Writing Your Book-A Journey Barefooted and Treading on Glass under a Hot Sun- facing challenges you’d prefer to avoid

Whereas this post will be about the problem…ok MY problem… with writing sex episodes, this can also be considered as a parallel journey with other passages which are challenging or uncomfortable for the writer.

So once more, notebooks out for entries in your personal Guides to Writing, under sub-sections  (1) Oh man and I thought I made problems for myself (2). Note: Do not do this. (3) Ah, not just me then.

You don’t have to include sex episodes in a novel, personally I feel they look quite weird in some books, but since there is a great deal of sex going on around the world you cannot say the topic is irrelevant or to say in books suitable for adults there are some it cannot fit (fit?) into. When writing in the fantasy genre a portion of your readership are likely to be muttering…’Aww c’mon. Get on with it. It’s gotta happen!’. My own personal response is ‘Will you guys be patient!’

Now if you have been following this blog on and off you may remember my own surprise in ‘Of Patchwork Warriors’ at Karlyn and Arketre falling for each other in a big way. It took a few re-reads to realise this had been bubbling in the background, and well after being through danger, destruction and facing death more than once, when they’d finally found a patch of peace and quiet, feelings were bound to be made known.

‘Oh great’, said I. ‘Here I am yet again 67 year old male writer in Problem City…This time lesbian love’….’Oh sure’ says some readers ‘Of course it’s all to do with the plot and sub-text…Yeah, right!’

{Perversely I am so glad I self-publish and am terrible at marketing thus limiting my potential readership and having to explain myself to hundreds}.

Whereas part of me was saying, just lead up to a tentative kiss, close the door on them, then just step away for a day or so, another part of me was saying. ‘An’t gonna work old son; these are a pair of intense folk with their whole pack of contradictions and currently unexplained back-issues. You need to see the detail through as part of their journey. Anyway some readers will say…’Ah-cop out!’ if you don’t’

I complained a lot to myself but by now the book itself and the characters were weighing in. They used that sneaky argument. ‘Challenge yourself!’ all I could reply with was ‘But…but…but,’. They laughed and resorted to, I thought, a rather unnecessary and vulgar analogy with the American use of the word.

Fine! I mean you can research stuff for crime novels, or SF, or military, or…But…Oh my!

At this stage panic set in. What if this part of the narrative ended up contrived and forced? Suppose there were incorrect assumption made? Suppose I got into Cliché Central?

Making sure no one was looking over my shoulder I tentatively perused the ‘Erotica’ section of Amazon, somewhat uneasily selecting sub-genres and so forth. Sampled a few ‘see what’s inside’,s and thought….’Huh! And I was worried about Cliché Central?’ So I checked the reviews (yeh I know not the most reliable source, but what’s a guy to do?). It was then the ‘OK kiddo, we’ve gone this far. It’s download time!’. So checking up on reputation of authors and taking a few more reviews a few 0.99p’s were invested in downloads. I concluded that there was a flourishing market for women writers writing erotica for other women involving women with women. Wow what a relief! Not just adolescent boys and drooling sad men! I’d been overthinking the problem. (Well, be fair it was a reasonable overthink, I mean I’d spent years readings, Heroic Fantasy, history and politics, some things passed me by!)

That sorted. The next issue was, to use the old adage ‘There is a time and place for everything’. Let’s keep this rationed (to the reader I mean, what characters get up to off the page is their business), not prurient because this is a Fantasy-genre novel and let’s give context.

In the first volume, their first intense interlude happened at towards the end of the volume and seemed to introduce a certain element of closure or new horizons. Since this was not ‘just physical’ (OK, so I did listen to Tegan and Sara sometimes when writing, anyway I happen to like Tegan and Sara’s music) there could be sensitivity and romance included. This also allowed me to introduce the slightly roguish element of Arketre’s character as she, in a nice way, seduced Karlyn, who in turn showed another facet of her vulnerable side and in turn there was Arketre’s tender caring side.

Somewhat concerned I released Vol 1 with flag warnings all over the place. Although not flooded with purchases (so what?), not one came back tearing at me for some contrived, male-slavering soft-porn…. Whew!

Vol II. Obviously, this relationship was now set into the narrative. The question was now should the sex episodes continue to be written in? The first answer, well since there had been one in Vol I it followed ignoring them in Vol II might look ‘odd’ as if I’d tip-toed away. I did have some advantages here.

In the first case the two had fallen in love with each other, secondly because they were in the first flush of this relationship, ‘they couldn’t keep their hands off each other’, as the saying goes; this however was not a problem as the fact could be mentioned in asides, reflections and general banter.

Graphic and open description would be restricted to intense situations. I used two episodes both to highlight Arketre’s anxiety  when dealing with The Ethereal / Stommigheid as well as to underline the commitment they had to each other. First: when in a haunted wood just when they were getting snuggly in a tent they were attacked by ‘ghostly creatures’ Karlyn performs a powerful, emotive, exorcism (and sets fire to one), Arketre wants to get out of the wood, ‘like now’. In the dawn’s light Karlyn draws Arketre into back love-making which I tried to illustrate as two people deep in a tenderness of love; erotica with flowers if you like and showing Karlyn as not simply Arketre’s goofy side-kick. Second: the other instance followed an episode where the two had been apart for a very intense ten or so days and at the first chance Arketre positively pounces on Karlyn which is briefly described and to make way for a bit of mischief along the lines ‘Oh we were just exercising’ feeble excuse when Trelli walks in just as they have got decent. She turns this around gently teasing them later on; this also demonstrated Trelli was no longer in awe of the pair and was not the shy retiring prissy flower some may have assumed she was.

And Trelli?

I have to blame Arketre here. Being a soldier with a series of encounters to her name she was quite insistent that Trelli have her own ‘fun’ time too, after all she’d earned, it yeh? (Characters can be so pushy not just with their own parts either).

Wigran, the cause of her abilities, was out of the mix. Trelli was still angry with him, by now he was involved with another and also still a bit scared of Trelli. The poor girl was not getting much chance to hang around with men for long term relationship. What did develop was when Trelli was re-united with Arketre and Karlyn in a new place; she encountered Lord Osavus the son of a Grand Duke. Now I admit to writing in a sudden mutual attraction and ‘sparks’. There again this was taking place in a land close to war, folks emotions were heightened; Trelli was becoming more her own girl, to this young fellow she not only appeared exotic, but much than a ‘silly young thing’. He was being ‘gah-lant and respectful to her and she did like this sort of attention. The dynamic was I admit old fashioned; she in his strong manly arms, welcoming his embrace, her first experience of men, he being a measure reverential and considerate to her entranced by this mysterious woman with ‘powers’. But after all she has been through Trelli deserved a ‘nice’ time (Arketre insisted)

This interlude allowed more character development and insights. Arketre encouraging Trelli (Arketre does carry a contraceptive mix around with her for others and as a dark reminder of one consequence which can happen out rape); Karlyn being quite hostile to Osavus in her protective side of Trelli and suspicion of men’s motives with women. Interludes between any combination any combination of the four providing more depth while taking care to ensure these weaved into the ongoing main narrative.

On reflection when working the re-write and re-reading this post I have realised in taking on this challenge and settling it into the narrative allowed for more opportunities to explore the characters and their relationships to each other. These having ramifications upon other episodes within the tale.

Here therefore is something to bear in mind when quivering on the edge of a challenge or for an uncomfortable part of the narrative. Keep calm. Keep mature. You never know what else will open up.

Keep on writing folks.

Writing Your Book – The Environmental Issue.

Writing Your Book- The Plot Thing

Writing Your Book – Main Characters (You can’t avoid them)

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24 thoughts on “Writing Your Book-A Journey Barefooted and Treading on Glass under a Hot Sun- facing challenges you’d prefer to avoid

  1. Oh what can I say, I write sex scenes into some of my stories. On first run, it’s go for broke, let it all hang out, then there’s the necessary re-read and the realization that “sex” is not what the story is about, so I tone it down, sometimes way down, to make it a subtle part of the story but not the centre of it (I’m not writing porn after all). It’s like having two thievish characters meet at a restaurant to discuss their next heist. They will order food and drinks and they will eat and drink, but that is not central to the story, so does it matter what they eat and drink, or how they do it? One of them might be a Parisian gourmet who declares the escargots “superbes” while the other is a Canuck dreaming of a Big Mac coming out of a McDonalds drive-thru window. It matters that their dialogue advances the theme, which ostensibly, is about a heist, not about food.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m in agreement there Sha’ Tara
      It’s all a question of balance isn’t it?
      Does the scene fit into the narrative? Does it add to the atmosphere and the environment.
      Talking of food, since they are ‘on the road’ a great deal one of the staples for my characters is stale bread dunked into hot herbal brew to give it some flavour

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      1. Strangely enough…Back about maybe 20 years ago I came across this book in the local public library. A fantasy set in 12th century Russia…Oooh interesting I thought.
        Turns out
        An average account of some adventures interspersed with much detail on what the guy was sitting down to for that evening’s meal.
        I wouldn’t have minded but it had been commercially published!

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      2. Back when Russian writers tended to focus on the mundane… either it was because of fear of the Tzarist/Stalinist state censors-if you stick to food and partying you’re safe… or they got paid by the word, huh?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. This was either an American or UK author who wanted the world to know he’d discovered what Russian nobility and fellow-travellers ate during that era. Although I agree this would have been a ‘good’ subject for a Russian writer looking to make a safe living.

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  2. Good for you, Roger! You’re obviously approaching this challenge in a responsible way, doing research in the right places. I agree that introducing judicious amounts of sex between/among characters presents opportunities to show the reader pertinent aspects of those characters and their relationships. I went through a similar trajectory when I realized while writing my first book that my main character was gay. So I did a lot of reading and handled that aspect fairly well, I think. One advantage (although to be used carefully) is that as a heterosexual woman, I could write genuinely about sexual attraction to men. I think I would find it more challenging to deal with a lesbian relationship. OK, that’s enough about these delicate subjects for now.

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    1. Hand holding is fine Jill! There would be settings and types of folks where this would be all which would be needed to get the point across and anything else might spoil the picture. If it’s only hand-holding I’d be enchanted to read the narrative.
      Karlyn and Arketre are people by ‘profession’ who living on an edge; their love and sexual relationship are parts of the bond which draws them back to sanity and being grounded.
      Trelli brings the glue of friendship into the mix, but also is her ‘own girl’. Her adventures have given her a confidence to walk where previously she would have shied away.
      It’s tough work writing these interludes, but they allow the reader to have further insight into the characters and their journeys.
      And this is why writers of fiction drink a lot of coffee/ tea/ wine…or eat chocolate/cake! (And have very long music play lists! 😌)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh quite so … quite so! I agree with you, but … perhaps this is why I cannot be a writer of fiction. I think that to write moving fiction (and you do!), one must be able to delve into personal experiences and bring those experiences to the forefront. I am too reluctant, I think, to do that. Although I do have some of the qualifications, for I drink a lot of coffee/wine (I don’t like tea, Sam I am), love chocolate (despite being seriously insulin-dependent diabetic!), and have an extensive, varied and eclectic music playlist! Perhaps there is hope for me … maybe in my next life 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There are all sorts of fiction Jill, so you shouldn’t be afraid.
        Stories don’t have to be based on personal experiences. They can equally flourish with ideas or ideals, with characters who may be ‘cartoon’ for comedy or ‘manufactured’ (not an evil word) for a story illustrating an idea, or even a ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ tale.
        The idea is to meld this into a story folk would like to read.
        Put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard; let the words flow out and see where they lead…don’t over-think anything.😃

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  3. I’ve always been told that I over-think things 😉 I actually think that the problem is I have no real imagination. I seem only able to process that which I have seen or heard for myself. However, I am a stubborn wench and am not giving up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. IF you didn’t have an imagination then you wouldn’t be blogging. Imagination is the basic fuel which sends us out into the world to make our mark. We perceive, the perception grows into an urge, and we start off.
      Glad to read you are stubborn. ‘Stubborn’ is good in kicking starting and keeping you going with writing.
      Keep on keeping on!

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