They sparred constantly, Aleisha knew without wanting to. It was sport, it was power, it was sex, relentlessly demanding. Both were driven to win, yet neither would tolerate the other losing.
I keep hearing “whatever you do, don’t mix your genres” thing and I understand it in the broad sense, but where the heck is the demarcation line?
If you’re not writing a love story, does that mean you have to keep all love elements out of it? If it’s not a comedy, are you not allowed to let your characters tell jokes? I’ve been accused of writing fantasy because I have another dimension in the story, referred to but not visited (there’s a lot of scientific discussion in favor of other dimensions, by the way) and because I accept the validity of psychic perception in a down to earth way (you can’t get much meeker than Aleisha). Psychic perception, other realms, the ethereal and the spiritual have been with us since the dawn of time. It might have gone in and out of favor, which, by the way, doesn’t make it true or false, but it most certainly will continue the cycle and have a place in the future, both pro and con.
So far, although I state I write science fiction, I’ve been soft on the other aspects and whether or not I have gone beyond the limits of sci-fi. I write about people in the distant future who, unsurprisingly, turn out to be just like us (shocker!) – I have planetary colonization, spaceships and big Relay stations in space that teleport ships across vast distances. That’s sci-fi. It’s got aliens and advanced technology and force-field shields and energy-blasting guns. That’s sci-fi.
It’s got low-tech, too, old-fashion projectile guns that shoot bullets. Does that make it a Western? Hell, no, that makes it realistic. Since when does high tech land everywhere at once? You might have climate control in your home – I’ve got a combustion heater. The last house I lived in had an open fireplace, and a little while back, I had no house at all! We cooked over and warmed ourselves in front of an outside campfire, just as millions of people do today all around the world.
My projectile guns (in the story) are cheap. Pioneers in a new land or on a new planet have a history of going cheap. A good fancy energy-blasting gun might be what everyone wants, but they’re expensive, and bullets are cheap and can be made locally. So, they have bullets. It’s still a sci-fi.
Writing sex is difficult enough – not least because it’s intimate, but intimacy is just one hurdle. The emotion and mechanics are tricky enough at the best of times. You not only have to describe the scene well, you have to keep it on the page! Okay, so forget your own emotions getting in the way. Forget the cold showers, the mind-blowing, eye-crossing sweaty thoughts and your inability to type coherently. What really bites is the knowledge that however the description ends up, EVERYONE will be able to see it once it’s out there.
Your sex scenes have to be good. You cannot, as a writer, afford to be clumsy in this (if the scene is meant to be clumsy, it still has to be expertly written. You still have to get it right). You are, after all, exposing yourself in a very unique way. Here, you are vulnerable, not only as a writer but as a person. This is too close.
Composing your words and putting a description out there for people to look at and pick over, has many drawbacks. It’s like public speaking. No, it’s worse than that because it’s intimate on so many levels. What if it’s wrong? What if it’s stupid? What if people laugh and it’s not a comedy? What if you haven’t caught your readers so they just don’t connect with what you have put on the page and it all becomes so very clinical? There’s a myriad of things that can go wrong.
What if I call it a spaceship and alien science-fiction-action-adventure-thriller with a touch of erotica (not overdone, but what’s there is bloody good), right? Hmmm. Okay.
Science fiction on its own sounds so dry, doesn’t it? An awful lot of people tell me they really liked my book, The Khekarian Threat, even though it’s not their genre of choice. Friends, family members, even complete strangers have told me this. Hey, some got the follow up, The King’s Sacrifice, so I’m doing something write – oops, right – as an author.
I understand people who aren’t attracted to science fiction. I really do. I got into science fiction because I had such a bad time with it as a kid. I hated it. I’ve written elsewhere that whenever I read a book I didn’t enjoy, or saw a movie I thought could be better, I’d rework it in my mind to be the way I wanted it to be. I did that a lot, usually as I drifted off to sleep or when I sat in a boring class (occasionally both at the same time). Most of all I did that with science fiction. That’s how I became a writer.
I wanted science fiction but I didn’t like it because usually it did not give me what I thought science fiction should be. I wanted it to be about people. I wanted it to be about living in space or on new and alien worlds. I wanted it to be exciting and full of exotic challenges. I wanted to feel as though I was there!
The Khekarian Threat, the first book in the sci-fi Khekarian series is up for grabs, going out free on Kindle for a five day period (ending around midnight of Friday the 23rd of May USA Standard Pacific Time).
I like to run this freebie every three months (the maximum allowed by Kindle), but as I’m generally pretty busy back here, I often run late on it as I don’t realize the three months are up. Because of that, it might be three months or longer before this comes around again, so grab it while you can.
Yesterday in comments, I mentioned that the major sex scene in my first book runs for 30 pages – it does, but don’t be fooled into thinking that means 30 pages of sweat and lust and tedious repetition – because it’s certainly not that – Technically, I suppose, you could break the scene into two, even three segments, but for all of that, with all that happens – the mental gymnastics, the physical fun and games, the action, the fallout and the aftermath, from beginning to end it really does last that long.
It’s actually hard to separate all that out, but I can say that it doesn’t feel anywhere near that long when you’re reading it. Mind, I don’t think anyone notices the page count at that point… or the pages… or the book.
It was actually a hugely tricky scene to write, and not just because of the sex.
First up, I’ll say that not all sexual encounters have to be detailed, of course. Hints or foreplay and then the closed bedroom door or a jump to the next morning works fine for many writers and readers. But then, that’s why there’s a warning stuck at the top of my blog page and on my books at Amazon and Kindle. Mine gets graphic, not always, but when it does, it DOES.
Detailed sex is probably THE most difficult things to write convincingly and realistically – particularly when you want it to appeal to both sexes (it’s a wide band, but put very, very simply, most men get turned on by physical description and most women get turned on by emotional description).
Writers can get in their own way when it comes to writing sex. It’s very easy to become self-conscious, shy or awkward, or worse, turned on – seriously, it might sound funny, but you have to know what goes onto the page and what’s going on in your head. You are WRITING, it has to be ON THE PAGE. It does a writer no good at all to fade out into their imagination and then assume that their readers have followed.
The original idea I had, all those years ago, centered on a pioneering world with Good Guys and some Thugs – simple – It was one book, one story, Ms Sweet Young Thing trying to escape the evil intentions of Mr Villain, lots of good fun and sexual tension – Then I grew up out of adolescence and wondered if I could… you know… put a plot in it.
I gave Mr Villain a brain. That might have been a mistake, but it also gave him wider appeal because there’s only so much you can do with sexual lust. I also took his sexual lust OFF Ms Sweet Young Thing and planted it… well, just about everywhere else.
Meanwhile back at the ranch Mr Villain had to have a reason for keeping and controlling Miss Sweet Young Thing. She needed a reason to want to get away, right? And no Good Guy/Bad Guy clash happens over a pay dispute – it had to be something against the will, so slavery it became.
I also needed to give Mr Villain brute force power and a reason for wanting a talented seer in his life.
That’s right, Ms Sweet Young Thing is an untrained, undisciplined psychic – And don’t start with the “But she didn’t see it coming” bit, just about everyone she meets says that. And don’t tell me it doesn’t belong in science fiction, either! What about Star Wars? What about “Use the Force, Luke”? Then there’s Star Trek and Mr Spock and his mind-meld. If Star Wars and Star Trek count as science fiction, mine most certainly does. Yes – complete with spaceships and Relay stations (teleport), and fancy weaponry and aliens and newly colonized worlds. It’s sci-fi, got it?
My take on the psychic side of things is that spirituality, psychic experiences and the practice of magic in many forms has been part of human history right from the start. It is still with us today and will be with us tomorrow. It flows in and out of popular appeal, so there’s no reason to assume it will stop dead in its tracks anytime soon.
This is for Beth*, a lady I know, a lovely friend of mine who doesn’t like to know the plot ahead of time, who doesn’t even like to read the teaser page on the back of a book, she wants the whole thing to be a surprise – Before she told me that, I didn’t know that some people value a book to that extent, that any example would spoil the reading experience for them – and I have respected that ever since.
So, apart from telling you I write science fiction and that the Khekarian series is an adventure, with some erotica, graphic sex, coarse language, violence and – not forgetting what annoys some people – societies that accept psychic reality, the only way you’re going to know any details is to look at the samples I have listed. They’ll be found in the side menu to the right, or from the drop-down menu. I have the first four and a half chapters from book 1, and other sections from book 1 and 2 – so they are there, but they do not intrude into the blog itself.
I did toy with the idea of popping in a section of prose every now and then, but dismissed the notion when I realized that although some would enjoy it, for many it is not why they visit my blog. More importantly, for a valuable few, it would spoil things immeasurably.
Sex in a book grabs us and makes us sit up a bit – it can be beautiful, erotic, physical, emotional, rich, gentle, sloppy, selfish, aggressive, abusive, crude or ugly – and it can be written beautifully, erotically, with physically orientation, emotionally orientation, richly done, gently told, rough and ready or just plain sloppily and poorly written – There is much more to sex in fiction than just capturing the action and keeping the writer out of his or her own way.
In the chosen post-from-the-past (written in May 2013) for today, I covered the lot. Reading back on it, I think my chat about perspective is probably the one area a lot of writers miss. We all know what works for us in our own identity and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of writing from our own perspective – forgetting that there is another side, a partner who may see things through a different lens.
It is something to be aware of. If your fiction is aimed one way, all may be fine, but if you want to write for a wider audience, you’ll need to take into account what matters for the opposite sex.
I also outline my own method of writing sex scenes. Some scenes work very easily and are written on the first run through, anything deeper might take longer, and something complicated by other issues might need some fine balancing. My methods helped to keep me out of my own way, but it’s also a great method of dealing with embarrassment, too – writing sex is not easy.
Basically, when it comes to sex, there is nothing worse than poorly written scene, particularly if the writer’s embarrassment shows through – if that happens, you can’t miss it, and that makes it painful for the reader, too.
So here it is, direct. Because I’m jumping straight to that particular page instead of going through an interim one, please note you’ll need to read from the top and not scoot down to the asterisk. Comments there are open, of course, and I’d love to hear of your own methods that work.
Ever since that mega-sex scene in The Khekarian Threat (you’ll know which sex scene I mean when you get there, there will be no doubt whatsoever), my husband Greg has insisted there be more like it in the following books on the basis that readers will be disappointed if there is not – Not only that, but he claims if I can’t do a thirty-page stint in each and every book, I should at least put in six five-page stints, or some combination that equals that.
Hey, mister, I can’t just put sex scenes in anywhere.
“Why not?” he wants to know.
Because, it’s got to fit into the story, that’s why. It can’t just be added to spice things up and for no other reason – people notice that sort of thing. If you’ve got nothing else but people hopping into bed every other page, there’s not much to be said for plot.
“But six sex scenes in 600 pages is only one scene per hundred,” he reasoned (he’s quite good at that).