Monday, 23 June 2008

Mercy Wake

I knew your beauty, shared your smile,
And sunlight buoyed me place to place.
I stole your mercy all the while;
Slept to your voice; woke to your grace.
Now, 'tis Hope who sleeps;
The lands that pale; the skies that weep.

How swift the silent ghosts invade,
Their burdens dripping gallow's light,
The dull cortege, the dead parade -
Dilutes my senses; mocks my plight.
'Tis ardent Fate beseeching me
With nought but bones in her embrace:
She stains your words;
She masks your face.

Yet, tho' you may be lost to sight
And I may never turn to see,
I feel your breath upon my neck.
It warms me for eternity.


For J.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Friday, 20 June 2008

Making Sense?



My son made me watch EastEnders with him on Wednesday.
This woman and her baby and a man are locked in a bedroom, and there's a mad doctor attempting to break through the door.
I tried so hard to contain myself ... but eventually I had to vent:

'It doesn't make any sense! Why don't they open the window and cry for help? Why are they just cowering in the corner? It doesn't make any sense!'

To which my son replied:

'Some things don't make sense to make it more exciting.'

That told me!

'Crikey! These new glasses make everything look really shiny!'

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The Trouble with Orgasms


Forgive me my maggoty companions for I have forsaken you! But I rejoin you all now with a hundred observations to share!

I've been in the zone of late and the words have been pouring from my sweet, sweat-stoked brain. I've been working on a short, I've returned to The Commuters, and a chance meeting with a professional erotic fiction author has diverted further attentions ...
We'll come to that in a moment.

As I worked on a new novel idea, plotting and planning, I was filled with a strong sense that this was trying to be The Commuters. I found myself introducing the same themes and combinations and angling for a similar resolution. The story that I so desperately needed to tell already existed ... So I set about reading through my notebooks and documents, each swollen with ideas for my lit-fic opus. What I discovered was that the structure was sound. (It made me laugh and it made me very sad, and it did what I asked of it.)
When I attempted to rewrite Tethered Light, I found that my progress was invariably hampered by poor structure. After all, I had just plunged into it and written from front to back, with no more than the scantiest notion of where I was heading or what I would do when I arrived at my destination.
Structure! If the structure is sound, you can rewrite and edit to your heart's content.
The problems I encountered with The Commuters became embarrassingly obvious once a little time had passed and a few more lessons had been learned and I had detached myself from it. And now I write with supreme confidence, knowing that if I fail, it will be problem with the train and not the rails.

Okay - the trouble with orgasms! Those of a non-fruity disposition may want to leave the room.
(Ha! You're humans! Give you a new world and you marinate it with groinal attachments and penis-shaped cars!)
I've had several extremely insightful conversations with Mademoiselle X. She will, at her request, remain anonymous; however you can read her work in most top-shelf magazines. (If you'd rather not approach your friendly newsagent with a copy of 'Top Tottie', ask Es to lend you a copy ;-)
Let me tell you, you'll make more money from writing about a man painting his lady-friend with magic stardust than you'll ever make writing articles on literary techniques!

I was compelled to try my hand at erotic fiction and here's what I discovered.

1) Know your audience! Erotic fiction is probably the purest and most raw genre, and is a super medium for measuring the effectiveness of your story-telling abilities. It has a single goal: to give him or her one or more orgasms. Provided that you have feedback, there can be no doubt whether you succeeded or failed with your story. Naturally, there will be degrees of success (and failure, but there's little point in gauging the degree of that), but I can think of no other genre in which success or failure is so visible.

2) On a similar note, erotic fiction will give absolutely no quarter when it comes to pov. You are writing for him or you are writing for her. I can't think that you are ever writing for him and her simultaneously ... although now I think about it ...
Anyhoo, knowledge and sensory stimulae must be tight and focused and unequivocal.

3) Exposition? Ha! I think I wrote three lines of exposition: the first two set the scene and the third accomplished a transition (which I employed only as an anticipatory pause: tension and release my friends!).

Here's the opening:

He poured out the last of the wine and they drank together. As the evening breeze stirred the treetops, the last of the customers returned inside the pub, and then they were alone, bound together by the fading summer sunlight.

Astute maggot farmers will spot my instantaneous hit on NVC and my introduction to a simple word palette. (Curiously, Mademoiselle X found it surprising that not everybody uses word palettes - but they are superficially easy and obvious in erotic fiction; it's only when you're soaring through a wealth of emotional responses that word palettes really require a lot of thought.)
Furthermore, by introducing a palette of dominance ('bound' is rapidly augmented by other 'in control' words), I'm chaining the palette to the NVC.
NB. I should point out here that the story weighed in at a little over one thousand words, and was written over two hours with NO editing and NO preparation other than a cursory 'I'll do this then this then that and end with this.'
Which is to say that my conscious mind no longer sees a need to supervise the subconscious mind as it plays with NVC and word palettes.
I also made many more trips to the front door for a ciggie than I would normally!

Try pausing to take in a sunset. Your reader will hunt you down like the expositionary cur you are.

4) Pacing! Gosh, this isn't toooo difficult until you have more than one thing happening simultaneously. Is she still enjoying that nipple-play or is she more concerned with what his other hand is doing? I guess that erotic fiction is generally very linear, and it's possible that I marginally over-complicated my story. But the remainder of the pacing is reasonably obvious. (That said, I did wonder if there were pacing guidelines anywhere: First contact in the third line; final orgasm begins 90% of the way in ... that kinda stuff.)

5) There aren't enough synonyms for 'push'.
But then again, Hemingway showed us that repetition is fine. And do you really think that a reader with his/her hand in his/her pants is going to be concerned with your fourth re-use of the word 'pressed'? Wry smile? Well ask yourself the same question about any other genre, or about your current project. Is your concern over that word/sentence/paragraph/chapter/act there really any match for the reader's needs? Return to 'Know Your Audience.' :-)

6) You will not succeed at erotic fiction unless you are fearless. If he's still winking at her by the second page, you've lost. I found myself considering that erotic fiction might be the greatest advocate of Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the literary world! Everything is bright and big and bold and vivid! There is no room for innuendo or subtlety (don't mistake subtlety for control).
I did find the experience much easier than I thought I might. Other than a hint of trepidation as I began, there were no thoughts of embarrassment or disgrace. It occurred to me that such feelings are the death of the author. I really do mean that. I've concluded that erotic fiction should be the first port of call for every aspiring author. Until you can deal with the most basic of human desires/needs, what hope do you have in tackling anything more esoteric? (Now there's an issue that we could debate!)

7) Clich├ęs. When you think about it, what remains undiscovered in the world of erotic fiction?
Same old story. So where's the fun for the author? Perhaps the quest for such story-telling prowess that the intensity of the orgasms you deliver are unrivalled?
Mademoiselle X finds her inspiration in 'what if?' situations. Can you imagine harnessing the enthusiasm to regularly enter such a world of unambiguity, necessity and formula?

Such is the trouble with orgasms.