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Posts Tagged ‘characters’

Fighting For Reality

April 29, 2010 5 comments

There are some unwritten rules in erotic romance that I’m okay with following. The heroes are always well-hung, for example. TOTALLY okay with that rule.

But there are other “rules” that don’t sit so well with me. Hair, for example. Real men have hair. They have it on their faces, backs, chests, and bellies. I don’t go out of my way to describe a hairy back, mind you, although I personally like it (there, I said it) but all of my heroes have chest hair – crisp, curly chest hair that holds the scent of soap and warm skin – and that hair gives my heroines tactile pleasure.

I was just reading a study where women’s preferences can be correlated to local health. In areas where the overall community health is bad, women dig men with lots of hair, thicker bones, visible musculature. In areas where community health is good, women go for thinner bodies, more delicate features, and less to no hair. The conclusion is that the heavily apparent secondary sexual characteristics are survival markers – denoting men whose genetic health gives them an advantage in an environment without a lot of available interventions.

I wouldn’t want any man who couldn’t defend me during the zombie apocalypse. Some of my heroes are gentle, kind of nerdy men, but they’re still men capable of kicking ass, taking names, and lifting heavy things. My guys don’t just act like alpha men – they look like alpha men. That means hair. Down with waxing! Up with surviving the apocalypse!

Not Period Correct.

I needed two of my characters to not have sex. Fear of pregnancy is certainly a very good reason. I thought about having my heroine count the days, but just for giggles, and by giggles I mean “because I am a hopeless research nerd,” I looked it up to make sure the Victorians knew about that tidbit.

Women didn’t know about counting the days from one’s last period to determine the fertile window until the 1920s.

Holy hell.

This was made worse by the fact that condoms were not widely available, and in some places only sold to married men.

You don’t think about just how liberating birth control was, just how great a degree of freedom is conferred by managing one’s own fertility, until you get smacked in the face with it. I have never known a time when I couldn’t just bop into 7/11 for condoms, or wander into a clinic and emerge with birth control pills, or at bare freaking minimum count days and say, eh, the curse starts tomorrowish so we’re probably clear. Also, while the consequences to getting pregnant unintentionally and outside of marriage would have had a massive impact on my life, I would not have had to cope with any societal disapproval, nor would my single mother status have any impact on my ability to be employed or rent an apartment.

What an impact this would have on a sexual relationship!

This is why good historical fiction isn’t “girls like us but in costume.” Some aspects of being a woman are universal across time and space, but other things are so anchored in context as to be meaningless without it. I hope I’m up to the challenge…

That’s How You Know It’s Fantasy

My editor on Her Heart’s Divide, who is seriously the most fantastic editor I have worked with in ten years (go ahead, ask me about insightful criticism that turns a passage from acceptable to the high point of my writing day), is nearly as overscheduled as I am. Multitasking, fragmented scheduling, the whole caboodle.

She mentioned in the context of a promotional thing that she had some really specific things she loved about my book. Now, in an attempt to spare her my deep seated neurotic tendencies, I had never asked what she liked about the book. She’d given me plenty of positive feedback, but it was all about my writing, and not really the story.

I asked her if she’d mind sharing the specifics. At the exact moment I asked, she was on her way out the door, so she had to be pithy. She said she “loved how Lila was married but horny, and how Ryan had thick muscles, black hair, and he runs errands.”

Hey, who doesn’t love a dude who runs errands?

Own It

I was lurking in a discussion about what makes a reader throw a book at the wall. The conversation was specifically about what BDSM novels get wrong.

Before I continue, I want to say that I fell down the stairs a few days ago. More accurately, I fell on the stairs. It was warm enough that I’d kicked off my slippers, but cold enough that I still had my socks on. Unlike my toddler, I do not have nice little rubber bits on my socks to keep me from sliding on bare wood. I did that classic fall thing where your feet fly straight out and you land hard on your hind end. I was on the third step from the bottom at the time, so after the first impact I went bumpety bump down to the floor. It hurt so much that I went into Lamaze breathing, something I’d forgotten to do during actual childbirth. Unlike childbirth, I couldn’t scream because I didn’t want to alarm the kid to whom I gave birth, because these days he knows that screaming = something bad happening.

I am fine, except for a spectacular bruise on my left ass cheek. It is six inches long, and three inches high. It is currently purple and blue with a red and white welt in the center. I am a little sore, not from the fall but from leaning to starboard whenever I’m sitting down and typing.

It has occurred to me, more than once in the last few days, that the people who write spanking scenes involving a dominant person putting all his/her weight into dozens of blows from a cane or a wooden paddle have never once in their life been spanked with either. I might be wrong. But I don’t think so. Roald Dahl describe being caned at his boarding school in the late 20s/early 30s, and he was pretty clear that the number of strokes would be in the single digits and mess you up for days.

At any rate, I was uniquely qualified to nod in agreement with the readers protesting the sheer amount of violence and disregard for the subs in BDSM fiction. One of the other common themes running through the thread was how the female submissives invariably go on and on about how their desires were dirty, or that they longed to be normal, or whatever. The readers were saying that most actual subs, and in fact most of the people who enjoy BDSM, aren’t nearly so tortured over the whole thing.

One reader snapped out, as if she were speaking to one of the heroines, “Oh, FFS, get over yourself. It’s what you like. Own it.”

It was like a cold bucket of water to the face. I sent her a note to thank her.

It’s like this: I’m working on a story where I really need to speak to an expert in order to get some details that will make the story work, but I’ve been unusually embarrassed about writing erotic novellas this week. The hero is an enlisted man in the Army. One of my oldest friends has been in the Army for the last twelve years. Easy, no? But I’d been making it hard.

FFS, get over yourself. It’s what you write. Own it.

Characters Have Minds of Their Own

There are people in my life that will never read one of my erotic stories. Not because of their hangups, but because of mine.

I have spent my entire life trying to slay the demons of “what will people think,” and I thought I’d beaten them all until I starting writing smut. It was like every demon riding the junior high school school bus with me got comfortable in my office as soon as I wrote the first chapter of the first novella.

The one that starts with graphic phone sex.

In the past, those demons perched on every mental surface were enough to convince me to abandon every manuscript after one chapter. Maybe two. This time, I clenched my jaw and refused to turn my head from the monitor. My son was napping, I didn’t have anything to do at work, and by god, I was going to finish something for once in my life. And I did.

And lo, she said, it was pretty damned good, so she mailed it unto the agonizingly slow gatekeepers of publishing.

The next time the kid napped, I wrote down an interesting idea I’d had during the first story’s creation. That turned out to be pretty damn good too, and original. 30% explicit smut, but good. That one sold. (The first one, if you’re new here, was rejected-with-feedback, and I rewrote it… and by rewrote it I mean I gave it a plot and three more chapters.)

Being a non-fiction writer accustomed to immediate reader feedback, praise, and a weekly column that regularly drew the suggestion that I should quit writing and die in a fire (you see why the prospect of ordinary old rejection didn’t put me off for a millisecond), I wanted to tell the world. But I froze.

Hello, demons. I don’t mind if you stay, but I’d appreciate it if you’d stop eating all my favorite snacks.

Two other story ideas had come to mind during the writing of the second. I finished one of them and submitted it. If you scroll down, you’ll see a blog entry about my husband having a brilliant idea. It was so compelling that I started writing it while I meant to be writing something else. And in a tiny corner of my soul, the part that can’t banish demons, I was glad, because this idea was awesome and yet it probably wouldn’t have much sex. A story I could show all my friends and my favorite professor from college! A heroine unlikely to get into bed with anyone until marriage, probably at the end of the book! Yippee!

Yeah, well. Guess who’s lying on her side in post-orgasmic bliss giving the hero a handjob. I can’t blame her, really. She’s been awfully lonely since her husband died, and as a self-made woman, she’s too rich for her old friends and her family is too poor for her current associates. And I can’t blame her lover, either, even though he should have said no. It’s been awhile since he felt a hand down there. He’s got clockwork arms that frighten off most potential partners and he’s too proud to hire a prostitute. Of course, they really shouldn’t have spent the night together, and there’s going to be trouble over it, but… but I still would have liked to have a story I could show to my mother.

Categories: Thinking, Writing Tags: , ,

Writing Sex Scenes

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s a thread on one of the writer forums I’m on where we’re talking about love scenes. Every writer has a different approach to writing sex scenes. Here’s what I said:

“I love writing love scenes, which is probably why I write erotic romance. It’s so honest. The body doesn’t lie. Whatever a character is really feeling and thinking will appear in the scene in some way.

“If I really know the characters well, the scenes practically write themselves. If I haven’t worked out some element of characterization, I struggle, and it comes out more like porn. I don’t have the ability yet to write a scene and then add in the emotion – each gesture and caress comes from the history the characters share, the things they want to express to each other, and the fantasies that they love the most.”

That’s the key to how I write explicit content, right there. The characterization can’t be separated from the mechanics of the sex and feel authentic to me. The only time I do any advance choreography is when I’m writing a threeway, because otherwise I do lose track of elbows. And I admit that I always write f/f erotica in first person because otherwise I trip over the pronouns. But that’s as far as it goes, planning-wise. Every other thing has to come from the characters themselves.

Categories: Writing Tags: ,