Friday, February 19, 2010

How to Write a Sex Scene

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Listen to a podcast of this article here.
If you write for any length of time, you’ll stumble upon the opportunity, with intent or otherwise, to write a sizzling scene where your characters take off their clothes. For obvious reasons, many writers struggle with this type of prose, while others jump in without reservation. Either way, every fiction writer has the ability to write erotic scenes. After all, it’s just another form of conflict, is it not?
Let’s look first to the scene as an integral part of any novel. As with every scene in every novel, it must fulfill the same functions and have the same components as would any other. It must fit the storyline, utilize believable characters, employ effective dialogue, move the story forward, build tension, (Yeah, boy!), exhibit a character’s needs, (Too easy…), offer conflict, (You bet!), contain a valid point of view and all those other tedious things. It’s no different than any other scene in this regard.
Let’s look to storyline. As a writer you should give thought as to why you’re writing this specific scene in the first place. It must have the same authenticity as any other in your manuscript. If you write an erotic scene for the sake of titillating, (Oh, geez…), readers won’t understand how it fits the story, and though they may read it multiple times, it will drag down your novel and reduce its acceptance. So, think it through and insure this scene has legitimate purpose to the story.
Characters: The main thing to remember is they must stay in character. The meek office worker will never start talking like a stevedore in bed, nor will your hunk ever giggle. The rapist won’t turn into a cuddle-bunny when he’s done, nor with the Stockholm Syndrome come into play for his victim. Insure the way they act out of bed corresponds with the way they act in bed.
Dialogue: When you want to write an erotic scene, dialogue is not what you might think. In real life, people say things like, “I don’t bend that way,” or “that hurts” or the ever-deflating, “Is it in yet?” So, like any other dialogue in your novel, it won’t be true to life. Consider talking as foreplay for your characters. Lead into the scene with dialogue that builds in intensity, then allow it to fade as things get more heated. Words should give way to sighs, whimpers, groans, exclamations and whispers. Just be cautious your characters don’t sound like farm animals.
Conflict: Consider the conflict that caused the characters to engage in sex, and/or the conflict that results from the act. If there is none, the scene is probably not necessary.
To me, the secret to a steamy scene is found within psychology. Once you realize sex is more a mental exercise than physical, your writing will focus upon the emotional sides of love making. Be sure your reader “sees” the emotional tension rising, falling and rising again to its crescendo.
And don’t forget the lead-up and the follow-through. What drew your characters together and holds them to each other? How do they feel the following morning? What happens to their relationship with the passing of time? Sex scenes are a much larger part of your story than just momentary and wanton passion.
Let’s now look at some general tips to consider when writing sex scenes.
You’re not writing a brochure for the medical community, so dispense with all the technical terms like “penis” or “vagina.” Further, unless you’re writing for comedic effect, “tacos” or “thingys” have no place either. Consider using instead, pronouns, which are quite effective in these scenes. Your example?
“His thingy forced its way into her vagina.”
is replaced by,
“He forced himself upon her.”
Resist the temptation to use euphemisms. The Tunnel of Love is a ride at the carnival and meat slapping is all about being mean to hogs.
You don’t have to describe too much nor do you have to tell everyone what’s going where or who’s grabbing what. They already know. Besides, the reader’s imagination will fill in the blanks, and they’ll create a more interesting image with their minds than you will with your words.
Yes, your own writing, in this situation, should excite you too. If it doesn’t, you need to rewrite the scene or drop it all together.
In sex scenes, like any other, incorporate the five senses, sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
Fluids can be fun. Yes, sex is sticky and fluid-filled, so don’t shy away from those components of the act either. Just be judicious in their use.
Nipples are not pencil erasers or anything related to a cherry. They are tough to describe, so become comfortable with the word, “nipples.”
Shy away from clich├ęs. They rarely work in writing anyway, and they’ll rarely work in writing sex. Have you ever been with someone who screamed out, “Do me now! Do me now!” Neither have  your readers.
Women rarely beg for sex. Men just might.
Your erotic scenes should never be tedious or disappointing. If they doesn’t turn you on, rewrite them.
No formulas. Paint-by-number sex is boring.
Unless you’re writing a rape scene, “no” really does mean “no.”
Build tension before your characters do the dirty deed.
Don’t forget to include foreplay. It’s a major part of the best sex, so be sure to include it in your writing.
Give your readers fantasy. That is one of the most interesting parts of sex anyway and there’s no reason to ignore it.
Sex is all about the mind and so much more than just the orgasm. So it is with your characters. Let them use their minds more than their other body parts.
Sex can be humorous. After all, “Get bent,” can have so many meanings.
Use the small aspects of sex to enhance the scene. A woman’s neckline can be much more enticing than most any part of her body. A man’s hand on the small of a woman’s back can lead her in any direction.
People usually look better in their clothes than out of them. Don’t get too involved with physical descriptions. Allow the reader to imagine as they will.
Illusion is much more tempting that nakedness.
A falling silk dress is more alluring than a fallen silk dress.
In a first encounter, women take time. In later encounters, you may have to slow them down.
Odd thoughts can, and do, seep into people’s minds at the most inappropriate of times.
If it makes you cringe, it will make your readers put your book away forever.
Okay, for those of you who still feel hesitant, there’s only one way to overcome your fears. Pick up your pen and get your paper wet.
I hope by now you know, I wish you only best-sellers.
C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, “Born to be Brothers.”

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Secret to Secrets in Novels

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Almost every type of novel can utilize the power of secrets to advance the plot and improve the suspense. Think of how many stories you've read where something unknown pops up in the middle of the book and shifts the entire story to another track. I’ve come up with five ways to use secrets within your novels to enhance your storyline, increase suspense and even help your characters grown and change during the story.
One of the best ways to use the suspense created by a secret is to make it corporeal, something your characters can see and touch. When utilizing this technique, your reader is allowed to share in the secret and all the interest and excitement the unknown brings. It could be a sealed envelope, a person lurking in the shadows, a photo or a diary. It can be anything as long as your reader doesn't know what it represents until you want them to know what it represents. 
You can use a secret as a source of conflict for your characters. How about the husband who comes home late from work and refuses to tell his wife why?  What if a soldier cannot bring himself to talk about a war experiences, though his wife tells him she's heard an ugly rumor about that situation. In fact, this secret could even be your entire novel. Regardless, in these situations you've got something you readers know exists but is hidden from them for a reason they are not yet allowed to understand. They may just read on just to find out what's going on.
A third way to take advantage of secrets is to enhance your climactic scene. How often have you read a novel where just as the hero is about to die, he learns a dramatic secret that changes everything and saves his life and sanity? Personally, I don't care for this use. I think it was Orson Wells who said, and I paraphrase, terror isn't terror unless the viewer knows something is about to happen. As I recall, he used the example of two people sitting at a table with a bomb underneath. There is much more suspense if everyone knows the bomb is there and are waiting for it to explode, than if it just detonates all of a sudden. I feel the same way about secrets. They have more power if everyone is waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. Regardless my sentiments in this, a climactic secret might be useful to your story and you may wish to give it consideration.
Another common use of secrets in novels is as a vehicle for a plot twist. The secret to this secret is to insure it is truly hidden within your story as you set up your readers for its revelation. In Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, (not the movie versions but the book), the creature threatens the not so worthy doctor with perpetual evil unless Dr. Frankenstein creates another creature, a female companion for the monster. When that comes to light, the entire story took on a new direction. If you can work this tool into your novels, it'll create terrific conflict.
I think the most powerful secrets to use are within you. You've got some, just like everyone else. Why not choose those secrets that inspire your life to inspire your readers? 
If you wish to use secrets but don’t have one in mind, find real life ones at Post Secret Blog for ideas. (This place is interesting.)
I hope you've found something in this article that'll spark a secret for your novels.
Until we speak again, I wish you only best-sellers.
C. Patrick Schulze
Author of "Born to be Brothers"
(Coming Soon.)


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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

4 Steps to Character Development

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We all realize one of the most critical components in the craft of writing any novel is its characters. Without effective characterization, the chance of penning a successful novel approaches zero. Therefore, I spend much of my writing time creating those people who will populate my manuscripts. Personally, I use a four-step process for developing my characters.
These four steps are:
1.     Summarize the type of character needed for the story
2.     Find a photo of that person
3.     Interview my main characters
4.     Review my character's reactions during the editing process
First, I jot down the basic characteristics I'll need for my hero, villain and any love interest. I focus more on their personality than physical characteristics and I try to envision how this person I'm creating will react to situations I already imagine will occur in the story.
I sort of feel this person out and makes notes as my mind wanders between the character and the story. Other writers fill in formal note cards or databases, many types of which you can find on the Internet. It matters not how you gather this information, but knowing my characters' personalities before I craft them helps me flesh them out as I write.
Next I locate, cut out and paste up photos of my characters. I physically mount their faces, and if necessary to the story, full body photos of my people. I pay very close attention to the look in their eyes, for I need specific personality types, and the eyes are the harbinger of this. I might take hours upon hours to find the perfect pictures, but when I have them, I paste these photos on a piece of poster board and keep it on my desk as I write. Early in the writing process, I refer to these photos often, especially when I write dialogue, which I think is one of the secrets to effective dialogue. As I become more familiar with the characters as individuals, I refer to their photos less and less, but still keep the mounting board on my desk as I write.  
Third, I interview my characters. Yes, it is a formal interview as if I'm speaking to someone for a magazine article. By now I've developed a basic storyline so I ask them questions that relate to my story. For example, in an early manuscript, my heroine learned her husband died in battle and she traveled to the field to find his remains. (It was common in the era in which I write.) So, I asked her, "Lorena, it's late at night and you've wandered over this horrid field with a lantern for hours. You've just found your husband, dead on the battlefield. How would you react to this?" I allow my instincts about this character to answer for me. If I don't get an answer that can translate into an effective scene, I consider altering the scene and/or characterization of this person. By the time I've reviewed most of my story's major plot points as they relate to my major characters, I've got a firm visualization of who my characters are and how I'll write about them in my manuscript.
Finally, as I edit my work I study how my characters reacted to the various situations in which I've placed them. Did they respond according to the  personality I've given them? Did they act as expected? If not, what has to change, the scene, the character or both? The situations in which my characters find themselves have often morphed into something quite different than I'd visualized in my first draft. I consider it imperative to insure my character's have adapted to these new situations in a fashion consistent with their personalities.
My manuscripts are character-driven and this four-step process insures those people I create mesh with my plot points and storyline without issue.
Are there other techniques or tips you use to create your characters? Let me know and I'll post them, with appropriate credit, of course.
Until then, I wish you only best-sellers.
C. Patrick Schulze


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Monday, February 15, 2010

The Secrets to Your Novel Writer's Reputation

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I can only suppose you're reading this article because you are already a successful author or you plan that same accomplishment soon. If either case is true, then you've got a professional standing to uphold. How might you go about keeping your reputation up to form? As with anything worthwhile, it's a bit time consuming but necessary. The good news, there are only a few secrets to keep in mind.


I attended The James River Writer's Conference last year and listened to a panel where all three speakers agreed to the concept a writer needs to spend seventy-five percent of their time marketing their business and twenty-five percent writing. This means that to keep up your status as a professional writer, you should spend a great deal of your efforts on promoting your name and maintaining your status as a professional. Look at it like this. An Olympian isn't racing most of the time, he's practicing. The secret is this concept applies to your writing.


Basically, there are six major steps you should consider if you wish to build and maintain a professional writer's reputation. I'll outline them then discuss each in a bit more detail. These considerations are:


1. Utilize Social Networking
2. Join an Association
3. Create Your Web Presence
4. Write Nonfiction
5. Keep a Professionals Attitude
6. Stay Current


Utilize Social Networking: You've chosen a field where the competition is fierce, and when a novel writer wants to generate buzz about his manuscript, you have to employ WOM, or word of mouth. Keep in mind social networking is beyond simple posts on Facebook and Twitter, though these are important. You should also join writers' groups, attend conferences and the like. Be found in those places where writers and readers congregate. Despite all the technological advances in recent years, WOM is still your best way of getting known.


Join an association: Once you're published, joining a professional writers' association helps build your cred. For example, if you write mysteries, consider the Mystery Writers of America. Find whatever organization(s) fit your genre then pay their dues and go to their gatherings. It's a great way to hobnob with the successful and to garner loads of useful information


Create Your Web Presence: In any earlier post, (read it here), I talked about when to build your web site, but you should begin to build your web presence well before the web site is up and running. However, if you wish to establish a profile page sooner, that's not a bad idea. You should establish a blog one to three years prior to becoming published. Update this no less than weekly. You should have a professional email, (mine is CPatrickSchulze@yahoo.com). Be sure to include this web information on business cards and other marketing material you might produce.


Write nonfiction: You write fiction all the time. Why not improve your cred by writing nonfiction, such as this article? It helps you boost your reputation as a writer and if you're unpublished, it also builds confidence.


Maintain a Professional Attitude: Nobody wants to do business with a prim donna or a fool. The more professional your presentation, the more others are willing to deal with you. And, after all, you are in The Business of Writing. You'll gather more potential proponents and customers with the correct personal presentation. The old adage of "Image is Everything," holds true in this industry as with any other.


There was an agent I followed on Twitter, had placed in my database, and planned to query at the appropriate time. I met her at a writer's conference and although her personal appearance was well below standards, I attempted to look past that to get to know her and appreciate the work she might perform for me. Quite frankly, she's a bitchy woman who looked down upon the unpublished and I soon discovered she is someone with whom I could never work. She lacked even a modicum of professionalism and I've dropped her as a possible agent. If you don't present a professional attitude the reverse happens to you as a writer.


Stay Current: Keep your knowledge of publishing trends and market preferences up to date. You do this by reading industry magazines, various newsletters, blogs, articles and by reading the invaluable information on Twitter and other social networking sites. Staying current also means to write, write, and write some more.
Are there other thing you must do to establish and maintain your cred? You bet there is. However, get these initial steps under your belt and these other opportunities present themselves to you.


Do you have any stories about how you've worked to build your credentials as a professional writer? Are there other ways you go about building your reputation?


Until we meet again, I wish you only best-sellers.


C. Patrick Schulze


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