Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

CRAFT: Addendum to S-E-X Scenes, Part 2

This is going to be exceptionally short because I made a deal with my husband that he would cook dinner and I would write. He held up his end of the bargain, but I've yet to write this evening and I HAVE to get back to Grave Mistakes but I also realized that I made very few, if any, points in my previous post about writing s-e-x scenes.

There was one point that I wanted to make. I think I alluded to it, or even said it in passing, but I wanted to drive it home with a sledgehammer.

If you want sizzling tension, make it realistic. Well, of course, you say, rolling your eyes. But you see, that's one of the biggest problems I see in a lot of romances. They go in for all this purple prose or have these characters with physical characteristics that are just so over-the-top that it's like watching some computer-generated, comic-book action. The closer the characters are to real, live, flawed, not-so-perfect physical specimans, and the closer your descriptions are to reality (and not some flowery, poetic stuff) the hotter the tension. It's hotter because you've made it something others have felt and know about. They understand it on a gut-level. They feel it, or at least have felt it at some point in their lives. Or will feel it. (Does that cover, past, present, future and plu-perfect?)

Believe it or not, all that poetic jazz is mostly intellectual stuff and that's why it skims the surface without really getting in under the skin the way a more realistic description would. It doesn't create the same level of tension. It, in effect, divorces the reader from feeling the action even though the writer is trying their darndest to make it really, really feel-able.

It's sort of like that kid you end up knocking upside the head because they're annoying you by trying so frickin' hard to get you to like them.

Have you ever noticed that the most popular person in the family is the one who is never there, never comes to family gatherings, can't be depended upon to help anyone, and yet, when they show up, it's like - Oh, WOW, s/he's HERE! This is great! Let the Par-ty begin!


Because they don't try so hard. They may give a darn, but it certainly doesn't show. Paradoxically, this is what makes their sudden, unexpected appearance so wonderful. They're not TRYING so hard. Their presence is not the usual, hum-drum everyday occurrence. They're not the drudge doing their familial duty, day-in, day-out, ho, hum.

So, stop TRYING so hard. Stop trying to make your characters and love scenes utterly unique and unusual. By trying so hard, you're making them, well, ho-hum, purple-prose fodder good for those "it was a dark and stormy night" contests and not much else.

Reality is so much easier on everyone.

Of course, that may be just me. Hmm. No, maybe not. I mean, when I get that feeling I'm generally not interested any more in just reading about it. I have a husband who is quite handy and it's far easier to go grab him than to hunker down with some book to try to get my jollies. So I don't think it's just me, although I suppose it could be. Or, no, I really meant it. Okay, enough waffling, second guessing myself, and general mental torment.

Oh, sure, there are plenty of readers who like that flowery jazz, but I repeat: if you really want to hike up the tension, make it as realistic as possible. Don't use a lot of fancy, cutsey terms for things. Stay away from the emerald green eyes, heaving, melon-like breasts, and erections like foot-long sausages. I certainly plan on staying far, far away from those things.

So, I'm curious, what do you like to see that really turns up the tension in a book for you?

No comments: