Friday, March 14, 2014

The Joy of Smurf

Today I’m going to talk about writing love scenes. I’m not an expert on this, by any means, but I do have a few tricks which I will pass on to you.

When I was editing for a friend of mine she had real trouble with the explicit words necessary to make the whole thing work. Either you can go the oblique route, and risk confusing the reader or jarring them out of the story with a gem like, “purple-helmeted yogurt slinger,” or you can just write “penis.” Sure, the second one lacks dramatic flair, but at least you know what you’re working with.  My friend had trouble writing the explicit words, so I told her to just write in the word Smurf, and I’d put in the dirty bits.
By the time she got to the important part, she felt so silly writing Smurf over and over again, she could actually use the real words.

This was a married mom, somebody who has lived her life and done most of the stuff she was writing about many, many times. 

Talking about sex is a different thing than having it, though.  You’re laying your mind bare in a way and going against thousands of years of history that insists women don’t talk about this kind of thing.

Some of the most famous erotic literature penned by women has been published under pseudonyms, like The Story of O, or under the name of the author’s husband, like the Claudine novels by Sidonie-Gabriel Collette. Anais Nin’s unexpurgated diaries, with all the juicy stuff, weren’t even published until after her death.

(Disclaimer: My writing isn’t as good as theirs. That’s not false modesty, just cruel reality.)

Anyway, female sexuality is everywhere, but somehow a female taking control over it is still an uncomfortable subject.

When I was younger, I’d seek out romance novels and stuff like that for basic information. If you’re an avid reader, you know this is the worst place for someone to find decent information about the mechanics of sex. Especially now that vampires and werewolves are in the mix, I fear for what the youth of tomorrow will think happens during orgasm. (Hint: You don’t black out or sprout fangs.)
So, when I took on taboo the first time, I used a strategy to try to keep myself from being too embarrassed. 

It has worked well so far.

I always come up with something emblematic of the character’s personality. In One Lucky Night, the main female character, Charlotte, is insecure in her crush on the much more polished and sophisticated Tommy. When it comes to the love scene, though, their experience levels flip in a subtle way.  I also portrayed that as a positive thing. I thought that was a neat way to develop character even while you were reading “the good part.”

Now I’m so comfortable I can usually write a love scene while my kid is sitting next to me watching Brave.


It helps that he can’t read yet. 

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