by K D Grace

There are few things I enjoy as much as a
good read. I don’t read like I used to. I now read like a writer. I realized
this after reading a short story that completely enthralled me for the course
of several thousand words. When I came back to the real world, I found myself
not only analyzing what made the story so amazing, but analyzing how I as a
writer read it differently than I would if I didn’t write.

I always think back over the story after
the fact and try to figure out what made it work for me or not. That process
within itself can’t keep from changing the story making it a story of multiple
plots and constructs the writer never intended, but my mind can’t keep from
creating. If in my analysis there are lots of changes I would make, things I
would have done differently as the author, at some point it becomes my story, the one I’m writing in my head,
and no longer the story the author intended.

For me, the big clue to how I esteem the
story is the point at which I begin to analyze. If I’m analyzing the story as I
read it, then it’s clearly not going to get five stars on the K D story
critique scale. The sooner I begin my analysis while I’m reading, the fewer stars
the story rates from me, until at some point it becomes an exercise in editing
and recreating it as my own story rather than reading for pleasure. When that
happens, the whole process becomes a different experience than the one the
writer intended.

If, however, I get totally lost in the
story, then my whole internal landscape changes. The writer in me is temporarily
replaced by the ravenous reader who simply loves a good story. When I am pulled
in, rough and tumble, to the world the author created, the story becomes multi-dimensional
and experienced twice, sometimes thrice over, sometimes even more. When I’m in
the queue at the supermarket, or in bed waiting to fall asleep, when I’m
waiting for the bus, I can have the secret pleasure of reliving that story over
and over.

Being pulled in is the first part of
experiencing a great story. The second part, the analysis part, happens after
the fact. When the story moves me, excites me, changes me, then my analysis of
it is a different process. Because I don’t feel I can improve on it, analysis
then becomes taking the story into myself from a write’s point of view. In
other words, what is it that makes this story so fantastic, and how can I
incorporate some of that fantastic-ness into my own writing?

A perfect story, a story that pulls me in
and devours me whole is a lingering experience. I’m a firm believer that a good
story should somehow change the reader. But a good story should change a writer
even more so. A good story should be like discovering a view from a mountaintop
that we didn’t know was there before, a view that changes everything, the
waterfall we didn’t see, the storm we never expected, the castle that dominates
the landscape. A really great story has the potential to make me a better
writer, a better weaver of story, a better seer of nuance, a better wielder of
my craft.

But a good story should change more than
just my views of my writing world. It should touch and stimulate in ways I
would not have expected. It should open up the landscapes in my unconscious and
my imagination. In some ways, a good story acts as a Muse, and that is the
pinnacle of what a writer can glean from a story. I won’t say that doesn’t
happen with badly written stories as well, after all the Muse chooses her own
time and place. But with a good story, somehow the appearance of the Muse seems
more numinous, more dressed for the occasion.

For me, the most powerful element of any
story is the key relationship and how it expresses itself. That expression is
often sexual, and a well-written sex scene carries with it the weight of human
emotion. It carries with it the drive to reach that magical point where two
become one, where we are as close to being in the skin of ‘the other’ as it is
possible to be. The power of sex and relationship in story can hardly be
overstated. Even in mediocre stories, the power of love and relationship can
still pull me outside of the editor-me and into the roil of the archetypal
story of human need. To me, that means we erotica writers wield one of the most
powerful tools in the writing craft; sex in story. Use it poorly and it just
sounds stupid and crass. But use it well and it’ll be the moment in the story
that the reader remembers while in the queue at the grocery store, while
drifting off to sleep, while waiting for the bus. And it’ll be remembered with
that ache of commonality of all humanity, the driving force within us all.
Keeping that in mind, I don’t think it’s any wonder that so many writers fear
writing sex.