Jun 132014
 
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By Jean Roberta

I write in several genres, including blog posts and reviews. I also teach first-year university students to write academic essays, which is a particular, ancient art form related to the art of debate. (When universities were first established in Europe in the 1200s, “logic” and “rhetoric” were high on the list of subject matter that scholars were expected to learn.)

I’ve learned a lot from my students. I like to think I can recognize problems in my own writing more readily because I’ve seen the same groaners in student essays. Most of the mistakes I’ve circled and commented on can be summed up as a general lack of coherence. Some students even contradict themselves within a paragraph, apparently without noticing it.

To be articulate, whether in speech or in writing, literally means to connect the dots, to show connections between a premise and the evidence that supports it, between events and their aftermath in a narrative, or between analogies. (For instance: Putin’s recent annexation of part of Ukraine for Russia is parallel to Hitler’s annexation of surrounding territory for Germany in the 1930s – or not. Discuss.) An articulate approach to anything requires work.

Some literary critic once said that bad writing consists of missed opportunities. This sounds similar to incoherence, or a failure to articulate. A good plot premise doesn’t necessarily lead to a good story, because the writer might miss a chance to show where the central character’s value system or motives are likely to lead, or to connect different themes or viewpoints within the story.

Part of the reason why “pornography” has traditionally been considered bad writing is because it leaves out so much of reality. A loosely-plotted story that consists of one sex scene after another might make a great fantasy, and it might inspire a great wank-session, but it doesn’t resemble anyone’s actual life. Even full-time sex workers have things to do that aren’t the least bit sexy – and selling sex to strangers is not the best way to have an endless series of peak experiences.

The challenge of writing about sex, even if it takes place on Planet X or involves supernatural beings, is to integrate the physical activities with the emotions involved, with the cultural context, and with the circumstances that lead to sex. Behind every set of double-D-sized breasts is a human heart. To describe the breasts as part of a tempting body, without acknowledging that every human body of every size and shape includes a complex human psyche, is to be an amateur cartoonist. The anti-porn feminists of the 1970s had some reasonable things to say about this type of writing. Unfortunately, much of what they said has been forgotten or drowned out by conflicts over censorship, which has continued in various forms to this day (Amazon.com, for example, needs to be watched).

When reading over a rough draft of a story, I ask myself: do all these characters belong in the same imaginary world? Even if the plot twists aren’t predictable (a good thing), are they believable (another good thing)? Have everyone’s feelings been clearly represented? What am I leaving out?

Setting a manuscript aside for at least 24 hours, then looking it over with these questions in mind, can lead to useful insights.

If not everything fits together, you might actually have two stories disguised as one. In that case, you can thank your Muse for being so fruitful, and start rearranging.

————————

Jean Roberta writes in several genres. Approximately 100 of her erotic stories, including every orientation she can think of, have appeared in print anthologies. She also has three single-author collections, including The Princess and the Outlaw: Tales of the Torrid Past (Lethe Press, 2013). www.jean-roberta.livejournal.com

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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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Feb 032014
 
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It turns out that I’m kind of a weirdo.

I know, no big surprise that the guy whose latest story series is about a woman who keeps tentacle monsters for sexual purposes considers himself a bit strange. I’m not talking about sexual proclivities here.

No, I’m talking about story structure. I’m a story structure fetishist. It’s gotta be there, or I’m totally unsatisfied. I don’t care how hot the sex is, how lush the descriptions are, how interesting the characters are—if there isn’t a beginning, middle and end, I am just not going to get a literary boner out of a story.

The weird part is, I didn’t really understand this particular paraphilia until I started writing and, therefore, studying the craft of writing. Sure, I had gotten the standard lectures in high school English class about exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement, known as “Freytag’s Pyramid,” but it wasn’t really internalized. I hadn’t learned to see those phases in a story, analyze it like a biology student dissecting a frog, and I certainly hadn’t learned about all the myriad alternatives to (and elaborations on) Freytag’s Pyramid. All I knew, starting out, was that some stories just didn’t do it for me, and that writing endings was really, really hard.

So I started studying.

To be honest, calling it “studying” is something of a misnomer. I wasn’t very diligent, at least at first, and I wasn’t very purposeful. But listening to podcasts about the craft of writing, and reading blogposts, gradually gave me the tools I needed to understand my little peccadillo, both as a consumer and as a producer of stories.

And since then, stories have become much easier to write. Understanding structure means that I know I have to have a solid vision of each of the plot elements before I start writing. Those things can change as I go along, but when I know what’s going to happen at each stage of the story, I write myself into fewer corners, down fewer primrose paths, and up fewer dead ends.

Another upside to this is that when I read or listen to something that clearly lacks these structures, I can be more specific in my criticism. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of erotic works feel this way to me; the structure of most of them boils down to “people have a reason to have sex, then they do it.” Bleah. There’s no tension in a story like that, no energy, no meaning. But I also realize that judging stories by my own personal kink isn’t really fair, so I usually don’t call out stories on it. I just write them the way I think they ought to be written.

For those of you who’d like to play along at home and study up on plot structures, here are some links for you:

MICE

Kishoutenketsu

Five act structure

Hollywood Formula

And once you’re done familiarizing yourself with those, here’s a story idea to fit into them:

A kinky pony-play “farm” gets raided by animal rights activists who don’t (initially) understand what’s going on. The handlers on the farm are expecting a new group of untrained “colts”, so the misunderstandings go both ways.

 

Learn more about Nobilis and his work at his…

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

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May 102012
 
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In regards to the last of erotica’s sins, a well-known publisher of sexually explicit materials put it elegantly and succinctly: “Just don’t fuck anyone to death.” As with the rest of the potentially problematic themes I’ve discussed here, the bottom line is context and execution: you can almost anything if you do it well—and if not well, then don’t bother doing it at all.

Violence can be a very seductive element to add to any genre, let alone erotica, mainly because it’s just about everywhere around us. Face it, we live in a severely screwed up culture: cut someone’s head off and you get an R rating, but give someone head and it’s an X. It’s kind of natural that many people want to use some degree of violence in their erotica, more than likely because they’ve seen more people killed than loved on-screen. But violence, especially over-the-top kind of stuff (i.e. run of the mill for Hollywood), usually doesn’t fly in erotic writing. Part of that is because erotica editors and publishers know that even putting a little violence in an erotic story or anthology concept can open them up to criticism from all kinds of camps: the left, the right, and even folks who’d normally be fence-sitters—and give a distributor a reason not to carry the book.
One of the biggest risks that can happen with including violence in an erotic story is when the violence affects the sex. That sounds weird; especially since I’ve often said that including other factors are essential to a well-written erotic story. The problem is that when violence enters a story and has a direct impact on the sex acts or sexuality of the character, or characters, the story can easily come off as either manipulative or pro-violence. Balancing the repercussions of a violent act on a character is tricky, especially as the primary focus of the story. However, when violence is not central to the sexuality of the characters but can affect them in other ways it becomes less easy to finger point—such as in noir, horror, etc—where the violence is background, mood, plot, or similar without a direct and obvious impact on how the character views sex. That’s not to say it isn’t something to shoot for, but it remains one of the harder tricks to pull off.

Then there’s the issue of severity and gratuitousness. As in depicting the actual sex in sex writing, a little goes a long way: relishing in every little detail of any act can easily push sex, violence, or anything else into the realm of comedy, or at least bad taste. A story that reads like nothing but an excuse to wallow in blood—or other body fluids—can many times be a big turn-off to an editor or publisher. In other words, you don’t want to beat a reader senseless.

But the biggest problem with violence is when it has a direct sexual contact. In other words, rape. Personally, this is a big button-pusher, mainly because I’ve only read one or two stories that handled it … I can’t really say well because there’s nothing good about that reprehensible act, but there have been a few stories I’ve read that treat it with respect, depth, and complexity. The keyword in that is few: for every well-executed story dealing with sexual assault there are dozens and dozens that make me furious, at the very least. I still remember the pro-rape story I had the misfortune to read several years ago. To this day, I keep it in the back of my mind as an example of how awful a story can be.

Sometimes violence can slip into a story as a component of S/M play. You know: a person assaulted by a masked intruder who is really (ta-da!) the person’s partner indulging in a bit of harsh role-play. Aside from being old hat and thoroughly predicable, stories like this can also fall into the “all pain is good pain for a masochist” cliché, unless, as with all things, it’s handled with care and/or flair.

Summing up, there is nothing you cannot write about: even this erotic “sin” or the others I’ve mentioned. However, some subjects are simply problematic in regards to sales potential: themes and activities that are loaded with emotional booby traps have to be carefully handled if the story is going to be seen as anything other than a provocative device. The affective use of these subjects has always been dependant on the writer’s ability to treat them with respect. If you have any doubts about what that might be, just imagine being on the receiving end: extrapolate your feelings as if one of your own personal traumas or sexual issues was used as a cheap story device or plot point in a story. Empathy is always a very important facility for a writer to develop—especially when dealing with sensitive or provocative issues.

In short, if you don’t like being beaten up, then don’t do it to someone else, or if you do, then try and understand how much it hurts and why. Taking a few body blows for your characters might make you a bit black and blue emotionally, but the added dimension and sensitivity it gives can change an erotic sin, something normally just exploitive, to … well, if not a virtue, then at least a story with a respectful sinner as its author.

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Sep 022010
 
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In this post, I’m going to address in my own special way one of the recurring problems of a writer’s life. Many of us find that while we’re in a writing phase, we can’t seem to read. It’s not just about time, it’s about attention.

For what it’s worth, I’m going to argue that you gotta. Ignore me at your peril, but then, listen to me at your peril. Do what works for you, because when it comes right down to it, I don’t know shit.

All I’m trying to do is remind you — or maybe remind myself — why you sat down in that stupid chair to begin with. We all began writing because at some point writing something down seemed like a better idea than doing the dishes or emptying the litter box. Locked up in the problems of fiction, it’s way too easy to forget why it ever did.

Anyway, here’s the story:

Recently, while lost in a finger-gallop reverie in the virtual pages of my newest tender romance between a half-clothed young socialite and the crew of the HMS Bon Vivant, I realized something strange and wonderful.

All my recent first-drafts evince a familiar narrative rhythm — one I was completely unaware of during the writing of a considerable number of words.

The novels open with a conversation or interpersonal conflict that leads to an action sequence for which there’s clearly backstory that the reader doesn’t know, so that the resounding “WTF?” in the reader’s mind both intrigues them and troubles them.

The novel then proceeds to a chapter of backstory from the perspective of a single character, which tells you part of why the action sequence in Chapter 1 matters and what in the hell the characters were talking about.

Following that, there’s another conversation and another action sequence that both illuminates the events of Chapter 1, but you still don’t quite know WTF is going on.

You as the reader are more illuminated after the subsequent round of backstory, again from another character’s perspective — often a different character than the first backstory.

So on and so on — through about six or eight chapters, until roughly the midpoint of the book. After that, the narrative proceeds more or less unchecked as a series of conversations and actions sequences, to an ending that’s either a suckerpunch or a bitch-slap, depending.

Let me say here that structuring novels has always bothered me. I don’t do it naturally, which is why I’ve been more successful writing short stories. But as I wrote this round of longer works — about five of them since June — it all came to me as easily as a Cleveland drama teacher who’s mistaken me for Robert Mitchum. And for a time, I didn’t have the faintest idea why it was suddenly so natural.

Then I picked up a Jim Thompson novel, my tenth in a few months, and I realized I was aping  Thompson’s formulaic structure.

James Meyers Thompson, 1906-1977,  in case you don’t know your tough-guy literature, was one of the codifiers of redneck noir, and more importantly of the overall hard-boiled esthetic in the postwar crime thriller — and here I’m talking really hard-boiled, not the saxophone-drenched diaries of some trenchcoat-wearing wisecracker who handwashes his delicates and jots his crime scene notes in a cute little spiral notebook with unicorn appliqués and a glue-glitter “Detective Jake Fist’s Notebook” on the cover, and dots the I’s in “high-velocity impact splatter” with little pink hearts.

Jim Thompson, much like Hitchcock and Cornell Woolrich, raised misanthropy in the thriller to a high art — but, most importantly, Thompson was a consummate plotter. His books pound the pavement (or West Texas alkali dust) so tight and fast Raymond Chandler curls up in his grave and weeps, “Uncle.”

Many of Thompson’s short, to-the-point suckerpunch thrillers follow exactly the structure I mention above — some don’t, sure, but the commercial crime novels he sat down and cranked out while slamming down liquor in the ’50s and ’60s all follow a similar pattern. Thompson sure as hell didn’t invent it — really, the structure’s pretty standard. But you tend not to see it quite as evidently nowadays in category crime fiction, which today is thoroughly dominated by 400-page P.I. books and lawyers from Sausalito. With the stripped-down, 60,000-word structure in 12 or 15 or 20 chapters, it’s easier to see the moving parts.

And as far as I’m concerned, the structure works.

I don’t mean it works from a writer’s perspective — who gives a shit about writers? I mean it works for the reader. Remember them? That is to say, it works for me — I love reading it. Add to that predictable an enveloping sense of atmosphere, vivid characters, wonderful narrative language and an ear for dialect, and I’m as happy as a pig in shit as long as no one tries to talk to me while I’m reading.

With Thompson, specifically, he can stuff my peepers with an endless parade of corrupt Texas oilmen, L.A. grifters, slowly-coming-unhinged small-town sheriffs and St. Louis bellboys plotting the perfect murder of a corrupt politician’s cocaine-addled wife; I’ll always be convinced I’m reading a new book, even though I’m actually reading the same damn book over and over again.

That’s probably why I read about ten of Thompson’s novels in couple months — immediately before I started writing in exactly that structure, without even really meaning to do it.

Having found the style fantastically satisfying as a reader, I started pumping it out as a writer despite the fact that at the moment I’m not writing anything even remotely resembling crime novels. The supremely satisfying framework imprinted itself so thoroughly on me that I utilized it without even knowing it — after years of not quite “getting” novel structure.

What’s the point? You are what you eat. You have to read to write. If you are writing novels, you need to read novels; if you are writing short stories, you need to read short stories; if you are writing deconstructive poetry in Georgian — well, you get the point. And you need to read a lot of it, because the structural conventions of the genre you work in need to seem so completely natural to you that you can not only make it your own but make it your own without even knowing you’re doing it.

For years I have been telling people they need to write to write — and there ain’t a damn thing wrong with that assertion, either. But you also have to know what a work of art feels like to be able to do it with a depth of instinct that allows you to make it your own.

I should say that I’ve been somewhat inaccurate for the sake of clarity above; you actually don’t need to read obsessively in the genre or genre you’re writing in. You need to read in the genre(s) you’re most influenced by. In the same way that I”m influenced by Jim Thompson in writing erotica (an improbable marriage if ever there was one), you might be influenced by Robert A. Heinlein in writing gay werewolf romances.

Mazel Tov! The more unlikely your influences, the more likely you can bring a new voice to a given genre, to which — assuming you learn to do it well, or well enough — your readers will say “Thank you, Ma’am and/or Sir, may I have another?”

Now, please don’t take that as an engraved invitation from me (like you need one?) to write “A multigenerational epic fantasy inspired by The Daily Show.” Wacky ideas are one thing. But as a cynical son of a bitch who has heard — seriously — just about every undercooked idea possible come out of writers’ mouths, nothing’s more tedious than writers who intentionally look for improbable concepts in order to impress you with how “original” they are (Hot Tub Time Machine, anyone?), I’m telling you to keep your self-satisfied precocious inventiveness down to a dull roar and leave the truly contrived mash-ups to people with absolutely bloody well nothing of their own to say. The point is not to blow people’s minds with your half-assed ideas, but to blow their minds with the vividness, genuineness and personal flavor of your writing.

You want to give readers That Barton Fink Feeling, for the simple reason that if you don’t, no one else can. How do you do that? You give them what you love — what you really love, not just what you pat yourself on the back for having come up with a sentence-long summary for.

What I’m trying to get at here is that a writer must find what books he or she enjoys reading — or, preferably, LOVES reading with a passion that makes her or him sacrifice sleep and risk life and limb to squeeze in a few extra pages while walking down the street.

I discovered that in spades this year. I spent a decade or more of being sort of lukewarm on all the fiction I read. Therefore, I didn’t read nearly as much of it as I should have. Then I started reading fiction aggressively, and I realized that the experience of reading a book that blows you away is what all this ludicrous self-torture is about.

You do have to write to write — that fact is as unassailable as the meaning of the word is being, well, “is.”

But you are what you eat — so go read something that reminds you why you ever sat your ass down in that stupid chair to begin with.

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May 132010
 
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When last we left with my lesson, we talked about sex and scene structure. To review, sex is an ACTION and should be written like an action scene.

Stimulus > Reaction > Perception > Emotion > Response

This is the BEST way to keep your readers from tossing the book across the room. By writing this way we’re creating a mental movie that the reader sees in their head. If you’ll remember, the structure of a scene looks very choppy on the page and we’re left with a lot more white space than what’s typically seen in many novels.

Again, so what? The reader’s eyes do not notice this if you’ve done your job well by crafting deep scenes that take us into the action by using all our senses. Remember, erotica is not just about sex, it’s about involving all of the human being into the act of sex.

That means in our scenes we’ll show feelings, emotions, scents, tastes, sights, touch and more, over and over again until we’ve crafted the scene so well that we literally forget where we (or our hands) are.

What this looks like in action: (Piece from Dark Desires – my Total E-bound Ménage story out sometime this year)

Remember, we’re using the formula above to write the scene:

Romyn’s fingers slid down her arm until his thumb reached the pulse in her wrist. (Romyn’s ACTION)
Alex’s hand somehow found its way onto her stocking clad thigh. (Alex’s Action, also done TO Raven)
She squirmed and pressed her legs together. (Reaction) You could always say no.(Perception)
She scoffed at the idea. Raven never turned down a good fuck, especially if the two men were as powerful and capable as Romyn and Alex. A part of her realized she needed to feed off the lust, let it build inside her and contain it until she could get another fix. If she was truly human, which she was sure she was since only humans worked suck ass jobs and bothered with material things, then she would emulate her favourite demon, the succubus. (Emotion- with description to fill white space AND add to the story. Remember, we’re still in Raven’s POV and her head for a reason)
Alex looked questioningly at her. “Something the matter, Raven?” (Alex’s reaction)
His voice pulled her from her thoughts. She took another sip of her scotch and shook her head. “Nothing I can’t fix.”(Reaction, Perception, action, dialogue)
Yet she sat between these two men like she was the one up on the cross being ogled for sins she had yet to commit.
Romyn’s fingers continued circling her skin in a manner that sent shivers racing through her.
She shot him a glare.
He didn’t move from his pose, leaving his profile to her while that hand worked over her flesh in such a simple gesture that wouldn’t arouse a normal woman.
Raven was far from normal, she remembered.
She was so not normal that she was sitting in a gothic dance club with her boss and his partner, letting them both paw her like a pet.
She had to admit, this wasn’t a bad position. Perhaps she could have some fun at their expense.
Setting her glass down on the table, she took Alex’s hand and slid it higher up her thigh.

In the above example, I purposely extended the excerpt to show that scene is written in entirely Raven’s POV but we’re able to see Romyn and Alex based on their responses to her. Human beings often act before they think, just ask any marital artist. Unless the situation calls for tight thinking, like in a tense negotiation (which we’re not yet writing) then we’re going off our gut.

The tempting thing is to fill that white space so the pages don’t look so blank. If you must fill that white space (and I don’t see why not) then use DESCRIPTION.

Tell us, or take us there. Describe your sex scenes using all the purple prose you can throw in. This is the time for those words. Yeah, some editors don’t like euphemisms. Oh well. The language you use will match your style of writing and the language will flow more clearly.

Again I mention that this technique is not widely used by many of today’s popular writers. That’s fine; they’re more than established in many cases. This isn’t a pass for them, but an explanation. We’re not trying to write like them entirely, but we are trying to make a living from our writing. When readers see our books as enjoyable mental movies that hold depth, they’ll return to buy the next book. And the next one. And the next three after that.

The technique takes time to learn and really narrow down. So in future editions in my column we’ll break down the parts of this formula.

Next week, in our void we’ll have a special guest blogger. Lisa Wienberger, the cute half of Sensual SEO has offered us a guest post on; you guessed it, SEO tactics for writers. Until then, keep it sexy!

Sascha Illyvich

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Apr 012010
 
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Last time we talked about eroticism of characterization we discussed two major points. Are the stories character driven or plot driven? Once we figure out that aspect we can concentrate on the proper lesson. For this blog we’re currently discussing characters and how they drive stories.

By the way when I say character driven stories, I’m talking about stories that focus exclusively on the characters and their growth. This is typical of most romance novels as we’re seeing a focus on the hero and heroine overcoming themselves in order to change. With plot driven stories, we’re talking more about books like Dragon Wytch by Yasmine Galenorn, which has strong character development but the focus is really on the plot. Urban fantasy and other genres rely on plot much of the time to satisfy their readers. But let’s get back to the erotic elements of character driven stories. We’ll cover plot driven stories in an upcoming post.

When we talk about erotic elements in any capacity, we’re really talking SEX. Remember in my previous blog post I mentioned movies? This is THE KEY that we want to mimic as writers in terms of structure and writing style. The reason is that the eye and brain pick up details VERY quickly and only through our logical reasoning do we misinterpret what we see.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that even though revenues are in decline for a variety of reasons, movies tend to remain the most accessible form of entertainment. That being said, ever notice how a scene occurs? Probably not because action happens so fast in a good scene that our minds hang onto what our eyes see. But what if we wrote those scenes on paper?

We would see the internal dialogue, thought and action that occur. Since sex is an ACTION between two characters, the same formula for writing it occurs. I know I’ve mentioned Morgan Hawke in previous posts and the reason for that is that she models her sex scenes after Angela Knight and Laurell K. Hamilton. The reason for this is not only because both authors are EXTREMELY popular but because they’re both DAMN GOOD smut writers. And remember, we’re not always modeling our writing not after literary quality but after what sells. True writers are results focused and when we cover promotions via my publicist and a guest blog, or my cohorts, we’ll discuss why we are results oriented.

You’re wondering what that formula for writing sex scenes is now, aren’t you?

Here it is: (shamelessly stolen from Morgan Hawke’s site)

Stimulus > Reaction > Perception > Emotion > Response

Something happens to the viewpoint character. Then he has an action. Then a thought. Then a feeling. And finally, he responds.

Then the other character begins the patter again ON THE NEXT LINE. Since SEX is ACTION, we use this formula here too.

What this looks like in action:

Morgan turned her head. (Morgan ACTION)
When their eyes met (SASCHA ACTION), Sacha wanted to stride across the room and do something (Had a THOUGHT). Anything.
This was his mentor, his love interest from afar. His biggest supporter in the industry. (Emotion) He swallowed hard. (Reaction)
She started towards him, taking quick steps to cover the distance between them. (Morgan ACTION)
He figured she’d walk past him. (Had a thought)
Instead, she stopped just beside him, setting a hand on his chest.
His heart throbbed loudly in his throat. (Emotional Response)
“Room 515. I got a good suite. Good to see you, babe.” She dropped her chin and fluttered her eyelashes at him.
He inhaled her scent, lush and rich, “Ten minutes okay for you?”
A wicked smile crossed her lips. “Yeah. Don’t spend what you promised me.” She lightly raked her fingers across his abdomen.
A shudder raced through him.
Morgan walked down the hall.
He snickered.

The scene was originally written in a different style but I still kept the two characters actions in their own paragraphs. This style looks choppy huh?

WHO CARES? The reader’s eyes won’t notice unless they take a break and actually look at the page, in which case you’ve not done your job properly. The key here is that we’re writing for flow.

I can hear some of you now talking about style. I’ll break it down for you. Style isn’t what sells. Good stories sell. If you’re so tied to your style that you can’t change, I suggest you reread this post on Flexing by M. Christian. Then reread this post by Jean Marie Stine on erotica and money.

This formula is not the be all end all to your writing and will take time to learn. What separates one writer from another is the words chosen to describe the actions, events etc. When I went back to redo this snippet I had a few things out of order due to my natural tendency NOT to write in this way but once I saw the smoothness in how it read I was willing to try to learn to write action/sex in formula.

What makes the difference is that our readers run through the story so quickly because you’ve crafted the scenes in an order that lends to helping the words fly off the page come alive to the reader.

We’ve covered a lot of information in this post and it’ll take some time for it to digest so when I have the blog again, we’ll not only repeat some of this material but explain in better depth. Until next time…

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