Feb 252010

Last time I blogged here at WriteSEX, I had a number of lovely responses. Kate T asked if I’d blog about euphemisms, and that will be my next blog, for sure. But right now I thought I’d dive into Vague’s question, which Vague boiled down to, “what is your priority when writing: plot, character, or sex?”

My first instinct when I saw this question was to answer that, in terms of mainstream publishing, the author’s priority must be plot and character over sex. And yet, even as I typed that response, I thought about a number of characters (published as urban fantasy) for whom sex and character and sex and plot are so entirely inextricable as to complicate such a knee-jerk response.

A second problem with my initial response is that it sounds a bit like the Hollywood actress who insists she will only show her ladybits in order to “enhance a character.” On the one hand, this excuse is just that: an excuse. As such, it suggests that sex and sexuality deserve, or necessitate, an excuse. It implies we need to apologize for or defend our naked bodies. On the other hand, this excuse also implies that there’s a universal scale for determining “character” and its “enhancement.” I respect Halle Berry as an actress, but after all the fuss she made over showing her tchochkees, Swordfish didn’t strike me as the most impressive of vehicles.

Another problem with my initial response is that it cuts out my own role as the author of my characters. As a literary academic, I mostly agree with New Criticism’s Reader Response theory, which states that all we have, as readers, is the text in front of us. We should never attempt to “read” a text in terms of what we know about its author’s biography.

As an author, however, I know damned well that I made a lot of choices that boil down to what I wanted to write about. And I wanted to write about sex. I like to read about sex, I like to have sex, I like to talk about sex, and I think that my whole hedonistic philosophy about the importance of healthy, healthful sex in our lives helps define who I am, as a person. I like to think of myself as a short, zaftig D. H. Lawrence of urban fantasy, but without the obsessive need to use the word “loins.” Or “inchoate.” Or “inchoate loins.”

Anyway, my point is that I–Me! Nicole Peeler! That author you’re not supposed to notice!–wanted Jane to have healthy sex, and by that I mean sex that was unapologetic and frolicsome, but also safe and completely consensual. Jane thinks about her health–both physical and emotional–before she indulges, but when she does indulge, she’s unrepentant. After all, she’s a woman grown who knows what she wants.

And that’s what we do, as authors. We make choices. But these choices then have to make sense, which means we have to make them make sense. Jane lives in a tiny community in Maine. Why would she end up such a sexual savante? That question was easily answered by her mom’s behavior–sex is in her blood; the pursuit of sex has been her example. It also helped me flesh out Jason’s grandparents. I made them two louche ex-hippies who would be comfortable educating Jane and Jason in healthy sexuality. I also upped the ante with Jason’s character. Without spoiling anything, she has a sort of idealized “Blue Lagoon” upbringing with her childhood best friend and sweetheart. Because of their similar circumstances, they mature together physically, intellectually, emotionally and sexually, and their sexual lives together are as inextricable as their friendship and their maturation process.

To put it another way, I, as the author, had to think through the choices I made and make them seem like inevitabilities rather than personal preferences. I wanted readers to see Jane as being the way Jane is because she’s Jane, not because Nicole Peeler enjoys proselytizing about sex. Jane had to live, and breathe, and appear to make her own choices on the page. So, yes, sex was one of the “ingredients” that went into making Jane True and Tempest Rising. But my job, as the author, was then to balance the rest of the recipe so it worked, as a whole.

So was my choice and its execution effective? It was certainly a risk: some people don’t like reading sex in their UF (and have told me so) and others don’t like reading non-Romance sex. In other words, they don’t like that Jane is attracted to Ryu but not “in love” with Ryu (and have told me so). While I’m sad these readers don’t see joy in Jane’s sexuality, I do not control people’s preferences, so these critiques are easy for me to dismiss. Not least because of probably one of the best series of comments I’ve received on Jane, from a reader in Alaska. I was very happy to hear from this reader how she’d enjoyed Tempest Rising. But when she told me how she gave my book to her sixteen-year-old daughter because she thought Jane’s sexuality set a good example for young women, I was floored. I’m not ashamed to admit it: I totally burst into tears.

In conclusion, it will be your choice whether you write sex and how you make that sex natural to your plot and character. Authors are puppeteers. If we decide we want our puppet to bow, we must figure out how to move our fingers in order to make him do so. Unlike puppeteers, however, we have to do so without revealing the strings that attach us to our creations. Our choices must be “invisible,” camouflaged by layers of character, plot, tone, syntax, setting, and all of the other elements that make mere choices into entire worlds. The choice to use sex must be considered, and it will have repercussions for your writing and for your audience. But what a layer of complexity sex brings: so much nuance, action, subconscious and conscious desires, a wellspring of fantasy to tap into, and a kind of tension that can’t be matched, I don’t think, in any other type of interaction or expression.

So why not sex up our dossiers? I’m glad that I did. And I think Jane is glad, too. ;-)

Feb 182010

Last time I had the blog, we talked about eroticizing setting with description. Now we’re going to focus on what readers look for in any form of erotic novel: Character. I’ve learned everything there was to know about character from my mentor, Morgan Hawke. Remember when we’re talking character here, we’re talking solely about what sells, not necessarily what works for your niche readers. That is for you to figure out. For this blog, we’re going to share what works to create those characters that arouse not only our hearts and minds, but our genitalia.

The first thing we obviously tackle for character is description. What do we envision when we start putting pen to paper? What if that vision is hard to come across in our minds? The easiest way to create characters is to steal someone else’s! Use what’s popular in movies and TV. While that seems like cheating (it is) we still have to figure out a few key things.

1. Are we creating PLOT driven stories
2. Are we creating CHARACTER driven stories

Let’s focus on Character for obvious reasons. When I suggested modeling your character after Movie/TV characters, I did this on purpose. For example, with Hugh Jackman in mind, we now have what he looks like and even some background. Does his character fit our story? He probably does, a little.

But the characters must go through trials and tribulations in order to grow and reach that desired ending.

To add erotic elements to the character, we need a mate for them. In all fiction we’re talking about creating tension between the two characters. This is done through their actions. If you’re out on a date, what actions do you use to attract the attention of someone who has caught your eye? What does that tension feel like?

When we put those feelings and actions down on paper, we’re using them in action tags to describe them to come across as we intend for them to.

In this scene from “Whiskey Spread” we have Morganna, an older woman is attracted to one of her long time customers.

She stepped back into the bar area but took a quick step back out of sight. Nicholas was sitting at a seat by the window and there was a brunette with him.
Her heart sank.
Her reaction to seeing him with some other woman.

The brunette leaned forward on her elbows, waving her hand through the thick cloud of smoke coming from Nicholas’s cigar.
His hair hung down the length of his back and caught the light off the fixture above so that reflected a deep blue so dark it looked black. His charcoal gray shirt fit snuggly over broad shoulders and was tucked into navy colored slacks. Her describing him.
Morganna licked her lips, felt her nerves ready in anticipation of goddess only knew what. Morganna’s response, a typical action that might elicit an erotic response as the reader has been SHOWN something.

Then she took a glance at the brunette sitting across from him nursing a…cola?
Was she his girlfriend?
Sizing her up, Morganna stepped out from behind the spot she was in.

Lastly, we’re left with what Morganna’s intended action is.

The highlighted parts are up to us to throw in. This gives us not only a better scene, but deeper characterization without having to spell everything out. Morganna’s actions of licking her lips, something many men find arousing. Following it up with an appropriate action drives the story. What will Morganna do? Will she let her body control her lust? Or will her lust control her body?

There is an order of actions things occur in also but we’ll cover that in another article. Until then, enjoy WriteSEX and stay tuned for the lovely and talented Dr. Nicole Peeler

Feb 112010

by oceania, www.sensualwords.com

I had to laugh when i read Dr Nicole Peeler description herself as the odd (wo)man out. If she is the odd one out then i must be from mars because I create audio erotica. Long before podcasting became the hot commodity it is now I was creating, recording and publishing audio erotica for retail outlets and for adult entertainment sites.

This career started as a lark and like M.Christain I never thought I could write erotica, not until i tired it. And I never knew i had the guts to record it until I got to the studio.

i stepped outside my comfort zone
and the boundaries of what others considered acceptable
at that time
audio was considered a vehicle for poetry, children’s stories and music. Certainly not for erotic stories.

audio strikes a cord that is hard to ignore.

Through a story
using my voice
I can be anyone…
anyone at all!
the imagination of the listener and the inflection of my voice let imaginations go where they must.
It’s intoxicating.
it’s powerful!

I can understand why Audre Lorde,
the black lesbian poet called the erotic,
and women so empowered

I am dangerous because i write using that power!
and like a politician i wield that power by touching my audience with the spoken word

using audio for a medium
it is like being that dirty bad girl
the one that enjoys sex too much
is a bit too easy
and has too much fun

with audio
they have to hear my words
and the subtle undertones that say to them
don’t be afraid of your inner self
the one that understands this life’s blood
and stop trying to control things

like the nature of my line breaks

i know that  from reading this post
you saw the change in styles
and your fingers are itching to redline
add punctuation
common sentence structure
but step outside your comfort zone
and read it as i do
a break where one takes a breath
it might drive editors insane
but for audio
for me
it is

it allows me to feel the words
see if they ring true

this is the way i work
it might not be for everyone

but the one powerful string that unites all writers, especially the writesex group, is that we push boundaries, upset the apple cart, and go where we are not comfortable in order to break our own limitations and become better writers.

Even though audio erotica is my preferred addiction, i use audio when i create stories that will be text only, i use it for agreements and contracts and mainstream articles.

When i mentor others I ask them to read to me. What surprises me is how many writers are shy when it comes to reading their work.
after all if you can’t hear a story in your head
then how will you get it on paper.

if you become paralyzed when putting voice to your words
then perhaps audio is the tool for you

I love this tool
the voice
it’s free
most everyone has one

and in using it
you can avoid the pitfalls that many writers fall into
the reuse of phrases
and clichés

because people especially writers
when working on a piece
skim the written word
you cant do that when saying the words out loud

the listener, will hear if the reader is in tune with his or her character
if emotions ring true
if a passage is written badly

audio is a litmus test
and one that i highly recommend

Sensual Words custom audio stories

Listen to the audio

Oceania for writesex.net

Feb 042010

by Thomas Roche, www.thomasroche.com

A while back in this blog, M. Christian encouraged writers of any stripe — but especially erotic writers — to spread their wings and try new themes, genres, and styles.

Christian wants you to flex your literary muscles — better yet, work the hell out of them until they go rubbery with lactic acid. I think it’s damned good advice from a literary and creative standpoint. In any single instance, this strategy could make you a better writer and give you some interesting work to pimp — or it could leave you scratching your head and saying “Okay, that didn’t work.” As an overall strategy, it’s guaranteed to make you a better writer.

And the exact same thing is true about sexual taboos. Break them, and you’re guaranteed to get a rise out of yourself. Shatter them, and you’ll change the way you think. Run smack dab into a taboo that scares you — something that “squicks” you — and you’ve found something to fuel and uncomfortable moment in front of your computer. Sometimes those moments are the most inspirational; they lead to new turn-ons, new ideas, new stories, new imagined erotic situations. Maybe you’re lucky and even find something you think you simply can’t write about — or don’t think anyone should write about. In that case, you’ve potentially found the most fertile creative ground you’ll ever discover.

Or it might just make you feel creepy for a few days. That said, the experience of writing something that doesn’t work, like trying to write a western and having it crash and burn, will also make you a better writer. The overall trajectory of a writing career, in creative and artistic terms is almost invariably marked by two steps forward, one step back.

Before we go any further, I should do exactly that and take a step back. Let’s define two words I’ve already used, both of which are important. “Squick” is a word used in the BDSM community to describe that feeling of, “Ew.” Everyone has something that squicks them — with Dan Savage, it’s poo; with me it’s clowns, just for starters. In the BDSM community, some common squicks are needles, knives, age play, bodily fluids. At a BDSM event or a play party or in writing BDSM erotica, getting “squicked” means you leave the room, stop reading, or stare in mingled fascination and disgust.

The second important word, “taboo,” is so misused that I want to define it, courtesy of Wikipedia, the arbiter of either all things or nothing, depending on whom you ask:

“A taboo is a strong social prohibition…relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and forbidden based on moral judgment…Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society.”

As a horror writer, I set out to write something that frightens me and, ideally, will frighten my audience. As an erotica writer, I set out to turn myself on, and hopefully turn on my audience. Both genres often rely on transgression of some sort — the breaking of taboos — to provide the fuel and conflict. Whether it’s a happy straight couple feeling each other up in a lingerie changing booth, or a serial killer stalking people through a Louisiana swamp, with both horror and erotica, in my view somebody’s probably doing something they’re not supposed to, or you don’t have a story.

That’s why my philosophy of pushing boundaries is so important to my own personal writing process. Finding the inspiration to write is, for me, a profoundly personal act; to find my own taboos, to learn to work with them, I’ve had to delve into weirdness and get a hold on things I never would have considered sexy.

For me, when I was about 21, the most intense taboo I had was writing about sex between men. That freaked the fucking hell out of me; I was aware from the outset that this experience was about internalized homophobia. I wrote some gay porn anyway — for a not-very-good reason because I was far more financially poor than I was homophobic, and someone was paying $100. It went swimmingly. I grew up and got less homophobic. I write (mostly) straight erotica now, but the experience of writing completely transformed my experience of sexuality.

Or, your taboos might be disturbing not just to you but to other people. Some years ago I wrote a story called “Death Rock,” told from the point of view of a woman whose boyfriend wants her to play dead; in the heart of this necrophilia fantasy, I utterly creeped myself out. Over the years it’s proved to be one of my more commented-upon stories.

But there are risks in writing about taboo; I’ve written far more “taboo” stories that have never been — and never will be — published than I’ve written ones that’ve seen the light of day. Writing about what disturbs me can be such a cathartic act that I often end up with a mess; other times, I end up with something that is so reprehensible and bizarre that I could never see sharing it with the world.

Do these cathartic moments produce marketable stories? Almost never. But they’re important. To me, at least.

For me, the most satisfying part of writing fiction is the catharsis I’ve heard described as “vomiting onto the page.” The most intense experience of catharsis I ever have is when I sit down and think “What am I freaked out about today?” and then “vomit” out a thousand, two thousand, three or five or eight thousand words about it.

You won’t read those stories any time soon; they never see the light of day.

And I don’t sleep particularly well on those nights, for one of about a dozen reasons — ideally, for several of them. But in the space of fifteen minutes or three hours, in exploring my own taboos, I’m changed — utterly changed.

And for me, that’s kinda the whole point of writing in the first place.