by Donna George Storey
A new year always brings a sense of adventure and possibility, and I’m fortunate to part of a very exciting new adventure here at the ERWA blog. It’s a real honor to be in the line-up of regular monthly columnists, all of whom I admire greatly as erotica writers and mentors.
As you may know, I write a column every other month for the ERWA website called “Cooking Up a Storey,” which combines a meditation on the writing process with a tasty recipe. For the blog format, it struck me that a sort of miniature version of “Cooking” would be fun to write. Coincidentally, I noticed that the #100 entry on this year’s Saveur magazine’s 100 list is mignardises (meeng-yar-deez), the tiny, artful sweets that are served as the last course of a grand meal in French and other fine restaurants. In “All About Pleasure,” I’ll offer you a monthly tidbit, a literary mignardises if you will, to remind you that writing erotica is sweet and hopefully leave you inspired to create your own.
January is a month when we all need a little extra inspiration, so I decided to start with one of the most powerful foundations of good erotica—the vivid, fresh expression of sensual pleasure.
Writing requires us to pay attention to everything around us, even the most humble and ordinary things. Without this focus, this desire to transform sensual experience into evocative words, we could not capture the truth of human experience in our own fresh voice. Better still, paying attention to the amazing world around me invariably brings pleasure and often awe. I liken this to the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wakes up in Technicolor Oz after a dreary life in black-and-white Kansas. This intensity of awareness is what readers expect from writing, and it’s what will keep them coming back for more.
With fifteen years of fiction writing behind me, I sometimes take the process for granted. I can dash off a decent, publishable story for a deadline while drawing from my archives of moments of heightened sensual awareness. But I think even veteran writers can use a reminder of what really matters in a story. A good writer captures experience from the inside, thus allowing the reader to enter the world of the story fully. In the best case, our fantasy might begin to seem more real and true than anything he has experienced in his own life. As in sex, the fresher and more wondrous it is for you, the better it will be for your partner, the reader. This is particularly true for erotica.
So, with the rekindling of sensitivity and wonder in mind, I’d like to offer a classic exercise in sensual awareness, known in Japanese as monoawase (moan-oh-ah-wah-say). A thousand years ago, during the age of The Tale of Genji, it was a court pastime to compare thoughtfully different types of incense or pottery or poetry or rice wine. The purported goal was to discern the blend of ingredients and their place of origin by sensual properties alone, but in the process, the critic had to hone her senses and pay close attention to the components. It is that part of the experience that is of real value to a writer.
In spite of the exotic name, the exercise is quite simple. Choose two pleasurable things to compare (“pleasurable” is, well, more pleasurable, but you can go with whatever adjective suits your current writing project). An obvious choice is two squares of different brands of dark chocolate—since Valentine’s Day is on the horizon—but two brands of Greek yogurt or two types of apple or tangerine or two lovers in one bed will serve just as well. The two things don’t really need to be similar either, just comparable, which I suppose means anything. Whatever you choose, your next step is to procure a piece of paper, a writing implement, and a place free of distractions.
Take a deep breath, and let’s begin (I’ll assume we’re dealing with two small pieces of good-quality chocolate—any complaints?)
First undress the chocolate slowly. Note the sensation of the paper, the crackle as it tears. Take a good look at the chocolate itself, jot down notes if you like. Describe the color, the relative glossiness of each. Do they look different than you thought?
Treat the chocolate like fine wine—perhaps the only consumable we are allowed to imbibe with such ritualistic reverence in Western culture. Take in the fragrance slowly. The challenge here is to describe the experience. You can use the language of wine critics to describe the scents—earthy, hints of vanilla, more obvious with mint or strike out into new territory. Our sense of smell is most directly connected to memory. Perhaps the pieces of chocolate evoke particular memories for you?
Some practitioners of monoawase say the item they are appreciating speaks or whispers to them. What is the chocolate saying to you? How can you transform the “voice” of the chocolate into your own words?
Next taste a small bite of the chocolate, no more than a third of the square. The first taste is going to be the most intense. Let it sit in your mouth and pay attention to the process and tactile experience as well as the taste. What does it feel like on your tongue? Do the flavors change? Jot down a few notes, then take another bite.
Once you feel you’ve gotten as much as you can out of the exercise, feel free to stuff the rest in your mouth and get lost in pure indulgence!
Monoawase is perfect for threesomes in bed, especially if you’re in the middle, but can this exercise be translated into an erotic experience with a long-term partner? Indeed, as in haiku poetry, the limitations of form can inspire a profoundly creative result. A favorite contrast game for me involves oral sex and a cup of hot tea. Take a mouthful of tea, let it warm your mouth, and swallow. Then immediately put your mouth to your lover’s tender parts—for both male and female, the intense warmth is bound to elicit a gasp of surprise and pleasure. Or focus on the tactile—stroking your lover’s body with a piece of fur or silk or one of those sex toy store mitts that are fur on one side and leather on the other.
Compare and contrast. Once it was a meaningless exercise on essay exams in high school. Now it’s a way to hone your writer’s skills, an excuse to eat lots of chocolate, and a reason to have oral sex while you’re drinking your tea. This focused celebration of the senses is the foundation of good sensual writing.
So go write something vividly, enchantingly and deliciously sexy—and change the world!
Donna George Storey is the author of the erotic novel, Amorous Woman. Her short stories have recently appeared in Best Women’s Erotica 2012, Best Erotic Romance, and The Best of Best Mammoth Erotica. Learn more at http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor.