Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, April 24, 2015

Speaking of Dialog

by Kathleen Bradean

Like Donna, I had a topic in mind this month, but after I read Garce's entry on dialog a week ago, I was inspired to switch too.

During my morning commute, I've been listening to old radio programs from the late 40s and early 50s such as Suspense, The Shadow, Gunsmoke,  The Falcon and Johnny Dollar. I've also listened to broadcasts of movie scripts such as Treasure of the Sierra Madre that were edited for radio and performed by the motion picture casts. No matter what genre it is, each of these programs are masterpieces of tight writing. Every line establishes or reinforces character and moves the plot along. With only the help of a foley artist and actors, the illusion of action is created. It's really quite miraculous and wonderful.

On the other hand, in a novel or short story, you can't get away with some of the crutches you can in a play, tv, or a movie.

For example, it's considered bad writing to have an "As you know, Jim" passage where a character explains something to another character for the benefit of the reader rather than for the other character.  

"As you know, Jim, you were my college roommate. After graduation, we went to work together here. We were the best of friends. Then I dated your sister and after not-fully-explained-bad-event-in-the-past-that-caused-your-sister-to-take-up-with-a-yak-herding-cult there was a big rift in our relationship but we've got to put that behind us right now because the fate of the entire planet hangs in the balance!"

But that sort of dialog is often in plays and movies. While I grit my teeth at it, I'm sure most people in the audience don't realize how ridiculous it is for, say, a CSI tech to explain to another CSI tech why they're lifting latent prints off an item found at a crime scene.

That's not the only way prose writers are more constrained by  the form they work in.

While His Girl Friday is an amazing movie, writing overlapping dialog in a short story rarely works well. (I tried to write an example. It sucked. If you don't want to take my word for how difficult it is, watch His Girl Friday or any other Howard Hawks movie then try to recreate one of the more manic scenes on paper and see how far you get.)

Dialog in prose has the disadvantage of not being spoken. (Although I strongly suggest reading all your work, not just dialog, out loud before you submit it anywhere.)  Tone and meaning have to be conveyed through the reader's imagination rather than benefiting from the skills of an actor to bring out that meaning for the audience.

Dialog is a strange form of art. The writer isn't trying to replicate the way real people talk, Real people take too long to get to the damn point, say um a lot, and spend far too much time talking about things that aren't the exciting plot points of their lives. So what we're aiming for is a completely artificial construct that serves the story but is worded in such a way that the reader could imagine a real person saying it. No. They have to be able to hear it in their imagination in that character's voice and it has to ring true or your readers are going to roll their eyes.

No pressure.

If you can, try to listen to a few old radio broadcasts and pay attention to what those writers were able to do with dialog, a foley artist, and maybe and organ riff or two. It's not the same as writing prose, but it will give you new respect for the power of dialog.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Valuing Our Work

by Lucy Felthouse

I had a conversation with someone recently that went something like this:

Woman: Oh, you'll have to lend me one of your books to read.

Me: I thought you were buying one? (I'd previously given her a business card with a link to my website, etc)

Woman: Oh, I was. But then I thought I didn't want to spend any money on it, in case I didn't like it.

Me: (in a jovial tone of voice) That's my livelihood you're taking away.

Woman: I'm not! I just wanted to lend one, then I'd give it back.

Me: What, with sticky pages?

This then, fortunately, diverted the attention away from the conversation and made everyone giggle, and it wasn't brought up again. But it made me think: what value is put on books? And I mean in all genres, not erotica specifically.

From what I can see, not much. Why do people balk at spending a couple of quid/dollars on an eBook (paperbacks, of course, are a different kettle of fish as they're usually more expensive) which will hopefully give them hours of reading pleasure (and maybe other kinds of pleasure, too!), and possibly then be read again sometime in the future? Yet they'll think nothing of spending more on a cup of coffee, which will be gone within half an hour, and not have any lasting impact on their life. The cup of coffee would have been made very cheaply, quickly and easily. Sure, it probably tastes good, but that's it.

A book wouldn't have been written cheaply, quickly or easily. Writing isn't any of those things. Yes, some people can write much faster than others, but that still doesn't make it an easy task. It's hard work. Enjoyable, yes, but still hard work, and, most importantly, a valid job/occupation.

I wonder if this is what it comes down to: people thinking writing isn't a proper job. Because, for the most part, we can set our own hours and have some freedom, it means it's not real. Therefore, if it's not a proper job, then we shouldn't expect to be paid properly.

Naturally, people "in the know" realise this is a load of rubbish. Although I don't write full-time, I'm gradually building up my volume of writing to boost my overall income. I don't rely on it, because I can't. Not by a long stretch. Therefore, it's important that my work (and every other writer's) is valued. Even if it's not a full-time job, it is still a job. Just because we enjoy it, love what we do, doesn't mean we should do it for free, or a pittance. Folk mistakenly believe that all published authors earn a fortune and therefore, what's one freebie here or there?

Sorry, not happening. I already run quite a few giveaways on my site, in my newsletter, as part of blog hops, and so on. And they are for people actually interested in reading my work. I hope that they will read one of my books, like it, and buy another. Maybe recommend it to their friends. If they don't like it, fair enough. Reading is subjective and, as much as I'd like to, I know I can't please everyone. But at least there's a chance of gaining another valuable reader. In the case of the woman above, I'm not sure I would have, regardless of whether or not she enjoyed my book. After all, if she's not willing to spend money, take a chance on a book/writer, then she clearly doesn't value writing.

I would love to hear your comments on this. Am I crazy? Over-sensitive? What? Should I just lend her a book?

Happy Reading,
Lucy


*****

Author Bio:


Lucy Felthouse is a very busy woman! She writes erotica and erotic romance in a variety of subgenres and pairings, and has over 100 publications to her name, with many more in the pipeline. These include several editions of Best Bondage Erotica, Best Women's Erotica 2013 and Best Erotic Romance 2014. Another string to her bow is editing, and she has edited and co-edited a number of anthologies, and also edits for a small publishing house. She owns Erotica For All, is book editor for Cliterati, and is one eighth of The Brit Babes. Find out more at http://www.lucyfelthouse.co.uk. Join her on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gMQb9

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

We Don't Get No Respect

By Lisabet Sarai

Reading Donna George Storey’s post about Fifty Shades last month, I had one of those “aha!” moments. Donna cited Alyssa Rosenberg’s observation that romance is one of the only areas of cultural expression that focuses on women and their lives. I suddenly understood that reading romance could be more than just an escape into impossible fantasy, easily dismissed as shallow and frivolous.

Modern romance, which has largely jettisoned the wimpy, passive heroines of its past, gives its readers (who are primarily women) the opportunity to vicariously experience female agency. The female protagonists of today’s romance tend to be feisty, competent and independent. They are firmly in charge of their own lives, and frequently are not looking for the soul mate who eventually and inevitably comes their way. It might not be too far a stretch to view them as role models.

Furthermore, in erotic romance, women bravely, sometimes brazenly, express their sexual selves. Today’s erotic romance heroines embrace their desires. Often they bed their partners long before they fall in love, and they’re just as likely to control the sexual action as the heroes. As Donna points out, even the virginal Ana is the true dominant in Fifty Shades. She defines (and redefines) the rules, which poor Christian tries to follow.

Romance is about female power—the power to make decisions about relationships, and the power to enjoy personal sexual satisfaction. No wonder it’s so popular, in a world where many women lack that sort of power.

So why doesn’t the genre get more respect? Why is it so easy and so fashionable to belittle romance—especially erotic romance? Why does Donna feel so uncomfortable writing “mushy” dialogue, blushing as if it were obscene? Sure, there’s a lot of poorly written romance out there, but that’s true of every category of fiction. Why do people feel the need to denigrate romance as “trash”, “bodice rippers”, or “mommy porn”?

Maybe because the female power is viewed as a threat.

In a male-dominated culture, it’s too dangerous to take romance seriously.

“Take romance seriously?” Some of you reading this are no doubt chuckling at the absurdity of this notion. And I suspect Remittance Girl will be sharpening her rhetorical blade, ready to assert that romance is in fact a product of male-dominated culture, an attempt to domesticate the socially-disruptive effects of lust by promulgating the myth of harmonious, monogamous, stable coupling.

Still, think about what the world would be like if women all began to act like romance heroines. Speaking out and acting on their desires. Insisting on respect and consideration from their lovers. Demanding to be taken seriously. Claiming a well-deserved, personal happy ending, without guilt or feelings of inferiority. Some men would be very threatened indeed.

“Hah. Illusions. There’s no such thing as a happy ending.”

Perhaps there’s no “ever after”. However, healthy, egalitarian, enduring, fulfilling relationships do exist, hard as that may be sometimes to be believe. And you know, based on my personal experience, it’s not just women who want that kind of relationship. Many men value independent, assertive partners. Men do not necessarily want a doormat as a companion. Or, for that matter, an innocent virgin!

The kicker is that despite the official perspective that romance is trash, readers of the genre have more economic power than any other market segment. The phenomenal success of Fifty Shades is only the latest demonstration of this fact.

This observation makes me realize that romance readers don’t really care whether the pundits view romance as unrealistic or superficial. They’re going to buy and read what they enjoy, losing themselves in stories of the women they’d like to be. It’s only authors of erotic romance, like me, who grumble about not being taken seriously by the literary establishment.

Well, you know what? I respect the romance I write. I know how difficult it is to create an original, compelling story that still adheres to the conventions of the genre. More difficult, maybe, than writing a so-called literary novel, where there are far fewer constraints.

So I’m going to stop griping and get back to writing. The only respect I really need comes from my readers.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Call for Submissions

Title: TBD/New Experience Erotica Anthology
Publisher: Insatiable Press
Deadline: July 6, 2015
Payment: $25; Comp Copy

Insatiable Press is seeking original, never-before-published or posted short stories for an upcoming erotica, ebook-original anthology. The theme of the collection is ‘the first time.’ But we are not looking for cherry-popping, lose-your-virginity stories. We are looking for a collection of various experiences, and your main character is a heterosexual woman doing something for the very first time.

We are looking to put together an array of topics, including various ménage situations such as M/M/F or M/F/F, bondage, S&M, voyeurism, unique locales, unconventional positions, toys, fem-dom, etc. Your main character should be the woman doing something she’s never tried before; absolutely no non-censual situations – we are looking for stories that broaden the character’s taste or show her in a positive light opening up to something she’s always been fantasizing about but never had the opportunity to do or never thought she would – or never thought of.

Submission details at:
http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/AR/New_Experience_Erotica_Anthology.htm



Do you know what today is? It's Sexy Snippets Day! Time to share the hottest mini-excerpts you can find from your published work. 

The ERWA blog is not primarily intended for author promotion. However, we've decided we should give our author/members an occasional opportunity to expose themselves (so to speak) to the reading public. Hence, we have declared the 19th of every month at the Erotica Readers and Writers Association blog Sexy Snippet Day.

On Sexy Snippet day, any author can post a tiny excerpt (200 words or less) in a comment on the day's post. Include the title from with the snippet was extracted, your name or pseudonym, and one buy link, if you'd like.

Please post excerpts only from published work (or work that is free for download), not works in progress. The goal, after all, is to titillate your readers and seduce them into buying your books!

Feel free to share this with erotic author friends. It's an open invitation!

Of course I expect you to follow the rules. If your excerpt is more than 200 words or includes more than one link, I'll remove your comment and prohibit you from participating in further Sexy Snippet days. I'll say no more!

After you've posted your snippet, feel free to share the post as a whole to Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else you think your readers hang out.

Have fun!

~ Lisabet

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Obscenity of Romance

By Donna George Storey

I’d planned to write my column on another topic this month, but I was overcome by the desire to write this one instead. I’ve also recently been overcome with inspiration to write a brand-new story, which is unusual because unless a story is for a specific call, I tend to let ideas steep for months or even years. This time the characters, the setting, the plot just popped into my head and insisted on immediate expression. It’s romantic when the Muse leads the dance, and fittingly this story is an erotic romance. An historical erotic romance. I don’t usually write in this genre, although I’ve veered close. Perhaps it’s high time? Historical romance was a favorite guilty pleasure as a teenager. In novels by writers like Anya Seton, the eroticism was never explicit, but my vivid imagining of what happened off the page no doubt planted the seeds of my erotica-writing future.

Every story needs obstacles, of course, and I’m discovering that the historical setting supplies a fresh abundance of them. The stakes are high if a woman even walks in public with a man. An impulsive kiss is a delightfully taboo act. Chaperones watch proper young people in love as intently as voyeurs at a peep show, so there’s plenty of drama in just finding time and place to be alone.

Still because it’s erotica, my characters find opportunities for sensual delight. That’s expected and I’m comfortable writing erotic scenes. Yet, just recently, I was both amused and bemused to discover something that truly made me blush as I wrote.

Mushy dialogue.

I blame my male protagonist for the example below. He told me he wanted to say the following words to try to convince the woman he loves to marry him. Go on, Donna, just write it down for me, he said.

“There’s a wall between us now, and that’s as it should be. But I want to do so many things I can’t do, simple things. Reach out and take your hand when someone’s watching. Brush my fingers through your hair when it’s down around your shoulders. Kiss your cheek, your ear, your neck, your lips. Wake up beside you. Eat breakfast together. But once we’re married, Elizabeth, the wall will disappear. When our wedding night comes and we start our life together, we can do all of those things and more. And what I want most of all is to make you happy. I promise I’ll do that in every way I know how.”

I’m pretty sure my heroine wants to hear this. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind hearing such sentiments from a future or even current husband. But as I wrote, a little voice whispered, “Oh, jeez, it’s such a female fantasy that a guy would actually say something sappy like this. They just don’t.” And I blushed. Partner-swapping, anal sex, Japanese fetish clubs—my cheeks stay cool and pale. But gooey, earnest declarations of love—oh, the obscenity!

Erotic romance is often—disdainfully--called women’s porn. I used to interpret that to mean that it arouses women, but is gentler, less explicit and safely couched in emotional connection. The way all things designated as feminine tend to be. This still might be true, but while I pondered my discomfiture, I came to appreciate there might be another reason for the comparison. Women might want a lover to get on bended knee and say s/he will dedicate his/her life to making them happy, but in real life it happens about as often as an attractive stranger of the desired sexual orientation is overcome by the urge to give a man a blowjob in a stalled elevator.

In other words, our porn gives us what we yearn for, but don’t get nearly enough of in real life. But we’re still kind of ashamed of what we want, because there are plenty of people out there who are happy to make fun of us for it. In my case, one of those people lives inside my own brain. (There seem to be a lot of people living there.) Coming of age in the midst of the Sexual Revolution, I got the message that having sex was always cool for a liberated woman. Falling in love was a far more private, scary and vulnerable thing to do. The legacy for me: baring the heart is scarier than baring mere skin.

Or maybe trying to express deep emotions is hard no matter what the genre or the sex of the author? It’s much easier to be clever and cool. I have to remember that back when I first started writing erotica, I would also occasionally blush when I wrote a scene that pushed me into new sexually explicit territory. For me, I almost feel as if I should let my characters share their intimate declarations of love off the page. It’s too private a matter for strangers to be watching on. But perhaps, with practice, emotionally explicit writing will get easier too?

I’ll let you know as the process unfolds!

Donna George Storey is the author of Amorous Woman and a collection of short stories, Mammoth Presents the Best of Donna George Storey. Learn more about her work at www.DonnaGeorgeStorey.com or http://www.facebook.com/DGSauthor