Thursday, September 13, 2012

Do You Have to Have Great #Sex to Write Great #Love Scenes?

Love scenes! Ah, when the romance gets hot, and the characters can't help themselves, how does an author send them over the edge?

Do you have to have great sex to write great love scenes?

I can't say it doesn't help. Besides, it's so much fun when you have a partner to experiment with. There are some things that just have to be experienced: the combination of visceral feelings and emotions can't be duplicated by a how-to manual. That said, imagination takes off and melds with the individual personas of the characters in a scene. Writing love scenes from both the male and the female point of view requires deep immersion into the character, and once I'm lost in them, the scenes come easily.
Rachelle Ayala, crazy owner of this blog, author of Broken Build, available at Amazon

Yes. My feeling is experience is the best teacher.  You can read the 'instruction manuals' (for lack of a better description) all day long, but nothing takes the place of actually experiencing, participating in the real deal.
Melisa Williams, upcoming author of Going Native

I think that what makes a great love scene - one that arouses all the senses - is the lead in to the sex, not the sex itself. You could call it foreplay - it's the part that messes with a reader's head and emotions :). How is the interaction constructed between the lovers? How does their connection evolve toward ultimate fulfillment? I think that by the time the down and dirty sex act is warranted, the readers should have already experienced a roller coaster of emotions, so that whether the sex is explicit or not, they don't feel cheated.
Natalie G. Owens, author of Everything to Lose, available at Amazon.

As a writer of erotica I'm often asked if my steamy scenes come from real life inspiration. While having great sex in real life can provide incentive to writing a great love scene, it's not a requirement. People forget that a writer's most powerful weapon is imagination. I read, and often write, to escape. Sex in romance novels and erotica tends to be larger than life–as it should be. No one wants to read about the real life challenges of couples as they try to juggle mundane responsibilities. Most authors writing erotica aren't dominatrixes or sex workers. They are regular people with normal constraints on their time, kids, etc. I never assume that a horror writer runs around murdering people for inspiration. Fantasy is what makes fiction so wonderful. Writing allows us to carve out whatever our imaginations desire. That being said, I do believe that passionate, open minded and sexually curious folks do write better love scenes. Cheers.
Narcisse Navarre

LOL. I just love these questions of yours! Okay - sexy writers - that's me ;-) I think you have to have great sex on the BRAIN to write great love scenes. It all starts there, otherwise love scenes can become stilted and lifeless, unimaginative, forced, etc. You have to have imagination, otherwise all of your characters and everybody else's characters are doing the same things. What's the fun in that? We live in a world where too often, everyone thinks they have to conform, even in the bedroom. I've noticed lately, too many people thinking they have to shave all over, or perform specific sexual acts because it's the norm, or it's expected. NO, no, no! Your personality and your individual desires make love scenes real. I just read a wonderfully character-driven, unique love scene in "Soul Weaver" by Kym Grosso. Refreshing! A big part of being sexy and writing sexy is allowing yourself and your characters to be individuals. Sex is, afterall, a mind thing.
Dariel Raye, author of the Dark Sentinel Series, available at Amazon.

Boy, Rachelle, you sure know how to ask the probing questions! I think to write good love scenes, you need to have a basic understanding of the mechanics of sex, just so you don't have characters doing impossible things. Beyond that, imagination is all anyone needs to describe their perfect fantasy!  And that's all romantic love scenes are, right? Fantasy?
Chantel Rhondeau, author of Always and Forever, available on Amazon.

Absolutely not. But each writer and reader is different. I love reading a juicy, descriptive, sexy love scene and feel like something is missing if the writing isn’t somewhat explicit. I’ve explored a lot in my day to be able to embrace the fabulously committed and loving partnership I have with my sweetie pie. Hence, when I write, I aim for enough descriptive qualities to get both me and my readers stoked. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with suggestive dialogue between my characters – it hints at what is simmering beneath the surface in what I hope is a most delightful manner. But again – to each his or her own. The spectrum for sexual preferences is wide. I’m only going for the slice of the pie that appeals to me and my readers – one that sizzles in a loving way.
Calinda B, Author of the Wicked Series 

"My reply to that would be that it takes a vivid imagination to write a good love scene. Plus a definite sense of the dramatic.
I still remember a show I saw online called, "So You Wanna Be a Soap Star?" One week they were doing love scenes, and to this day I remember the career actor telling a contestant, "There's no such thing as vanilla sex in soap operas."
And that is the philosophy I use in all my sex scenes.
Each sex scene I write has to have its own tone, according to the context of the scene, the people involved, and of course the chemistry between the characters.
It also takes a measure of patience and a little bit of choreography. :-)"
Jon Bradbury, male erotica author

Not in my opinion. You may have to have great sex to write great sex scenes, though! When it comes to writing love scenes, what's more important is knowing what it feels like to fall in love and being able to recreate the tension, the excitement and the chemistry between the characters. Both characters need to be very appealing, and it's best if you can make readers root for them to be together despite any conflicts or hurdles.
Bonnie Trachtenberg, author of Wedlocked and Neurotically Yours

The answer is a big no. The love scenes I create as a writer have nothing to do with me personally. I'm just a conduit to the page. Each scene written is about the characters of the story and the chemistry the couples create together. Sometimes the loving is slow and sensual, at other times fast and frantic. It really depends on the story itself and what each character brings to the table. Every word written must be authentic to who they are.
Cate Beauman, upcoming author of the Bodyguards of L.A. County Series

My ego demands that I claim to have great sex and that I write great sex scenes. While I’m speaking for that side of me, I have a great butt, look like a twenty year old and sing like Celine Dion. Now, outside of my fantasy, I realize that there are many reasons to have sex and regardless of the acts performed, the motivation behind the deed determines the greatness. Did the characters just meet in a bar to hook up?  Or have they had a passion between them since the moment they laid eyes on each other and are aching for the moment they can show their love and be a part of each other? Maybe I’m just a romantic, but I think most adults have had that feeling in their lives whether or not they’ve had sex. If a writer can translate that feeling to page, to me that is a great love scene.
Melissa Mayberry, author of Mellifica: Devastating First Love, available at Amazon
Ah. I think not. I'd have to agree it helps, but I can't say that would be the only qualifier. You know the old saying 'Pictures are worth a thousand words'? Visuals create ideas inside of our minds. They capture the essence of the moment and, well, stimulate endorphins and permeate desire. If it were all about having great sex, then why would we need to read about it? I think written sex scenes are descriptions of how we'd certainly want it to be. Always sizzling hot sensations that go on and on. A mate who never disappoints, who knows all those hot spots, and never EVER fails to explore them.
Melisa Hamling, author of Twenty Weeks, available at Amazon

I think having sex or (if you're older having HAD great sex ) can help enormously. Yes, you can leave a lot to your imagination but touching, tasting and feeling the real thing must be paramount. After all a little bit often goes a long way...
Faith Mortimer, author of Harvest

I love this question! My husband would love to say yes to this and to some point I have to agree. Although, my characters tend to be different than I am and more experimental, I live precariously through them. Once I write a great scene, I dare to say that my evening is a lot more exciting! :)
Melinda Dozier, upcoming author of Time Changes Everything, to be released on June 3, 2013

Not at all. And sadly, I know this from personal experience. But no one wants to hear about that, now do they? Thankfully, a writer’s job is to use our imagination. Sure, there might be a bit of life experience in there as well—the great and not-as-great experiences. But love/sex scenes are primarily about what women want men to say or do. You know, the kinds of things that don’t always happen in ‘real life’ anyway. Certainly not for all of us. But we all can appreciate the fantasy, that moment when two people connect for the first time and everything becomes right in the world.
Lauren Stewart, author of Hyde, an Urban Fantasy, available at Amazon 
Which author do you agree with? Comment below.

Be sure to check out these books on the Sexy Writers Listmania List at Amazon! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Confessions of a Pantster #writertip

Honestly, I'm a Pantster. Some of my best friends are pantsters. I love pantsters, and I'm definitely write-brained, or right brained. My house is a mess, I have disorganization creds since I was a small child. So why am I making a confession now?

Panster's still need Plot Points
Huhhh??? Hold on a minute, backtrack. Did you just use the word PLOT???

Well, yes, and let me explain. Every story needs big moments, those spine-tingling, nail-biting, will they or won't they moments. These are the plot points. They hold up a story much like the towers of a suspension bridge. They present excitement, dilemmas, points of no return, and other tests to keep the story moving and the reader engaged.

If you look at a profile of a suspension bridge, you'll see that the towers occur roughly at 25% and 75%. For simplicity, we call them the First Plot Point and the Second Plot Point. More flowery terms are Call to Action, Point of No Return, for the first Plot Point, and Dark Moment, Moment of Truth for the Second Plot Point.

These plot points are not to be confused with the Inciting Incident or hook which occurs before the First Plot Point or the Climax or Final Battle which occurs after the Second Plot point. Rather, the First Plot Point is the end of the beginning and the Second Plot Point is the beginning of the end.

Larry Brooks has an excellent book Story Engineering, in which he not only explains Plot Points, but also those fascinating little reminders called Pinch Points. His explanations of Story Structure and how they fit with Concept, Character and Theme. He is rather down on panstsing, comparing us to people who won't take an airplane, but rather a five-day train trip. Nevertheless, he does present a workable solution. Think of only five points: Hook, First Plot Point, Mid-Point transition, Second Plot Point, Ending, then wing the rest.

So what is this Panster Doing talking Plot Points?
When I wrote my first book, I had no idea where it was going and where I was coming from. I had this story in my mind, a story of a princess with an unsatisfying life, and went exploring. I daydreamed many subplots, took off on wild tangents, and indeed changed my story quite drastically. I hesitate to count how many drafts I wrote, or how many times I subjected my critique partners to yet another plot change.

Plot change. There's that dirty word to the heart of a pantster. We are creative souls, daydreamers, unbound by charts and graphs and mathematical formulas. We write from the heart and there is no telling where the heart will turn.

Yes. That is true. But after fifty iterations of 'As the Heart Turns' a story starts to form. And what transpires is a series of climatic events, character arcs, reversals and victories. The bridge structure takes shape organically. And all of the story engineering points can be identified, in retrospect.

So How does a Pantster Plot?
Very minimally. I participated in NaNoWriMo in November 2011 and spun out a first draft. Right about that time, I saw some tweets with the hashtag #PlotWriMo and started following it. PlotWriMo is Martha Alderson's post-NaNo activity to help all of those pantsters who threw together a first draft to prepare for the first revision. Martha stresses stepping away from the first draft and thinking about the themes of and what she calls re-"visioning." She takes a more holistic approach than Brooks, and encourages you to dwell into the subconscious universal story.

You are encouraged to put away your first draft, not look at it at all, and sketch a series of mountain peaks on a large piece of butcher paper. You write plot elements above the line and character elements below the line. Then you think of your big picture thematic elements. Free association, jot down anything that comes to mind. Match them with your plot points, or what you remember your plot points were. No peeking. She also warns you against letting anyone else read your first draft. It is a fragile thread, a dream. You're also encouraged to think about your characters and sketch their emotional development on tiny postcards, a mini plot with all the points.

Take a look at her book, The Plot Whisperer for an explanation of her method. She has also recently published The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories.

A Pantster who Plots
Both of these systems are fascinating, but I must admit I did not follow it to its entirety. I dropped out of the beat sheet while trying to Story Engineer and threw out all my 3x5" mini plot lines sketched while Plot Whispering. Did I fail?

Not really. Even though I threw away my cards and diagrams and never completed my spreadsheet, doing the exercises helped me to be aware of the hidden messages inside my story. Mulling on the character emotional development also allowed me to deepen my relationship with my characters.

By the time I was set to revise, everything was once again organic, not over-engineered, yet harmonized with the universal story. So that's my confession. I hope it was entertaining or at least helpful. The next book I'm going to read about plotting is Holly Lisle's Create A Plot Clinic. If you've read it, let me know what you think.

What about you? Are you a Pure Pantster, a Pantster who Plots, a Plotter who Pants (don't get any ideas here), or a Perfect Plotter? What process do you prefer? Story Engineering or Plot Whispering?