Happy Birthday to me! Well ERWA birthday at least!
As of today I’ve been writing for ERWA for a whole year. Where has the time
gone? So much has happened in a year, and yet it seems like only yesterday I
wrote my first post about inspiration and mythology. Traditionally birthdays
are a time to celebrate, let your hair down, wreak a little havoc and raise a
little hell. Oh wait a minute … That’s writing I’m talking about, not birthdays.
Writing, plot, story — there’s no place better to raise a little hell, and we
writers know it’s the perfect place to let our hair down vicariously.
In my opinion, there are few things a writer can do
to a story that will kick-start it quite as much as creating a little chaos. A
calm and happy life in the real world might be just the ticket, but in story,
there’s one word for it – BORING! A story is all about upsetting the apple
cart, breaking the eggs, turning the bull loose in the china cupboard and —
heart racing, palms sweating – seeing what happens, while we’re safely
ensconced on the other side of the keyboard/Kindle/book. Oh yes we do love that adrenaline rush — at
someone else’s expense!
One of the best tools for dropping the character
smack-dab into the middle of the chaos –
and the reader vicariously – is sex. And the more inconvenient, the more
inappropriate, the more confusing, the more SO not what the character was
expecting, the more delicious the chaos will be.
The thing about those big brains that I spoke of a
few posts back is that they like to make us think we can control all the
variables. The thing about the biological housing for those big brains is that
it doesn’t always want to be controlled. Oh and that big brain, well that means
there’s all sorts of stuff going on up there that can lead us down the
havoc-wreaking road to sex and chaos. It wants what it wants. And the ole grey
matter can be so damned stubborn at times. Oooh! I get goose bumps just
thinking about what happens when the big brain gets a hankering and the
biological soup starts overheating and sex happens.
If we look at Western history from the point of view
of religion and its effects on culture, there are few things the religious
powers that be have made more of an effort to control than sex. And in story,
in myth, there are few things that have caused more chaos than a little rough
and tumble in the wrong place at the wrong time. Troy lost war and was
destroyed over it, King Arthur’s realm fell because of it, David had
Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed because of it.
The resulting chaos that sex unleashes in a story
can be nothing more than to create self-doubt in a cock-sure character, which
is always a delight to see. Or the resulting chaos can be world-destroying, and
anything in between. Sex can cause the kind of chaos that will make the reader
laugh, or the kind of chaos that will make the reader say, ‘if only they hadn’t
done that.’ However, the one thing sex
should never do in a story is leave things the way they were before it
happened. Can it be used for bonding? Of course! But the tighter the bond, the
more chaos can be caused if that bond is tested or broken. I shiver with
delight at the thought.
And because our big brains don’t give a damn if our
sexual thoughts and fantasies are ‘socially acceptable,’ nor is it
discriminating about who we might have those thoughts and fantasies about, the
resulting internal chaos can be almost as delicious as the external – maybe
even more so. That lovely mix of guilt and desire and self-loathing and arousal
and denial and shear over-heated lust. OMG! It’s a total writer’s paradise
there for the taking.
I’m sure I’m like most writers in that I analyse
what I read for pleasure in terms of what worked and what didn’t, what I would
have done if I’d written it, and what I’ve learned from the author’s writing
skills that can be used to make my own writing better. I have to say one of the
biggies for me is how well the author uses chaos to move the story forward at a
good pace; and especially how effectively sex is used to create chaos. I’m sure I pay a lot more attention to how
sex is used in a story (or not) now that I write erotica, but it’s the
resulting chaos that fascinates me and keeps me reading in almost any kind of novel.
The world is not a static place, and especially the world of story should not
be static. Happy endings are called happy endings because they are at the end.
They follow the chaos and happen when the story is finished. There is no more
story, or at least none the reader wants to follow. It’s the chaos that pulls
us in and keeps us turning the pages, and when that chaos is directly tied to
sex, hold on to your hat!