Posts tagged bad sex in writing
Inaccuracies and anachronisms

There was recently a fascinating discussion at Dear Author about accuracy in historical romances. Some very interesting and intelligent perspectives were shared. Here are my own thoughts about it. I don’t write historical romance, and I don’t read a lot of it any more. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it’s not my first love (which is contemporary) and these days my time for reading is limited.

I suppose if I read a book that was full of inaccuracies that kept pulling me out of the story, I would be annoyed. I might think less of that author because he or she didn’t do enough research, or was sloppy or careless in their world-building. I suppose there are books like that out there. But more often you’re likely to encounter a couple of small slip-ups in a book.  How serious is that to readers?

When an author writes a book, he or she is building a world. A world that readers have never been to. Whether it’s science fiction, paranormal, or contemporary, it’s still building a world. In science fiction (which I fully admit I do not read) I’m guessing that writers make stuff up. It might be based on science or scientific principles, but I bet a lot of it is made up. In my contemporary romances, I’m building a world that my characters live in that nobody else has ever seen. We may all live in contemporary settings, in houses and apartments, and work in office buildings or whatever; but nobody has ever seen the world my characters inhabit―because I’m making it up. A reviewer commented on my contemporary romance Breakaway that I had gotten the names of the NHL teams wrong. I didn’t get them wrong―I made them up. And to me, a historical romance is the same. It’s building a world that readers have never been to. Base it on reality to make it realistic for me, something I can visualize in my mind and enhance with my imagination, make it plausible―as with any fiction. But the writer is making it up.
I don’t think it is possible for an author to write a romance set in an historical setting without having some inaccuracies and anachronisms. Even scholars don’t always agree on history. We all know that personal hygiene standards were much different then than now. (Or do we?) I will admit that when I read a historical romance and the hero has perfect white even teeth I chuckle a little. In historical romances, it seems the characters do a lot of bathing, which is also apparently inaccurate. If romance characters talked the way people really talked in the middle ages, nobody would want to read it. On the other hand, few contemporary romance characters ever have morning breath. We forgive these inaccuracies because it is a romance. I guess I’m forgiving of some inaccuracies in any romance sub-genre. Yes, I’ve read books where I’ve come across a detail I know is wrong. I enjoy my little moment of smug superiority, but if it’s a good book, I move on with the story.
I guess I don’t understand reading a book for the purpose of finding things wrong with it, rather than just reading it for the enjoyment of it. So there was no such thing as yellow silk back then? I don’t care! And I also can’t imagine doing research to find out if I’m right. Oh...I know there was no yellow silk in that time period. Or do I? How do I know that? Do I know it because I read it in another romance novel? Or do I know it because I studied history in such detail? Maybe I’d better make sure I’m right before I spout off about this historical inaccuracy and do the research. No, thanks. I’d rather just accept that in that fictional world, there was yellow silk. I’d rather just read the book for the pleasure of it than spend hours doing research to prove I’m right and the author is wrong.
Do readers need to be alerted that there are inaccuracies in historical romances? Or in any romance sub-genre, for that matter? Do you want to know that she could not possibly have been driving east on Main Street in Anytown, USA because that street runs north and south? Do you want to know that that was not the type of corset women wore in 1844? Do you want to be told that there are really no such things as vampires or werewolves
WIPs and Chains
Back working on my chef story this week. I haven't progressed the story a whole lot, but I have added to the word count. Using some of the things I've learned in the last few months from the books I've read and the workshops I've done, which I've talked about here, I did a lot more work on the characters in this story.

Then I went back through the story and found places where I needed to develop those characters more. Added, lines, added scenes. I'm pretty happy with how it's working out so far. So I've added about 10,000 words to what I had before and wow, I'm ready for a crisis! 

This story is loosely connected to one of my stories I finished a while back, With Strings Attached, and my hero and heroine from that book make an appearance in this one. I would love this to be a series set in my fictional town.

I've mentioned before how motivating it is to get to this point in a story - 3/4 done! But the last scenes are also the hardest to write, at least I find. So, even though it feels close to being done, I know it will take longer to write the last quarter of the book than probably the first three quarters all put together. Wish me luck!
What I'm Reading Wednesday
I started a new book this week but I'm not sure if I'm going to name it here because it got off to a very rocky start for me. This is the second time I've purchased a book by a "new to me" author based on a great review at one of the "big" review sites and been disappointed. Not sure why that is. I guess readers and reviewers (and I guess some editors, since they publish the books) are less concerned about the technical aspects of writing than a writer might be. Which is food for thought and what it means to my own writing, given a number of disappointments lately.
Bad Sex in Fiction Awards!
Yes, it's that time again! Literary Review gave their Bad Sex In Fiction Awards yesterday. I’ve blogged about this award for the last few years and this year’s winners once again have me shaking my head. I know literary fiction is different than romance but the only emotions these excerpts evoke in me is “huh?”

Here’s a nice literary example from Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz (Chatto & Windus):

“She holds him tight and squeezes her body to his, sending delightful sailing boats tacking to and fro across the ocean of his back. With her fingertips she sends foam-flecked waves scurrying over his skin... “

Gotta love those metaphors. And let’s extend the marine metaphor even more:

“Attentive to the very faintest of signals, like some piece of sonar equipment that can detect sounds in the deep imperceptible to the human ear, he registers the flow of tiny moans that rise from inside her as he continues to excite her, receiving and unconsciously classifying the fine nuances that differentiate one moan from another, in his skin rather than in his ears he feels the minute variations in her breathing, he feels the ripples in her skin, as though he has been transformed into a delicate seismograph that intercepts and instantly deciphers her body's reactions, translating what he has discovered into skilful, precise navigation, anticipating and cautiously avoiding every sandbank, steering clear of each underwater reef…”

This one from Ten Storey Love Song by Richard Milward (Faber & Faber) is particularly creative:
“They shag at double-speed: Inthekitchenthrydospoonsonthebreakfast baramongstallthecutlerytheninthebathroomtheyshowereachotherwithhotkissesandGeorgiekneelsinthepisserwhileBobbydoesheruptheshitterthenintheloungtheybounceupanddownonthesofathenin thebedroomtheysqueakthespringsofthemattress. Meanwhile, down in Vaginaland, Mr Condom's beginning to feel a bit iffy.”

And the winner for 2009 is Jonathan Littell with The Kindly Ones (Chatto & Windus). I wholeheartedly support this one as the winner. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“Her vulva was opposite my face. The small lips protruded slightly from the pale, domed flesh. This sex was watching at me, spying on me, like a Gorgon's head, like a motionless Cyclops whose single eye never blinks. If only I could still get hard, I thought, I could use my prick like a stake hardened in the fire, and blind this Polyphemus who made me Nobody. But my cock remained inert…”

Though then miraculously:

"without moving, I came in an immense splash of white light”.

Awesome feat.

As I mentioned last year, I know that taking passages out of context can render even the most beautiful writing ridiculous, and all these stories probably have much to say about the human experience. I think I’ll keep reading about love.
The pace is killing me!
The irony is not lost on me.

I am Ms Hurry-Up, Can’t-Wait, The-Publishing-Industry-Works-Way-Too-Slow.

But the pace is killing me.

This is what my To Do List looked like on Thursday:

Write blog post for my own blog for Friday
Write guest blog post for fellow author’s blog for July 23
Write blog post for Amber Quill Press blog for July 27
Polish manuscript for full request from agent and send
Judge 2 contest entries (did one already, 2 left)
Proof print galley for Friends with Benefits
Send Samhain editor promo excerpt for next release
Send off suggested blog topics for guest blogger in August
Send scavenger hunt question to LASR
Post another instalment at Dorchester/TextNovel contest
Participate in “Not going to conference conferences” at Divas and Passionate Ink

This doesn’t include just keeping up with emails, etc. And I have a full time day job.

Then…my editor sent me another galley to proof (for those who don’t know, this means reading the WHOLE BOOK) for my book coming out this weekend. This had to go to the top of the list.

Then I got a contract offer from another editor. Forms to fill out to get that started.

What’s not on this list? WRITING!

My WIP has certainly been moving slowly and it’s getting frustrating. I’ve been really happy to have a new release coming out every 2-3 months but with all the other work that goes along with it (forms, contracts, editing, promo work) the pace is killing me. And I have five more books coming out between now and June 2010!

I know some reading this might be thinking, what is she whining about? She’s published! And others who have contract deadlines, who have to write three books in the next year, may be thinking the same. Believe me, I’m not whining. I’m thrilled about all this. But it’s another irony that my goal this year was to slow down. I meant slow down with my writing, but I guess what I actually need to do is slow down some of the other things I'm doing.
Bad Sex in Writing Awards!
I blogged about this last year, and it’s that time again! The Bad Sex in Writing awards! Since I write a lot about sex, I’m interested in these awards. And I’m especially horrified by the winners.

In 2008, two prizes were awarded. The 16th annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award went to Rachel Johnson, for a passage from her book Shire Hell, while a Lifetime Achievement Award went to John Updike, whose The Widows of Eastwick garnered him a fourth consecutive nomination. John Updike was one of the winners I wrote about last year- year - check out last year's winner. I have to say I’m disappointed in the 2008 winners. They’re not actually as disturbing as last year's.

Here are some excerpts from the 2008 winners:

Shire Hell, by Rachel Johnson (Penguin Books).

Almost screaming after five agonizingly pleasurable minutes, I make a grab, to put him, now angrily slapping against both our bellies, inside, but he holds both my arms down, and puts his tongue to my core, like a cat lapping up a dish of cream so as not to miss a single drop. I find myself gripping his ears and tugging at the locks curling over them, beside myself, and a strange animal noise escapes from me as the mounting, Wagnerian crescendo overtakes me. I really do hope at this point that all the Spodders are, as requested, attending the meeting about slug clearance or whatever it is.

Okay, cat lapping at cream is major cliché. And yeah, I always think about slugs while having sex.

The Widows of Eastwick, by John Updike (Hamish Hamilton).
She said nothing then, her lovely mouth otherwise engaged, until he came, all over her face. She had gagged, and moved him outside her lips, rubbing his spurting glans across her cheeks and chin. He had wanted to cry out, sitting up as if jolted by electricity as the spurts, the deep throbs rooted in his asshole, continued, but he didn't know what name to call her. 'Mrs Rougement' was the name he had always known her by. God, she was antique, but here they were. Her face gleamed with his jism in the spotty light of the motel room, there on the far end of East Beach, within sound of the sea. The rhythmic relentless shushing returned to their ears. She laid her head on the pillow and seemed to want to be kissed. Well, why not? It was his jism. Having got rid of it, there was an aftermath of sorrow in which he needed to be alone; but there was no getting rid of her. 'Call me Sukie,' she said, having read his mind. 'I sucked your cock.'
'You sure did. Thanks. Wow.'

This is so romantic - gagging, a woman who is antique, the jism gleaming in the spotty light. Ah.

Brida, by Paulo Coelho (Harper Collins).
Okay, you know what? I couldn’t even make much fun of this one. I’ve read way worse.

To Love, Honour and Betray, by Kathy Lette (Bantam Press).
This line is particularly memorable:
Sebastian's erect member was so big I mistook it for some sort of monument in the centre of a town. I almost started directing traffic around it.

Okay that's a metaphor that's really strained.

So I was thinking of posting an excerpt of my own to compare to these winners and you know what? Every excerpt I pulled out of context suddenly didn’t seem quite so…impressive. Which goes to show you, even though these excerpts seem really, really bad, in context they might be…not so bad. .