Friday, October 17, 2014
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Excerpt : The Revolution of Little Girls by Blanche McCrary Boyd, 1991
Narrator and Don: Narrator’s POV, internal and physical conflict
Language: formal, clinical
Setting: Southern atmosphere, humorous, looking back to youthful innocence
Character: shows sexual maturation/gay awareness, alcohol dependency throughout scene. Main character comes a step towards understanding herself, shows her detachment from male/female sex. Reliance on others’ experience creates humor.
Don put down his chicken leg. “I don’t know what Darlene said to you, but we don’t have to do anything. We really don’t.”
“Could we drink some beer?” I said.
So, while the chicken and fried potatoes congealed in their grease and the salad wilted in its pool of dressing, Don and I drank a pitcher of beer, and I began to relax . . . .
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said.
In the bathroom I confronted the most serious obstacle to the loss of my virginity: Under my skirt I was wearing a panty girdle. I hadn’t really meant to wear the girdle, but when I was dressing I kept hearing my mother’s voice saying, any woman looks better in a girdle, so I’d put it on experimentally, and it felt so secure, so bracing, that I’d left it on. Now I didn’t know what to do about it. I considered taking it off, but it was too bulky for the pocket of my trenchcoat.
What I did have was a Norform vaginal suppository that Darlene had given me to insert, “just before intercourse.”
(In the parking lot after her double shot of bourbon) His fingers moved tentatively up my legs. “My god, what’s this?” he said, encountering the girdle.
I wanted to explain but I was too dizzy.
His hand wandered around the flesh of my thigh, then moved inward and upward. The dissolved Norform was all over the crotch of the girdle. “My god, you’re wet,” he said.
I tried to hold still.
“Okay,” he mumbled, sliding two fingers awkwardly up the leg of the panty girdle. When he touched me something flashed in my head, and my hips pushed hard against his hand.
“Oh, my god, oh my god,” he said, pulling his hand free.
“I’ll take it off,” I said. “No problem. Here, I can take it off.”
Don was still crouched over his hand. His fingers glistened in the darkness. A lump appeared behind his knuckle and swelled while I watched.
“It’s . . . it’s growing,” I said.
“It’s sprained,” he said . . . . failure at sex, no pleasure
Don’s hand was not sprained. He had broken a blood vessel behind his knuckle. Overnight the blood spread under his skin, turning it puffy and greenish. By the end of the week his hand had turned black, with a dark red palm . . . .
Don followed me to several classes. “We’ll try it again. We’ve got to try it again.” He looked vulnerable, stunned by love, extending his black hand.
I never wanted to see Don again in my whole life, so I felt relieved when my mother telephoned and said, “Why don’t you fly home this weekend . . . .
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I have several sex scenes that I've collected and analyzed, so I'm going to share another. It seems that my favorite kind of sex is funny sex. Adding humor and a light moment can be another good reason to create a sex scene! (I forgot to mention on the last excerpt that the italics are mine, used to point out particular word choice.)
Excerpt from Twisted City by Jason Starr, 2004
David: main character, middle class businessman - alone in his bed, humorous, his POV, conflict within self
Angie : character he describes as perfect wife material, just met her
Rebecca: his girlfriend whom he wants to dump
Charlotte: a whore whom he just met
No need for atmospheric detail.
Language: words are surprisingly clinical, but the scene comes across as casual and graphic.
Character development and plot movement: shows lack of control and decision, his being drawn to the worst partner for him, ability to let it all go, a step toward seeing him as twisted, a major characteristic moving the plot
(After he has been imagining having sex with Angie)
Unconsciously, I had started to masturbate. I continued, pulling down my underwear for easier access, imagining that I was lying on my back and Angie was next to me, taking off her panties. Then she climbed on top of me and I slid into her. She started bouncing up and down as my hands squeezed her heavy breasts. My hand action quickened as I saw Angie’s face, and then Angie turned into Rebecca. I was getting closer and I wanted to get rid of Rebecca and see Angie again, but then Rebecca became Charlotte. I tried to think about Angie again, but Charlotte was sticking. I could see Charlotte clearly, her tiny breasts in my face. It was too late to stop, and I concentrated on Angie, seeing her again for an instant, and then there was a rapid flux. I was thinking about Angie, Charlotte, Angie, Charlotte, Rebecca, Charlotte—shit—Angie, Charlotte, Angie, Angie, Angie, Angie, then—right as I started to ejaculate—Charlotte.
Miserably, I rubbed the semen onto my leg until it had mostly absorbed. A few minutes later, I was asleep.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
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2. Agree to post a review, positive or negative (but with no spoilers!) on your blog, website, Goodreads page, Facebook page, or the Amazon listing for TOP SUSPENSE in the next 60 days. (You don't have to buy the book on Amazon to review it there, you only need to have an account).
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Saturday, March 12, 2011
Here are some notes on sex scenes, showing them to be similar to any type of scene, except for the subject matter.Characters develop through conflicts related to the main conflict, moving the plot forward, touching on the main theme.
Structure is similar to a complete plot, with set up, complication and conflict, internal or external or both, and a climax that brings about resolution and a learning experience.
Language distinguishes the characters’ personalities, places the event in time or place, sometimes adds humor. Language is specifically chosen for specific genres, from romantic and euphemistic for romance novels to clinical/realistic and slang for mainstream and noir. Sometimes the graphic words are implied rather than stated.
Sexual Detail provides originality and factual details about characters
Atmospheric detail makes the scene original continues to build on the world being established and places the event geographically and chronologically with the rest of the story.
Character Development and Plot Movement are the basis of each sex scene, just as they are in any scene. The writer has a purpose to accomplish along with the titillation.
My favorite example of a sex scene with comments as to how it works:
Note: Italics in excerpts are mine, to indicate notable word choices.
- Excerpt from Body by Harry Crews, 1990
Billy Bat and Earlene: body builder and very large woman in tub, not main characters, internal conflicts for both
Setting: Country atmosphere, dialect, humor, passion
Language: a mixture of clinical and country
Both Points of view
Both characters have changed/grown by the end, and given up something.
“Still. Be still. Keep you eyes closed. See the pasture. See the clear, looking-glass water. Beside it now. You see a white horse, a proud, young white horse, and just an easy breeze is lifting his mane and letting fall again and lifting it again. Can you see that? See it all?” Wooing her. Her internal conflict is shown earlier.
“God, that’s potry,” she said.
“But can you see it?” he said.
“Yes I can,” she said, and she truly could.
“I’m buffing you up now. It’s only a matter of time.” (“Skin Mechanic”)
He did not say what was only a matter of time, and she did not ask. The rough cloths over her skin were unlike anything she had ever felt. But it was not the washcloths she was feeling now. Billy Bat had long since dropped them. What she felt on her skin that was coming alive with the surfacing of tingling blood was ridges of calluses in Billy Bat’s hands. She felt his hands come over her shoulders and slide beneath the gathered top of her one-piece, palm her breasts, and lift them free. She allowed her sight to sift through her lashes and saw her breasts floating there in front of her, long and round and utterly white and, she thought, beautiful. Billy Bat’s naked hands were rolling and squeezing them, using long strokes to mile the blood down toward her nipples. And her nipples amazed her. She had never seen them this way before, rigid darkly engorged with blood, and more than the sight of them as a feeling—again, one she had never before known—as though a mildly charged electric wire had been connected to both nipples and ran directly to the place between her legs . . . .
Billy Bat’s head lifted, his nostrils flared and caught scent of all that his life as a bodybuilder had denied him: pastry, pork chops, fried chicken, thick flaky biscuits awash in butter. Something in him knew that he could not possibly smell what he smelled, but another, deeper part of him knew the steaming air was filled with what he longed to smell most. And hefted the slabs of her and gazed upon what was in his hand with love and longing . . . .
She reached down and took his head in both hands and raised it from the place it was buried to the ears where no man had ever been. When he looked up over the wide expanse of her, her magnificent breasts floating on either side of her now, his eyes were glazed and unseeing, but his expression was beatific as though he had just been told by Jesus himself that he was going to heaven after all . . . .
After some time of violently lapping water, bright shards of it flying over the tiled bathroom, Billy Bat quieted and held her and said, “We fit like two spoons, you sweet girl.”
She only smiled and concentrated on the moment she had dreamed of since she was a young girl but had finally come to believe would never happen.
And then later, as she felt the tension building in him just as it was building in her, she said, “We married now.” Earlene POV/ joy and acceptance
He did not answer. But he knew it was true, and he knew that she knew it was true. He had always been married to body-building, but when he entered her, he got a divorce. And when he stiffened howling like a dog with Earline’s secret face buried in his shoulder and smiling, the thought occurred to him in that single moment as serious and mysterious as death that he had just given Earline a few ounces of his worldbeating back. And right behind that came the thought that she could have all of his worldbeating back, because she did, in fact, truly have all of him. Billy Bat POV/ has given some part of his passion to her
Saturday, March 5, 2011
This weekend I attended Sleuthfest in Ft. Lauderdale and saved some great tidbits. I enjoyed many fun and inspiring panels, including one on forensic entomology by J. H. Byrd. Among the information for crime writers, I learned always to wash the car after delivering a body to the Everglades. (The presence of a particular species of mole cricket that only hops around at night will convict you every time.) Also, beware, the blood in crab lice is enough to connect you sexually with a murder victim. Fascinating stuff!
I asked for any comments on Silence of the Lambs and was told that the beetle in the film was misidentified. Also, when prodded, Dr. Byrd admitted to having a chess set with pieces in the shapes of bugs--not too far from the entomologists characterized in the film. Fun, fun!
More toward the subject for this blog, I attended a panel on writing technique with James W. Hall, S.J. Rosan, and Dennis Lehane. James W. Hall, my former professor at F.I.U. made the comparison of a novelist who outlines, with a friend who plans his vacation trips down to the moment--not only a completely mapped out route and hotel reservations, but the location of gas stations, and what time to reach them. The wife wants to stop at the restroom after lunch, but no, the Texaco isn't scheduled until 3:30!
This pleases all of us non-outliners. Hall himself admits to starting with a plan and almost immediately discarding it when a better idea presents itself. Might as well plan to head North, for example, and enjoy the adventure. All three writers agreed that if you are enjoying the story, there's a much better chance that your reader will than if you're not.
Hall also gave an example from his novel Island of Bones, where a character, Dougie, who has no pain threshold, blurts out this information to a woman he meets in a bar. The woman asks, "If I stick a fork in your arm, does that mean you won't do anything?" Given the affirmative answer, she adds, "I've been looking for you all my life." This is the birth of a new character, someone unbidden who comes into a novel and demands to stay. This is what Dennis Lehane refers to as listening when his characters talk to him, what he finally had to do last year when Patrick wouldn't let him alone, resulting in Moonlight Mile. This is what I think of as letting the characters write themselves. It's so much easier than forcing them to behave.
S.J. Rosan brought up the necessity of moral ambiguity to create depth of character. She used, as an example, her creation some years ago of a Chinese woman as the girlfriend of her protagonist. With the difference in cultures, nothing is right or wrong; even what one considers normal to eat for breakfast comes into question. To me, this is a technique that will keep you from running out of interesting situations and conflict even between dramatic scenes.
Lehane brought into the conversation a simple and memorable metaphor explaining the difference between plot and story: the plot is the car and the story is the journey. In other words, the plot is the vehicle that allows you to create the story, story being based the theme, the understanding of life that will evolved. Theme comes about because of the main character's psychological need (Look back at my "Fast Start" blog about "need." Dennis and I were classmates). "For a story to be worth telling," Lehane stated, "a piece of the character's soul must be changed."
By the way, thanks, Joanna Slan, for telling me that my blog is appreciated!
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Of course, “bad” writing often sells, not because it’s bad, but because of popular ideas, psychological trends, and human stories that are emotionally enthralling. Readers who are not schooled in writing do not care about a lack of style, depth, universality—or even symbolism! Face it, the majority of readers are not academics or writers and buy what they enjoy, rather than what might be lasting. For this reason, there is a subcategory of "publishable taste," which is the taste to be able to create popular escapist literature, whether escaping into romance, crime, or knowledge, a category that many people would like to acquire the taste to produce. James W. Hall happens to have a book coming out this summer that will explain in depth how to develop this taste, in other words how to write a bestseller. If that is your goal, your first tip on developing taste is to get the book. I can’t wait to get mine.
I also have another book recommendation, this one for developing taste in words, images, and sentences, the basic level that also must be addressed. Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, will help you to acquire taste on the literary level that will have positive affects on any kind of writing you choose.
Obviously, you should also be reading the kind of literature that you intend to write. If this does not come naturally, then maybe you’re on the wrong track. Or it’s possible that your chosen literature is out of your writing range. I, for example, having started my life as an English major, continued with a Master's Degree in English, and on to teaching English. With this background, my first taste was developed toward the classics. I got nowhere with that taste in my own writing since I didn’t have the profound thoughts necessary to be able to create classic literature. Of course, I was missing the skills to write fiction of any kind at that point, too, only looking from the outside in, rather than seeing the writing from the author's viewpoint. I went on to learn technique while getting my MFA in Creative Writing at Florida International University, and during that time I also developed the knowledge of and taste for noir literature, mainly from studying the writing of James M. Cain. This is where I managed to hone my taste successfully to get published. The mix of sex and crime was something that clicked for me. My first novel, Miami Purity, has been called a noir classic, so what more can I ask?
Now, however, I am trying to expand into the popular world of animal literature. I have immersed myself in animal writing over the past five years, reading fiction, non-fiction, academic animal rights treatises, and even a little animal fantasy. Books such as Seabiscuit, The Life of Pi, and Water For Elephants have become my bibles. I analyze and learn, but I also enjoy my new category. I am enthralled by stories involving animals, so if I am not able to develop the taste required to write a “popular” book, what have I lost?
So this is my general tip. Let your taste develop through your reading. Consciously work on it. And don’t be afraid to give up old feelings and move on. Aging requires it!