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Writing Craft

By Larry Archer

While I’ve understood the appeal of Kindle Unlimited (KU), up until now I’ve rejected it for a couple of reasons. First is narrow versus wide. With KU, you cannot publish your story anywhere but at Amazon. I think you can do print versions, but most of that stays with Amazon.

Going wide, you can publish at all the other sites such as SmashWords, Apple, Kobo, B&N, and others, in addition to Amazon. Another drawback to wide is that you can’t publish in ePub or other formats that are native to Windows, Mac, most tablets and phones.

Certainly, nowadays there are apps which allow you to read Kindle books on other types of devices besides a Kindle. But to me, it is aggravating that Amazon restricts you in an effort to keep you corralled into the Kindle World.

Publishing on Amazon and allowing your smut to be in the Kindle Unlimited section, allows people who cough up $10 a month to read all they can stomach. For an avid reader like myself, I like KU except the nonconformist side resents being told I can’t publish a story anywhere except on Amazon.

Amazon pays about one-half cent per page for every page someone reads of your masterpiece. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but when there are millions of people out there, it adds up.

I decided what the hell, I’ll try it again and published my latest story, House Party, both narrow and in Kindle Unlimited. This 85,000-word novel is my biggest yet, and I have to admit that I was a little hesitant about committing for the next 90-days before I could go wide.

I was floored when in the three weeks since release it has sold 31 copies, and almost 18,000 page reads, which translates into 74 complete story reads of the 243-page novel. This one story in three weeks has earned basically one and a half times my normal Amazon income for a typical month!

That’s all the bragging I’m going to do, and I apologize for it but what I’m trying to say is consider using Kindle Unlimited to see if it helps your book sales.

Normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to my Amazon sales as I’m too lazy to read all the reports but using Book Report (GetBookReport.com) makes it so easy to see your best selling stories and how much money you are making. Book Report also breaks out your sales per day, week, month, etc. so it’s a lot easier to see if you’re doing any good.

I’d had always read that Amazon has a 30-day cliff and will start throwing your story under the bus in a month. Since I’ve been using Book Report since May or June, I’ve confirmed to myself that is true.

If you release a story, it will bump your author’s rank for about a month, then you’ll see your rank start to fall. Publish a new book, and it’ll immediately jump up for another month.

So, the old saying “Publish or Perish,” is definitely a truism with Amazon. This does not seem to be true with SmashWords. From what I can see, SmashWords only goes by best sells or most popular, without considering age.

I have two books in SmashWords Men’s Erotica Best Sellers that are in the top 60, and one of the stories was published in 2014 and is ranked higher than a story published this year.

While certainly, you can argue that one story is better than the other, but the bottom line is that a story published four years ago is ranked about the same as a story published in the last few months.

This tells me that when you publish at SmashWords, your story doesn’t get forgotten in a month and continues to be ranked on its merits, without being penalized for age.

Up until recently, I’ve always made more money at SmashWords than I have with Amazon but the last couple of months have been just the opposite.

The thing I really like at SmashWords is that they automatically push out to Apple and others such as Kobo and B&N. My sales through SmashWords are typically split four ways between SmashWords, Apple, Kobo, and B&N.

Sales and marketing are the things I hate to do. I’d druther pound away at my keyboard than try to figure out how to market a story but I’m becoming convinced that I need to pay attention to things like sales figures, advertising, etc.

I’m not naive enough to think I’ll ever quit my day job and write smut but I am covering expenses and being able to buy a nice laptop every year or two.

That’s all for this month folks. Go out and VOTE on November 8th. Until next month, if it’s the 24th, it’s time for smut from the dirty mind of Larry Archer. LarryArcher.blog

First paragraphs demand a lot. Personality and clear perspective management. Unique visuals. A sense of setting and mood. A strong hook. Little wonder so many people either:

  • Base their entire novel off a golden first paragraph that popped into their heads at 02:03am
  • Bullet-point the first para and come back to it at the end of the chapter, or even when they’ve completed the first draft of the book.

Back in 2016, I wrote a short story called “The Way, the Truth and the Lifer”, which opens in a care home from which our intrepid hero, encumbered by early-onset Alzheimer’s, is trying to escape for the day. I posted it on our Storytime emailing list for feedback and I’m so glad I did, because my opening three paragraphs caused untold levels of bafflement. I thought I’d seeded multiple clues that Carlsbad House was a care home, but it was only my fellow Brit readers and writers who could visualise the opening scene without trouble. The feedback on the opening to my story gave me a golden opportunity to recast the order in which I presented the information about my hero’s environment, and to choose images which worked better for a transatlantic audience.

I think, up to a point, we all describe what we’re subconsciously familiar with when we’re deep in the flow of the story, or the perspective character’s mindset. As a professional editor, I have several US clients who base their stories in England, and find myself having to amend scenes where the perspective character performs all road manoeuvres as if in charge of a left-hand drive (but without all the conspicuous stress that this entails). I’ve made the same mistake, writing struggles with roundabouts (and other blatant Britishisms) into States-based stories. It’s extremely hard to avoid.

I must confess that until that valuable feedback on my “Lifer” story, setting had always been fairly low on my list of things to worry about when writing. Dialogue, POV management, choreography and emotional journeys seemed to fill my intellectual working space. I’d have to go back and fill in the details of where they were, and how that affected the atmosphere. Because I can’t hear, I often need help writing in the sound effects. I forget those, too.

These days, before sharing a story for critique, I add two more things to my self-editing list:

  1. How quickly have I shown where we are?
  2. Have I done this without presenting the reader with an info-dump?

With a little help from0 my peer editors, a collection of fine books, and a little personal experience, I thought I’d provide a wee list of techniques for setting up your environment while keeping the action moving. Towards the end (for a little light relief), I’ve provided a few examples of what to avoid.

 

If you’re not American, use your mother tongue conspicuously.

The little ‘s’ that I stuck on the end of ‘Towards’ in that last sentence would probably have made some of you flinch. This is how Brits say it, in the same way we say ‘sideways’. It’s not incorrect—just a case of using UK English.

If US English is not your mother tongue, then word choice can be a weapon in your setting arsenal, along with your Anglican spellings (organise, favour, dialogue, manoeuvre, and travelling). This provides thousands of opportunities to establish the use of UK English (and indeed dialect, where appropriate) into the perspective character’s or narrator’s opening lines. Establishing nationality can help to set location expectations. Here is a really handy link to summarise key US vs UK differences:

http://www.thepunctuationguide.com/british-versus-american-style.html

You won’t have this option with all publishers, of course, many of whom insist on US English being used, regardless of the characters’ nationalities. And this doesn’t help our Antipodean pals, whose spelling and punctuation rules have more in common with UK English than US English.

So, other means of establishing place (right down to country and continent), wherever you’re from, are:

  • closeness to (or distance from) well-known cities/landmarks
  • mentioning animal species
  • using place-focused driving language
  • slang
  • architecture
  • socio-demographic terminology
  • or any of the following options…

 

Cross-cultural comparison:

Often a nifty way of declaring a character’s location and his origins in one fell swoop:

They called Grab a ‘good-sized’ village, but you could’ve fitted four Grabs into the ‘one-horse town’ he called home.

 

Temporal comparison:

Harking back to the past when describing an unmoving/unchanging environment can be a succinct way of giving away location:

The ruin loomed in all its Northumbrian glory, the stark landscape giving the impression that the surrounding lands hadn’t been tended any more vigilantly back in the dark ages than they were now.

 

Hyperbole, exaggeration and other satire

Deliberately creating the most extreme version of the environment, and allowing the reader to recognise sarcasm (and subconsciously turn things down a notch), can be an effective way of getting your setting across succinctly. This is done a great deal in fantasy comedy, but if you remove the surreal element of the humour, you can apply the strategy across genres:

Cosy corners and gorgeous beams aside, Regan doubted that any part of the castle had ever been welcoming. He could imagine an unenthused Scottish Monarch trailing from room to room after a latter-day estate agent, reassuring him that the hills and ramparts kept the smellier of the Picts away, and that the tiny, north-facing dungeons kept prisoners nicely cold over winter.

 

Use the gift of environmental interaction

Make the topographical detail relevant to what the character’s doing in the action of the scene:

The cold almost cut through the car. Regan’s left thigh and calf were beginning to punish him for making his getaway in Missy’s stick-shift instead of heading for a garage to hire an automatic with cruise control. He tried not to think about the many miles of I94 between him and the next bathroom stop, the endless fields that would provide no windbreak when he finally had to pull over and rest, or the expression on David’s face when Dave caught him balls-deep in Missy. It was official: Bismarck could now be added to the list of places he couldn’t go without being shot at.

From here, the reader can add a little more history, linking it with the weather, the relentlessness of the journey, and the destination. But there’s a hell of a lot of information already in the paragraph above.

 

Bind the environmental details into the character’s state of mind

You can get an awful lot of information across when your perspective character is in a temper. This is used to great effect in Peter Mayle’s ‘A Year in Provence’, and pretty much most of Bill Bryson’s travel diaries from ‘Down Under’ onwards. The following snippet has been bastardised (with kind permission) from a friend’s fairly long messenger rant about the joys of finding his way to London from ‘London Luton airport’:

I didn’t want to spend my first night bitching, but a little more travel information would’ve been good. Like, ‘London Luton’ is nowhere near f**king London. The airport’s barely in Luton. It’s like saying ‘San Diego, Hollywood’. Not accurate! So I dive on this train which goes to London via Tanzania, because a direct service at short notice apparently requires a second mortgage to be arranged, and then I get the Spanish Inquisition from the guards at the ticket gate about undershooting my stop. How is it a crime to not stay on the train as long as I’m entitled to remain on the f**king train?

Using character mood to colour the experience of the surroundings is the inverse of the Thomas Hardy Principle/Malaise, where the landscape is relentlessly used as a mirror for character mood. Given that Thomas Hardy wasn’t famed for his light-hearted scenarios or uplifted characters, just a little of that technique went a very long way.

 

And on that note, some setting-relating phenomena to avoid

Countryfile Syndrome: wherein the author over-relies on lengthy strolls through the landscape while their hero mulls upon life’s little problems. There is a limit to which the perspective character’s life choices can be influenced by the pattern of bleak, chilly sheep gathering in the far field, whether or not that pattern is analogous to the cliquey behaviour of the perspective character’s family and friends.

Crap conversationalist syndrome: related to the issue above, except that the writer has forgotten that her perspective character was having a chat with a fellow character at the point where they lapsed into a moody silence in contemplation of the scenery whipping past the car window.

More IKEA, dear: scenes which take place in a relative vacuum, to the point that the reader has no idea if there’s even furniture in the room. This can make sexual choreography rather difficult to visualise.

 

The key point with setting is to keep the details as relevant to what’s going on within the action of the scene as possible. You can layer the details in those quiet, reactive moments where options are being reviewed and decisions made. So long as you don’t take your reader for too many detailed, brooding walks in the process.

 

If you have a job that doesn’t occupy the entire day, have you thought about writing porn at work but were afraid that the IT department would catch you? Portable versions of LibreOffice might be something to think about.

You’ve likely heard of LibreOffice, an open source or free replacement of Microsoft Word but what is a “Portable” version?

PortableApps is a software package that allows the user to run Windows programs on a USB jump drive without requiring software to be installed on a desktop PC. What does this mean for the typical worker in a corporate environment?

Most of us, as a minion of corporate America, use a computer that is locked down. Without Administrative privileges, a user cannot install software on their desktop PC. Plus the fact that corporate IT regularly sweeps user PC’s to see what their serfs are up to.

This reminds me of the scene in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail when King Author rides through a field with several workers. One of the workers asked, “Who’s that?” A worker replies, “Must be a king?” First worker, “How do you know he’s the king?” Answer, “He doesn’t have shit all over him.”

What’s a worker bee to do? Into the ring, PortableApps steps up to solve a problem. Keep in mind that what I’m about to tell you might get yourself into trouble with your employer, and so I have no responsibility for anything that happens to you.

Using a USB jump drive or thumb drive, you can install applications which run off the USB drive without requiring installation on your desktop PC. Furthermore, when you exit a program, it deletes the temporary folder created to completely erase any trace that it ever existed.

In plain English, this means that you can pull a jump drive out of your pocket or purse and plug it into your locked down work computer. Then run word processing and graphics applications that allow you to do work that would normally require Word, Excel, or PhotoShop. Then after you exit the programs, pull the jump drive out, and all traces of what you’ve been doing are erased.

There are a ton of programs, which have portable versions, that can be run from a thumb drive. It is a little slower than having the software installed on your PC, but slower is better than nothing. The program itself runs at typically the same speed, it just loads slower as a USB drive is slower reading than the hard disk.

For an Indie author, especially the paranoid type, being able to work on your latest masterpiece without worrying that your employer might find out that you’re a pervert can be a definite advantage for those who have free time at work.

If you haven’t tried LibreOffice, it is an open source clone of Microsoft Word and can easily read and write Word files. A Word user should feel right at home with LibreOffice, and it’s completely free!

Portable applications are available for GIMP, a PhotoShop clone, along with most of the other programs used by Indie authors to create and publish their stories. It typically takes 2gb of space to install a full suite of programs, which leaves plenty of space to store your work with an 8gb or larger jump drive. With jump drives selling for under twenty dollars, consider giving this a try.

Below find step by step directions on installing PortableApps onto a jump drive along with a common suite of useful programs.

Installing PortableApps On a Jump Drive

  1. For Windows PC’s, go to https://portableapps.com/ and install the PortableApps program on a jump drive. I suggest at least an 8gb drive or larger. For this article, I downloaded “PortableApps.com_Platform_Setup_15.0.2.paf.exe” to the Downloads folder of my desktop running 64bit Windows 10 Professional.
  2. Run the program you just downloaded, which in my case was version 15.0.2 (the latest as of 8/18/18). Go through the normal installation questions and select “New Install” when prompted.
  3. Plug a USB Jump Drive into your computer and select “Portable” as the Install Location. The installation program should default to the jump drive but if it doesn’t, select the appropriate Jump Drive. Okay the “are you sure” question to Install. Then click Finish when the installation is complete. This should automatically run the PortableApps program on the Jump Drive.
  4. Go through the list of available programs and check the ones you’d like installed. I’d suggest you include LibreOffice, GIMP, Note++, IrfanView, JPEGView, Fotografix, Inkscape, Scribus, Sigil, Kaspersky TDSSKiller, 7-Zip, Don’t Panic, and FastCopy to start. Feel free to add any others that strike your fancy. After you click Next, wait for the apps to be installed. Depending on the speed of your computer and Internet connection, this could be a while. There should be an icon in your taskbar showing the progression of the installs. I’m on a 300 Mbit cable connection and using an i7 computer, and it still took me 10-15 minutes to install the apps selected above.
  5. Assuming that you don’t get any errors, installing at a minimum the above list of programs will enable you to read/write Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, edit graphics (aka PhotoShop) and create covers (aka CorelDraw). You will probably have to agree to a few license agreements along the way, and hopefully, you don’t end up like Kyle from South Park when he agrees to be a HUMANCENTiPAD! Much less the cuttlefish!
  6. One of the recommended programs I installed in this How To guide is “Don’t Panic,” which is what we used to call a “Boss Switch” that hides your work. If you’re doing something that you shouldn’t and your boss or co-worker starts heading towards your desk, press the hotkey combination, and your program(s) are instantly hidden. Remember that I’m not recommending you screw off at work!

Am Writing

Currently, my story de jour is still House Party about surprisingly a house party. House party is an acronym of a swinger’s party with a number of twists and turns from my normal fare. I’m still not sure how it’s going to turn out but will hopefully be HEA in the end!

House Party is currently over 52,000 words and going strong despite all efforts to end the story. Amazon has a 30-day cliff, and if you don’t publish on a regular basis, you get kicked to the curb. But my characters don’t seem to appreciate the fact that it’s Publish or Perish!

Thanks for reading and if it’s the 24th, it’s another bit of smut from Larry Archer. Visit me at LarryArcher.blog for more pervy stuff. Sorry, I can’t offer any cooking or house cleaning tips but if it involves abusing yourself, drop me a line: Larry [at] LarryArcher [dot] com.

I encountered a problem with my cloud storage that I’d like to warn you about as it could happen to you. While trying to finish my latest tome, one of my beta readers pointed out an inconsistency in the story. I referenced a scene where one of the guys was previously pegged, yet my “proofer” pointed out that the chapter didn’t exist in the story.

I could have sworn that I wrote that chapter as I knew what happened yet going back through the document, I came up blank. WTF? I said, the scene was completely gone? Luckily, my beta-reader is a lot more organized than I am and was able to pull the chapter out of a previous file that I had sent her.

Thankfully, I was able to reinsert the chapter into the story somewhat like Foxy inserted her strap-on into Greg’s ass. Quick thinking by my beta-reader insured that Greg could be able to take another “insertion” by a tag-team of girls. For the uninitiated, “pegging” is when a man is butt-fucked by a woman with a dildo.

But how did this fulfilling scene get lost? Has my computer suddenly gotten its collective brains screwed out? After all, I was writing this on an iFruit computer.

While writing, I often switch between a laptop and a desktop computer depending on where I’m at. Dragging all of the cables, tower, and monitor into the bathroom was raising suspicions among my coworkers especially with the extension cord into the stall. Plus, the fact I kept dropping the mouse into the toilet didn’t help.

My MacBook Air laptop balances on my knees quite easily and allows me to pound out my smut everywhere I go. But how to easily transfer files between my laptop and desktop required some additional software.

I use DropBox cloud based storage as a storage point between computers. Storing the document in DropBox allows the Internet based software to seamlessly transfer the files back and forth between computers.

DropBox stores a copy of your files in the cloud as well as any computer it’s installed on including PC’s, Mac’s, Android, and I assume iPhone’s. When you edit a file, it’s on your local computer and DropBox uploads any changes to its cloud copy.

Whenever another computer is connected to the Internet, DropBox automatically synchronizes the files to insure that the latest copy is transmitted to all other computers.

The most obvious issue occurs when the same file is opened with two different computers. DropBox doesn’t lock files so the user must insure that there is only one copy of an individual file open at any one time.

In most cases, DropBox will detect this and will store “conflicted” copies of the file. Then you have to open the copies and merge the changes to end up with a single file which contains all of the changed and new data.

Preventing this problem is quickly learned and you always remember to close the file before switching computers.

This typically works seamlessly except when it doesn’t. I’ve come to realize there are a few flies in the ointment. First, make sure that you wait long enough for DropBox to upload the changed files before shutting down the computer. This will ensure that the cloud has the latest version.

If you’re going to be using a laptop and are not sure if WiFi is going to be available, fire up the laptop at home and allow DropBox to sync all the files before walking out the door. This way your laptop contains the latest copies of the files.

What I’ve recently figured out is that DropBox automatically limits the upload speed and generally speaking, this option should be cleared. It can take an inordinate amount of time to upload files and my laptops will often go to sleep before the process is finished, which leaves the state of the changed files in limbo.

By unchecking the upload limit, my WiFi uploads occur almost instantly and insure the cloud has the latest copy. While a little bit of an aggravation, being able to edit your smut on the go allows you to be productive when traveling or killing time at Starbucks.

If you are like me and enjoy working on the go, using a cloud storage such as DropBox makes life a lot easier, especially if you follow the rules.

By Lisabet Sarai

Can you control the flow of time? I’m not talking about managing your own time in order to be productive (though that would be a worthy topic for another article). I’m referring to managing the flow of time in your stories.

Authors of paranormal or speculative fiction, where time travel is a common element, might answer in the affirmative. Historical writers also need an acute appreciation of time. Those of you who write in other genres, though, might not have thought much about the question. You might be more focused on building compelling characters, producing vivid descriptions, or writing realistic dialogue. If you don’t consciously control the passage of time in your books, however, you may create problems your readers.

In most fiction, time provides the sub-structure for the story. The events that comprise the plot are associated with different temporal “locations”, strung out from the past to the present like beads on a string. A close author friend of mine uses the metaphor of a clothesline. He writes scenes as they occur to him and then “hangs” them on the line in temporal order. (See his example below. You can read about his method at the Oh Get A Grip blog).

Plot “clothesline” by C. Sanchez-Garcia

Aristotle advised dramatists that all the action in a play should occur within a single day. That approach might work for a short story, but novels usually stretch over a longer duration—anything from days to centuries. This expanded span introduces a variety of risks for the author.

The risk of confusing the reader. Your reader needs to understand when things are happening in order to make sense of the story. Thus, you need to clearly communicate the temporal “setting” of each scene (including flashbacks or scenes from the past that are described by your characters).

The risk of “losing” periods of time. If your story jumps from point A in time (e.g. Monday) to point B (e.g. Saturday of the same week), what happened during the intervening days? This might not be relevant to the story, and you don’t necessarily need to fill in the blank period in detail, but both you and your characters need to be aware that the gap exists. As a reader, I find it really irritating when a new chapter begins a month later than the previous one, without the author telling me anything about what occurred during that period. In general, as time progresses, things change. Longer time periods result in more significant alterations of people, situations, and environments. Keep this in mind as you write.

The risk of repeating periods of time. This is the flip side of (2). Make sure you don’t end up with two Saturdays in a row!

The risk of factual or celestial gaffes. Authors frequently use natural phenomena to anchor a story. Phases of the moon are a particular favorite of mine. If the moon is full during one scene, I need to actively consider what phase it will display a week later. Certainly it won’t still be full! Seasonal variations are another example. My novel Necessary Madness begins in late November, in New England, and continues through December until Christmas. I describe the weather as progressively colder and more inclement, as it usually is in Massachusetts during this period.

The risk of logical gaffes. Humans expect a logical sequence of phenomena, from cause to effect. A glitch in your fictional time line can create a situation where an effect is described before its causal event has occurred. For example, a character might mention another individual in the story, before the two have met or learned of each other’s existence. A reader might or might not notice this sort of error. In the former case, she’ll be confused. In the latter case, she’ll be critical of your skills as a story teller.

So how can you avoid these sorts of problems, especially in a longer work like a novel? One common technique is to create a time line for your story. The line should start at the earliest event you describe (even if that is in the past when your story begins) and should extend to the tale’s conclusion. As an example, here’s a time line I used as I was working on my M/M speculative fiction novel Quarantine.

Quarantine historical events timeline

Quarantine events timeline

Because this story takes place in the future, but is influenced by history, I’ve broken my time line into two parts. The first has a larger granularity (years) and shows historical events leading up to the beginning of the book, both personal to the characters (above the line) and public (below the line). I’ve included the public events because they are mentioned by the characters.

The second, more detailed time line shows the course of the story events themselves. Its units are days. The book takes about two months to unfold. As we get toward the climax, the days of the week become important because the “Freedom Crossroads Rally” event must occur on a Saturday.

The second half of the detailed time line reflects chapters I hadn’t yet written at the time I created these diagrams. I was not completely sure about how the end of the book would play out and that uncertainty shows.

I’ve used diagrams for my time line, but a spreadsheet might work as well. One problem with using graphics is that there’s no obvious way to record details (like the phase of the moon or the timing of the tides) that might be ancillary to the tale but still important from a consistency perspective. With a spread sheet, each row would represent one point in time (one triangle, in my graphical representation). Then you could define columns for date, day of the week, scenes or events related to characters, external events, phase of the moon, or whatever, expanding the definition as necessary to capture the information you need.

Quarantine has a relatively simple, linear plot, and thus can be handled by a single time line. Some books, especially those with multiple point-of-view characters, may have multiple parallel time lines. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters, by Gordon Dahlquist (one the best books I’ve read in the past decade!), features three main characters, each of whom has independent adventures. Their individual time lines merge in certain scenes, then diverge again. I don’t know if Dahlquist used time lines (if he didn’t, I’d like to know how he kept track of such an incredibly intricate tale!), but I’d imagine if one tried to do so, one would need separate time-tagged event sequences for Miss Temple, Cardinal Chang, and Doctor Svenson, braided together like the multiple channels of an ancient river.

Handling time in Quarantine was relatively simple for another reason. The book is narrated using “standard” third-person limited, past tense. I’ve written four novels at this point using first person, present tense. It’s a tricky combination but one that I like for erotica because of its immediacy. Here’s a bit from my erotic thriller Exposure narrated by exotic dancer and (it turns out) amateur sleuth Stella Xanathakeos:

It’s early, and it’s Monday, slow. He’s the only one sitting close enough for me to use my stare, and it isn’t working. He’s good-looking in a clean-cut, straight-laced sort of way. Blond crew cut, blue-eyed, muscles that show even under his expensive suit. At least it looks expensive to me.

He has not taken his eyes off me since I strutted onto the stage, but his face is without expression. It’s like he has walls behind his eyes. I can’t see into him at all. Now it’s me that’s getting frustrated and hot under the collar. I’ve already stripped down to my pasties, boots and thong. I peel one of the tassels off my nipple and dangle it in front of him. He looks only at my eyes. He’s measuring me, sizing me up for something.

I prance around on my stiletto heels. I shake my hips, do a slow, sensuous shimmy, cup my tits in my palms and offer them to him. No reaction. I take off the other tassel and attach it behind, where my butt cheeks meet, a lewd little tail. There’s a whistle from a table in the back, but Mr. Clean just continues to study me.

First person present narration complicates the control of time because you can’t allow significant gaps. It feels odd if the narrator’s voice simply disappears for a day or two, then pops in again. The events in Exposure (except for the final chapter, which is something of an epilogue) take place over the course of a single week. Every moment of Stella’s time needs to be accounted for. Furthermore, she needs to give the reader clues when the time line advances without her providing a blow-by-blow description.

Three quarters of the way through writing Exposure, I discovered that I’d lost a day. I was tracking the days of the week because the plot required it. I realized that I’d skipped from Thursday to Saturday without Friday ever happening. This necessitated some temporal repair work on my part!

Perhaps the most complicated juggling of time I’ve done as a writer is my short story “Underground”, recently published in the ERWA paranormal anthology Unearthly Delights. In this tale, less than 7000 words long, I begin in the present:

So maybe it’s not totally sane. I’ve always been fascinated by madness.

As for safe, where’s the thrill in safety?

You can’t, however, deny that it’s consensual.

Ducking into a blank alley, one of thousands in this city, I make my way to the metal door near the end. The keypad gives off a faint green luminescence. I tap in the combination and the door swings open; my pulse is already climbing. My boot heels ring hollow as I descend the industrial steel steps, and the thump of the bass rises to meet me. Excitement wells up, flooding my cunt, even before I’ve buzzed the final door and been admitted to this most particular and perverse playground.

The techno soundtrack punches me in the solar plexus. My heart stutters like I’ve been shocked by a defibrillator. Delicious weakness sweeps over me, a premonition of what’s to come.

I give the readers a glimpse of my narrator’s personality and desires, just enough (I hope), to pique their curiosity, before shifting to a flashback:

The long years before I found Underground and Z seem like some bad dream—an endless series of fetish groups and kink clubs, personal ads and bar hook-ups, as I searched everywhere for someone who could understand and satisfy my particular needs.

S&M folk like to believe they’re tolerant and accepting. They weren’t ready to tolerate me, though.

The remainder of the story flips back and forth between past and present. Each brief section set in the present advances the particular scene initiated at the start of the story. Each flashback (there are three such sections) reveals more about who the main character is and what she really wants. The tale ends in the present, as the narrator reaps the consequences of her history.

This was a pretty ambitious time line. It took me several rounds of edits to get it right, to create the correct balance between flashbacks and current events, and to make sure the action was advancing consistently in the present. In fact I didn’t fully grasp my target temporal structure at first. The crits I received on the Storytime list helped me to clarify my own goals.

I’m tempted to warn “don’t try this at home”, but in fact, you need to follow your own instincts about the time progression in your stories. If you feel that you need a complex time structure, don’t ignore that insight.

My goal in this article is simply to focus your attention on the question. Maintaining awareness of time in your work can be critical not only for helping your readers understand your tale but also for creating special emotional effects as I did in “Underground”. Sloppiness about time can make your tales annoying, confusing, even unreadable.

 

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica

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