Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sex and the place-holder

I'm at a loss for something truly "Crafty" to say. On the other hand, I was very interested in Margaret's post, particularly since the idea of doing a NaNoWriMo intrigues and horrifies me, so talking about Karen's techniques for writing a book in a month was timely.

My first reaction to Margaret's post was dismay. How many sex scenes are they talking about? I think it makes a difference, don't you? Some genres require sex in every chapter. I should think there would be a practical difficulty in trying to write...what? thirty?? sex scenes all in one go for later insertion. One might just as well draft the entire book.

It hadn't occurred to me that having sex is particularly character-building.

I can imagine. Chapter One is a quickie. He is selfish. Chapter Two, another quickie, but afterwards he asks if it was good for her. And so forth.

For those of us who have disastrously bad sex once or twice.... (by which I mean, well-written, but interrupted) in our books there is something to be said for writing such scenes together, so you can have echoes and refrains (opera metaphor) when it comes to the satisfactory climactic scene.

In Forced Mate, I had a bad kiss (nothing more harrowing than that) early in the book, a long-lasting consensual love scene around Chapter 15-through-16, but didn't see the need to repeat good sex to indicate that the hero and heroine would have a happy ever after together.

I'm all in favor of place holders. I assume that Karen's advice could apply equally well to fight scenes, or diagnosis scenes, or entering-orbit scenes, or chess playing scenes.

Yes, I will draft all my chess scenes at once. I'll chose a couple of games that demonstrate the title of the book, and play them on a real chess board a few times, and also on the internet to check out well-known variations.

In a Romance, the chess moves have to be easy to explain, and I need to make the point as economically as possible. The actions aren't the point of the scene. It's the dialogue that matters. Moving the chess pieces and pawns is busy-ness, although nuances of character and mood can be conveyed depending on whether the actions are decisive or hesitant, whether captures are accompanied by a taunt or a lifted eyebrow or am emphatic clicking of wood on wood.

Of course, I want to include a double entendre around "You're forked!" or "I'm ready to force a Mate," or "Neither of us can get to Mate... we've insufficient mating material." That will dictate my choice of a suitable order of play.

It's the same with fight scenes. Once I've immersed myself in the moves, and the way young swordsmen talk to each other around the strip, and how they boast afterwards, and watched movies (which probably shoot all the fight scenes one after the other... otherwise, they'd have to keep the swordmaster-choreographer kicking his heels while they shot love scenes), I want to at least draft several fights.

If you've got the moves down, you can always change who is fighting whom, and what they say to each other, and add or subtract fancy footwork. However, if one of the duelists is your hero, you do have to be careful, because you can legally do things with a saber, for instance, that no hero would dream of doing with an epee.



  1. The books I was referring to (in which I'd been in the habit of writing all the sex scenes together after completing the rest of the story) are erotic romance. My main reason was to make myself aware of language, action, particular words and phrases, etc., that I might be repeating too much, so as to avoid repeating it. Yes, in erotic romance the sex is supposed to be an integral part of the character development. Otherwise, there isn't much point in showing the sex scenes in detail. I've discovered that isn't so easy to do as it looked before I started trying to do it. :)

  2. I often follow the same course as what Margaret describes, putting markers for certain scenes, some of them sexual, others not. I'm of the same opinion about word usage. Even if it's the same characters, I don't want the sex scenes, for example, to all sound alike (or too close). Plus, sometimes, you're just not in the damn mood for an action scene, or a sex scene, etc. I find markers useful. To me and how I work, I find it silly to just sit there staring at the blinking cursor, trying to force a scene when I want to write the next one instead.

  3. I don't think I could ever "skip" a scene. If I did that I don't think I would ever get back to it. I do sometimes go back and re-write a scene if I know from what happens later that I got it wrong the first time, but it would be very hard for me to skip a scene completely and write the next one, unless maybe I was working with two different story-lines

  4. Rowena, this is a thank you to all you writers at Alien Romances. I have nominated your blog for the I Love Your Blog Award because I learn something every time I stop in. You are all wonderful to share your time and experiences with us who are aspiring writers in the field of Science Fiction Romance. I know that you are all busy, so don't think that this requires a response. Just thank you.


  5. I think I'd call it more of a "moment holder" than a place holder. When I just can't deal with the moment/mood of a scene (for whatever reason, lack of caffeine, general crankiness, etc), I just skip the damn thing. It all happens in my head anyway, so I can always go back to it. Just like I can go back to reading a book and after I've put a bookmark and go from there.

    My verif word is snalli. You know, there's a good alien name in that, Snalli. :))