Today's Ramble on Reading and Writing. Part 1

Friday, February 01, 2008

A couple of days ago, my editor sent Felicity Stripped Bare back to me for one last go-thru, on my part, before she rolls up her sleeves and the bloodletting begins. *g*

Those were my words, not hers. I'd like to think that it's as close to best it can be and I can do at this point and time. I'm *not* going to fiddle with anything major (if anything major catches my eye) because that can lead to more headaches than it's worth. I'll just have to stand by the story as is. Instead this will be a hunt for typos (because they're always there, no matter how many times you and your many critique partners have gone over it). Also, my editor did mention that when she read the revised ms, she noticed that the language had become a bit more erotic...

Busted! lol. In my defense, I recall reading some comment or blog post, while I was revising, that was about 'language used in love scenes'. It made me concerned that with Daniel and Felicity being a young couple in their late 20s, early 30s, there were places that the language might have been a little too euphemistic. Considering I didn't do a wholesale search and replace for more graphic descriptions, it looks like it might have been a mistake to change the language as much as I did. Or maybe it was just the places I chose to change it. The last thing you want is a reader being pulled out of a crucial point in a scene because of phrasing choices.

I was reading an excerpt online recently. It was for an erotic romance (or maybe erotica, featuring an m/m/f). The sample was an excerpted love scene that was very intense, but swear to god if I didn't CRINGE every time a certain body part was mentioned. I'm not a prude. It is a word I've used in real life. But it didn't suite the tone/language of the scene. IMO, the scene would have been much hotter without the word.

In addition, I just finished reading an erotic (contemporary) romantic suspense. There were some terms used that made me:

A) Go WTF?
B) Laugh Out Loud
C) Make a 'Yuck' face.

Yanno, sometimes clich├ęs, or 'boring/mild terms' are just fine. They say what they must, convey what's needed, but blend into the language. And avoid the reactions as listed above. You be surprised out many details you can leave out. The reader will fill it in from an emotional well-spring of memory (whether that be personal memory, or collective recall from movies/books, etc). For example:

An old farm kitchen, with a loaf of freshly baked bread cooling on counter.*

I'm betting everyone who just read that short sentence (fragment. heh) got an instant snap-shot image and resulting visceral reaction from that pretty vague/broad description. There's no mention of whether the counter was old, scarred butcher-block wood that had been hand oiled for years and glowed with a mellow honey color. Or if it were a new granite counter, that complimented the original stone floors, or linoleum that the current owners grandparents had installed.

Yes, those details do add to the scene, and, it's reasonable to think that the more detail you add, the more enriched the scene becomes. But writers have to be careful they don't lose that initial emotional punch, by piling on a bunch of stuff that might not be needed (at that particular time and place). Or mentioning the hot pink shag carpeting in the old farm kitchen.

See, now you're thinking 'wtf?' about that carpet, and those initial feelings of comfort and nostalgia that sprang to life at the mention of 'freshly baked bread' and 'old farm kitchen' have been pushed aside.

There may be a very good, intriguing, reason for the rug. Perhaps it absolutely suits the owner's quirky personality. But what's more important here, pointing another arrow at character personality? (which had already been established) Or building that emotion?

If you want to do both, select another detail, perhaps: 'one wall in the kitchen is painted a bright, fresh green that echoed the lush lawns viewed through the large window over the sink'. Your reader still has that feeling of well-being, but not jolted out of the scene, as the you could stop, for now, with the details you've given. It's enough.

They say 'Character is Story'. Well, consider that 'Story is Emotion'.


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11 comments:

raine said...

Consistency in tone and presentation is important.
(And isn't it something how the things we read affect our writing, even if we're in the middle of something?).

vanessa jaye said...

"And isn't it something how the things we read affect our writing, even if we're in the middle of something?"

Which is probably why a lot of writers don't read when they're writing, or don't read in the genre they write.

Amie Stuart said...

But it didn't suite the tone/language of the scene.

This is something I really wonder about. Do you think writers realize they're being inconsistent or just feel the need to be hot/graphic because it sells? Did that make sense?

Amie Stuart said...

Or mentioning the hot pink shag carpeting in the old farm kitchen.

What's wrong with the hot pink rug? seriously!!!! YES it's inconsistent but if it fits in the framework of the story, then why not? What if your character has some emotional attachment to the ruG? I guess this is kind of one of those "if a tree falls in the woods" questions.

And i guess I'm playing devil's advocate here. LOL

Sorry.

vanessa jaye said...

Amie, I honestly didn't change the language to make the story more hotter. It was really about writing a modern/contemporary romance with younger H/h's and yet being a bit coy with the phrasing in certain scenes. I'm going through the mss right now, but I suspect it might have been a case where in the same scene I might have referred to the hero's 'hardness', then a couple of sentences later 'his c**k'. But the next concern is overusing terms. Using the more graphic term 5 times on one page.

Also, while there's definitely a lot of sexual tension, and I think the lovescenes are hot, the story isn't erotic. Could be I had the right balance of terms in the first place, now the additional terms don't really jive with the tone of the rest of the book. I'll see as I go through the edits.

But enough about me. lol.

Yes. I do think there are some authors who do throw in the most graphic words/terms with no consideration for what is the natural tone of the story. They're just playing towards their anticipated audience. or think that 'harder' terms will make the book more erotic/explicit.

vanessa jaye said...

I tried to cover my bases with the pink shag thing. lol. I do see your point, absolutely.

But if your character has some emotional attachment to that rug, then is that the scene to highlight it? What is the tone of that scene/the book? And if it's not about the rug but about an aspect of the character's personality symbolized by the rug, can you not chose another object--that's not so in your face--to show that in this scene?

It always depends. But I was coming from the angle that the rug isn't that important. It was another detail that could add to the scene, but ultimately takes away from it. Let's say the description of the kitchen is the description of a lovescene. The more detail you had, the more you bring the scene to life, but also the more danger you run into in losing what's most essential to the scene--emotion. Also, the more change there is that you add that one detail--the pink shag--that pulls the reader out of the scene.

That pink shag could symbolise not only awkward details that pulled the reader out of the story, but an excess of certain terms/phrases, etc.

Amie who doesn't feel like signing in AGAIN said...

and yet being a bit coy with the phrasing in certain scenes

Arg the internet! I knew what you meant in terms of your own writing =)
I just meant writers in general sometimes....

Me again...lazy said...

But I was coming from the angle that the rug isn't that important.

In other words having description on the page just for the sake of having description. Ok i get now :)

vanessa jaye said...

lol. This is where we meet up and agree.

But I was coming from the angle that the rug isn't that important.

In other words having description on the page just for the sake of having description. Ok i get now :)


Nope.

I meant something closer to this:

Do you think writers realize they're being inconsistent or just feel the need to be hot/graphic because it sells? Did that make sense?

What you said before. lol. Writers sometimes throw in (uneccessary) description because they think it's going to accomplish X thing, when the result turns out to be something completely opposite. Ie, added explicit words, with the result being anything but erotic.

booklady said...

Well said! I'm especially in favor of not putting in too much description, because I always realize after I've read a passage of it that I've rarely taken in any of it at all.

vanessa jaye said...

That's another good point, booklady. These things can, and will, cause a reader to start skimming.

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