WDCer Percy Goodfellow on Writing sublime romance
Logo for the Heat Beneath Your Wings Contest
I will be running this contest for another month in August to see if it generates any further interest.
The very idea of "Romance" assumes an attraction between members with the same sexual orientation. Without that attraction there is no romance. Some writers tiptoe around the issue like a moth flirting with a flame. They risk losing an audience who expect broader strokes or offending those whose tastes are more sublime. So where does that leave the Romance genre? Eventually Writers have to choose how they plan to treat the issue. How the writer decides, goes to the heart of how they view their reader's threshold of tolerance, and how they reconcile their own baggage with an aspect of life that goes to the very core of human behavior.
As a Romance Writer I see many approaches, ranging from nonexistence, to the sublime and onto the corpulent.
Case # 1 Nonexistence: Some writers only allude to the physical dimension in the vaguest of terms. We have all seen this. The bride is carried over the threshold, she has a wistful look and the bedroom door slams shut. That is all the reader is allowed to see. They are left to wonder as to what else took place in the interlude, beyond the gymnastics which don't require a whole lot of elaboration. The justification is that the details of what goes on in the bedroom are deeply personal and none of the reader's business.
Case # 2. Sublime: Some writers, allow the reader a peek. This is more a window than a door approach. A larger drama is taking place and the sex happens in the context of a short story or novel. The reader sees the relationship developing, is not surprised and when it occurs and find themselves wanting to experience more that a whiff and a kiss. Here the reader is shown a brief vista, that dovetails into the context of the larger work. The writer uses tools such as deflection, metaphor, humor, and appeals to the senses and emotions.
Case # 3 Corpulent: Finally there are those who like plenty of butter and syrup slathered on their pancakes. For this audience there are no holds barred. Writers use the full effects of language to create their imagery. The goal is to appeal to base instincts and excite the readers passions. This writing is characterized by vulgarity, obscenity and graphic imagery. The writing focuses on and depicts the physical act as an end in itself, rather than a means for showing how the joy of human sexuality fits into and relates to a greater context of life.
This contest deals with case # 2, writing in the Sublime. Any submission falling into the Case# 1 or Case #3 category will not be considered.
In writing this scene consider the following or better yet, use it as a checklist:
1. Sometimes less is better. Once you think you've gotten the idea across, move on.
2. Don't use a bunch of modifiers. Find the perfect word. Often an adjective like "it" is better than the appendage(s) being referred to.
3. Often a metaphor is a good substitute.
4. Sometime indirection works
5. Humor definitely has its place.
6. Appeals to the senses are very effective; work them in as appropriate.
7. Appeals to the emotions are also good to use.
8. A description of the surroundings and what is transpiring as the act progresses is worthy on note.
9. Internal dialog is a powerful means of communicating someones feeling. If you must use four letter words, show them as thoughts. nobody gets too offended by those.
10. Finally, for those who are poetically inclined, there is resonance. This is avoiding repetitive word usage and choosing sentences that flow effortlessly with a metered, and rhythmic grace.
The whole idea of this contest is to give you some practice working with an aspect of writing you might not be comfortable with. Writing good sensual prose is extremely difficult. It requires a deft touch and not a heavy hand. Keep in mind that the objective of this contest is not to excite the reader's prurient nature, but rather invite them to share in a powerful and deeply evocative experience. A contest entry containing a standalone sex scene might appeal to some but it's not widely appreciated and is never going to garner publication points with an editor. This brings us to context. What you write is part of a greater whole and a rather small part at that. Still I can't underscore enough the energy and vitality it can add to a manuscript.
. The Process:
1. The contest starts the first day of the month and ends the last. When the month is over I will provide a comprehensive review.
2.Take a story you have already written. You will be modifying this previously written work to include the sex scene. A short story or a chapter in an ongoing or past work, is a good place to start. This foundational work should be at least 5,000 words and the scene you write will expand that by about ten percent.
3. Go ahead and post your foundational work immediately to the forum. Every day or so come back and "Tweak It." Sometimes you will find yourself changing the scene or expanding it for the better, and at other times cleaning up the overall copy. Others can follow along, see how you're doing and learn from your efforts. I'll be following your progress.
Winners will receive 10,000 GPs.