Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Friday, April 15, 2016

On Planning a BDSM Scene

You know how on Project Runway, when the contestants are creating a collection, they keep being urged to make it cohesive? Cohesion is a big part of how they envision each piece of the collection being connected and part of a whole. So it doesn’t feel disjointed. So you get a clear sense of who the designer is. So you know who they are making clothes for.

As a top, when I’m planning a BDSM scene, I’m attempting to create a similar kind of cohesion. I want the play to feel connected, not like a series of disjointed activities. I want the play to be an expression of who I am as a top. I want the play to be specific to the bottom, and specific to this particular moment with the bottom. It needs to be about both (or all) of us.

It can be easy to be caught up in a clever idea, or a particular goal, or want to use all the tools available, or have a clear arc in mind. But goal focused or highly scripted play often prevents us from being in the moment and present with ourselves and those we are playing with. So I try not to overplan. I want to leave plenty of room to respond in the moment. When I’m teaching BDSM, I often tell folks: 
Let your intention float alongside or in front of you. Grasping for it may sink you.

So, I generally lean towards a loose plan, instead of a script or concrete goals. I’ve built scenes on a few tools I want to focus on. I’ve created scenes based on the emotions I wanted to harness. I’ve planned scenes based on sensations I want to give. I’ve conceived of scenes that are based on the kind of connection I wanted to create. These are loose intentions, ones that I can let float next to me, and still really be in the moment during BDSM play, let myself be guided as much by context and the responses of my partner and my own desire right then, as I am by the intention. And even this kind of loose intention can sometimes weigh me down in the moment if I become too attached to it, so I try to enter a scene knowing that I may need to let it float away from me altogether.

Many of my erotica stories mostly consist of a scene; there may be a bit of a lead in, or sometimes a longer lead in, but often the bulk of the story is the scene. That’s where the character arc happens, that’s where the conflict occurs, that’s where I do much of my characterization. The scene is the center of the story, and it needs the sort of plan that a real life scene needs, one that is dynamic and responsive, one that allows for discovery and flow, one that isn’t too heavily scripted or goal oriented. It needs to feel cohesive, in some ways even moreso because it’s the center of a story.

I often do the bulk of planning for my stories much like I plan a scene. I get a clear sense of point of view, and who the characters are as individuals, but also their dynamics, the context for their play. I also have a loose plan, an intention for how the BDSM is going to be cohesive, deeply woven into the story as a whole. I choose the thread I am going to draw throughout the scene so that it feels whole and not disjointed. I think about the intention I am going to use for the BDSM scene, and consider: How is the intention going to illuminate internal conflict for the characters? How is the intention going to create opportunities for the reader to get to know the characters? Does the intention fit this context, this setting, and these people at this specific moment?

The intention I select for the BDSM scene gives me a path towards how to set up the scene for the reader, how to create an arc for the scene, how to build momentum in the scene. It is the thing I keep my eye on as I let the story flow, and let the scene unfold, put these characters together and watch what they do, in the moment, as they play off each other, respond to each other, engage in their play dynamic together.

Let me give you a few examples from my recent collection, Show Yourself To Me.

My story, “It’s My Job” was written with a very particular intention for the scene: leather. In particular, the bottom’s deep love for leather. This intention gave the story its structure and tone, and its beginning with a focus on gay leather traditions and the legacies of particular pieces of his Daddy’s leather. This intention made the choice of all leather toys: gloves, boots, leather sap, braided cat, quirt. This intention is what led to a long luxurious leather worship scene where the bottom licks from his Daddy’s boots all the way up his chaps to his leather jock. But it was the dynamic between the characters that drove where the story went. The repetition of the boy describing that it was his job to care for his Daddy’s leather, to stand still and take it for Daddy, all the specific things that are his job in this role that is full of worship and service, that is what led the story to its conclusion, to the center of the internal conflict of this character. I fought where this story wanted to go, because I wasn’t sure I was up to writing it that way, but it insisted, and I found I had to listen.

The plan is not in charge, it needs to be responsive in the moment, and be real to who these characters are, to what their dynamic is. Sometimes the scene builds to somewhere unexpected. Part of the point of the looseness of the plan is to allow that to happen.

I wrote “Willing” with a desire to really focus on trust and the difficulties of vulnerability and connection. It centers the internal struggle of a vampire to let himself trust this boy he meets, who seems like he might be the willing boy of his dreams. The intention of the scene was to show a dance of intimacy, where he comes close, and pulls back, repeatedly. This is what led to a dance metaphor in the descriptions of rough body play, what made the up-close nature of knife play a central part of the scene, what drove how blood sports are integrated into this story. This dance of trust helped lead to this particular moment where the top transitions from knife play to caning. This moment feels like the core of the story, revealing the ways that this scene is different for the top, has higher stakes:


Mine, I think again. And catch myself. I watch him, building on his fear, and remove my touch. There is only the knife sliding along him, forcing him to remain still. There is only the knife as silence lays on him like a blanket. I step away, moving quietly, and leave him alone. We will see how much he needs connection, how much fear I can build. We will see, I think slowly to myself, how much distance I can tolerate.

My play is usually about connection. About driving myself inside. About opening someone up to my gaze. My tools are up close and personal. Play is my source of connection, and I usually hurl into it, deep and hard.

I don’t want to show myself yet. This must be done slowly. I want to see what he can do. I want to wait before I commit myself to what I have already thought. I will come to that on my terms, in my time.

I collect my favorite canes, needing air between us. Needing the sound that whips through the air and blasts into flesh. Needing controlled, careful cruelty. Canes are a special love of mine. It takes a lot for me to risk thin sticks of wood, easily broken to form deadly weapons. Canes are about my risk, too. Their simple existence menaces. Their joy is unmatchable.

The planning makes the rest possible, creates the framework so that the story can reveal itself. The looseness of the plan lets the scene breathe, lets the characters struggle. It is that inner struggle that I love to write most.

My story “What I Need” is all about the intense desire for claiming of a trans stone butch top. It is driven by the urgency in that desire. That’s what led to the choice of first person present tense. That’s why it’s written to bring the reader up close by addressing it to “you”. That’s what drives the pace of the scene, from the start. That’s definitely what led to the choice of toys. For the most part, there are none. This is a scene built on getting up close and person, deep inside the bottom with the most intimate of tools: the top’s body. It starts with throat fucking, and breath play not with tools but with the top using hir body to cut off airflow. It continues along this vein with rough body play, and is filled with this desire to mark and to get inside, to claim through fucking and pain and culminates in blood sports. That intention around claiming shapes the story, and what is revealed in its midst is how vulnerable the top is in that desire for that level of connection. That vulnerability becomes the tender core of this story, gives it depth and struggle and reveals the POV character to the reader, a character who pushes hir own edges around how much clothing ze takes off during play.  

The plan is a path for the scene, but the scene may veer off the path. Or the path may be reveal itself to be a bit more complicated that we might have thought when we began. The plan gets me moving as a writer, helps me focus, works to create a container so that the scene, and the story, can go where they need to go.

1 comment:

  1. "The plan is not in charge, it needs to be responsive in the moment, and be real to who these characters are, to what their dynamic is. Sometimes the scene builds to somewhere unexpected. Part of the point of the looseness of the plan is to allow that to happen."

    I love this observation, because I've seen this happen in my own writing. Characters break out of the paths or roles I've set up for them. I've learned to recognize the sense of frustration that comes from trying to force a story to follow my preconceived plan, and to let it go.

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