’t know there could be a high-speed chase, he does, so his letting a newbie get on the back with no helmet would make him a creep, no?

    I think I’ll have to just stick it in there, hopefully as smoothly as Karen does the condoms. :thumb:

    Okay…Anna…. :rofl:

    To me, anyone who rides without a helmet is TSTL, which is okay, because if they fall off, or get side-swiped, they’ll have been proved TSTL.

    *coughcough* (See above reference to no NH helmet law) *coughcough* :neener:

    Am I REALLY the only one who’s batted one round a bar when a friend’s blown it up?

    Quite possibly. :lmao:

    Oh, and if we can ignore the bits during sex where she coughs and it pops out, or he changes angle and, um, causes wierd compressed air noises, or where he pulls her pubic hair by accident or where she knees him in the balls when they’re changing positions, then we can ignore the bit where she bangs him between the shoulder blades with the helmet.

    :lmao: :rofl: :lmao: I’m going to pee myself! But I see your point. :lmao:

    Oh, and Anna…stop angsting and :type:

  8. AngieW
      · May 12th, 2006 at 8:54 pm · Link

    Oh, and if we can ignore the bits during sex where she coughs and it pops out, or he changes angle and, um, causes wierd compressed air noises, or where he pulls her pubic hair by accident or where she knees him in the balls when they’re changing positions, then we can ignore the bit where she bangs him between the shoulder blades with the helmet.

    :lmao: Anna, you need to write that bit of dialogue into a book because it’s far too funny to languish in the comments of Shan’s blog

  9. Natalie J. Damschroder
      · May 13th, 2006 at 12:15 am · Link

    You guys all crack me up.

    But let me get serious for a minute.

    My daughter got a scooter for her birthday. She’s had one, this was a new one, and she’s not allowed to ride it without her helmet. But she’s never fallen, and every so often when I’d catch her tooling around in the ten square feet directly in front of our house, I’d consider not making her put it on, because, you know, it’s a pain and it’s ten square feet and she’s never fallen.

    There’s a big hill on our street, and she always goes down it perfectly, giving my MIL a heart attack just at the thought. (Note: I would NEVER consider letting her go down the hill without the helmet. Just had to say that.)

    So she’s showing off, going down the hill with her sister with parents and grandparents watching, and what has NEVER happened before, happens. She gets too close to her sister, looks down, wobbles, and goes tumbling off the side of the scooter and rolls down the hill.

    She had a scraped hip and banged up knuckles. With no helmet, she’d have brain damage.

    Not that a seven-year-old on a scooter and a responsible adult on a motorcycle are the same thing. But my point is, all it takes is once. Which is why I find the repeal of PA’s helmet law appalling, and if I read a book with people who didn’t ride one, I’d stop reading it.

    I totally understand the appeal of riding without a helmet. For me, it just doesn’t even come close to overwhelming the risks.

    Final comment: Consider the source, because hypocritical Natalie has written sex with no condoms, though she finds it irresponsible to do so.

  10. Anna Lucia
      · May 13th, 2006 at 11:08 am · Link

    Yeah, Natalie, my Dad’s a case in point too. He was only riding a bicycle, when he was side swiped, knocked off, and hit his head on a stone on the verge. His helmet was stoved in and he was knocked unconscious, but he lived. Without the helmet, he wouldn’t have. And he was only going push-bike speed.

    And I KNOW NH has no helmet law, Shan love, and I WORRY about you! :baby:

    But as for languishing I consider this blog provides excellent exposure! :write:

    Glad I caused some laughs. :cheesy: It’s my raison d’etre, after all…. :wink:

  11. Gabriele
      · May 14th, 2006 at 5:03 pm · Link

    We have a helmet law for motorcycles, too, and insurance demands it for horse-riding. But I don’t wear one on the bicycle.

    My mother fell down a badly lit staircase, hit a wall and died from brain bleeding. Now, who’s going to wear a helmet walking down a staircase? There’s always some risk in life, and riding a bicycle for me is one I take.

    I’m with my brother when it comes to my niece wearing a helmet, though.

    Haven’t come across any helmeted problems in my writing, though some of my characters wear them, of course.

    And no condoms in the Middle Ages. :neener:

  12. Sharon
      · May 14th, 2006 at 7:11 pm · Link

    No helmut laws here in Texas, and come to think of it, I think I’ve only seen maybe one rider with one in the last few years? We have tons of motorcycle owners, and a huge ass Harley showroom. Loads of people ride them.

    To me, it wouldn’t be realistic to write a book set in my area and have the hero whip out a helmut when 99.9 percent of the people (stupid or not) don’t wear them.

    In a perfect world, fiction characters would all be lovely examples of politically correct, ultra careful specimens of the light, but if you want realistic characters, you can’t follow that formula.

    And sorry, if there were cops and bad guys after the hero, and the heroine takes the time to ask for a helmut when they need to make a get away, I’d want to bitchslap her. Either that or I’d have the hero toss her off the bike and tell her, sure, go buy you one. I’ll be back for you. RIGHT.

  13. Jewell
      · May 15th, 2006 at 11:27 am · Link

    Hmmm, I can see I’m going to be the “Dudley-Do-Wrong” with this post.

    I live in Ohio where helmets are not required. We do not wear them, and try to avoid states where it is mandatory (hence we don’t travel far. LOL)

    First, if a helmet does not have a face shield, you’d better be prepared for the whiplash caused at 50 mph plus. Unless the open-face helmet is fitted to the rider, the wind blows and circles and snaps the riders head in all directions (unless you are a big burly man or are experienced with the sensation.) Think of one of those bobble-headed dolls you rest on your dashboard. I mean, seriously, baseball caps come with adjustable back straps because one size does not fit all.

    Second, without a face shield, well, there is the bug issue. I traveled across country as a rider once and had the very unpleasant experience of acquiring a bee in my bonnet. One that survived the impact. How the driver did not wreck as I frantically wiggled and squirmed to get the darn thing off, I’ll never know.

    Also, with helmets, there is the issue of reduced sound and reduced peripheral vision. Defense is the best offense when riding a motorcycle, and while helmets provide some cranium protection, what you lose in sensoral ability has always made me shy away from them.

    So, back to the story issue, if the heroine all of a sudden pops off about the need for a helmet when someone is about to kill them both, that’s when I’d feel she was TSTL. Leave her there, BUB! It would be like asking the guy pulling out a gun to save her if he had the proper permit to carry it. LOL

    Jewell’s two cents

  14. Shannon
      · May 15th, 2006 at 11:42 am · Link

    Anna, I wear a helmet. :kiss: Since we became parents, the husband will wear one occassionally, and I almost always wear one. (ATV-ing…we sold the Harley when the tall kid came along because the husband lost interest. Too many crazy SUVs on the road and too much to lose. We’re going to get another when the short kid’s a little bit older.)

    Well…see, the heroine doesn’t know there’s any urgency. She thinks Danny just stopped to help her get rid of her Neanderthal date and he’s offered her a ride home. And….while he really doesn’t want to get caught, it’s not totally life or death.

    See, my fear, as I mentioned to Jaci in IM, is that the editor will feel the same about helmets as Natalie or Anna and the opening scene is not where you want to lose an editor.

    So I think what I’m going to do is….he’s didn’t take the time to put on the helmet, but he’ll take the time to put it on her. To be true to the character, she would ask. And he would want her to be wearing it. (He’s a cop, by the way.) And while it’s not a comedy, it’s on the lighter side, so I can make it work.

    And I had no idea so many states didn’t have helmet laws. I thought NH was one of like…2, maybe? My husband always felt pretty much the same as Jewell, but every cell-phone talking, latte-drinking soccer mom on the planet driving around in 3-ton, zero-visibility tanks pretty much did us in.


  15. Jewell
      · May 15th, 2006 at 12:30 pm · Link

    Ah, see Shannon, now that does work.

    She doesn’t know the danger, but he does. Having her ask about it is perfectly normal. And as a cop, that’s a prod for him to think of her safety. And, motivation wise, he knows he’s about to go hell-bent-for-leather.

    Works for me!

  16. nataliedamschroder
      · May 15th, 2006 at 1:31 pm · Link

    Sharon, you had a really good point about regionality.

    So, Jewell, why can’t you just wear one with a face shield, then? Sounds like the kinds of arguments my 7-year-old can’t get away with. :wink: Defense is the best offense in any driving situation, but nothing is going to protect you against the drunk running the red light just as you’re going through the intersection.

    Shannon, I think that solution works, except the part where he’s a cop. I mean, I suppose there are some cops who wouldn’t ride with a helmet if they didn’t have to, but A) if it’s the law and B) he’s a COP, he sees the effects of stupidity all the time, like not wearing seatbelts.

    Does the helmut even need to be mentioned as not on his head before he puts it on her?

  17. Shannon
      · May 15th, 2006 at 7:21 pm · Link

    I’m going to try to skim over the hero’s helmetlessness. But as a cop he’d probably choose taking off helmetless than being shot while putting it on. I know it’s confusing without having the scene at hand, but he was shot at as he stole the bike, but he’d lost them. So then he was able to stop and rescue the damsel in distress, but he ends up being spotted again.

    I’d not mention helmets at all, and let the reader either fill in the blank or leave it empty, but I’ve got a couple of paragraphs of her experiencing high-speed motorcycle riding for the first time—wind, hair, tears, etc.

    No bugs, though, because it’s a romance. :roll:

  18. nataliedamschroder
      · May 16th, 2006 at 12:57 pm · Link


    “not really time to worry about a helmet” and “he’s being shot at” are NOT the same thing.

    Geez, I looked like a sour, self-righteous, goody-two-shoes for nothin’.

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