Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping the Prose Active

You'd think something as active as sex would call for a host of really good words, but yet erotic romance writers seem to get stuck in the same host of inactive words that don't lend anything to their writing. I fall victim to this as well. 

Every book it seems my editor finds some new weak or repetitive word that drives her insane and leads to a herd of red scratches and little comment boxes. The last email I sent of a scene for her to look at was returned, pointing out I had used the word brush four times (ack!) Another time it was the word suck (in my defense, it was  blowjob, and the word was part of the discussion.) It's also really hard to come up with alternate body part words, seeing there are two main active parts in all of this excitement, unless it's a menage, then there could be a host of fun parts, but still lacking on the variety.

So what words should you look for in your manuscript to keep the evil red scratches and comment boxes at bay? Here's a list I use. Ready? Go.

The first big search/delete: THAT--95% are removable without changing sentence structure/meaning

Basic Verbs:
Push, look, gaze, press, pull, move, bring, brought, was (you can't avoid all of them, but you can most)

Move and look of the above are pet peeves of my editor's.

Eh: He moved toward her.
Better: Stalked? Ambled? Tip-toed? Stampeded? Flew like a flying squirrel?

Eh: He looked at the volcano.
Better: He snapped his attention toward the flaming, spewing volcano.

Repetitive body parts:

Body, body parts, any buzz word that is a body part

Overusing the body parts is a hard one, because there are only so many parts doing the action. Hands, fingers, mouth, lips...there are only so many ways to vary using them, but vary you must. Seeing the same words over and over feels repetitive to the reader and gives the sex scene a Slot A/Tab B feel. The key is to get creative with how you word the various actions. Some examples...

Body is a pet peeve thanks to an editor friend.

Eh: He moved his body toward her hand. (I was sneaky and got two in.)
Yeah!: He arched his hips, shoving his aching, hard shaft into her willing hand. (Oooh, baby.)

Buzz words: Yep, the names for the naughty but fun parts. Penis and vagina sound clinical. It's hard to vary, but try not to use cock twenty times on a page, six times in a sentence. Womb is not a good choice, since it makes people think of babies, and when you're smexing (unless you're smexing to make babies) it's not a good thing.

Passive/telling words to avoid:

Thought, knew, felt, that, because, now, saw, watched, noticed, heard, thought, knew, decided, realized

These are all words that tell instead of show. Telling is a horrible trap to get into. Yes, I'm telling a story, but showing how the character feels is much more inviting to the reader. Here are some examples. 

Eh: I felt scared. 

Better: Terror raced up my spine. 

Eh: I saw the alien ship land. 

Better: Holy shit, an alien ship landed and they are making crop circles in my field! (They better not, I'd be angry.) 

If you're like me, now you're whining and tired. That's a lot of searching! But your story will be better for it, and your readers will thank you.

A Moment to say THANK YOU! 

It's hard to believe Just Ask was released two weeks ago to Amazon, and I'm so grateful to everyone who has supported me in every way. It's been hanging around the top 20 GBLT lists for over a week, and has been in the top 100 since the debut weekend. That means a lot of thanks are needed to be offered up because I'm grateful for every second of this fabulous ride. 

So...Thanks to the GBLT community, for being special, open, wonderful people. Thank you to the many m/m authors who have given me great stories to read and dream about, sparking my own ideas. 

Thanks to the ARC readers and reviewers! Thank you friends and fans (my family is blissfully unaware of my smut writing capabilities. Except my sister.) Thanks to the inner ring of friends who have to hook up the IV tequila/coffee lines and who listen to me complain about running out of coffee and tequila on a regular basis (I'm not that difficult, really.) 

Lastly, thank you Diana Carlile, my editor and cover artist. She dared me to write it, so I did. Sometimes dares are a good thing. 


Donya Lynne said...

Excellent post! Spot-on suggestions. I know a writer whose characters are always "moving." I told her she needs to vary this, but move they still do. Ugh.

Nancy Campion said...

Great post - just what I needed.

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