Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Writing Using Strong Emotions


Elizabeth Black lives on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. She has written erotic fiction for numerous publishers and she is self-published.

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I normally stuff my feelings. Old habit. I don't like feeling strong emotions because I'm afraid of losing control, which makes writing all the harder for me. Good writers regularly open a vein and empty it all over their computer screens. As Hemingway wrote, "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

I'm a very private person, so opening up so much of myself in my writing takes a lot out of me. I do write my escapist fantasies like "Trouble In Thigh High Boots" (erotic Puss In Boots), "Climbing Her Tower" (erotic Rapunzel), and my work-in-progress "Alex Craig Has A Threesome". They're like setting me loose in a candy store. I get the gimmes and I want it all! However, I have exposed a little too much of myself in some of my other stories. Two include my contemporary 1980s novel "Don't Call Me Baby" and especially my short dark romance story "Alicia". Those two are partially based on personal experience. As I worked on both stories, I felt over-exposed and a bit embarrassed and even ashamed. However, all of those feelings reflected how much I opened up in writing both stories, and they made the stories all the better.
"The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed." - Ernest Hemingway
How often do you open up as a writer? You can always afford to open up more. Get inside your character's heads, and expose their weaknesses for all they're worth. In doing so, you expose yourself. The problem with sitting down at your typewriter and bleeding is that it makes you vulnerable. How vulnerable are you willing to make yourself for your art? Sometimes writers use their fiction as a cathartic way of coping with their own problems or coming to terms with trauma. It isn't an accident that writing in a journal is a form of therapy often prescribed by therapists.

Full disclosure here - my short dark romance "Alicia" is based on my rape. Twenty years ago I was raped by my then-husband, and the experience was obviously very traumatic. He choked me so hard I coughed up blood, and my voice was hoarse for several days. It took me many years to come to terms with that ordeal, and writing "Alicia" is one big way I was able to deal with it. The imagery I used in the story reflected how I coped with it. The entire ordeal was like being trapped in a horrific dream and I couldn't wake up. So, in both telling a good story and dealing with my own abuse, I dove head-first into my past and tore open some very old scabs. Here is the opening of the story, to give you an idea of the visceral nature of what happened to me - and to Alicia.

This excerpt from "Alicia" shows how using vivid description and strong emotions pull the reader into a story. Just so you know, "Eric" is the pen name of a dear friend of mine whom I care about deeply. "Carol" is my middle name. "Alicia" is one of my favorite women's names. Those three names have significant meaning for me. I've found that choosing character names close to your heart helps you to get inside their skins - and get inside your own so you can't hide from yourself. It's an interesting exercise - if you are basing characters on people you know, use their real names. Once the story is finished, go through the document and change the names to something different to establish some distance.
Eric stepped out of the shower and a foul stench—mingled with the crisp peppermint of his shampoo—smacked him in the face and left a coppery taste in the back of his throat. His stomach heaved. Confused, he looked around the room to figure out where the smell came from, but he couldn't pinpoint it. Dread clung to him, dark and sticky, ruining his relaxed mood. The light bulbs over the sink hummed, casting harsh yellow light about the room. He shaded his eyes against the glare, trying to see.
 Why were those lights so bright? Something was terribly wrong in his peaceful world, and not knowing what it was frightened him.
 His wife Alicia brushed her teeth as if nothing was unusual, while the stink of rot lurked beneath the cool mint of his shampoo. Why didn't she notice the smell?
 He leaned towards her to place his hand on her shoulder, and she turned her face towards his for a kiss on the cheek. Ugly, purple bruises darkened her eyes. He pulled away, repulsed and alarmed, not quite sure what he was seeing. One side of her face had swelled to a dark mask, not unlike a pumpkin that had been left outside in the damp earth to rot. An angry red welt encircled her throat like a bloody ribbon wrapped around her neck. Frightened, he reached out one hand but he couldn't bring himself to touch her swollen face. Touching her would make the vision real and it couldn't be real.
 Alicia spat in the sink. Two of her teeth bounced against the porcelain. Blood tainted the paste.
 "The girls are running late again." Alicia's bloodied mouth leaked crimson and white toothpaste. Why did she act as if nothing strange was going on? He gaped at her, not understanding what was happening. The safety of his home evaporated as she spoke with her raw, torn mouth. "Make them wolf down their cereal, and toss them out of the house before they miss the bus."
 "Alicia, who did this to you?" Eric asked. She did not answer him. She brushed her teeth, running the brush over her ragged gums where the teeth had been knocked out. His stomach heaved again, and he swallowed hard to keep from vomiting. He wanted to knock out the teeth of whoever had assaulted her, but she acted as if nothing was wrong. Why?
 The phone rang. Who would be calling him at this hour? It wasn't even 7:30 yet. He asked Alicia again who had done this to her, but she didn't answer him. She dried her torn mouth, and then she smeared foundation over her face. To his horror, the foundation did not cover her bruises. It only made them look uglier and even more purple.
 Eric walked to the phone and answered it.
 "Hello?"
 The phone continued to ring. Eric's steam-hazy mind knew that that wasn't supposed to happen.
 "Hello?"
 Eric woke up in bed to the ringing of the telephone on the dresser next to him. His wife, Carol, stirred at his side.
When I first wrote that excerpt and a later excerpt that takes place in a hospital, I wanted to delete, delete, delete! Too much revealed. In many ways, that's a good thing. It had shown I got to Alicia's soul, and my own. If you want to feel like a freshly torn scab when you write, make yourself vulnerable. You will likely feel exhausted and a bit worried you've said too much once you finish, but the end result is worth it.

Here are my blurb and buy links for "Alicia" if you're interested in reading the rest of the story.


Buy Links:



Blurb:

When the love of his life, Alicia, calls him in the middle of the night to report she had been raped, Eric drops everything to come to her rescue. She takes him on an eerie ride through turbulent hours he can't quite comprehend. Alicia may need his help, but her situation is not what it seems.

 ABOUT ELIZABETH BLACK

Elizabeth Black writes erotica, erotic romance, speculative fiction, fantasy, and dark fiction. She also enjoys writing erotic retellings of classic fairy tales. Born and bred in Baltimore, she grew up under the influence of Edgar Allan Poe. Her erotic fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), Circlet Press, Ravenous Romance, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. Her dark fiction has appeared in "Kizuna: Fiction For Japan", "Stupefying Stories", "Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2", "Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad", and "Mirages: Tales From Authors Of The Macabre". An accomplished essayist, she was the sex columnist for the pop culture e-zine nuts4chic (also U. K.) until it folded in 2008. Her articles about sex, erotica, and relationships have appeared in Good Vibrations Magazine, Alternet, CarnalNation, the Ms. Magazine Blog, Sexis Magazine, On The Issues, Sexy Mama Magazine, and Circlet blog. She also writes sex toys reviews for several sex toys companies.

In addition to writing, she has also worked as a gaffer (lighting), scenic artist, and make-up artist (including prosthetics) for movies, television, stage, and concerts. She worked as a gaffer for "Die Hard With A Vengeance" and "12 Monkeys". She did make-up, including prosthetics, for "Homicide: Life On The Street". She is especially proud of the gunshot wound to the head she had created with makeup for that particular episode. She also worked as a prosthetic makeup artist specializing in cyanotic blue, bruises, and buckets of blood for a test of Maryland's fire departments at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport plane crash simulation test. Yes, her jobs are fun.  ;)

She lives in Lovecraft country on the Massachusetts coast with her husband, son, and four cats. The ocean calls her every day, and she always listens. She has yet to run into Cthulhu.

Visit her web site at http://elizabethablack.blogspot.com/
Follow her at Twitter: http://twitter.com/ElizabethABlack






8 comments:

  1. You are very brave, Elizabeth, to share this experience and this excerpt. The horror feels incredibly real.

    I hope that writing "Alicia" helped with the healing process.

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  2. Thank you, Lisabet. I wanted to open up a bit because of my topic. Writing "Alicia" did help. I also enhanced my creativity writing that short story. My writing is better for it.

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  3. Your confession touches me, Elizabeth. I was date raped in high school and never told a soul, not even my husband of 45 years. But I did write about it in my Logan Hunter mysteries. Logan is a young woman who has sleep terrors due to date rape. Her terrors escalate in the series until she comes to terms with her past. It was therapy for me and I'm a better person for having put it in print. I applaud your courage.
    www.susanwhitfieldonline.com

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  4. Thanks for sharing that, Susan. I can see how writing about it is therapy, since I've been there. I'm sure the raw emotion comes through in your writing, too.

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  5. Thanks for this post, Elizabeth. I'm sure most writers wonder if we are exposing too much of ourselves to an audience of strangers, but it's hard to imagine how honest, compelling writing could be done otherwise.

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  6. Wonderful post, Elizabeth. Writing is definitely therapeutic. I'm sure your post will inspire those who are on the fence on whether to write something so deep.

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  7. Very true, Jean. In order to be honest and compelling in our writing, I agree that we need to be the same to ourselves. I wonder how many other writers feel they reveal too much in their fiction?

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  8. Thank you, Mary. If I'm able to inspire one writer, I'll be happy.

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