Search This Blog

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Art of the Sex Scene (ConCarolinas 2014 Writing Panel Notes)

Hello again! As promised in Wednesday's notes, here's what I took away from what was lovingly called "the sex panel". Once again, a different take from what you can find under this tag in the archives. What else can I say? Enjoy! ;)

* * *

The Art of the Sex Scene
Tyffani Clark Kemp, Susan H. Roddey, Alexandra Christian, Crymsyn Hart, Marcia Colette, Tamsin L. Silver, James R. Tuck
Moderator: Emily Lavin Leverett
When you chose to write under a pseudonym, if you did, why?
EL: Edited under a pseudonym because of professional commitments.
TS: Chose a penname because of father’s religious affiliations,
CH: Hart is real, Crymsyn is not, used to work at a place where she might have been fired
AC: Teaching second grade when she started
SR: Writes under 2 names because writes wildly different things. Never intended to write romance. Not hiding anything.
TC: Wanted to publish each genre as a different name because of friends who would have wanted her to write good girl
AC: Why would we have sex if we weren’t supposed to enjoy it? Jesus needs love too.
JT: Working on a Christian erotica in his spare time, called Come to Jesus.
EL: The point is, a lot of it was about our jobs. It’s okay to write something where people get their heads chopped off but it’s not okay to show sex. In this insecure job market people don’t want to risk unemployment.

Audience question: What about copyright issues and theft?
JT: The second you create it, you own the copyright. Frauds and ripoffs will only happen when you’re successful, so don’t worry about it right now.
CH: There was a situation where one person was lifting whole passages from old Harlequin romances, but only after several novels, and it was a reader who picked it up. She’ll probably never write again.

Audience question: Are erotica writers more geared towards finding an agent, or less?
EL: The things erotic writers sell the best are shorts, which usually aren’t represented.
AC: Publishing is so not trad right now; agents don’t want to pick up anyone unless they’re guaranteed to make sales, and lots of smaller presses don’t require an agent.
EL: Even bigger ones don’t want an agent.
JT: Write short, write quick, submit to as many as possible, and once you have a platform and some fans, self publish (from then on). Erotica is where the money is.
AC: And your genre is also important if you’re going to go that route. What’s selling right now are BDSM, male/male.

EL: Men are sexy. Several men are several sexy.
TS: Apparently women not regularly reading regular romance not being comfortable with their sexuality.
JT: Like men watching girl on girl porn.
EL: Edited a lot of m/m, and a lot of them were gay love stories.
SR: The type of women reading this are not outwardly comfortable with their sexuality or admit they’re sexual creatures.
AC: Participate in your own sex fantasies.
Audience comment: m/m Yaoi manga has been popular for years in Japan.

Audience question:  What has changed with women’s roles in erotica, and them taking the stereotypical passive roles?
EL: It can be anything these days.
SR: Depends on the subject, and on who’s writing. Sometimes you can pick up that they’re extremely misogynistic and extremely angry. Occasionally it’s a man you’ve stuck boobs on.
AC: Traditionally in erotica the female roles have been a lot more empowered than they are in traditional romance. A lot of the new wave involves the women being fascinated by the idea of being dominated. A curiosity. We may be trending back that way.
EL: One of the fascinations with 50 Shades is that women are working and taking care of the house, and like the idea of a guy coming in and and saying they’lll take care of everything. It’s a pleasant fantasy.

Audience question: Recently read an article which said that sex lives are disrupted by men trying to make love to their wives to make porn. Are you conscious of realistic sex vs. porn sex when you write?
CH: Make the body parts match up.
EL: And unless you’re writing weird sci-fi the dick can only be in one place at once. But experiencing sex via the written word is different from experiencing it visually.
AC: Issue with the concept that erotic writers and erotic romance writers are writing instruction manuals. A lot of people are taking fantasy in books and porn on television too seriously. Sex is supposed to be about fun, and fun is not always possible in the real world.
JT: When you write a sex scene and you try for reality you realize that reality is messy.
TC: Wants to read something different, steamy, not something she can do in the bedroom.
EL: Awkward sex scenes can be sweet and can even be effective if done right.

Audience question: Do you need experience to write it?
JT: You need research partners.
EL: Or you need the BDSM handbook.
TS: Read books on it, get to know it, look up things on the internet like you probably do already, read books by writers writing great erotica. Emulate what you see. Write stuff, get feedback. Just as you would with any other writng.
MC: Critique groups will give you great feedback.
CH: You can buy the mannequin dolls you can pose. It helps if you’re writing a 4-5 person ménage.
AC: As with anything, readaing in your genre, reading good things, is important. You don’t need a ton of experience. But it does help to have a little bit. Also, watch some porn.
SR: Yes, watch porn. If you don’t have a lot of experience, it helps to have experience of hwo things work and what goes where and what it looks like so that you can make it look okay on paper.
JT: Watching porn is great, but as a male writer if you’re going to watch porn, you have to take porn with a grain of salt, because those ladies in the more extreme porn are not human.
EL: Don’t write “She was so excited when he came and she didn’t.”
AC: Thomas Roche writes incredible erotica. Also, Ellora’s cave is pushing their for men line.
TC: Was a virgin 4-5 months before she started writing her erotica, so you don’t need to be super experienced but you do need to know the basics.
Audience comment: Has toured a BDSM club and sex toy stores.

Audience question: What is the most difficult thing about writing sex?
CH: Making the sex not boring after 80 books. Will cut and paste, then change it because you can only have so many insert tab-A into slot-B.
SR: Sometimes when writing an erotic romance, you can dim the lights and close the door.
JT: You don’t have to constantly one-up yourself. Hopefully sex doesn’t become routine but you do learn what becomes comfortable and enjoyable. There’s a temptation to starting off Vanilla and making it more creative or escalating it. That’s not necessary.
TS: Keeps in mind: How does the sex move the story along? When does someone realize there’s more than just sex. Emotions are important as well. It’s a way to keep it fresh.
AC: Humor is how she keeps it fresh. Sex is supposed to be fun. If it’s not, you shouldn’t be doing it or reading it.
MC: Likes to change up the scene. Change where the sex takes place, to make the sex interesting.
SR: You do it because you can.

Note from the authors: This is very binary. M/M, F/F, M/F – but one thing to keep in mind is that you can’t forget there are things people consider non-normative. There are spaces in erotica where these non-normative voices can be explored. Which is really important in the SF/F community.
AC: Trans is the up-and-coming term.
SR: “Gender fluid”, too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Romance in Fantasy: How Much is Too Much? (ConCarolinas 2014 Writing Panel Notes)

Hey everyone! So I'm back with more notes. Emerald City Comic-Con was amazing, and I can't wait to share the notes I brought back from that trip. But, owing to my less than spectacular summer and fall, I still have everything I learned at last year's ConCarolinas! So, with that in mind, let's have a gander at the first topic ...

* * *

Romance in Fantasy – How Much is Too Much?

Chris A. Jackson, James R. Tuck, Tamsin L. Silver, C.L. Wilson, Susan H. Roddey, Marcia Colette, Alexandra Christian, Crymsyn Hart
Moderator: Janine Spendlove

So, How Much is Too Much (if you’re writing a straight up fantasy novel)?
JT: Love between two people is what makes this whole world happen. If you don’t have love, if your character doesn’t have a connection with another character, then the story doesn’t feel right. Even platonic love.
CJ: RPG fiction is steering away from it, and the fiction suffers.

Romance writers – do you set out to write a romance novel, or does it just happen?
AC: It just happens. She never set out to write a romance novel. Always about the story first. And the stories always seem to have a relationship in them. That’s the kind of story she wants to tell. She writes the story she sets out to read. The interaction between the characters is the part she likes best.
SR: It’s not about writing a romance novel, it’s about writing a story. If the romance happens, that’s how the story was going to naturally progress.
MC: One thing she likes most about the characters is the whole journey. When they set out, you don’t see something happening, then there’s always this sexual tension that builds. She goes with the tension, even if it doesn’t explode until page 200.
Audience comment: The hero becomes worthy of the relationship, worthy of the heroine falling in love with.
AC: It’s okay for her to save him on occasion.
JT: It’s happening in the Deacon Chalk series. Made a conscious decision to write a character that’s completely broken. A girl he meets is the one who saves him.
CL: Sets out to write romance in every single book. Both the fantasy and the romance elements are equally important to the storyline. The woman has to earn her happy ending as well. Both have personal emotional and external issues that together they overcome and they cement a solid lasting relationship. There’s always an external plot but the romance plot drives the action forward and ideally contributes to resolving the external problems as well.

Without Naming Specific Stories, What Are Pet Peeves of Yours?
JS: That rescuing the princess is presented as a reward. It promotes an undercurrent of misogyny.
SR: Finding a book that has so much promise and looks interesting but then the story can’t decide where it wants to go, and you lose sight of the world or the romance because it can’t make up its mind. Especially a romance novels with fantasy elements.
AC: Men with boobs. Loves to read urban fantasy with a good romance. But she’s sick of the urban fantasy stereotype that she has to either be a whiny waif, or a bitchy tomboy who would basically be a guy but has a female name.
JT: Women are strong. They’re vessels of life. If men had babies there would be no people in the world. So the trope of superstrong feminine characters in fantasy doesn’t need to happen. Women are strong enough already. They are stronger in different ways.
JS: Women in the army bring diverse things to the table.
CJ: The idea that the character is incomplete without a relationship. You are a human being without a relationship. A relationship is something else. The relationship doesn’t complete you.
JT: Hates the fated love, “we have to be together”. Likes it when they have to choose, they have to earn it. Not love at first sight. If love at first sight happens it should fuck up their lives completely.
MC: Using the love triangle as the main source of conflict. If you can’t come up with a better storyline than that, just don’t write the book.
JS: Man-Made-Boy made it work out, but that’s an exception.
Audience comment: When they’re in the midst of danger and they stop for a sex scene. Or there’s so much sex in the book that they don’t manage to accomplish anything.
AC: Erotica and erotic romance is not pornography. Pornography is about the sex. Erotica and erotic romance is about the story. More artistic. About the relationship.
CW: In romance, the relationship helps them grow. In erotica, the sex is the catalyst for change.

What about inter-species romance? (E.g. humans and dragons)
CJ: The idea that non-humans are people isn’t much explored, and he enjoyed bursting that bubble.
JS: Falling in love in interspecies isn’t hard, but how do you tackle intimacy?
CJ: Magic to help make it work.
SR: The problem is whether or not they can classify it as bestiality if you have a human having sex with an animal or similar creature, an act that is illegal in most states in the US. Is it illegal for a human to have a relationship with the animal when the animal is not in human form?
Audience: If Amazon finds out a shapeshifter has sex with a human in their non-human form they can pull it.

Audience question/comment: Unhappy with the trope of “when a woman is raped but they fall in love with their rapist and that (somehow) makes it okay”.
JT: That story happens more than we’d like it to.
JS: We’re becoming more culturally aware of that. That’s what matters.
CJ: Know your market, know your readers.
SR: If the relationship is the product of the environment in which you set your story, that may justify it more. Technically, what we do today would be considered different or obscene in a different world, no matter how bad.

Audience question: What about falling out of love?
JS: Not fun to write, but it’s interesting and fascinating to understand why those two people are no longer together. Every relationship you ever have is a failed relationship until your last one.
CW: Tries to appeal to romance, so often it’s the villain causing the split, but eventually strives for a happy ending.
JT: When you step out of genre you can do a really good job of it. E.g. the movie Closer.

When writing so many intimate scenes, how do you keep it fresh?
CH: Has a tendency to go way outside the box, dives into space yetis and shapeshifting aliens and bigfoots.
CJ: Writing an intimate scene that isn’t physically possible is just as hard as writing a fight scene like that.
MC: When the toys are in the room. Puts people in different places, different situations, keep it fresh.
TS: Also, keeping it fun. When working on it, characters became friends and to keep it interesting but keep the lighthearted playfulness helps.
CW: It isn’t about the sex. It’s about the emotional state of the hero and heroine at that moment. There is more happening
JT: When you write a sex scene, you have to ask yourself what the point is. Why? The purpose and the feel has to have meaning of some sort to be relevant to the story.
CJ: Not so much about self gratification as it is about enjoying the other person’s gratification.
ST: If writing a book with explicit sex and lots of scenes, you don’t have to write out every single act. It’s okay to fade to black, move onto something different see what you want to see.

Note: after that last question, the authors all emphasized an important fact:


Check back Friday for that.