Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tense, more tense, even more tense...

... leads to strung rope that may break at any minute!

I was wondering what angle to talk about today when I went over to the blog and reread T.J's post for the week. Yes, she inspires me, in more ways than one, but for today I'll focus on her post about ambition.

One day, she asked me, what's your ambition? After lots of hollering and screaming and a few knocks to my hard skull, I finally understood what she asked - where did I want to be in say, five years, and what do I want people to be saying about me?

At that time, I had been struggling with finding my way in the writing world. I had found my 'voice'; I knew how to write (and that meant, and still means, drafts and writes and rewrites and countless edits); I had ideas for stories and was starting to come out of the cliche fold.

And, lo and behold, guess what was hot, hot, hot back then? You got it - erotica!

Now I knew I couldn't write direct, in-your-face erotica. Growing up in an Indian/traditional/Muslim set-up, you do tend to view sex as a prude, like what if my mother and all the aunts suddenly came over my shoulder and peeked at the screen? *shiver* It's ingrained inside of you. So there we go - sex is all the terrific thing that's going on in the writing world. I thought, let me try, even if I won't be writing the sequel to Basic Instinct any time soon!

I put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard). Got my story, spun it on itself, got the cliche out, grabbed the characters and fleshed them, with a solid backstory and impact moment, and yes, I had a plot in there. The spin was, it was erotic in nature. I wrote the story. Some solid, at-least-3-pages long sex scenes in a 22K short. It got good raves from my CPs, even from my mentor. I was even on the brink of having it published when the pub house it was going to closed because the owner was facing health issues. So I submitted the story to other places, it was even accepted.

But then I didn't have it published. It still sits on my hard disk today. Why?

Because that story was good but it wasn't me. Erotica isn't me, because I write sex as part of the character's journey, not just for the sake of sexing it up. At around that same time, I penned another ms, 25K, very hot, lots of sex, and with a plot too! But again, it sits there.

It's not that these stories were too hot. It's not that they didn't hold the line, or weren't good, or were just sex scenes strung together. It's that - they're not me!

I come back to the question T.J. had asked me - what's my ambition? And the answer I remember giving her in the end was - to be known for the strong stories and fully-fleshed characters I create.

Sex may be a part of it, but it isn't the be-all and end-all of it.

So I come to the question that plagues all writers who at some point of another, reflect upon this question in view of writing for the market or writing what their heart tells them to write - Is sex necessary? (If they don't reflect on this, they should!)

My answer would be, sex is as necessary to your story as it is necessary to the people making this story. In real life, two people don't just keep ripping all their clothes off the minute they're together (clothes cost money too, guys. They'd need to buy a new wardrobe everyday unless they join a nudist colony). Two people cannot just burn down the sheets every single time they get together (sometimes they'll just rumple those sheets!). A man cannot simply be having sex like a rabbit all the time (unless he's pumped up on Viagra and that too is a health hazard!). A woman also needs to start buying stocks in a panty-liner-making company if all she does is wet her panties all the time!

The point is, real people do not have sex like that (if they tell you they do, take it with a grain of salt!). So why then would the people, the 'real people' you want to portray in your story, act so illogically where sex is concerned?

As a writer, you need to think. Think it all through. How would such a person act in real life? What would he/she do or think? How would he/she act/react? That's the mark of getting good, 'real' characterization down, and if you do this well, then you'll be writing well and strong too. Whichever way you cut it, a story is about a plot and the plot is brought to life by the characters. It's no different for erotica, erotic romance, or just a sex scene in your mainstream work.

So next time you'll be writing, stop for a minute and think. Where do YOU want to be in five years? How do you want people to know you? And for the right here right now, what are your characters about, what are they like? And how do they have sex?

Pen down a few answers, and you should see the path. Hopefully, it won't be a tight-strung rope that you may just bounce off and land in the middle of nowhere when you try to step on it.

In my mss mentioned here, I first let myself down, beacuse I didn't stop and think and just thought to place some sex scenes in. I let my characters down, because I made them think with their crotches and not with their mind and ultimately, their heart. Why their heart? Because sex and all that leads to it is also a question of feelings and emotions. Think of the tension before that first kiss, the sizzle of recognition and longing when your gaze crosses that of the person who makes your body temperature go up by ten degrees in the blink of a second, the rush of feeling down your spine when the first touch lands on your skin, or when the heated, passion-darkened gaze of your lover roams over you, creating that almost magical, intangible link that will not sever until after the fires have been doused?

Think, people, think!

Any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out in January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over


Sandy said...

Z, you say it so well.

I absolutely cannot put a sex scene in my story just because it needs one.

Chicki said...

Wonderful post, Z!

My story is similar but with the opposite twist. The pressure I face isn’t from my culture but from my religious community. I began writing inspirational (Christian based) stories, because being born-again Christian, that’s what I know. But I wrote these manuscripts from a realistic perspective. When I began submitting it didn’t take me long to find out that inspirational publishers didn’t want reality. They want whitewashed, watered down stories.

So I tried to tone my first two manuscripts down to meet the guidelines of these publishers, but I wasn’t pleased with the result – and neither were the publishers. Let me say that these stories weren’t raunchy. The main characters were even a married couple, but they dealt with real world situations.

After seven years I finally came to the conclusion that writing for the Christian market wasn’t for me, even though I am a committed Christian.

My goal is to be known as a Christian woman who writes honest stories about people struggling with real life conflicts. They’re not perfect, but they’re good people who make mistakes. If my Christian friends, church members, and ministers don’t understand that … whatever.

Sorry for rambling on.

Sandy said...


So many Christians don't want to hear about real life. I've ran into this a lot with some of my mother's old friends (not all of them).

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...


I'm glad you agree. Sex should be an integral part of the people and their journey. Even if it's the driving force behind that journey, ultimately it's the people that's gonna bring strength and power to it.



Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) said...

Thanks Chicki.

I'm sorry to hear you had to find out the market you wanted to write for turned out not to be for you. Unfortunately this happens, but it's also a good way for you to recognize that there's got to be other places, other avenues, where your strength will be valued and celebrated.

Seems you have found the way with the stories you now pen. No one says you cannot reconcile who you are with what you write. And if people don't get it, well, it's not your loss!

And lol, ramble all you like! It's nice to listen to your rambles.