Feb 272015
 
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By M.Christian

“Dialogue can be tricky—”

“Whatcha mean ‘dialogue can be tricky’?  It’s just people talking, right?  How hard can it be?”

“You’d be surprised.  For instance, a lot of people think that dialogue should be … um … er … ah … accurate.  But if you wrote down how people actually talk it’s kind of … muddled … youknowwhatImean?”

“Okay, I getcha: you mean people should have distinctive voices, sound like human beings, but not cram those voices with the stuff real people actually say when they’re talking.”

“Bingo!  It’s also important to know some basic dialogue grammar and punctuat—”

“—like dashes for when someone gets interrupted—”

“—right!  Or when you…”

“Trail off, right?  What about ‘OK’?”

“Well, the jury is out on that one.  Personally I don’t like two huge caps in my dialogue.  I prefer the more natural ‘okay.’  The same with tags, some people think that you have to have at least one tag at the end of a line of dialogue, but others say you don’t need any as long as it’s clear who’s doing the speaking—especially if it’s just between two characters, like us.  Just be sure not to go too long without a tag as readers can sometime lose track of the characters.”

“I’m hip.  I heard someone say that you should know who’s doing the talking by their vocabulary or style, but not to be so obvious that it’s clumsy.”

“It’s tricky, to be sure, but it really helps bring a character to life.  Also, don’t hesitate to use typographic emphasis in dialogue, especially when it makes what a person is saying clear.  Just stay away from ALL CAPS—”

“Jeez, no need to shout.”

“Or too many exclamation points!!!!”

“Which just sounds weird.”

“It’s much better to use simple italics … just be sure and put them where they’re most needed and not just willy-nilly as, again, it comes off as … bizarre.”

“Right.  What also gets me is when characters talk all stilted-like.  I mean, come on: you can be loose and be hard to follow but too stiff and it’s like listening to two damned robots.”

“To be sure!  Try listening to your characters.  Pay attention to writers who do dialogue well, or to good movies or TV shows.  That’s how a writer learns, after all.  You can also use … what is it called?  Oh, yeah: grammar as a way of giving a character life like … pauses, like that.  Or (watch where you’re stepping, buddy) asides, like that, or [can you tell me the way to the train station], he said in French.  Stuff like that.  But, again, don’t try to be too clever ’cause it’ll just pull readers out of the story.”

“What about if you have someone who’s … what did Bob say? ‘Quoting from another character’?”

“Yeah, that can be tricky. Technically you just have to put a single quotation mark in there like you did, but I don’t like to have people directly quote another character.  It’s confusing, and unrealistic since we rarely remember what someone exactly said: kind of pulls the reader out of the dialogue.”

‘Then there’s the Brits—’

“Oh, yeah; that can be confusing: British copy editors often have single quotes for dialogue.”

“You know what ruffles my feathers?”

“Do tell.”

“When people think you have to have a whole new tag at the end of each line of dialogue, like repeating ‘said’ is some horrible rule to stay away from.  I mean, come on, it can get real silly real quick: people ‘said’ then ‘uttered’ then ‘proclaimed’ then ‘spouted’ … sheesh!”

“I hear ya.  The same goes fer people talkin’ way too much with whatcha might say is an accent.  Get with it, folks: if ya can’t understan’ it it ain’t gonna work—”

“Or when youse puts in whatcha think is ah poinsonal style a’ talkin’ and all da happens is it’s either confusin’ or insultin’—youse catcha my drift?”

“Oh, yeah!  Nothing worse that a character you can’t understand, or one who sounds like a poorly constructed stereotype.   I understand wanting to show off someone’s character through their dialogue, but ya gotta do yer research and keep it down to a dull roar.”

“Like with historical characters.  Oh, man, that gets my goat: when you got this Roman legionnaire saying, like, ‘okay’ or something like that.  Or a Victorian British character using 21st century terms.  Sure, too much accuracy is just as bad … ’cause I doubt anyone would ever understand a word they were saying … but that doesn’t mean throwing a bunch of anachronisms into a story, either.  So, what about sex?”

“Here?  Now?  With all these people watching?”

“Ha-ha, Mr. Comedian.  No, I mean what about dialogue with sex scenes?”

“Oh, that.  Well, stay the hell away from onomatopoeias—”

Gesundheit.”

Now who’s the comedian? Onomatopoeia: ‘the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named’, according to Webster’s.  In erotica it’s oooooh, aaaaah … stuff like that.  Sound effects, you could say.  Always horrible in erotica.  You can just write that someone laughed or moaned.”

“Oh, yeah, I know what you mean.  Like you said, too, I guess: make sure your characters use the right words for what they’re doing.”

“God, yes. And research is important but, again, don’t let it get in the way of being clear about what’s happening.  Back to the Victorians: they used a lot of slang for sex and body parts—so you can have fun there … just not too much or it can either get confusing or make you look like a show-off.”

“Okay, Mr. Expert: what advice can you give a writer about dialogue?”

“Well, for starters, feel your characters.  Listen to them.  Don’t worry about avoiding grammatical mistakes—you can always fix that later—just get their voices down on the page.  Use your own life: the way you and your friends talk … just don’t be too literal.  Try to push yourself: if you feel your dialogue could do with some work, read plays or listen to movies or shows with the picture off to get a feeling for how people talk.”

“Sounds good to me … but you forgot an important one.”

“Oh?  Enlighten me.”

“Write nothing but two people talking to each other.”

***

About M. Christian
Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement. Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with more than 400 stories, 10 novels (including The Very Bloody Marys, Brushes and The Painted Doll). Nearly a dozen collections of his own work (Technorotica, In Control, Lambda nominee Dirty Words, The Bachelor Machine), more than two dozen anthologies (Best S/M Erotica series, My Love for All That is Bizarre: Sherlock Holmes Erotica, The Burning Pen, and with Maxim Jakubowksi The Mammoth Book of Tales from the Road).  His work is regularly selected for Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and others. His extensive knowledge of erotica as writer, editor, anthologist and publisher resulted in the bestselling guide How To Write And Sell Erotica.

In addition, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited twenty five anthologies to date. He is also responsible for several non-fiction books, notably How to Write and Sell Erotica.

M.Christian is also the Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, where he strives to be the publisher he’d want to have as a writer, and to help bring quality books (erotica, noir, science fiction, and more) and authors out into the world.

He can be found in a number of places online, not least of which is mchristian.com.

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Feb 142015
 
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by Suz deMello

For many of us who write erotica, the paranormal sub-(sub-)genre is the most enticing one of all, with its many ways to increase sexual tension. World-building allows us to create our own erotic settings, invent sexier creatures than those who exist on our planet, traipse through time to find or lose lovers…we can bend reality any way we choose. We can invent supernatural beings both virtuous and villainous; we can invest the corners of our new world with quirks, setting up the thrills and spills that make a great read.

Really, though, the paranormal encompasses so many sub-sub-genres! These include, but are not limited to: futuristic, including science fiction; steampunk; time travel; fantasy, which encompasses “creature” stories with vampires, weres, the fae, dragons, zombies and the like, as well as magic and witchcraft. All of these can be mixed into any story brew you please.

Take the basic elements of any book and consider how they could be made paranormal, i.e., beyond the normal.

Characters and conflicts

There’s a natural tension in a romance between a paranormal entity and a human, and you can exploit this to your advantage and to the betterment of your book. Vampires are a great example. How can there be a “happily ever after” in a romance between an immortal, virtually invulnerable being and someone who will, inevitably, die? Would any sensible vampire dare to open his or her heart to a fragile human?

And how can a human trust in the love of an immortal? We who age must fear the loss of an immortal’s love.

Vampires, being denizens of the night, are intrinsically mysterious. As powerful predators, vamps step easily into villainous roles, but lately we’ve been reading about heroic vampires as well; with their extraordinary senses, vampires can make extraordinary heroes. The vampire lovers in my short story Blood is Thicker… are a case in point. One’s a detective and the other a private investigator.

There’s also natural tension in a relationship between different supernatural beings. Werewolves and vampires are both dominating creatures with their own alpha males and females figuring into many an erotic romance. What happens when territories overlap? Clashes are inevitable, and the sex is awesome.

Many writers have created supernatural beings whose abilities amplify each other’s. For example, Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) created different types of psychics in what I call her flower trilogy (Amaryllis, Orchid, and Zinnia); their differing talents need each other in order to focus and operate powerfully. Thus, they have to work together in dyads to solve the mystery and trap the villain. Often (but not always) in a heterosexual pairing, the psychics experience sexual tension, emotional intimacy and conflict via this device with, say, one psychic wondering if the other loves her or if he’s simply invested in their complementary powers.

Other writers create creatures made for sex. Succubi and incubi, supernatural demons who use humans for sex and seed—these and so many others have all become quite popular. Some writers have invented aliens which can extrude body parts and insert them into their human subjects for pleasure and pain.

Setting

Setting is an often overlooked aspect of our novels. As an editor, I have read several stories with completely unspecified or only vaguely sketched-out settings. As a reader, I like to be grounded in a story. I like to know where and when the story’s taking place. As a writer, I let the reader know where and when the story’s taking place, even if the both are completely imaginary, e.g., “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

In a paranormal story, it is fatal to overlook setting. The more richness and depth you can impart to your story’s world within the constraints of wordcount, the better—in fact, some settings are so compelling that they will earn your book a spot on many a reader’s “keeper” shelf. Fans return again and again to the Harry Potter books and to Tolkien not only because of the intriguing characters, compelling conflicts and universal themes, but because they want to spend more time at Hogwarts or exploring Middle Earth. Orson Scott Card calls fiction dependent upon a particular setting milieu fiction, and gives Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy as an example.

Of course you may create any setting that compels you, but when you do so, consider how it will facilitate or block mystery and romance.

When world-building for a paranormal erotic romance, I like to include elements that will facilitate sexy situations. In Queen’s Quest, a paranormal erotic thriller, I postulated a planet with an extremely low birthrate. Babies were rare and prized. Thus, sex was encouraged—including public sex—which enabled me to include numerous erotic scenes, while the dearth of normal births encouraged the characters to find other reproductive methods. These added to the suspense subplot (I don’t want to say more without providing a spoiler alert) as well.

Settings need not be exotic and magic need not be arcane, invented from whole cloth. You can use what you already know. I drew upon my teenage interests in Tarot reading and Wicca to write Gypsy Witch, an erotic short story set in my hometown of Sacramento, California during the dog days of late summer. A character used witchcraft to bring to life the stone statues of knights set at the doorway of the downtown Masonic Temple, bringing magic to an otherwise mundane setting. The romantic conflict ended in a ménage—a different kind of magic.

Theme

Theme is also overlooked, and unfortunately so; it’s intrinsic to our stories, as much so as words themselves. Many paranormals feature the clash of good against evil, often employing mythical and/or religious figures such as goddesses and gods, angels, devils, demons and the like. They will inevitably dabble in moral questions that the author may or may not have intended to raise—but it’s no wonder they make their way into our books; these questions are older than Faust, older even than the Bible.

Coming of age stories are also common, and (if the characters are old enough to consent freely) can be particularly enthralling in an erotic context. In erotica, we often read the induction of a virgin into the pleasures of sex. One of my erotic short stories, First and Last, was about an arranged marriage on a lunar colony. Similarly, another popular theme is the BDSM newbie learning about the joy of kink.

The message? Erotica isn’t only about sex, and paranormal content is an exciting and infinitely fertile way to engage the reader. Write a good story and weave in explicit sex and you’ll have a really good story. Put it on another planet and you’ll have a great story.

***

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written nineteen books in several genres, including nonfiction, memoir, erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms Totally Bound, Liquid Silver Books and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

–Find her books at http://www.suzdemello.com

–For editing services, email her at suzdemello@gmail.com

–Befriend her on Facebook, and visit her group page.

–She tweets @Suzdemello

–and posts to Pinterest

–and Goodreads.

–Her current blog is TheVelvetLair.com

 

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Dec 112014
 
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By Suz deMello

Welcome to EroticaVille, a magical town where our characters don’t shit, piss or bathe…except when there’s some kinky goings-on involving in-shower BJs, scat play or watersports.

When I first started writing romance back in the Dark Ages, I read many stories in which the characters enjoyed frenzied fucking but never seemed to get slimy, smelly or sweaty. They never showered, bathed, pooped or peed. Normal bodily functions were ignored except for eating—mealtimes were prime time for characters to relate to each other.

I hated that. Not that I’m squeamish about bodily functions, but ordinarily, the first thing I do post-afterglow is drag myself out of bed to a bathroom for a quick cleanup, even if that’s only a damp washcloth over my crotch. I can skip that if we’ve used a condom, which is always nice as well as safe, as we all know. Being uninterested in—even repelled by—bukkake, I firmly believe that come belongs in my mouth or a condom, not in my hair or on my face. Either of those destinations would call for a shower. Immediately. Others may feel differently—more power to them—but for me, the less post-coital cold and slippery anything I have to wash off, the better. And I hate to sleep on the wet spot.

Back to my main point: in many novels, characters behave uncharacteristically—and that is okay. Preferable, even. Normal body functions are a part of life, and while I believe that a nod should be given to the day-to-day, the fact is that our characters are not humans, and the world we’ve created is not our world, not even in the grittiest contemporary.

So I was the out-of-step reader. I’d read a lovemaking scene and then think, “Don’t these people ever wash? Disgusting.” Now I understand the reason writers don’t include every little thing that characters do.

Last month I discussed unnecessary sex scenes, scenes that did not perform one of these four functions:

•Advance the plot
•Reveal or develop character
•Complicate or resolve conflict
•Express setting, mood, and/or theme

I respectfully remind you again: nothing belongs in your book—not even the tiniest comma—that doesn’t fulfill one or more of the four functions above.

And that’s the reason most writers don’t show their characters brushing their hair, tying their shoelaces or taking a dump (unless their Dom tells them to, which is quite another matter).

Here’s a snippet from my writing manual, About Writing:

Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash. And this is the reason the special world we create in our stories is so different from our ordinary world. Much happens in our day-to-day existence isn’t particularly relevant to the story of our lives, that is, the accomplishment of our dreams and goals.

Let’s say that we’re thinking of having our protagonist, who has as his goal great wealth, stop at a Chipotle restaurant for a burrito. Eating that burrito doesn’t help accomplish that goal. But it’s a common act, one that occurs often. Lunch is a part of our lives, but we wouldn’t put it in a book about a protagonist on a quest to amass loads of money unless something occurred at that Chipotle that fulfills one or two of the above purposes.

Perhaps the protagonist meets someone there who is a mentor, ally or adversary; he could eat lunch with his hippie mom, who vehemently expresses her dismay over his life choices.

Maybe he heroically stops an armed robbery from taking place, garnering publicity that helps him on his way—even though he gives up the chance to close the biggest deal of his life, a sacrifice that would make his eventual triumph all the more poignant. And the event shows character, that this guy is more than a soulless money-making machine.

If he’s just eating lunch, his burrito probably doesn’t belong in your book. The scene might show a tiny bit about your character, but that’s not enough to justify an entire scene. A short phrase (He devoured a burrito at Chipotle before heading back to the stock exchange—where he hoped to complete the biggest deal of his life) is all that’s necessary.

But when I first started reading romance, which was long after I’d started having sex, I found it odd that no heroine got out of bed to tidy herself up. She didn’t even reach over for a tissue to grab that glop before it fell out of her and created the (shudder) dreaded wet spot.

Perhaps this was because of my own peculiar emotional conformation. While in the bathroom, I’d ruminate about what had just happened and how the lovemaking affected my feelings about my partner. In a calmer relationship, as during most of my marriage, I might get up but maybe not, and I wouldn’t think about anything. Scenes of that nature shouldn’t appear in books because they don’t fulfill any of the legitimate purposes of a scene.

But in a romance, post-coitus is a prime time for the characters to indulge in a little introspection, or if they’re feeling chatty, it’s a great opportunity for your characters to relate to each other.  The sex itself should certainly advance the plot—if not, why’s it there? After, a little sweet talk is a nice sequel to the sex scene—or maybe the conversation goes awry and conflict is revealed or advanced.

I love to write historicals, and part of the reason is that I love to learn about how people used to live. The clothes they wore. The foods they ate. And yes, how they disposed of their feces. Most people think that a garderobe was some kind of medieval wardrobe. Nope—it was the castle’s shitter, usually just a bench with a hole. It most often led to the moat which, as you can imagine, was not the most charming spot in our hero’s demesne.

I mentioned above that bodily functions can appear in erotica, as I’ll show here—this excerpt is from my fictionalized memoir, Perilous Play. This snippet takes place after a particularly intense scene.

He took everything off except the collar. With the leash tied to it, he led me into the bathroom so I could pee, and stood staring down at me.

I guessed that this was part of the whole humiliation shtick, but didn’t care. With Trapper, I was beyond embarrassment.

I looked up at him and said, “Remember when you were spanking me in here before?”

He nodded.

I shivered. “That was possibly the most erotic moment of my life.”

He smiled.

My passion for realism often leads me to write scenes in which the formerly virginal heroine washes off the brownish streaks that her first lovemaking left on her thighs while (you guessed it!) thinking about what just happened and how it affected her and the relationship. I also write characters who wake up with morning breath, characters who have to use the garderobe and yes, characters who shower often.

After all, the shower is a great place to fuck.

*****

If you enjoyed either of the excerpts quoted above, you can find them here:

About Writing for sale at Amazon;

Perilous Play (found within a boxed set, also at Amazon, titled What to Read After Fifty Shades of Grey).

*****

About Suz deMello:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, historical, paranormal, mystery and suspense, plus a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

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Nov 302014
 
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By Mistress Lorelei Powers

You’ve carefully described your protagonists: their degree of youth, beauty, and desirable physique. You’ve choreographed the placement of arms, legs, mouths, and genitalia in various positions for maximum satisfaction and ease of description. Maybe you’ve even tested those positions with a willing volunteer to make sure a kneeling submissive of a given height really can reach quite that far with a tongue.

But have you considered how the scene fits into the flow of the narrative? What purpose it serves in the plot?

“But it’s erotica! The whole point of the story is the sex!”

Well, yes and no. The sex is essential, but it isn’t sufficient. Submissions guidelines generally emphasize phrases like “complex plotting” and “storytelling as well-crafted as the sex is hot.” So if you wish to publish your story in an anthology or have your novel accepted for publication, you need to understand how to time a sex scene to make it effective—and incidentally increase your chances of getting the reader and even the editor aroused.


The Role of Sex in Genre

One way to look at the question of how soon and how often is to look at the standards of the particular form you have chosen. Clearly, in a short story, you can’t postpone the first sex scene for 10,000 words, but in a literary novel you just may want to. Pure erotica often has a faster pace than the “erotica plus” genres: erotic romance, erotic suspense, erotic mystery, erotic horror. Old-fashioned pulp porn generally featured a new sexual combination every other chapter.

Many traditional erotic romance novels (AKA bodice-rippers) brought the hero and heroine together about a quarter of the way into the novel, again at the halfway point, and one final triumphant time toward the end. The ones driven by rape plots generally started the action earlier, sometimes in the first half-dozen pages.

In order to get the feel of a form, you must read widely in it. Read the classics of the genre, but also read plenty of contemporary fiction.


The Motives for Sex

Another way to decide where your sex scenes fit into the story is to ask yourself why your protagonists are going to bed. There are innumerable reasons people have sex of any kind. Here are a few:

·    A simple desire for touch

·    Love

·    Wanting children

·    Wanting to establish a relationship

·    Basic horniness

·    To manipulate someone or gain someone’s favor

·    Revenge (usually on someone other than the new partner)

·    Fear

·    Sorrow (grieving people can have incredibly hot sex)

·    Wanting to forget troubles

·    Compulsion by inner demons

·    Boredom

·    Loneliness

·    Curiosity

·    Competition with an established love object or a new flame

·    Hot make-up sex to rebuild a damaged relationship

Think about these motives. They’re not unitary. Each partner may have several motives, some subconscious. Furthermore, the participants may have conflicting motives—a conflict that can drive plot in any of a number of different directions. Most of the noir genre is based on such mismatches, but then so are most romantic comedies.

The motivations for having sex help dictate where the scene should go. If you are working on a story that emphasizes why or how your protagonists get together, the sex should be placed later in the story—as the climax. If a sex scene is the happy ending you have been promising the reader all along, you should place one of them in the final pages to serve as a symbol of happily ever after or at least happily this afternoon.

If your story arises from the complications of the relationship, the first sex scene must appear earlier. In either case, the sex should change things for your protagonists.


The Consequences of Sex

Once your protagonists have gotten together, they have to face the consequences of that sexual act. Complications are the bone and blood of plot, and sex can create a lot of complications.

The desire for sexual fulfillment, whether plain vanilla or a specific kink, is one of the most powerful of all drives. I’ve seen good sex (not to mention failed sex) radically change people’s lives by:

·    Helping them find new confidence and a powerful new sexual/social identity

·    Beginning and ending marriages, creating and rupturing families, causing long-distance moves, resulting in career changes

·    Shifting the balance of power in a love triangle, ultimately dissolving the triangle and severing several relationships

·    Beginning a number of friendships and ending a few

·    Signaling to one party that they were now in a relationship—an assumption the other party didn’t share

·    Serving as glue for a long-term relationship that was otherwise deteriorating

·    Causing a breach between my date and his hyper-religious mother, who threw him out of the house when he refused to stop seeing me

·    Causing pregnancy—a result that can be joyful, disastrous, or anything in between

·    Prompting one party to have a crisis of faith

·    Triggering unexpected memories and feelings (of love, anger, terror, despair, giggling)  in one or both parties

·    Ending with an intervention by the cops

And that doesn’t even go into the matter of the enraged house-sitter waving a machete, who didn’t realize that the homeowners had given us a key and permission to meet there. Can you see the plot possibilities here?

To be effective, sex needs to be woven in and through your story. The urge to have sex or to frustrate someone else’s desires can set your protagonists and the other characters in motion. Once sex has occurred, it can be the catalyst for unexpected changes. Keep on following the trail of desire, frustration, and fulfillment, and you have a plot in which the sex isn’t gratuitous, but essential for the story. And that’s the kind of story that readers—and editors—love.

***

Lorelei Powers, also known as Mistress Lorelei (pronounced LOR-eh-lye, and named for Germany’s famous siren of the Rhine River whose seductive music lured sailors to their doom), is the author of the BDSM how-to classics The Mistress Manual and A Charm School for Sissy Maids, as well as the short story collection On Display. She is a bisexual, polyamorous sadist and lifestyle Domme. She has started using her surname to avoid confusion with her respected colleagues, Lorelei Lee or Lorelei of BedroomBondage.com.

By profession, Lorelei Powers is a writer and editor. Under various other names she has published a number of books, articles, and stories. She also teaches writing classes, gives workshops and presentations on BDSM technique, and offers private coaching sessions by phone or in person for Dom/mes and submissives.

She blogs about BDSM at The Mistress Manual and about sex, feminism, politics, and naked men in bondage at Gallery of Dangerous Women. Follow her Twitter feed at @MsLorelei.

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Oct 122014
 
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by Suz deMello

From my writing treatise, Plotting and Planning, available November 1, 2014:

Scenes are the building blocks of your story, for acts are comprised of scenes. They’re nothing more than events, most often interactions between your characters. Scenes should fulfill at least one or two of the below purposes—best if you can include all four.

•Advance the plot

•Reveal or develop character

•Complicate or resolve conflict

•Express setting, mood, and/or theme

Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash.

How does this apply to the writing of erotica?

Too often, sex scenes are shoehorned into a story to increase the word count or the heat level, while those scenes don’t fulfill any other function. To quote from Plotting and Planning again: Everything in a story should contribute to it, from the biggest monster to the tiniest comma.

If a scene doesn’t contribute to the story, it doesn’t belong there. It doesn’t matter how well-written it is. It doesn’t matter how hot it is. It doesn’t matter how much you, the author, may love its beautiful prose or its scorching hot, kinky sex.

There’s a piece of writerly advice out there: Kill your darlings.

No one’s quite sure where this phrase originated, but it’s been repeated often, including by such notable authors as William Faulkner and Stephen King.

But it doesn’t matter who originated the phrase—it’s great advice. We often fall in love with our prose and are loath to cut it, especially when we may have slaved over a particularly well-turned clause or exhaustively researched, say, the eating habits of the lesser lemur of Madagascar.

But fiction is no place to be a smarty-pants. Leave that for term papers, book reports and theses.

In terms of writing sex scenes, what do we leave in and what to we cut?

We leave in those scenes that fulfill at least one of the purposes in the list above. Ideally, a well-written, thoughtfully planned encounter between our protagonists will fulfill more than one purpose.

Here’s a brief example, from a futuristic erotic romance I wrote called Queen’s Quest. The backstory is that the heroine is losing her virginity in a public ceremony that’s traditional on her planet for royals.

Tears in his eyes, my father squeezed my shoulders and murmured brokenly, “My little girl…” I hugged him, my heart full of love and gratitude.

“Blessings on you, my darling dear.” He turned to the front of the terrace and raised my hand, shouting, “Blessings on Princess Audryn!”

The crowd responded, “Blessings! Blessings!” This was the traditional call for a fertile union as well as an acknowledgment of my status as a royal.

My father wiped his damp eyes with a handkerchief and joined my mother on the Golden Throne.

Alone, I walked to the bed. I could feel the cool breeze flutter my chemise, which brushed against my breasts. My nipples firmed.

Frayn waited, already naked, already hard. He stroked his cock, and a cheer rose from the watching men and giggles from the females. He turned his head and winked at the crowd. I laughed.

Now at the bed, I took his hand. We smiled at each other and kissed.

A murmur rose from the crowd, a murmur that rose to moans as I took his face in my hands to kiss him more deeply. He reached for the front of my chemise and ripped it away, tearing it from my body. The crowd roared, as if they knew that real action was close. But Frayn had other ideas.

He eased me back onto the bed so I lay with my hips at its edge. He knelt before me and, reaching up, he parted my legs so my blond muff and pink quim were fully presented to the onlookers. Mutters of admiration filled the air, and to my surprise, I wasn’t frightened, anxious or shy. My pussy seemed to blossom open from the sounds of acceptance I heard from my people.

Lifting myself onto my elbows, I looked over the crowd, fixing my attention on the first row. Most were watching me, but all seemed to have very busy hands. Either they stroked themselves, or more often, caressed a partner. The fancy embroidered codpieces were open and feminine hands grasped a multitude of rods. Some ladies were already on their knees, while other women had exposed their breasts, tempting the males to taste their nipples.

Frayn leaned forward and fastened his mouth to my quim. Lightning shot through me and I wantonly pushed my pelvis forward, seeking completion. Already swollen from the attentions of the guards, my clit twitched between his lips as he sucked and licked. I drew a long, deep breath and allowed the pure joy of this day to flow through my being as Frayn’s talented tongue, the lovely scratch of his beard, took me higher.

He stood, his face shining with my pussy juices, and bent over me. “The important aspect of this ceremony is that the people see me enter you, see me take you thoroughly, again and again, and see the blood of your virginity spilt over my cock. How do you want to do it?”

I blinked, called out of my erotic cloud to do my duty. I managed a grin though I was annoyed. I was already aware of the event’s significance. “We should do it…visibly, I suppose.”

He caressed my pussy and fingered my slit. I took his tool in my hand. His cock had swelled thick and red with desire, and I wanted him inside me. “Lie down,” I said, pulling on him to enforce obedience.

“Yes, your royal highness.”

“Oh, hush up,” I said. “You’re as royal as I am.”

“Not quite.”

“Jealous?” Pushing him down, I straddled him and teased him with my body, bending my knees to dip low, letting my quim caress his cock-head. My breasts brushed his chest.

He gasped, his previous arrogance gone. “Audryn, please. I’m about to burst.”

So what do we learn from this passage? In regard to character, we see that the heroine, Audryn, is a princess beloved by her family and her people. She is fearless, aggressive, passionate and strong, stronger than her lover Frayn, who belittles her intelligence. She’s aware of her position and resents his arrogance, which foreshadows an external conflict.

In regard to the setting, we learn that public sex is not merely accepted but enjoyed. The references to clothing, particularly chemises and codpieces, tell the astute reader that perhaps this futuristic civilization partakes of some aspects of past human history. This allows the reader to visualize the setting and the garb as well as helping the reader to feel grounded in a very different society.

If you like what you read, you can find the book at Ellora’s Cave or Amazon.

I am a romance novelist and believe firmly that erotic scenes should never be gratuitous. If, while writing, an author bears in mind the purposes a scene must fulfill, the sex is never out of place; it is a seamless part of a well-written story.

* * *

About the Author:

Best-selling, award-winning author Suz deMello, a.k.a Sue Swift, has written seventeen romance novels in several subgenres, including erotica, comedy, mystery and suspense, historical, and paranormal, as well as a number of short stories and non-fiction articles on writing. A freelance editor, she’s held the positions of managing editor and senior editor, working for such firms as Totally Bound and Ai Press. She also takes private clients.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, won a contest or two, attained the finals of the RITA and hit several bestseller lists.

A former trial attorney, her passion is world travel. She’s left the US over a dozen times, including lengthy stints working overseas. She’s now writing a vampire tale and planning her next trip.

Check out Suzie’s site at suzdemello.com, and her blog at TheVelvetLair.com.

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Jul 182014
 
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By Nobilis

The ending of a chapter should always, always, give the reader a reason to look up, check the clock, and mutter, “Three hours’ sleep is enough, just this once,” and turn the page to keep reading. It should take discipline for a reader to put down your book. Willpower. Determination. The end of a chapter is an important moment, one that should not be squandered.

The great thing about chapters is that there is absolutely no rule about how long they must be. You could have one word, or ten thousand. This means that you can end a chapter virtually anywhere. Well, okay, ending a chapter mid-sentence is kind of weird, but you can probably think of situations where even that would be the right thing to do.

Chapters should always end with a moment of tension. The cliffhanger is an old standby, and in some stories it’s almost a requirement to end most chapters with the protagonist in sudden mortal peril. That’s not the only note to end a chapter on, however.

A cliffhanger promises a thrilling escape, but there are other promises you can make. You can start a fight scene, or a sex scene, or a chase scene at the end of the chapter. You can reveal a clue to a mystery, an important secret, or new character.

For example, here’s an excerpt from “Monster Whisperer,” a story I’m releasing in my podcast and on scribl.com, chapter by chapter. These are the last three paragraphs of chapter 6. For context, a Chocondris is a plantlike, woody tentacle monster, which is owned by Dale Clearwater, the eponymous Monster Whisperer.

Then the shuttle settled into the water, and the forward hatch hinged downward, revealing a ladder on its inner surface. A tall, dark-skinned man with short black hair wearing a bright green outfit emerged and leapt into the water. He raced up onto the beach and caught up with the Chocondris in mere seconds. He jabbed sensitive flower buds, and the Chocondris flinched and twitched. It spit spores at him, but he ducked under every little cloud without even a speck touching his skin. It tried to grab his arms and legs, but he slipped out of its coils with dizzying alacrity. On the rare occasions it could get a tentacle around one of his limbs, he twisted away, undoing its coil before it could solidify its hold. The Chocondris quivered with rage. It dropped Dale and Christine to bring more of its limbs to bear. The man retreated a few steps, then leapt back under a concentrated assault. He seemed to know exactly how far away to leap to stay out of its clutches as he retreated back toward the beach.

As soon as the Chocondris broke out of the cover of the trees, the shuttle’s capture beam caught it, plucking it like a weed. Like the others, it quickly disappeared inside the shuttle.

“Connie!” Christine shouted, stumbling forward to wrap her arms around the man. “You found us! I knew you’d find us.” She squeezed him hard then stepped away to point, beaming at Dale with her perfectly bright smile. “I told you my brother would find us!”

I went back and forth on whether to include that last paragraph in the chapter. Wouldn’t it be better to end the chapter on the hopelessness of the Chocondris being stolen by the mysterious monster hunter? After consulting with my beta readers, it became clear that no, that was definitely not the right course of action. It’s fine to end on a threat, with some monster appearing and threatening the protagonist with some dire fate, but if the threat evaporates as soon as they move on to the next chapter, the reader will feel tricked and cheated. The end of a chapter should make promises that the next chapter fulfills.

That’s why keeping that paragraph at the end of the chapter is the right thing to do. Instead of promising some kind of conflict with a mysterious monster-hunter, we’re promised an introduction to a new character. The next chapter fulfills that promise.

Generally speaking, that’s the best place to end a chapter if you want to keep your readers engaged with the story.

—–

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

Website: www.nobiliserotica.com
Podcast: nobilis.libsyn.com
Twitter: @nobilis

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Jun 202014
 
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By Colin

A number of years ago, when I was just starting to seriously write fiction, I showed a new story to my girlfriend of the time.  She read it as carefully as she read all my work, and afterwards said, “I didn’t like the main character.”

At the time, her response surprised me—and not because I disagreed with her. The protagonist was, basically, kind of a whiny, selfish perpetual adolescent, using his desire for a lover to mask all those tiresome elements of his personality. That was actually the point of the story, and at that phase in my development as a writer I thought it justified making my leading man into a twerp.

The reason I was surprised by my girlfriend’s critique was that it was basically an emotional response to one character. Normally she focused on internal logic or the strength/weakness of my writing itself—in other words, things that could be critiqued rationally,  described objectively and fixed. How could I address a reader’s subjective, gut-level response?

Years later, the answer has come through to me: I dunno, but you’d damn well better try.

If you read through reader reviews of erotica—not those by professional critics, but the kind of emotionally engaged feedback that readers post on Amazon and Goodreads when they’ve just finished the story and absolutely must let the world know what they love or hate about it—you’ll see the question of likability comes up quite a bit, especially when the reader’s response is negative. And I don’t just mean they’ve panned the characters and judged the rest of the story on its various merits, but that the whole story has fallen flat for them because they didn’t like the characters. It’s phrased in different ways: I couldn’t relate to Rosalyn; I couldn’t stand Derek; I didn’t really have any strong feelings about Mitzi; I didn’t connect with the cougar shifter; I didn’t exactly hate Razglord, but I just didn’t like him

It’s true that—at first glance, certainly—a great many famous characters in fiction aren’t “likable” as such. Sherlock Holmes, for instance, isn’t terribly likable; he’s fascinating, certainly—who among us wouldn’t love to sit down and have a real conversation with a mind like that? But he doesn’t inspire much in the way of warm fuzzies.

On the other hand, Dr. Watson is quite thoroughly likeable. He’s warm, loyal, relatable, and generally seems like a great guy to go out and have a drink with. He’s an excellent counterpoint to Holmes’ slightly chilly charisma; it may be that the balance of, and tension between, their personalities is the reason so many people love the Holmes stories.

Love—as I’ve said in at least one other column—is a key word here. People have an emotional response to stories and characters in stories, just as they do to real people. Give them a character that evokes a strong positive response, and they’ll likely love that person, whether it’s Dr. Watson or Sam Gamgee or Harry Potter or whoever. They’ll read and re-read the books, recommend them to friends, start blogs about them and write their own fan fiction about the characters. This seems particularly important in erotica and romance, where so much of the stories’ subject matter is about pleasure.

The story I gave to my old girlfriend all those years ago had nothing in the way of a likable character. Now sure, not all stories have to evoke warm fuzzies in their readers. Some very worthwhile stories are basically dark, and some important characters are basically bastards. But my character didn’t have much in the way of redeeming characteristics—be they heroic, interestingly villainous or relatably human. He wasn’t even rotten to the core, he was basically just a sophomoric jerk. If you met him in real life, you wouldn’t even hate him, you’d just think, “Poor screwed-up kid,” and do your best to avoid him in social situations.

Compare that kind of character to the narrator of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, who’s very similar in a way: immature, socially awkward, not terribly pleasant to be around. The difference is that Dostoyevsky’s guy has a certain self-awareness; he knows he’s a twerp, and part of the point of the story is that we come to feel something for him, and understand that we ourselves might not be utter paragons. Or look at Wuthering Heights—sure, it’s impossible to imagine that book without Heathcliff, but without Catherine it’s even worse: just a book about a sadistic schmuck out on a farm somewhere.

Sympathetic characters speak to readers even when they’re not terribly likeable people. When a natural likability comes through in a character, readers respond even more powerfully; it can provide an all-important balance between characters, and make the difference between a flavorless, tiresome story and one readers will take to their hearts and cherish forever.

 

Colin is a fetish writer and the single most prolific professional author of tickling erotica working today, with dozens of books to his credit. www.gigglegasm.com and www.ticklingforum.com.

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Jun 172014
 
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One of the questions beginning writers ask us most often is: “How do you know if you have captured the love in your characters’ lovemaking, and aren’t just writing a run-of-the-mill sex scene?” To answer that question, twelve writers offer their own thoughts and advice in this unique WriteSex Author’s Roundtable. Each week a well-known romance author will discuss the difference between a sex scene and a love scene, and show us how to charge an erotic encounter with romance. Look for personal insights and how-to tips from our participants in this first ever WriteSex Authors’ Roundtable. —Ed.

***

By Emma Paul

Today’s erotic novel has changed greatly from the old days of porn and sex-driven plots. What was once a “male”-dominated genre has evolved to encompass the romantic element of popular literature, and has brought this taboo writing to store shelves and women’s bedside tables.

It was only after the mid-eighties that former adult star Candida Royalle created her first adult movie aimed at women, titled Femme. The film centered on the woman’s pleasure through explicit sex scenes that did not include shots of external ejaculation.  Thanks to Ms. Royalle, the porn industry opened its doors to a whole new genre to target a female audience. I believe this helped women explore—and see themselves as central to—their sexuality and bring a more romantic flavor to pornographic media.

Pornographic literature has been around since Roman times and although I have done little research past that era, I’m sure there are cave drawings somewhere of our earliest modern human ancestors getting it on.

As an author of erotic romance, I feel that the appeal of a good erotic story lies in the relationship between the main characters, and its emotional effect on the reader. Sex is a very important part of erotica—and when that sex is portrayed as romantic, I believe it only emphasizes the scene’s excitement. It means a lot to me to be able to connect sex with love—or in the case of erotic romance, love with sex. In my books, one cannot occur without the other. Love and romance are pivotal parts of my writing and, to me, they’re the most important forces driving the plot to the end.

To understand what this means, it’s necessary to understand the difference between a sex scene and an erotic romance scene. What is the difference? A sex scene in and of itself gives little attention given to the emotional connection between the characters. Although I have written such scenes into my novels, I still believe that they need to fit into the context of the story. When I hold back on describing their emotional connection during a sex scene, I ensure that the main characters will express their love for each other far more effectively during subsequent encounters.

Romantic erotic scenes are more geared toward progressing the relationship between the main characters. The focus should be placed on the emotional bond between the lovers, and on sex as an instrument that strengthens that bond. Every sex scene in an Erotic Romance should move the story forward. At the same time, it should be sexy, titillating and hopefully make the readers tingle. After all, reading Erotica and Erotic Romance is all about getting in the mood.

***

Emma Paul is the alter ego of a happily married, middle-aged woman. She has been writing short stories all her life and loves bringing her wild imagination to others. She writes Romance, Erotic Romance, Paranormal & Fantasy Erotic Romance, and is the author of Kaden’s Breeder, Corbin’s Captive, Soulmate’s Touch and Prisoner of Darkhavenwith more books coming soon!

 

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May 192014
 
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One of the questions beginning writers ask us most often is: “How do you know if you have captured the love in your characters’ lovemaking, and aren’t just writing a run-of-the-mill sex scene?” 12 writers offer their own thoughts and advice in this unique WriteSex Author’s Roundtable. Each Monday a well-known romance author will discuss the difference between a sex scene and a love scene, and show us how to charge an erotic encounter with romance. Look for personal insights and how-to tips from our participants in this first ever WriteSex Authors’ Roundtable. —Ed.

***

By Blake C. Aarens

My first thought was that there isn’t any difference between a sex scene and a romantic sexual encounter.  Both describe the selfsame event with fake notions of good and bad, right and wrong, coming down to nothing but the use of language to try and tabulate and limit by judgment some forms of sexual expression. That’s my default setting these days, to try and emphasize—as often as possible in as many arenas as possible—that we humans and the animal things we do are more alike than unalike.

But that’s not an honest answer to an honest question, ‘cuz just as I say out loud, as I read the question off my phone and mutter “there is no difference”, the split screen in my head plays two scenes:

On the right-hand screen, a couple, A and B, are at each other in the dimly lit corner of a club. A has at least one body part inside at least one opening in B’s body. Tab A in slot B. Penetration and friction. That is the essence of a sex scene. But on the left-hand screen in my head, and playing at the very same time, are the same two people, in the same corner, in the same club, with the very same lighting, tab A in slot B, even. But here is where the romance comes in: in the way they strain in the darkness to see the expression on the other’s face as they move together, in the way the owner of slot B holds their breath to hear the noises coming from the owner of tab A, in the way their focus on each other makes the bouncer’s mouth water and he leaves them alone and lets them love each other up.

If you look the two words up in the dictionary—as I did—you’ll discover that both have entries as a noun and as a verb. They can both be either an action, or a person, place, or thing. But for the purposes of this roundtable discussion, I want to concentrate on several very specific dictionary entries:

romance1—n.  4. a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention.
—v.i.  10. to think or talk romantically.
—v.t.  11.  Informal.  a.  to court or woo romantically; treat with ardor or chivalrousness.

sex n.  3. the instinct or attraction drawing one sex toward another, or its manifestation in life and conduct.
4. coitus.
—v.t.  8.  sex up, Informal a.  to arouse sexually

For me, it’s all about focus.  And not just the focus of the writer. If my characters are primarily about body parts and positions—and there ain’t nothing wrong with that—it’s more of a sex scene in the way I craft it and the details that it makes sense to share. But if I’m writing a romantic sexual encounter—George Carlin would hate the wordiness of that phrase—the focus is about cause and effect. This is what I’m doing to you, with you, and this is how it is making me feel, and breathe, and arch my back. The difference seems subtle, but is in fact, huge.  It is the canyon that exists between intimate physical contact, and intimacy itself.

They say you don’t fall in love with another person, but you fall in love with the person you become when you’re in the presence of your love. You fall in love with how they make you feel about yourself. Within yourself.

I wrote a story called “I Want You Back” where one of the characters is having a sex scene while another is involved in a romantic sexual encounter. The interesting thing is, they’re in the same scene. The story was published in my erotic collection Wetting the Appetite.

To quote the introduction I wrote to the story,  it “deals with the uncontrollable urges some lovers are able to arouse in us”, particularly “that lover we know isn’t a damn bit of good for our head, or heart, or self-esteem, but who does something to us that we can’t live without.”

The point-of-view character—who is never named—becomes the object of badboy Nick’s focused sexual attention the day they meet in a bowling league.

He made me nervous, made me conscious of my own body, made me ask him to come over just to get a break from all the sexual energy he was aiming at me.

The narrator is already off into a romance, inventing a connection between them and exaggerating its meaning, based on nothing more than how Nick’s attention makes him feel.

Nick, on the other hand, is just doing what he’s done with every other member of the league. He meets a bowler he hasn’t had sex with, and he does the obvious thing: he makes sex happen between them. That’s what Nick does.

The story details their first sexual encounter. An encounter completely dominated by Nick’s timetable and tastes.

When we arrived at my place, he pushed me inside.  He kept on pushing until he had me on my back on the living room floor.  His dick was in my face before I knew what was happening.  I lunged for it with my mouth, but he put his hand on my forehead and pushed my head back onto the carpet.

“Open,” he said, and I parted my lips.

He put his dick in my mouth, but he wouldn’t let me suck it on my own time.

The narrator is turned on by his own openness, his quick obedience. Nick seems to take it as his due from a sexual partner. The narrator relaxes and just lets him, focusing on the pleased murmur that comes from Nick when he registers the narrator’s surrender. He can’t get his pants down fast enough.

When they move to the narrator’s bedroom, it’s still a two-tier encounter. Nick has found the bedroom and waits on top of the comforter, stroking himself back to hardness for round two. The narrator, on the other hand, is on an expedition through his own apartment, trying to find where his newfound lover has gotten to.

I walked to the door of my bedroom and found him lying naked on the bed. He had his own fat cock in both hands and was taking long strokes up and down it.

“C’mere,” he said.

Of course I went to him.

When I got close enough, he let go of his dick and grabbed me by both wrists. He snatched me off my feet and onto the mattress, then dragged me to lie on top of him. We were belly to belly, our cocks pressed between us and just touching.

I could barely look him in the eye. He put one of his hands behind my head and the other in the small of my back and made me kiss him for a very long time.

They are having two very different experiences. The narrator’s is amorously familiar; he’s submitting to things and showing sides of himself that make him feel vulnerable. Nick is doing what he likes, when and how he likes, to get himself hard and get himself off, end of story.

And therein lies the difference between the two. Romance is about more than the interaction of genitalia. It’s more than just the act itself. Romance is about breath and eyes and feelings. It’s about the stories we tell ourselves about what the intimate physical contact means. It’s about the actions we take and the thoughts that propel us into action. And it’s those details—above and beyond and beneath what characters are doing with their naughty bits—that carve out the difference between romance and sex.

 

Live fully, keep reading, and don’t stop pressing those keys!

BCA

***

Blake C. Aarens is an author, playwright, poet, screenwriter, and former college theatre instructor. Her play, The Prince of Whiteness, was the Invited Play at the 56th Conference on World Affairs.  Her solo performance piece, My Great-Grandmother Had a Sex Life, debuted at the “Have I Got a Story for You/Solo Performance Showcase” at The Studio Theatre, College of Marin. Excerpts from her erotic poetry collection Words on Fire appeared in the Milvia Street Art and Literary Journal. Her script, Still Life with Android, won a Judy Award for Achievement in the Thriller/Horror/Sci-Fi Screenplay division.

Blake is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who writes award-winning erotic fiction.  Her work has appeared in the Herotica series; Aché: A Journal for Lesbians of African Descent; Best American Erotica 1993; Penthouse Magazine, and numerous other anthologies.

Blake has seven letters after her name and more than two decades’ experience teaching classes on everything from Principles and Theory of Acting (Laney College), to Dramatic Technique for Fiction Writers (Berkeley Story Workshop), to Writing Life’s Moments: The Craft of Personal Narrative (The Writing Parlor, SF), to How to Write and Read a Dirty Story (San Francisco Center for Sex & Culture).

Her first collection of stories, Wetting the Appetite, has been published by Sizzler Editions both as a paperback and an ebook.

She lives in the Bay Area with Kazimir, the Crown Prince of the Universe.

 

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May 152014
 
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By Colin

Not too long ago I sat down with an anthology of new horror fiction I’d picked up at the library.  The lineup included some writers who were old favorites of mine, as well as a few I’d heard good things about. One of the latter had contributed a story with a particularly intriguing title, one that really got my horror-fanboy Spidey senses tingling. So when I sat down that night in my easy chair, that was the story I turned to first, cackling in gleeful anticipation.

It wasn’t long before I realized that fifteen minutes had gone by. Normally that’s a sign that the writer has done a masterful job of pulling you into the story. Unfortunately, in this case I had spent those fifteen minutes reading the opening paragraph over and over again, trying to make sense of it.

See, the story was written in a very artful, literary style, one that made heavy use of stream of consciousness, creative misspelling to indicate dialect (not jest in dialogue, y’know, but in thuh actual story isself), and a fine contempt for its rather dimwitted redneck protagonists. It was a style I probably wouldn’t have blinked at under other circumstances, even in a book of horror yarns—today, the line between genre fiction and literary fiction is often eyelash-thin. Heck, I’ve used that style in stories of my own. The problem was that in this case I wasn’t expecting it. I was expecting a fast, dirty monster story with a good, gory payoff. When I found myself eating at McSweeney’s instead of McDonald’s, I had to shift gears…and your correspondent is a little slow these days, poor old thing.

Now, when I did shift gears and read the story on its own terms, I liked it just fine. I even wished it was longer, which is the highest praise I can think of, so this is not going to be a straightforward screed against writers Getting All Literary when they should be Getting On with the Story. But this little episode hit me harder than I would have expected, maybe because I’ve known plenty of writers who love going off on that very topic. One guy I used to pal around with would hold forth on it quite regularly. Thing was, his choice of poster-child for the Virtues of Simple Storytelling was ’50s crime writer Jim Thompson. Now, no question about it, Thompson wrote a hard, mean line, and his abilities as a pure storyteller have never been in question. But he’s remembered as much these days for his pioneering use of postmodern experimental techniques as for anything else. Holding him up as a God of No-Frills Narrative is a bit like celebrating Thelonious Monk as a champion of traditional jazz.

Nonetheless, it brings up an interesting question for writers: at what point does a “literary” approach work against the purposes of your writing? Since erotica, like horror, is based on creating a specific response in the reader, it seems very relevant here. But first, another crime-writer anecdote: once upon a time, the great French detective novelist Georges Simenon was trying to sell short stories to the great French literary author Colette, who at the time was editing at the great French paper Le Monde. The (apparently not-so-great) manuscripts kept coming back, and when Simenon finally buttonholed Colette and asked her, in effect, WTF?, she told him (apparently with some exasperation), “Look, your stories are too literary.”

In general, erotic fiction that is less focused on plot offers more room for experimentation and unconventional technique. A story focused on, let’s say, a young woman alone in her bedroom, fantasizing about past lovers seems like a good example. The opportunities for using stream-of-consciousness, fantasy, allegory and literary misdirection are endless.

But the opportunities for plot in such a story are also endless. The young woman might be presented early on in the story as having some kind of sexual hang-up—let’s say a general fear of losing control, as you often see in bondage scenarios. That hang-up becomes the focus for the “plot.” As she runs through her fantasies, the fear would be present in each one, gradually coming into sharper and sharper focus, until we understand not just what she’s afraid of, but also why she’s afraid of it. This approach makes it rather like an erotic detective story (there’s crime-fiction again…jeez) with a character’s sexuality instead of a robbery or murder as the central element. It could be every bit as satisfying as a well-constructed detective tale. You could even make it novel-length, with a bit of planning. But even if you made all these concessions to Storytelling, I suspect you’d find it a tough sell to, say, the romance markets. It’s still an inside story, whereas most romances are firmly based in a “real world,” where thoughts and fantasies don’t just segue endlessly into other thoughts and fantasies; they tend to lead to actions, which have direct consequences on the plot, even though the “real world” in question might be an alternate Victorian England or a future interstellar empire. I think you could probably still make it work, but you’d most likely need to cut a certain amount of “literary” trimmings.

Now imagine a story planned specifically as a romance, with all the trimmings: shape-shifters, a smouldering alpha-male hero, a spicy spitfire heroine, and sex, sex, sex. You would probably have a much harder time turning that story “inward,” than you would turning an inside story “outward” as in our example above. There are certain expectations in romance stories, many of which revolve around the hero and heroine interacting in (say it with me, kids) a real world. Fantasy sequences could be an effective means of spicing things up in the background, but sooner or later you’ve got to get back to that real world where things are “really” happening. And stream of consciousness passages or artfully misspelled dialogue would probably just get in the way. You’d hit the same roadblocks I did when I tried to read that horror story as a straightforward monster yarn. And your readers might or might not be willing to regroup and reread the story on its own terms (and if they’re reading it to satisfy specific sexual or emotional yearnings, the likelihood of regrouping may decrease).

None of these speculations are to be taken as hard and fast rules, of course. I’m sure a number of examples could be found of “literary romances” that worked (and sold) just fine. But in general, “literary” technique works best “inside,” and “storytelling” works best “outside.” What constitutes inside and outside and how you make your approach work in your own novels and stories, of course, is up to you.

 

Colin is a fetish writer and the single most prolific professional author of tickling erotica working today, with dozens of books to his credit. www.gigglegasm.com and www.ticklingforum.com.

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