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Monthly Archives: April 2013

By K D Grace

Because I’ve spent the last year and a
half working on my erotic paranormal Lakeland Heatwave Trilogy, I’ve made it a
point to check out anything that might contain valuable information about the
Lake District, and I take loads and loads of pictures each time I visit the
Lakes. I’ve only recently launched Elemental
Fire
, the last book in the trilogy, and am definitely feeling some
empty nest syndrome, so it was only natural that when I came across Sarah
Hall’s novel, Haweswater,
I had to read it. Haweswater is an
older book, written long before I knew anything about the English Lakes. Hall’s
is a historic novel set just before and during the time the dam was
being built which created the Haweswater Reservoir.

Haweswater used to be a natural lake
with a tongue of land out in the middle that nearly divided the lake in two,
forming what was then known as High Water and Low Water. The reservoir was built
in the then remote valley of Mardale, with the controversial construction beginning
in 1929, after Parliament passed an act giving the Manchester Corporation
permission to build the reservoir to supply water for Manchester. The valley of
Mardale was populated by the farming villages of Measand and Mardale Green and
the construction of the reservoir meant that these villages would be flooded
and lost, and the people who lived there would have to relocate. There was no
compensation, no help, no recourse.

Hall’s novel is the story of the love
affair between the engineer sent to supervise the project and a local farmer’s
daughter who was born and raised in the valley and loved the land she’d grown
up on. Their tale is set against the tragedy of the land itself.

In 1976 there was a severe drought and,
after forty years of being totally submerged in the reservoir, the village of
Mardale Green once again made an appearance. Before the valley was flooded, the
villages were demolished with explosives and everything that might float and might
cause problems for the water extraction channels in the dam had to be removed. So
what remained was the foundations, the dry stone walls and, amazingly enough,
the bridge over what was once Mardale Beck. Several times since then when there
have been severe droughts, the village of Mardale Green has been exposed, and
when that happens, tourists come from all over to get a rare glimpse of what
was lost. After reading the novel, I did some research on my own and found this
site that had pictures of the villages and the farms before they were flooded
and also pictures of the remains exposed by the drought. http://www.mardale.green.talktalk.net/

This might seem a strange topic to bring
up on the Erotica Readers and Writers Blog, but my reasons are simple. The
story moved me, more deeply than I’ve been moved in a very long time. Hall
created a powerful relationship between her two main characters with some of
the most simply written, most visceral sex scenes I’ve ever read. Hall created
a world which was so much more than concrete and yet so very, very fragile and
fleeting. She pulled me in and held me in that space where characters interact
intimately, not only with each other, but with the landscape. I found myself
thinking that if those two characters, Janet Lightburn and Jack Liggett, had
been in any other place, in any other setting, their relationship would have
had nowhere near the impact, nor the magnetic pull to me as a reader.

One of my heroes, Alfred
Wainwright
had this to say about the construction of the Haweswater dam in
his A
Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells
:

If
we can accept as absolutely necessary the conversion of Haweswater [to a
reservoir], then it must be conceded that Manchester have done the job as
unobtrusively as possible. Mardale is still a noble valley. But man works with
such clumsy hands! Gone for ever are the quiet wooded bays and shingly shores
that nature had fashioned so sweetly in the Haweswater of old; how aggressively
ugly is the tidemark of the new Haweswater!


I think Wainwright might have found the work of
Sarah Hall’s hands much less clumsy, much more eloquent in her recreation of
the Mardale Valley as it was before the dam. Her novel seems such a fitting
tribute to a place that now only makes its appearance in dry times, when both
people and the land are thirsty. There seems to be something vindicating and
something accusing, and at the same time something quietly hopeful, in a place
that reveals itself all these years later in such a dramatic way, in a place
that won’t stay buried, won’t stay hidden, in a place that inspires maybe even
more because it’s hidden most of the time. There’s something almost magical in
a place that was nearly lost from memory, but just keeps coming back.

After I’d read Hall’s novel, I went back through my
pictures of the fell walks we’ve done near Haweswater and found something that
still gives me a goose bumps whenever I look at it. It’s a picture of my
husband, Raymond, standing above Haweswater Reservoir on our 5th day
walking the Wainwright Coast to Coast Walk. We’d spent the day walking in the
mist and rain and had been cold and wet all day long. We had descended from Kidsty
Pike, out of the mist and were coming down to follow the lake shore of
Haweswater to the village of Burnbanks. Burnbanks itself didn’t exist until the
dam was built, than it was quickly assembled as a pre-fab village for the
workers building the dam. But it’s the view behind Raymond, in this photo, that
stuns me and moves me, that I didn’t even think about until I read Sarah Hall’s
book, that I didn’t even notice when I took the picture.

Behind Raymond and to the right is Mardale Head. If
you look closely, you can see where the dry stone walls fall away into the
waters of the lake. If we could have turned back time, if we’d been standing
there in 1929, it would have been the village of Mardale Green in the photo
below Raymond rather than the grey waters and the vanishing stone walls. So
much is hidden in this photo, and so much is revealed.

I’m not drawing any parallels for writers. There is
no moral to the story, only that there is a story that I wanted to share with
you, only that I’ve been moved by another writer’s words and by a place that
conceals so very much more than it reveals.

Elizabeth Black lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. She has written erotic fiction for numerous publishers and she is self-published.

—–

I normally stuff my
feelings. Old habit. I don’t like feeling strong emotions because I’m afraid of
losing control, which makes writing all the harder for me. Good writers
regularly open a vein and empty it all over their computer screens. As
Hemingway wrote, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a
typewriter and bleed.”

I’m a very private
person, so opening up so much of myself in my writing takes a lot out of me. I
do write my escapist fantasies like “Trouble In Thigh High Boots”
(erotic Puss In Boots), “Climbing Her Tower” (erotic Rapunzel), and
my work-in-progress “Alex Craig Has A Threesome”. They’re like
setting me loose in a candy store. I get the gimmes and I want it all! However,
I have exposed a little too much of myself in some of my other stories. Two
include my contemporary 1980s novel “Don’t Call Me Baby” and especially
my short dark romance story “Alicia”. Those two are partially based
on personal experience. As I worked on both stories, I felt over-exposed and a
bit embarrassed and even ashamed. However, all of those feelings reflected how
much I opened up in writing both stories, and they made the stories all the
better.

“The best people possess a feeling for
beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the
capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they
are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” – Ernest Hemingway

How often do you
open up as a writer? You can always afford to open up more. Get inside your
character’s heads, and expose their weaknesses for all they’re worth. In doing
so, you expose yourself. The problem with sitting down at your typewriter and
bleeding is that it makes you vulnerable. How vulnerable are you willing to
make yourself for your art? Sometimes writers use their fiction as a cathartic
way of coping with their own problems or coming to terms with trauma. It isn’t
an accident that writing in a journal is a form of therapy often prescribed by
therapists.

Full disclosure here
– my short dark romance “Alicia” is based on my rape. Twenty years
ago I was raped by my then-husband, and the experience was obviously very
traumatic. He choked me so hard I coughed up blood, and my voice was hoarse for
several days. It took me many years to come to terms with that ordeal, and
writing “Alicia” is one big way I was able to deal with it. The
imagery I used in the story reflected how I coped with it. The entire ordeal
was like being trapped in a horrific dream and I couldn’t wake up. So, in both
telling a good story and dealing with my own abuse, I dove head-first into my
past and tore open some very old scabs. Here is the opening of the story, to
give you an idea of the visceral nature of what happened to me – and to Alicia.

This excerpt from
“Alicia” shows how using vivid description and strong emotions pull
the reader into a story. Just so you know, “Eric” is the pen name of
a dear friend of mine whom I care about deeply. “Carol” is my middle
name. “Alicia” is one of my favorite women’s names. Those three names
have significant meaning for me. I’ve found that choosing character names close
to your heart helps you to get inside their skins – and get inside your own so
you can’t hide from yourself. It’s an interesting exercise – if you are basing
characters on people you know, use their real names. Once the story is
finished, go through the document and change the names to something different
to establish some distance.

Eric stepped out of
the shower and a foul stench—mingled with the crisp peppermint of his
shampoo—smacked him in the face and left a coppery taste in the back of his
throat. His stomach heaved. Confused, he looked around the room to figure out
where the smell came from, but he couldn’t pinpoint it. Dread clung to him,
dark and sticky, ruining his relaxed mood. The light bulbs over the sink
hummed, casting harsh yellow light about the room. He shaded his eyes against
the glare, trying to see.
 Why were those
lights so bright? Something was terribly wrong in his peaceful world, and not
knowing what it was frightened him.
 His wife Alicia
brushed her teeth as if nothing was unusual, while the stink of rot lurked
beneath the cool mint of his shampoo. Why didn’t she notice the smell?
 He leaned towards
her to place his hand on her shoulder, and she turned her face towards his for
a kiss on the cheek. Ugly, purple bruises darkened her eyes. He pulled away,
repulsed and alarmed, not quite sure what he was seeing. One side of her face
had swelled to a dark mask, not unlike a pumpkin that had been left outside in
the damp earth to rot. An angry red welt encircled her throat like a bloody
ribbon wrapped around her neck. Frightened, he reached out one hand but he
couldn’t bring himself to touch her swollen face. Touching her would make the
vision real and it couldn’t be real.
 Alicia spat in the
sink. Two of her teeth bounced against the porcelain. Blood tainted the paste.
 “The girls are
running late again.” Alicia’s bloodied mouth leaked crimson and white
toothpaste. Why did she act as if nothing strange was going on? He gaped at
her, not understanding what was happening. The safety of his home evaporated as
she spoke with her raw, torn mouth. “Make them wolf down their cereal, and
toss them out of the house before they miss the bus.”
 “Alicia, who
did this to you?” Eric asked. She did not answer him. She brushed her
teeth, running the brush over her ragged gums where the teeth had been knocked
out. His stomach heaved again, and he swallowed hard to keep from vomiting. He
wanted to knock out the teeth of whoever had assaulted her, but she acted as if
nothing was wrong. Why?
 The phone rang. Who
would be calling him at this hour? It wasn’t even 7:30 yet. He asked Alicia
again who had done this to her, but she didn’t answer him. She dried her torn
mouth, and then she smeared foundation over her face. To his horror, the
foundation did not cover her bruises. It only made them look uglier and even
more purple.
 Eric walked to the
phone and answered it.
 “Hello?”
 The phone continued
to ring. Eric’s steam-hazy mind knew that that wasn’t supposed to happen.
 “Hello?”
 Eric woke up in bed
to the ringing of the telephone on the dresser next to him. His wife, Carol,
stirred at his side.

When I first wrote
that excerpt and a later excerpt that takes place in a hospital, I wanted to
delete, delete, delete! Too much revealed. In many ways, that’s a good thing.
It had shown I got to Alicia’s soul, and my own. If you want to feel like a
freshly torn scab when you write, make yourself vulnerable. You will likely
feel exhausted and a bit worried you’ve said too much once you finish, but the
end result is worth it.

Here are my blurb
and buy links for “Alicia” if you’re interested in reading the rest
of the story.

Buy Links:

http://tinyurl.com/alicia-amazon

http://mochamemoirspress.com/alicia/

Blurb:

When the love of his
life, Alicia, calls him in the middle of the night to report she had been
raped, Eric drops everything to come to her rescue. She takes him on an eerie
ride through turbulent hours he can’t quite comprehend. Alicia may need his
help, but her situation is not what it seems.

 ABOUT ELIZABETH BLACK

Elizabeth Black
writes erotica, erotic romance, speculative fiction, fantasy, and dark fiction.
She also enjoys writing erotic retellings of classic fairy tales. Born and bred
in Baltimore, she grew up under the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. Her erotic
fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), Circlet Press, Ravenous
Romance, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. Her dark fiction has
appeared in “Kizuna: Fiction For Japan”, “Stupefying
Stories”, “Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2”, “Zippered
Flesh 2: More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad”, and “Mirages:
Tales From Authors Of The Macabre”. An accomplished essayist, she was the
sex columnist for the pop culture e-zine nuts4chic (also U. K.) until it folded
in 2008. Her articles about sex, erotica, and relationships have appeared in
Good Vibrations Magazine, Alternet, CarnalNation, the Ms. Magazine Blog, Sexis
Magazine, On The Issues, Sexy Mama Magazine, and Circlet blog. She also writes
sex toys reviews for several sex toys companies.

In addition to
writing, she has also worked as a gaffer (lighting), scenic artist, and make-up
artist (including prosthetics) for movies, television, stage, and concerts. She
worked as a gaffer for “Die Hard With A Vengeance” and “12
Monkeys”. She did make-up, including prosthetics, for “Homicide: Life
On The Street”. She is especially proud of the gunshot wound to the head
she had created with makeup for that particular episode. She also worked as a
prosthetic makeup artist specializing in cyanotic blue, bruises, and buckets of
blood for a test of Maryland’s fire departments at the Baltimore/Washington
International Airport plane crash simulation test. Yes, her jobs are fun.
 😉

She lives in
Lovecraft country on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four
cats. The ocean calls her every day, and she always listens. She has yet to run
into Cthulhu.

Visit her web
site at http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com/

Her Facebook
page is https://www.facebook.com/elizabethablack

Follow her at
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElizabethABlack

by Jean Roberta

“Menage,” a French word meaning household, is the current term for sex scenes and erotic romances featuring more than two people. In some cases, this term seems parallel to “bisexual,” since ménage scenes or polyamorous relationships are never strictly heterosexual. Either one (or more) person has sex with one (or more) person of the same gender, loosely speaking, at least some of the time, or the whole group is gay-male or lesbian.

I haven’t tried living in an actual ménage that features multiple, simultaneous sexual relationships. In my reckless youth, I took part in a few sex scenes that involved multiple bodies. Just the logistics of such a scene make it harder to write about than a traditional coupling between a female and a male. (For one thing, as several other writers of queer sex have pointed out, pronouns can get confusing when there is more than one “he” or “she.”)

What intrigues me most about the subject of ménage, however, is the emotional complexity of a group relationship which is meant to be more committed and long-term than a casual hookup. While I have never assumed that an erotic writer has to live the lifestyle that she or he is writing about, approaching the chosen category with respect (whether it is BDSM, fetish, male/male, female/female, transgender, cross-dressing, or polyamorous) seems absolutely necessary to produce a story that doesn’t seem like a dirty joke told by an idiot, signifying nothing. (Apologies to Shakespeare.)

I haven’t written much about actual households that include multiple sexual relationships because, for a long time, I was skeptical about whether such arrangements ever actually work. A female friend told me about a failed threesome involving herself, her husband, and the woman who wanted a sexual relationship with her. The Other Woman would have liked Friend to ditch the husband, but instead, Friend told the Other Woman that she had to have a sexual relationship with him too, and then they would be a happy family with Friend in the centre. The Other Woman apparently said a few things that Friend didn’t choose to repeat, and raised a cloud of dust leaving them both behind. No surprise there.

At about the same time, I went to a women’s dance where I flirted with another lesbian who flirted back. Xena (as I’ll call her) was there without her long-term partner Gabrielle. Xena and I went as far as possible in a parked car before her guilt kicked in when she remembered her girlfriend at home. Xena suggested that we should have a threesome some time.

The next time I saw Gabrielle, she didn’t seem happy to see me. I realized that the loving threesome would only happen after the Apocalypse, and possibly not even then.

A young gay-male friend told me his plan to move to another part of Canada to live with a man he knew and liked. Friend told me that the other man (I’ll call him Joe) showed clear signs of being sexually attracted to him, but he was “in the closet.” This actually meant that Joe was married to a woman, Josephine. When I asked my friend if he thought he could also seduce Josephine so that both spouses would get equal time with their co-tenant, he seemed horrified. Friend made it clear that he was not at all attracted to any woman, let alone Josephine, but he couldn’t understand why she didn’t want him to move in. He assumed she was homophobic. Yoy.

Several months later, I heard that my friend was back in town. His ménage experiment had not worked, and the husband had chosen to stay with his wife. How shocking.

In Canada, government signs and notices must be in both official languages: English and French. A sign in the local post office reads: “Demenagez-vous?” which translates roughly into “Are you moving?” The notice goes on to advise those who plan to move to send out change-of-address cards. It always makes me wonder how many people who have tried to live in a ménage have left quickly, with hard feelings on all sides.

Jealousy is not an emotion that can simply be banished by means of a conscious decision, and it is not necessarily an expression of paranoia. Human beings need to feel liked, valued, admired and trusted, and no one wants to be ignored or left behind by a lover who prefers someone else. The challenge, both for those who want to be in a ménage and for those who want to write about the development of one, is to acknowledge the jealousy and cope with it realistically.

Since I began writing erotica, reviewing the work of other erotic writers, and exchanging information with them, I have read some persuasive stories about real and fictional ménages. Writing Skin by Adriana Kraft(www.amazon.com/Writing-Skin-ebook/dp/B003XRF5HU) tells the story of a ménage involving a bisexual wife, a heterosexual husband and a single, bisexual woman who is chosen by the couple because they like her erotic writing. Alternate chapters describe the development of the relationship of the writer with the wife (at first), then the writer’s growing bond with the husband, with some backstory about how the married couple fell in love with each other. There is some honest talk about feelings and expectations. It all works out because each of the three lovers has good intentions toward the other two and is genuinely turned on by both of them.

A few details in this plot stretched my ability to believe. (All three characters seem almost impossibly glamorous, and the husband is never a sexist jerk.) However, the ménage itself worked for me. I could imagine the three of them hosting a dinner party, and laughing together in the kitchen as they help each other cook and serve each course with a suitable wine.

My recent novella, The Flight of the Black Swan (www.amazon.com/Flight-Black-Swan-Jean-Roberta/dp/159021417X) deals with a “front marriage” in the 1860s, a necessary social illusion to protect both the man-loving husband and the woman-loving wife from the drastic penalties for “alternative” sexuality in the Victorian Age. (Women who were even suspected of losing their virginity outside of marriage were excluded from guest lists. Men found “guilty” of sex with other men were executed.)

When I began writing, I thought of this story as essentially queer, to use a broad term. The narrator is a lesbian, and the man she protects from the gallows by marrying him already has a devoted male lover when he proposes to her. As I got to know them better, however, the characters told me things I needed to know. (If you are a writer, you know how this works.) What begins in the story as a strictly legal arrangement develops into a kind of friendship with benefits. When the husband and the wife each have lovers, these Significant Others need to be reassured that they are important members of the ménage, not to be used and thrown away.

Making this kind of arrangement work requires courage and generosity. It requires thinking outside whatever “box” is offered to the participants as normal and inevitable. Writing a ménage story with a happy ending was an interesting challenge. I recommend it.

I know you want to submit your
story as soon as you’ve finished it. So do I. 
Writers are under a lot of pressure to churn out work quickly in this
publishing environment. I get that. But this is a little piece of your soul
you’re sending out into the universe, and polish is the only protection it’s
going to have. So please, slow down. Treat your work like a gourmet meal
instead of fast food. Make sure it’s presented in the best possible way. You’re
the only one who will give it such loving attention.

So. Editing.

Suggested reading before editing:
Self Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne & King)

A line-by-line copy edit helps you
find typos, missing words, and grammar mistakes. Below, I share the way I do
it, but as always, do what works for you. However, I strongly suggest that you
allow the MS to sit a few weeks after you finish your final draft before you
plunge into copy edits.  

If you work in Word, you know all
about the wavy red lines for spelling errors and the wavy green for
grammar.  You probably also know by now
that those are often wrong. There are many online sources to help you with
tricky, specific grammar questions. Plus, you have writer friends, right? Turn
to them. But always verify with a trusted authority on the matter.

I write science fiction so many of
my proper nouns are marked as spelling errors in the Word document. Adding them
to the dictionary gets rid of so many red wavy lines and Word will flag it if I
have a spelling variation (AKA a typo), which happens a lot with odd names. I
have yet to figure out how to get Scrivner to accept my world-specific
vocabulary.

Despite the weaknesses of Word’s
grammar and spell check, it can show you interesting statistics such as percent
of passive sentences and reading level. I won’t say that I dumb down my
manuscripts, but if the reading level is over eighth grade, I know to look for
simpler vocabulary replacements as I edit. I usually run at about 2-4% passive
sentences. Despite what you’ve heard, passive sentences aren’t evil, bad
things. They have a place in your writing. No editor wants to see 60% passive
sentences in your MS, but you don’t have to completely eradicate them either.
Another interesting statistic is average words per sentence. If it’s over
twenty-five, you may be guilty of too many complex or run-on sentences. If it’s
under eight, your writing may have the delivery of machine gun fire. Mix it up
to create a pleasant reading cadence.  

After spelling and grammar, I consult
my ‘errors I make all the time so you’d think I’d know better by now’ list. I
often type prefect instead of perfect. I switch the words from and form. I’m addicted to the word just.
Spellcheck won’t catch those errors. Do you have crutch words or phrases?
Are you aware of word substitutions you make often? Use the search function in
your word processor to search for your recurring mistakes.

After I’ve finished those
corrections, I print the MS for the first time. You might be able to see errors
on a computer screen but I see many more on paper. I take a green pen and
circle every error. If the problem is an entire sentence, sometimes I write the
correction on the paper but other times I’ll simply circle it and deal with it
later. POV errors, continuity, and plot holes are also circled but with a short
note about the problem. This is detailed work so I don’t do too many pages at
one sitting.

Next I sit down with the MS and
make my corrections in the computer. This is another time when the search
feature comes in handy. You can type in a three or four word string and it will
find them for you so you don’t have to scroll through the whole MS.

At this point, I print the
corrected MS for what I consider to be the hardest editing task. I read my
entire MS aloud.

What I think I wrote makes sense. What I actually wrote is missing words or other errors I didn’t catch on my first editing run. What I actually
wrote is repetitive either in theme or in word choice. What I actually wrote has weird rhythm. Or it’s
a tongue twister. Or what the heck was that supposed to mean? All those errors
are easily glossed over when I read mentally, but they’re glaringly obvious
when I read aloud.

Reading a sex scene aloud can be embarrassing
even though I wrote it. R has, on occasion, poked his head into my office and
said, “Bragging about your cock again, dear?” Instant mortification.   

While reading an entire novel aloud,
I often get lulled into a mental space where I will start reciting what I
intended to write rather than what’s actually on the page. This happens even
when it’s been weeks since I looked at the MS. That’s one reason why I limit my
reading aloud to about twenty to thirty minutes a day. Another reason is that
reading aloud is hard on the throat.  

After I’ve corrected any problems I
caught that time around, I may send the MS to beta readers or I may submit it
without reader input. That’s your choice. 
Sometimes beta readers are more harm than help. Sometimes they try to
impose their vision on your story. Sometimes they simply don’t get it.
Sometimes everything you do is wonderful and lovely and… no. This is not
helpful. You need critique, not ego strokes. Some beta readers have brilliant
insights and totally call you on your weaknesses. Love that class of beta
readers. Cherish them. They are amazing, wonderful, precious humans.

That’s my method for editing both
short stories and novels. Do you have any tricks for catching errors? Beta
readers – yea or nay?

Next time: submission. Finally.         

By Lucy Felthouse

I’ve been published for a few years now, mainly in the short story arena, though I have novellas available and others contracted, as well as a novel out on submission. I always keep my eye on what’s out there, what’s coming soon, how people are working, their achievements, and so on. And one thing that’s caught my eye several times has been co-authoring. To me, it looked like a brilliant way to work on a project with someone, have fun and then end up with a piece of work at the end of it. But I admit I didn’t really understand how it worked, so it just bubbled away in the back of my mind, and I didn’t do anything about it.

However, towards the back end of 2012, my good friend and fellow writer Lily Harlem suggested co-authoring something together. I explained I had a few projects on, so I couldn’t start right away, but I would definitely be interested. She was busy too, so we said we’d start in the early part of 2013, when all the New Year festivities were over and done with, and life was back to normal.

The writing bug bit Lily, however, and in December she sent me a chapter that had just come to her, so she’d written it down. I managed to read it quickly, but knew I still wouldn’t be able to do anything with it until January. I was eager to try out co-authoring, but other commitments had to take priority.

Then 2013 arrived. I’d cleared my commitments and was free to start something new – hurrah! I read the chapter again and then bombarded Lily with a million and one questions about the process of co-authoring, how she thought it would work, our intended publisher, and so on. I was very lucky in that a) Lily had co-authored many times before so knew how it worked b) she was very, very patient with me and answered all my questions c) that our writing styles are quite similar, so that although we wrote from separate character viewpoints, our respective sections would still fit together well and d) we know each other well enough to give constructive and honest feedback that will be truly helpful, rather than trying to sugar coat anything for the sake of being nice.

And so we began. The chapter Lily had written back in December was from the female perspective and I was happy to write from the male perspective. I’ve done it many times before and enjoy it very much. We’d already agreed that if things didn’t work out, we wouldn’t worry too much about it, so I opened the document and began to write without thinking too hard. We had no plan, no idea what on earth the book was going to be about, really, just that it would be an erotic romance. Despite this, the words came. Fast.

After writing a chapter of roughly the same length as Lily’s, I skim read it and sent it back to her. And thus the mad email exchange began. Prior to this project I’d only written one full-length novel by myself and found it a learning curve, albeit it a fun and very satisfying project, but often I had to force myself to carry on and not procrastinate. With this book, however, it was totally different. It was full of surprises – because we hadn’t planned it, the chapters we sent back to one another were a total surprise, and we both had to think on our feet to work out where the plot would go next. We’d agreed not to rush one another for chapters as we both had other things on, too, and although we didn’t pressure one another, we still produced the words at lightning speed (for me, anyway!). I grew eager to read Lily’s next chapter, to see where the characters – which I’d quickly grown very fond of – would go next, what they would do. There was very, very little procrastination!

The only thing we’d really planned was that the book would be longer than 50,000 words – to make it novel length. We did discuss how it would end, but never made a set decision, we just decided to keep writing and hope it came to a natural conclusion. We agreed that because Lily had written the first chapter, that I would write the last. That was the only time throughout the project that I felt pressure – and it was from myself, not my co-author. I had to write the last chapter, therefore the ending, therefore it had to be good, and satisfying! I put my fingers to the keys of my laptop and hoped that what came out would be good. When I finished the final chapter I read it again and made tweaks, then decided that no benefit would come of me staring at it – so I sent it to Lily. And waited with baited breath for her reply.

She loved it!! She even said that it made her cry. Naturally, I was incredibly relieved that she liked it – and the fact it made her cry was a huge bonus. Poor Lily was suffering with a bad cold at the time so she wasn’t feeling her best, but I decided to take the compliment anyway. And voilà – our novel, which had been through what felt like a bazillion title changes throughout the writing process, was finished. We smashed our 50k minimum and ended up with 70,000 words, roughly. In five weeks (with me even doing two chapters in one day – one in the morning, then one in the late afternoon as Lily sent hers back in the early afternoon) we penned a novel that we were both absolutely delighted with, and characters we adored.

Next, we made ourselves leave it alone for a while. We both agreed that jumping in with edits and polishing too soon wouldn’t help. We’d made comments on each other’s chapters as we went along, asking for clarification of certain points or even just saying parts had made us “LOL” and that helped immensely. So much so that after our waiting period, we didn’t change very much at all.

Then came the discussion on submission. We’d had a publisher in mind all along – Ellora’s Cave – and we submitted to them. Thankfully, they said yes. Cue much happy dancing from Lily and I! As we waited for news, we had a bit of a debrief and agreed we’d both loved the process and were amazed at how quickly the book had come together – and even discussed making it into a series.

Now we have contracts, a cover and are waiting for edits. As the book is themed around tennis, we’re hoping to see our novel – titled Grand Slam – release in August, in time for the US Open. I don’t want to say too much more and give the game away (no pun intended), but the novel is an erotic romance with a sports theme and some BDSM and seriously hot sex in there, too.

I totally adored the process of co-authoring with Lily. It was genuinely fun and we just seemed to work really well – and quickly – together. We’ve already got some time carved out to write another book in the series – and who knows what will happen after that?

So if you’ve been thinking about co-authoring, I would say go for it. If you know someone that you can work well with, and you will be honest with one another and complement one another, then it’s a great way to write a book. You’ll have to ask lots of questions to make sure you’re both on the right wavelength, but it’s worth it in the end.

Keep an eye on my website and social networks for news of my first co-authored novel and a peek at the cover, and I’ll see you again next month.

Happy Reading!
Lucy x

*****

Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and
erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over seventy
publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include Best
Bondage Erotica 2012 and 2013, and Best Women’s Erotica 2013. Another string to
her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies.
She owns Erotica For All, and is book
editor for Cliterati. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join
her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her
newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

By Lisabet Sarai

In her post a few days ago, Donna
George Storey
celebrated the fact that erotic fiction has become
both more accessible and more accepted over the past two decades.
Erotica and erotic romance might not be taken seriously by the
literary establishment, but readers, shielded from the scrutiny of
their neighbors by their Nooks, Kindles and Kobos, have embraced it.
In most countries, the threat of official censorship has receded, at
least for the moment (although commercial restrictions remain a
concern, as demonstrated by #AmazonFail and PayPal’s strong arm
attack on independent booksellers). I wonder, though, to what extent
the members of the erotica community are censoring themselves.

Erotic authors naturally want to appeal
to as wide an audience as possible. This is a strong motivation to
produce fiction that does not offend – erotica that is politically
correct. Several contributors over the past month have emphasized the
need to avoid producing content that involves under-age sex. Incest,
even between adults, is a definite taboo. Non-consensual sexual
activity is another no-no. My main romance publisher recently
required me to add an explicit non-con warning to my
soon-to-be-released steam punk fantasy novel, because the heroine is
captured and sexually “tortured” by the heroes (enjoying every
minute of the process).

Any hint of bestiality also raises the
red flag. In the same novel, the heroine allows herself to be
penetrated by the werewolf hero in his beast form. Yes, you guessed
it – another reader advisory there!

Differences in race and sexual
orientation must be treated with respect at all times. Heaven help
the author who depicts a white individual deriving sexual pleasure
from abusing someone black (or even vice versa). Homosexuals must not
be portrayed as “fags” or “pansies”. Stereotypes are
pernicious and evil, especially when they derive from painful
histories of oppression.

Religion represents another area where
an author must tread carefully. One of my favorite short stories
(“Communion”) was rejected by a well-known publisher because it
includes sexual activity between a nun and a priest.

Then of course there are the more
extreme fetishes – bodily fluids, erotic asphyxiation, blood sports
and so on. Niche markets exist for such content, but I know from
personal experience that these topics will bar an author from
publishing in more widely distributed erotic channels.

Now, I usually write sex-positive,
emotionally satisfying, spiritually uplifting, woman-friendly,
equal-opportunity, eco-sensitive, organically-grown, healthy
erotica – stories unlikely to antagonize or scandalize any reader
who already accepts sexual desire as a legitimate topic for fiction.
On the other hand, I’m occasionally tempted to adopt a less PC
attitude in my choice of subject matter, because some of the most
arousing scenarios I can imagine just aren’t that nice. And
I’ve realized that by censoring myself, I’m losing the opportunity to
explore some erotic truths – possibly unpopular, even unpalatable,
but genuine nevertheless.

Last week, I read (for a review) a
collection of “extreme interracial erotica”. Many of the stories
in this book involve Caucasians who crave sexual abuse and
humiliation from dominant Blacks. The tales stereotype whites as
undesirable, neurotic, self-deceiving, manipulative, small-dicked –
secret sluts whose ultimate life’s purpose is to serve their
attractive, intelligent, well-endowed, ebony-skinned masters and
mistresses.

A part of me found these tales
disgusting, or at least distasteful (although I’m sure this was
partially the effect of the less-than-stellar writing). At the same
time, some of the scenarios turned me on. I’m enough of a submissive
to react to the D/s dynamics, although I’ve never had a personal
fetish about race. Furthermore, I could see how the racial elements
heightened the erotic effect – as well as how some readers might be
especially aroused by interracial tales that flipped the roles into
even less PC territory, allowing whites to control, use and abuse
black characters.

History has left deep impressions. We
may like to believe that we’re color-blind, immune to the residual
mythologies fostered by slavery, but the eroticism of power cannot be
denied.

Sex is not necessarily polite.

Rape is not an acceptable topic for
erotica. Yet women (and some men) frequently
report fantasies
involving forced sex – 62% of over 350
subjects in a recent study
(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19085605).
Why do we become aroused imagining an experience that would be
aversive in reality? The scientific literature proposes a variety of
explanations; exploring such fantasies in erotic stories would add
another dimension to our understanding.

Some people fantasize about fucking
their siblings or their parents. Some imagine sexual congress with
tigers or horses or dolphins. Some of us are aroused by enemas or
wearing wet diapers. Some dream of stripping the habit from Mother
Superior and defiling her upon the altar.

These fantasies aren’t politically
correct, but they are, in some sense, erotically correct. They
are part of the complex emotional and ideational tangle that is
human sexuality. By not writing about these cravings, we’re hiding
part of the truth – and we’re denying ourselves and our readers the
opportunity to penetrate more deeply into the sexual psyche.

So what am I advocating? Stories that
treat rape as titillation? Tales that feature mothers sucking off
their teenage sons and daughters eaten out by the pet Doberman?
You’ll find such things on the Internet, of course – but I wouldn’t
necessarily categorize them as erotica.

I guess what I’m suggesting is a bit
more honesty and a bit less self-righteousness when it comes to
erotic content that doesn’t fit within the range of what we’d
consider “normal” or “socially acceptable”. I’d like erotica
authors – and readers – to be more daring in the topics they’re
willing to consider. Most important, I’d like to see a clear
distinction recognized between fantasies
of exploitation, oppression, humiliation, violence, or degradation
and the real thing. The latter might be dangerous, but the former can
be exquisitely exciting.

It
takes significant talent to write a taboo fantasy that’s arousing
without crossing that line. One author who excels in this regard is
ERWA’s Bob Buckley, for whom this contrast is a frequent theme. His
story “Squandered Sins” (in Coming
Together Presents: Robert Buckley
),
for example, deals with a city health inspector with a secret desire
to dominate and abuse Asian women. Although he’s basically a decent
guy, he’s prey to all the erotic stereotypes about passive Oriental
females. In the course of his work, he is offered a Chinese girl as a
bribe and is horrified to find that he’s momentarily tempted to
accept. Then he meets a Chinese-American policewoman with desires
complementary to his own, and makes her his “chink bitch” – to
their mutual satisfaction.

The
sexual connection between these two characters burns up the page –
precisely because they
are enacting a scenario condemned by any right-thinking member of
society. The hero’s barely-resisted urge to make his fantasies real
sharpens the tale, adding to his sense of shame. Some readers might
find this tale offensive. I thought it was brilliant.

When
you choose erotica – or it chooses you – you venture into dark and
dangerous territory. In a previous
post
, I defended my tendency to write positive tales that would
teach, by example, about the possibility of good sex. I still believe
this. However, another lesson erotica can teach is that good sex
sometimes goes beyond what’s politically correct, that desire doesn’t
necessarily conform to the dictates of society or even morality. We
can pretend ignorance of this fact – but we’re simply lying, to
ourselves and our readers.

By Donna George Storey

Hard as this might be to believe, in the 1960’s and 1970’s “liberal” was not a dirty word. Today you must be brave even to use the euphemism “progressive,” but there was a time, or so it seemed to my youthful, idealistic self, when many believed that if we recognized the evils of racism, poverty and sexism, our society could quickly come up with solutions and move forward to a just world for all. Of particular relevance to this blog is the Sexual Revolution, which once promised liberation from the rigid morals of the past—which, let’s face it, were chiefly about controlling sexuality with fear and shame to assure a man of his paternal rights.

When I came of age in the late 1970’s, remnants of the bad old ways still lingered—I was often called a slut for the sin of being comfortable discussing and joking about sex, for example–but I was confident my children wouldn’t be troubled by the virgin/whore complex or face obstacles to reproductive self-determination.

As we all know, I was wrong.

Fortunately, I can point to one area of “progress.” Erotica, once discreetly swathed in brown paper wrappers, is now burning up the bestseller charts. It’s even possible for an author to use her own name without being socially ruined (discretion is still advised depending on your job and community standards). Yet Lisabet Sarai has correctly pointed out that the genre’s commercial success has led to homogenization. There are exceptions, but for the most part publishers and readers bring certain expectations to their erotica reading experience—to the detriment of originality, surprise and depth. In that sense, the more the genre has “succeeded,” the more freedom of expression has suffered.

More disturbing is Jean Roberta’s recent discussion of our society’s efforts to silence honest discussion of the sexuality of anyone under eighteen. Public discourse on the topic tends to hysteria, allowing for no nuance or complexity. Suggest a lesbian seventeen-year-old should have access to intelligent, thoughtful information about her sexual orientation and to some minds you’re no different from the founders of the North American Man Boy Love Association. Be but under suspicion for downloading child pornography (which could actually mean a 17-year-old consensually sending a topless photograph she took of herself for her lover’s eyes, although we all immediately imagine the very worst kinds of brutal victimization), and you’re condemned without a trial. It’s an effective way to silence us all with fear just like the old days.

The sexual abuse of a child is a heinous crime, and even speaking of it pains me. I am also horrified by the physical and emotional abuse of helpless children as well as the suffering caused by the refusal to provide medical care and food to impoverished children, although that far more common misuse of adult power seems to elicit little concern among lawmakers. I’m also deeply saddened by an environment where a natural human instinct cannot be discussed in any way that would suggest enjoyment or any positive outcome other than pregnancy. Far too many people feel shame about their sexualty because of ignorance, and thus are vulnerable throughout their lives in a childlike way to those who would exploit that shame (to the profit of capitalism mainly).

Jean’s column reminded me of a book I read recently by Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex. The first section is all about why the author had such trouble publishing the book. And this is 2002 when the tolerance and enlightenment that first blossomed in the 1960’s ideally should have been fully incorporated into our national consciousness. Alas, the Big Five publishers might cautiously publish a book by a Ph.D. on sexual dysfunction or the dangers of the hook-up scene, but a suggestion that sex education for those under 18 should mention pleasure was too incendiary for the printed page. It was eventually published by a university press.

Such is progress in our time.

Erotica writers explore the pleasures of sex in their writing—that is in fact why and how our work is categorized as erotica. Characters must bizarrely exist without a sexual thought or feeling until their eighteenth birthday, but I have personally found enough to fascinate me in the erotic lives of happily married middle-aged couples, a relatively new territory of outrageous sexual expression that has yet to be made illegal. Yet Jean’s column got me thinking that in writing (the world of imagination) as well as law (the world of real actions), the rules designed to protect the innocent are arbitrarily applied.

For example, although the TV adaption underplays the ages of the protagonists as written in the books, the wildly popular Game of Thrones is bursting with sexually active teenagers and incestuous relationships of various kinds. Why do they get away with it without any of their millions of viewers protesting or engaging in copycat behavior? Is it only because the sinners suffer imprisonment, death, thoroughly evil spawn or miserable, miserly lives so that “pleasure” is clearly married with punishment? Or think back to Risky Business, Tom Cruise’s breakthrough movie, about a highschooler who earns money by running a brothel in his house while his parents are away. Skinny boys obviously in their early teens are shown cashing in savings bonds to take advantage of the new local business. Shouldn’t this horrible and dangerous endorsement of perverted entrepreneurship be pulled from the market as harmful to our morals? Yet somehow it has eluded the eyes of the censors.

Sometimes I fear we’re moving backwards or at best sideways.

Yet perhaps I am being too impatient. The pace of modern life accelerates, but revolutions always take time to root and flower. The rise of the middle class took centuries—let’s hope its reported fall is equally leisurely. Why shouldn’t a more enlighted view of sexuality be allowed a lifetime or two to stick? There are some promising signs that the progressive spirit need not despair. An African-American is president. Gay marriage is gaining mainstream approval, most promisingly among the young. A respectable married woman like E.L. James uses a pseudonym, but nonetheless appears in public to be celebrated for her provocative story. The forces of profound change provoke reaction, but democracy is slowly gaining ground throughout the world and in new, more subtle ways like self-publishing.

Okay, I’m feeling a wee bit better now.

Twenty-first century society is not as liberal as I imagined it would be 40 years ago, but I have to admit, we’re better off now in important ways. So I’ll do what I’ve always done–keep writing erotica, calling myself a progressive and doing whatever I can to make liberation a reality.

Donna George Storey is the author
of Amorous Woman (recently released as an ebook) and a new collection of short
stories, Mammoth
Presents the Best of Donna George Storey
. Learn more about her
work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com
or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor

Several terms used here are from the previous post “ENTRY TWO The Elements of Short Story Structure”

https://www.erotica-readers.com/confessions-of-craft-freak-elements-of/

In this entry, the first of two parts, I propose to present:

The Exterior Elements of Character Presentation as:
The Character World
The Character Web made of
The Deciding Character
The Ally
The Opponent
The Fake Ally
The Fake Opponent

A lot of what I will be pontificating on here comes from John Truby’s book “The Anatomy of Story”.  Truby was writing mainly for wanna-be screen writers of formula genre movies, but a lot of what he says is universal to popular plotted fiction in general, as well as astonishingly insightful.  Once you become familiar with his way of thinking you start to see it in practice in all your favorite movies.

As before I should offer up a note of caution here.  Writer’s have different ways of approaching new material.  Seat-of-the-Pantsers write the way people imagine writers of the Bible wrote, by divine dictation.  They start with a blank screen and start typing straight through until they reach the words “The End”. That was how my heroes Ray Bradbury and Robert E Howard wrote.  If you’re so gifted everything I’m saying applies not to that spontaneous ejaculation of sticky passion but to the rewriting which must absolutely follow.  (Rewriting will make you free to write badly. Rewriting is your friend.  Do not hate rewriting  Do not skip rewriting.) Others, notably Jules Verne and Edgar Allen Poe, calculated every detail, every note and event, the form of presentation, everything beforehand, so that by the time they dipped that first quill they were just scribbling what they’d already written out in their heads.  Paper and ink were more expensive in those days. If you’re that person, this stuff may help you plan better before you start typing.  If you do crits, it’ll help you do crits.

The Character World

The world of the story is the arena, the magic circle you’ve drawn where everything takes place.  In the best stories the story world is itself a kind of supporting character from which the Deciding Character emerges.  It shapes and interacts with him/her and gives them the ground of their unique identity.  Again – the Premise is the basic seed of the story, the Designing Principle is the unifying theme expressed in a single statement that makes your story unique from others in that genre.  There is a relationship between the interior space of the Deciding Character’s mental world and the exterior space and pacing of time he moves within.  This world grows organically from the Premise of the story as it interacts with the storyline and the Deciding Character’s governing characteristic.   Shakespeare’s Coriolanus was written to have Coriolanus lead an ancient Roman Army and then run for office, and in modern versions he leads a modern Nazi army, but his character can never exist outside the exterior world of war and interior world of self-destructive hubris. He is always a man of insatiable pride seeking glory in valor and violence to impress his mother whether you put him in Roman armor, a Nazi uniform or a gorilla suit.

For a personal example, I offer my plotted vampire story “The Lady and the Unicorn.”  The Premise is – a vampire girl sets out to retrieve her mortal lover who has fled from her.  The Designing Principle is – she will track him to a Gospel tent revival during which she accepts salvation and hopes but is not really sure that she has been miraculously healed of vampirism but still seeks to confront her lover and win him back.  So the Character World is the world of the night spent in a tent revival and the forest around it.  This is the world, unique to the story’s premise and designing principle, within which Nixie experiences the outcomes of the moral decisions she feels compelled to make as well as the catastrophic mistakes.  The feeling, if well written and presented, is that this story could not happen in any other place but this one.

The Character Web

The Deciding Character
Again – the Deciding Character, or protagonist, is the one who makes the decisions and whose character arc drives the action of the story.  She doesn’t have to be the narrator, she doesn’t have to be likable,  but she is the one who carries the energy of the story and the geometry of the narrative arc turns on her decisions.  As a general rule she should be active rather than passive.  She should be acting more than simply acted upon.  Motives are more important than traits, so she should be in pursuit of something and the decisions she makes to meet the obstacles on the way are influenced by a governing characteristic.  The governing characteristic is not the thing she is pursuing, it is a fundamental element of her character that defines her in her pursuit, like Coriolanus and his male vanity, or Nixie and her sense of exile from humanity.  Captain Ahab chases Moby Dick the white whale, not because he likes to kill whales, but because he is angry at God.  In literary erotica, the act of sex is exterior, sometimes it’s not even there.  Eroticism is an expression of the governing characteristic; eroticism is the mystery and the soul of what drives us to physical intimacy in all of its forms.  Eroticism is what we’re talking about.  How do you find a Deciding Character’s governing characteristic?

Consider this dialogue between Hannibal Lechter and Clarisse Starling in Thomas Harris’ “The Silence of the Lambs”:

“Read Marcus Aurelius.  The emperor counsels simplicity.  First principles.  Of each particular thing ask:  What is it in itself, in its own constitution?  What is its causal nature?”

“That doesn’t mean anything to me.’

“What does he do, this man you seek?”

“He kills women – “

“No!  That is incidental.  What is the first and principal thing he does, what need does he serve by killing?”

“Anger, social resentment, sexual frus – “

“No!”

“What then?”

“He covets.  In fact, he covets the very thing you are.  It’s his nature to covet.”

When you are rewriting or defining a character to yourself, or if a character isn’t working imagine Dr. Lechter next to you saying “What does he do, your character?  What is his causal nature?”

“He’s a dom who ties up women – “

“No!  That is incidental. What need does he serve by tying them up?”

– and so on. Just don’t turn your back on him.

The Ally
The ally is the Deciding Character’s friend, often a sounding board for the Deciding Character’s big problem or the desire he’s chasing or the weakness that holds him back.  Usually their goals and desires are similar.  Their expositiory dialogues inform the reader of how the current situation came about and what needs to be done, the most extreme example being daytime soap operas where lover’s are constantly drowning themselves in expository dialogue to catch up the viewer on the story’s tangled events.

When the Deciding Character is dislikeable or difficult to connect with, an ally is sometimes used as the reader’s gateway to understanding them, typically in buddy stories where the ally is often chastising the Deciding Character for some offense.  A buddy can serve a double role as the Deciding Characters opponent and friend, speaking honestly and explaining things, in which case his or her personality will often be the opposite of the Deciding Character, such as the level headed servant Sancho Panza to his deranged and idealistic master Don Quixote, or the compassionate Dr. Watson to the coldly intellectual Sherlock Holmes.

The Opponent
The opponent, or the antagonist, is not necessarily the enemy.  In a love story the opponent can be the pursued lover.  Or it can be an idea or a situation the protagonist is up against.   The most compelling opponents tend to be active enemies of the hero.  An effective villain can’t be just a mustache twirler.  A good antagonist is as important as a good protagonist.  She should be a fully dimensional character with a governing characteristic of her own that mirrors the hero.  Think of the Joker and Batman.  Both wear disguises, personas that are born out of some past trauma.  They are fighting the same demons which they wear like personal totems.

A good villian should:

  • mirror the heroes’ governing characteristic with a twist
  • Should be pursuing the same object, or confronting the same problem as the hero
  • Has a necessary presence, not just tacked on.
  • Attacks or illuminates the weakness of the hero and forces a moral change.
  • The Villain thinks she/he is right in what they do.  Villains have moral values in contrast to the heroes’ moral values, but they have reasons that make sense to them.
  • Generally the opponent does not experience a moral change in the character arc, but some of the most memorable villains (Darth Vader, Dr. Octopus) do.

Supporting characters are a way of introducing us to the main character but also of casting a bright light on them through allowing us to see them through their eyes.  These include the Fake Opponent and the Fake Ally.

The Fake Opponent
A fake opponent is someone who at first appears to be an enemy, but later surprises us by helping the heroine.  The best example I know of is Hannibal Lechter again.  In his first meeting with agent Starling he ruthlessly dissects her personality, then humiliates her to tears because she has said something that insulted his intelligence.  He cannot stand disrespect, a governing characteristic that provokes him to homicidal violence.  When Starling is insulted by another inmate throwing semen on her, he calls her back and becomes her unofficial mentor.

And who is Clarisse Starling?  How are we introduced to her character and governing characteristic so that we can emotionally connect with her?  Indirectly through a supporting character – Lechter.  That’s what supporting characters are so very good at.  Think how much more powerful that is than the usual expository narration, probably droning in the opening paragraph that goes: “Clarisse Starling had joined the FBI as the fulfillment of her life’s dream and as a way of getting out of the poverty of West Virginia and making something of herself.”   Nonononono.

In the beginning of the movie we know nothing of agent Starling but its Dr. Lechter in his fit of insulted vanity, who explains her character to us:

“You’re so ambitious, aren’t you?  You know what you look like to me with your good bag and your cheap shoes?  You look like a rube.   A well scrubbed hustling rube.  With a little taste.  Good nutrition’s given you some length of bone, but you’re not more than one generation from poor white trash.  Are you Agent Starling?  And that accent you’ve tried so desperately to shed, pure West Virginia.  Who’s your father, dear, is he a coal miner?  Does he stink of the lamp?  And oh how quickly the boys found you.  All those tedious, sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars, while you could only dream of getting out, getting anywhere, getting all the way to the FBI.”

Lechter says it so much better than a page of narrative ever could.  When you introduce your protagonist to us see if someone else, maybe the villain, can do the job for you.

The Fake Ally
The fake ally can be the human equivalent of another plotting device sometimes called “the hidden gun”.  It’s an old rule that if you have a loaded gun on a table in the first scene it needs to be fired at somebody before the end of the story or it shouldn’t be there at all.  Very often the gun is fired long after you’ve forgotten it, making it a surprising twist.  A fake ally is clearly someone who seems to be the protagonist’s friend until at a critical moment he suddenly turns on the protagonist, maybe betraying him.  You can’t just do that without preparing the reader for that surprise.  You have to make a creative decision as to whether or not to leave only sneaky  little clues until the crucial moment or out and out inform the reader early on of this person’s true intentions, as Shakespeare does in Othello, with the Fake Ally Iago, one of the nastiest villains in fiction.  Almost as soon as he appears, Iago faces the audience and informs us frankly of his secret hatred of Othello and how he plans to spend the rest of the story dismantling the moor’s marriage and honor – which he does.  If you inform early on rather than keeping the Fake Ally as a surprise you could try making him a sympathetic character by enabling him to struggle internally with the betrayal he knows he must commit soon.  Maybe he will change his mind at the big moment and reveal himself as a Fake Opponent. Looked at from this viewpoint, Darth Vader when regarded in his entire six episode character arc is not actually an opponent but a Fake Opponent, as his internal struggle causes him to choose his son and destroy the emperor as the last heroic act of his life, transforming him in an instant from a cruel enemy to a tragic hero.

To sum all this up, the story is about a Deciding Character, and the character web around them is to provide a unique frame within which we come to know them and see them change in an evolving character arc.  A love story or an erotic story can present two Deciding Characters in interaction with each other, showing that we don’t change alone but in communion with each other and through each other, in which case there are two distinct desire lines.  Yet one should be driving the action a little more than the other.  Just like in our own all too troubled lives.

Next month:  “ENTRY 4 The Interior Elements of Character”



(a hearty thanks goes out to the wonderful K.D. Grace, on whose blog this piece first appeared)

Thinking Outside Your Box…

Or Writing Isn’t Always About Writing

Sure,
we may all want to just cuddle in our little garrets, a purring pile of fur in
our laps, leather patches on our sleeves, a pipe at the ready, and do nothing
but write masterpieces all day and night – with periodic breaks for
binge-drinking and soon-to-be legendary sexual escapades – but the fact of the
matter is that being a writer has totally, completely, changed.

I’m not just talking about the need to be a marketing genius and a publicity
guru – spending, it feels too often, more time tweeting about Facebook, or
Facebooking about tweeting, than actually writing – but that authors really
need to be creative when it comes to not just getting the word out about their
work but actually making money.

A lot of people who claim to be marketing geniuses and publicity gurus will say
that talking about you and your work as loud as possible, as often as possible,
is the trick … but have you heard the joke about how to make money with
marketing and PR? Punchline: get people to pay you to be a marketing genius
and/or a publicity guru. In short: just screaming at the top of the tweety lungs
or burying everyone under Facebook posts just won’t do it.

Not that having some form of presence online isn’t essential – far from it: if
people can’t find you, after all, then they can’t buy your books. But there’s a
big difference between being known and making everyone run for the hills – or
at least stop up their9 ears – anytime you say or do anything online.

Balance is the key: don’t just talk about your books or your writing – because,
honesty, very few people care about that … even your readers – instead fine a
subject that interests you and write about that as well. Give yourself some
dimension, some personality, some vulnerability, something … interesting, and
not that you are not just an arrogant scream-engine of me-me-me-me. Food, travel,
art, history, politics … you pick it, but most of all have fun with it.
Forced sincerity is just about as bad as incessant narcissism.

Okay, that’s all been said before – but one thing a lot of writers never think
about is actually getting out from behind their computers – or out of their
garret to tie in the opening to this. Sure, writing may far too often be a
solitary thing but putting yourself out there – in the (gasp) real world – can
open all kinds of doors. I’m not just talking publicity-that-can-sometimes-equal-book-sales,
either: there’s money to be made in all kinds of far-too-often overlooked
corners.

Not to turn this to (ahem) myself: but in addition to trying to do as many
readings and appearances as I can manage … or stand … I also teach classes.
One, it gets me out of the damned house and out into the (shudder) real world,
but it also, hopefully, shows people that I am not just a writer. Okay, a lot
of what I teach – from sex ed subjects to … well, writing – has to do with my
books and stories but it also allows me to become more than a virtual person.

By teaching classes and doing readings and stuff-like-that-there I’d made a lot
of great connections, met real-life-human-beings, and have seen a considerable
jump in book sales. Now don’t let me mislead you that this has been easy: there
are a lot of people out there who perform, teach, lecture, what-have-you
already so often it means almost starting a brand new career … scary and
frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it. But, in the end, the rewards
have more than made up for the headaches.

Now you don’t have to read, or teach, or whatever: the main point of this is to
think outside of your little writing box. If you write historical fiction then
think about conducting tours of your city and it’s fascinating secrets and back
alleys; if you write SF then think about starting a science discussion group –
or even joining one. Like art? How about becoming a museum docent? Write
mysteries? Then organize a murder party – or just attend one.

You don’t have to make you and your work the focus of what you are doing. As in
the virtual world, connections can come from all kinds of unexpected directions
– which can then even lead to new opportunities … both for your writing but also
as a never-before-thought-of-cash stream.

My classes and lectures and whatever have not just brought be friends, book
sales, totally new publicity venues, but also ($$) cash!

It’s also a great way of balancing my inherent shyness with the need to get out
there and be a person – which always helps not just sell whatever products you
happen to be selling but can also be extremely good for (not to get too
metaphysical or something) the soul: sure, we all might want to be left alone
in our little garrets to writer, write, write but the fact is that writing can
be very emotionally difficult …. to put it mildly. But thinking outside of
your box you can not just reach new, potential, readers but also possibly find
friends and an unexpected support system.

Teaching may not be for you, readings may not be for you … but I’m sure if
you put your wonderfully creative mind to it I’m sure you can think of a way to
not just get the word out about your work but also enrich yourself as a person.
It might be painful at first, but – believe me – it’ll be more than worth it.

 by Ashley Lister

With this being April, and our annual celebration of Shakespeare’s
birthday (April 23rd) looming on the horizon, I figured it was time to
look at the sonnet. However, the sonnet is not a simple warm-up exercise to be
tackled before writing a day’s worth of prose. The complexities of the sonnet
can steal an hour from the most talented writer, and maybe take a month from
the rest of us. I offer this as a project to pick at over the next month,
whenever you’re between bursts of inspiration.

The Rules:

All sonnets contain 14
lines. 

There are three main styles of
sonnet: Petrachan, Spenserian and Shakespearian. Each one of these forms is made
distinctive by its rhyme scheme.

Sonnets are usually written in iambic
pentameter (that is, ten syllables made up of five unstressed/stressed pairings).

Because this month celebrates Shakespeare’s
birthday, I figured it would be appropriate to consider the Shakespearian form.
The Shakesperian sonnet usually follows the rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg.

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee
to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:


Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:

But thy eternal
summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,

So long as men can
breathe, or eyes can see,
   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

W. Shakespeare

In the example above we can see
the poem divided into the three quatrains (abab cdcd efef) and a final couplet
(gg).

We can also see the volta or turn
on the ninth line. The volta of the ninth line is a traditional turnaround in opinion
from the poet. Note how, in the first eight lines, the persona of this poem has
been telling us that the addressee is lovelier than a summer’s day. Summer is
crap in comparison to the addressee. In the ninth line the direction changes. Shakespeare
moves on to discuss the summer that the addressee will be facing in future
years.

The final couplet, usually,
brings all this together.

How can we apply this to erotic poetry? Let’s try the
following:

Sonnet 18+

Shall I compare thee
to a porno star?
Thou art more lovely and more sexy too:
I’ve yearned to have you naked in my car,
And I would really love to service you:


Sometimes you let me glimpse your muffin tops,
Your shorts reveal your sweet and cheeky cheeks,
The view’s enough to make my loins go pop,
And make me long to have more than a peak:

But I know you’re no exhibitionist,
You’d never ever play games of team tag,

Not even if I got you truly pissed,
Because, I know, you’re really not a slag,

So long as I can hope
there’s half a chance,
   I’ll dream about what’s there inside your pants.

A Lister

Your turn – please share your
sonnets in the comments box below.

  

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