I have reinvented myself many times as a writer, meeting those involved in similar pursuits. Well, all but one… I started out writing radio plays and short stories, and progressed to erotic fiction via my agent as I explained in the last post. I then did an MA and got into poetry for a while, and went from there to children’s books and adult (as opposed to erotic) fiction. The children’s authors are really friendly and helpful, as you’d hope – but you never meet any of the erotic fiction writers. We’re all using pseudonyms!
In my last post I explained how finding a subject that has nothing to do with sex can turn what has become a necessary scene for your book into something original and engaging. The same applies to your characters – not everyone is youthful and nubile and devastatingly attractive. It’s easier to write men, as power is such an aphrodisiac which means you can get away with them looking like a kindly professor or a bare-knuckle wrestler. Women are harder, as we are all so used to the visual being the main concern. It isn’t, of course. Personality is key, and someone who breaks the rules can be exciting for just that reason. In this scene, from Intense Blue again, the main protagonists are in their seventies. Gerald is cheating on his wife, and Lettie has decidedly Bohemian tendencies and dresses tastefully and – yes, seductively. Tad and Nan, who we met last time, have gone for a walk. Your characters don’t have to be engaging in the act themselves, they can get turned on by watching someone else – particularly if the participants don’t know they’re being watched.
What Nan had thought was a patch of sunlight was, in fact, Gerald’s right buttock. And the dead branch wasn’t a piece of wood at all, it was Lettie’s left leg. And the way the ferns were moving had nothing to do with the breeze. There wasn’t a breeze.
‘I think we ought to… well, go,’ whispered Nan.
‘Why?’ said Tad softly in her ear. ‘When elephants do it, the whole herd gathers to watch.’
‘Elephants,’ she repeated, unable to think of anything else to say. She wanted to move but she couldn’t, any step forward would have given them away, and any step backwards was impossible.
‘And I’ve got my sketchbook with me,’ whispered Tad.
She turned her head to look at him, aghast. He grinned, and she had no idea whether he was serious or not. But the position of her neck was uncomfortable, and she couldn’t hold it for longer than a couple of seconds. She had little alternative but to look at Lettie and Gerald, although she couldn’t see their faces.
‘Think of it as another lesson,’ he murmured. ‘What material are you prepared to use, and what material aren’t you prepared to use?’
Lettie’s leg was at full stretch now, toes pointed, foot twisted slightly inwards. The ferns were speeding up.
‘And what material,’ whispered Tad, ‘are you prepared to research?’
It was the strangest art lesson she’d ever had. She was very aware of the physical contact between them, although their positions were unconventional as neither of them could see the other’s face. All communication between them was either tactile or aural; he had made sure she could only see in one direction. Straight in front of her, just like the woman on the train in Nick’s book.
‘When people start painting,’ he said, his voice very low, ‘they see it as a separate activity from the rest of their life. It isn’t. If you don’t paint what arouses you, in whatever sense, you might as well not bother.’
She could hear Gerald’s breathing now; there was a sort of whistle with every inhalation, ending with a catch in the throat. Lettie’s foot moved convulsively, and knocked over a bottle of lemonade. Neither of them seemed to notice. Nan watched the lemonade froth on the ground before it seeped away.
‘Details,’ said Tad. ‘Remember the details. Nice little visual metaphor for semen there.’
Personally, I find violence far more offensive than sex. Sex is meant to be fun, liberating, and enjoyable. Remember, what you suggest is often more powerful than what you explicitly describe. No one has to read your first attempts. And you don’t have to show anyone anything until you’re ready. You may never be, of course. But give it a go. You’ll never know whether you can do it until you try. Have you tried and feel you’ve failed? Was it because the situation wasn’t right, or the characters weren’t behaving true to their personalities? Have you tried re-writing it with a random element to make it unique?