A warm welcome to…Emily Bryan
…who is our Guest Author, today.
Emily is making a stop here on her 50 Day/50 Blog Tour which is promoting her sizzling, upcoming novel, Vexing the Viscount.
Emily Bryan, who also writes under the name Diana Groe, is giving away One(1) copy of Vexing the Viscount to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this post, today (Open to all countries!).
* Congratulations to Aja Jackson on winning a copy of Vexing the Viscount *
Literary “First Times”
Thanks for having me here today, Bobbie! I love your blog!
When I tell non-romance readers that I’m a romance author, the first thing they do, after a giggle or two, is ask if my sex scenes are autobiographical. (If they ask my DH, he just smiles and says, “Of course!”)
The truth is I write explicit scenes when the story demands it.
Writers work with nothing but ink on a page and somehow hope to breathe life into our characters. We play on their hopes and dreams. We catalogue their triumphs and failures. Nowhere are these more evident than in our character’s sex lives. Even if a character is not currently sexually active, he thinks about it as often as we do. Sex is a ripe store house of emotions and motivations. Commercial fiction is rife with sex scenes. It’s not just for romance novelists any more.
It never was. My literary “first time” was not a romance book, at all. It was Rabbit Run, from the highly respected and recently deceased, John Updike. I was a junior in high school, an extremely naïve junior. The scene where Updike’s hero, Harry Angstrom, talks a hooker into giving him oral sex while his wife is giving birth was a shock to me. First because I had no idea people did such things (told you I was naïve) and second, because the relationship in which the act occurred was so cold and devoid of joy.
But did it deepen my insight into the characters and propel Mr. Updike’s story? Like a runaway locomotive.
Writing a sex scene is not about being an exhibitionist. It is not about me. It’s about my characters and their relationship. Which leads me to my first rule about writing sex scenes.
1. It’s about serving the story first and foremost. If I can replace the scene with the words, Then they had sex, with no change in what comes afterward, then the scene is unnecessary and must be cut.
Not all stories call for hot, sweaty monkey sex. The bedroom door can remain completely closed and yet be totally romantic. Less is often more.
What to call it . . .
“The sun glinted off his chiseled pectorals.” No, that’s not from a romance novel either. It’s a Washington Post reporter waxing poetic over President Obama’s work-out regimen. It’s also a shining example of trite wording (why even mention a pec unless it’s chiseled?) and dangerously close to Purple Prose.
All writers face word choices and nowhere is it more important to choose the right word than in a sex scene. When in doubt over what to call something, I ask my characters. What would they call it? In the 80’s a romance writer might get away with “the raging beast of his desire,” but if I tried that now, my editor would have me in a headlock. Beauty of language is one thing, but there’s no room in any scene for, pardon the pun, flaccid prose. I want my readers with me the whole time, not giggling over my Victorian silliness. (Unless of course my story is set in the Victorian era, but even then I try to keep the use of euphemisms down. Or better yet, let one of my characters joke about the verbal coyness.)
So here’s the second rule:
2. Call it what the characters would call it. When the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense. Technical terms may not sing, but they don’t confuse anyone either. And it is possible to write a totally hot sex scene without mentioning any body parts at all.
Not even a chiseled pectoral.
It’s about sex and . . .
So often sex scenes will stop the story dead. If we know what’s at stake, it’s more interesting. The basic tenets of the writer apply. What does my character want? How will he/she go about getting it? How can I, as the writer, throw obstacles in his/her path? What’s the subtext? It’s rare that both parties will be in complete accord. It’s also boring.
In Vexing the Viscount, both my hero and heroine are virgins. That means the angels don’t sing without a few fizzles and moments of comic relief. (Face it. Sex is pretty darn funny.) Two inexperienced characters lent itself to plenty of trial and error, some pleasurable, some frustrating. Fiction may be made up, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be true. Which leads to my last rule . . .
3. The scene must be about sex and something else. For the writer, a sex scene is a chance to examine how the relationship between two people changes, how they feel about themselves as well as each other. A tryst interrupted, a near miss because someone lost their nerve, a wardrobe malfunction—these are all grist for the mill and a story propeller instead of a stopper.
Sex scenes, like every other scene, should reveal my characters, help or hinder their growth, challenge them, uplift or dash them. I’m not afraid to follow my character into the bedroom, or the library, or the . . . well where ever the action leads me.
Sex is part of who my hero and heroine are. It’s part of who we all are.
I won’t wimp out. I’ll tell the whole story.
An excerpt from Vexing the Viscount:
Daisy and Lucian have finally become lovers, but the games that started it all are still definitely afoot.
“Lucian climbed the stairs, his body thrumming with anticipation. Would Daisy be wearing that naughty red gown again or maybe the elegant corset with all those lovely lace ties? Perhaps this time he’d manage not to befoul the ribbons as he undid her.
But when he rapped sharply on her door and heard her call out, in French for the servants’ benefit, for him to enter, he discovered she was wearing neither of those delightful confections.
She was naked as a newborn babe.
She’d dispensed with Blanche’s mask and wig, her own blonde curls piled on top of her head, just a couple of wayward locks teasing her slender neck. Where the froth of soap bubbles parted, the water was like molten gold in the glow of candles.
He knew his mouth was opening and shutting but no sound would come from his lips.
She laughed softly. “You might close the door behind you. The hall is drafty, you know.”
She leaned back and propped one foot on the end of the tub, water and soap bubbles slithering from her ankle, past her shapely calf and back into the bath. She sank into the tub up to her shoulders.
“I so enjoy a good soak, don’t you?”
“From this vantage point especially,” he finally managed to say as the latch clicked behind him. A bath had never seemed like anything other than a method for getting clean. Daisy Drake festooned with soap bubbles was as far removed from something next to godliness as anything he could imagine.
He wasn’t conscious of ordering his feet to move, but he found himself standing over her. The mysteries of her flesh were hidden in the water’s shadows. His groin clenched anyway.
“A few more candles would not come amiss,” he said.
She laughed again and this time, he thought he detected a little nervousness in the sound. He was a bit relieved by it. She’d been a virgin when they made love in the Duke of Lammermoor’s library. But she played the wanton with such devastating conviction; he wondered where she’d learned the courtesan’s arts.
“No more candles.” She wagged a wet finger at him. “A man’s imagination is a woman’s best asset.”
“Your assets need no help from my imagination.” He dropped to one knee beside the tub, letting a hand trail in the water. It was quite hot. No wonder her exposed skin was so flushed.
Before he reached the soapy knee that was his goal, she found his fingers and set his hand firmly back on the side of the tub.
Evidently in this new game, he was allowed to look, but not touch.”
*Make sure to visit Emily at her Blog Tour’s next stop, tomorrow at http://erineisenberg.blogspot.com/ for another chance to win a copy of Vexing the Viscount !