Friday, August 29, 2008

Be a sex-writing strumpet Pt 22

***Insert generic disclaimer***

What are you doing to me?

The heat inside her roared like a beast, rising up into her throat and escaping as cry of pure, wanton delight. She’d thought last night she could never experience anything as wonderful as him on top of her, thrusting inside her. Now she knew she could. In this position, his balls thudded softly against her clit with every thrust. She lifted her ass and spread her legs a little more, making it easier for his skin to touch hers.
He was so hot, the thickness of him searing her insides, his pelvis warm against her behind. Slowly he danced out of her, rolling his hips so his cock touched every inch of her walls, then just as slowly crept back in. She rocked her hips against him, circling in the opposite direction, and the tightening of his fingers on her hips told her how much he liked it.
Royd slid one hand up her spine and looked down to watch himself sink into her body and reemerge, slick with her moisture. He would never, could never grow tired of that sight. He leaned back a little, bending his legs further to get a better view. All the while, Prudence’s sighs and gentle moans egged him on, told him what he wanted to hear. Her cunt was tight and hot around him, welcoming him with every thrust. He thought of the way those walls had felt around his tongue the night before and almost exploded. He wanted to taste her again, wanted to feel and explore every inch of her body.

What did you notice about that excerpt? Anything? Anything you want to comment on?

Did you notice the POV switch?

I know conventional wisdom is to never, ever head-hop. And I agree, generally. It doesn’t always bother me but I do notice it, and generally find it too “telly”. It’s not fun if you don’t get to deduce things for yourself. (For example, in one of my books I have the heroine push the hair out of her face, close her eyes, and smile, feeling the breeze on her skin. When she opens her eyes the man she’s with quickly looks away and busies himself with something. Hopefully it’s obvious to the reader that he was watching her, probably open-mouthed with a stupid look of longing on his face [stupid to him, I mean] and that he’s now embarrassed at almost being caught. I could easily have slipped into his POV for that and told the reader he was watching her and thinking she was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen up close, and that she was smart and brave and all that stuff too—or whatever sappy thoughts he was having at the moment—but I don’t think that’s anywhere near as much fun, do you? Or as interesting. I like subtle clues, and I think readers like them too; it makes them feel smart, and I like to make readers feel smart, because it makes them feel engaged, and obviously that’s the main goal, right? I digress.)

So generally, POV switches should have a scene break, or at least a line break (a blank space) between them.

Except for sex scenes. Or rather, except for some sex scenes.

I know, you might not agree with me (ooh, I’m controversial!) But I think, if you’re writing a book from multiple POVs or from both characters’s POVs, you ought to have at least one sex scene where we get to see into both their heads. Generally that One Scene is the big “I love you” sex scene, because it’s such an important moment that frankly I think the reader deserves to see into both people’s heads. I also like to switch at some point during the First Sex scene, and one of the more emotionally charged ones in the middle—angry or frantic sex, say. Any sex scene that represents a huge leap or is emotionally fraught is a good place to let your reader see into both heads.

Like I said I know there are some who won’t agree with me. It’s also very possible your publisher will force you to put a line break in there to signify the switch. Personally I think if you do it right, the reader will hardly even notice; it will feel right and natural to them to see into both characters’s heads, and it’s for that reason I dislike the line break. I think it calls unnecessary attention to the switch and interrupts the flow of the scene. But it isn’t that bad and like I said, I know it’s a necessary evil at some houses, so there you go.

The point isn’t how it should happen, not really. That’s a matter of house style and what your editor wants. It’s a matter of whether it should happen, and why.

Oh, and. Only one POV switch per scene, please. I used to switch back and forth more, but once should really be enough (unless you’re writing a ménage, in which case you may want to dip into all of their POVs—they're generally longer scenes, so you have some room).

I like the switch, though. I like to show the reader that both characters are feeling the same thing, thinking the same thing. I like the reader to see how significant a moment this is for both characters. It gives the reader a more complete picture.

And it can really amp up the heat level, because, as in the example above, not only are we seeing/feeling what Prue feels, we feel it from Royd’s POV as well. In a different seen we might experience her orgasm with her, then switch so we can experience it with him—and then we get his as well. It can extend a scene and give us more room to play.

There’s another point to the quoted scene, as well, and that’s detail. Detail is an important part of writing a good sex scene. We’ve touched on this quite a few times throughout the series; it’s one of those topics that’s too important to ignore but too big for its own topic, IMO.

Royd doesn’t just pull out and thrust back in. He doesn’t just look down. He looks down to watch himself sink into her body and reemerge, slick with her moisture. We’re giving the reader that image; a feeling and thought to go with the action, especially in the next line when we learn he would never, could never grow tired of that sight. And to drive it home (no pun intended) he lean[s] back a little, bending his legs further to get a better view.

I could have simply said Royd looked down to watch himself fucking her, or whatever. And in a different type of scene that might work. But it’s a little telly, and it’s simply not very detailed.

Details matter. Don’t just tell us or even show us what the characters are doing; show us why, and how they each feel about it. Every action has a reaction, yes, and you want to include that, but every action also has a reason.

Your hero doesn’t just thrust into the heroine, he thrusts into her, feeling her slick, hot walls grasp him. Or tighten around him. Or give under the pressure of his thrust. Your heroine doesn’t just feel him thrust into her, she feels every inch of him sliding against her wet, sensitive skin, feels her body welcome him, feels her tight walls being invaded. Just as Prudence, above feels how hot Royd is, the thickness of him searing her insides, his pelvis warm against her behind. He doesn’t just pull out of her; Slowly he danced out of her, rolling his hips so his cock touched every inch of her walls, then just as slowly crept back in. Later, as Prudence gives Royd a blow job, instead of simply touching herself, her other hand slid[es] down into her panties, onto her incredibly sensitive clit. She moved farther down, slipping a finger into her cunt, drawing her silky moisture out to spread over her aching flesh.

See? They don’t stroke each other; they stroke each other, their palms memorizing the planes and contours of the warm, living flesh beneath them. They don’t just kiss, their mouths dance, their tongues tangle, devouring each other, breathless.

The devil’s in the details. Heh heh.

This weekend’s assignment: First, check your own scenes. Have you used POV switches? How do you feel about them? Do you think they’re in the right place? (I believe there are two places ideally suited for POV switches; one, immediately before or after he enters her, and two, immediately before or after somebody comes.)

Take one scene you’re written solely from one POV, and add a switch (remember, when writing from the male POV, think about what this man would be thinking and what you want any man to be thinking during sex. It’s okay if it’s a little cheesy, this is just practice.) Now rewrite it with the switch in the other direction—if the scene starts with her and ends with him, switch those around. And as always, the POV should be with whichever character has the most to lose emotionally, or will be changed the most. Obviously, if you’re writing a historical and the heroine is losing her virginity, that moment should be hers. If your hero is breaking a vow of celibacy, that moment should be his.

Now, reread that scene, or any of your scenes. Have you described every action fully? Are we getting a complete picture? When he climbs on top of her, for example, is every his bare skin hot against hers, everywhere? Does she feel his erection against her thigh and shiver? Are either of them shocked, amazed, pleased, thrilled, to be so close to each other? How does she see him, when he does it? This sort of thing is especially important for movements that may otherwise be awkward; if you’re not going to brush over it (“he stripped off his clothes”) you need to go into detail (“His fingers couldn’t undo the buttons fast enough for her; she struggled to help him”, that sort of thing.)


BernardL said...

Good example of POV switch in a sex scene. It was so smooth, it didn't register until I read your comment on switching POV. What I did notice was the name Royd and Royd's. Hemroids popped unbidden into my mind the moment I saw the name (and no, I don't suffer from that particular ailment). :)

Bernita said...

Pardon me, but rigid tools don't need rigid rules.
I don't see a problem with the switch in POV's.

Charles Gramlich said...

Well, the POV shift did bother me. I'd at least like to see some indication of the shift instead of just suddenly finding myself in another head.

Gabriele C. said...

As someone who writes omniscient most of the time, I scarcely notice POV shifts; it's the most natural style for me, also as reader.

Much as I like A Song of Ice and Fire, I think it would have benefitted from some scenes in omni or at least a POV shift mid-scene, instead of showing the same event through more than one POV. But that's me. :)

laughingwolf said...

ok... google at my post... again! grrr

btw- i'm with charles on that... a guy thing?

December/Stacia said...

OMG Bernard! You know that never occurred to me, not once. Doh. Too late now, lol. I just wanted a fantasy-type name that wasn't already cliche, you know? :-) But thanks re the switch.

*snort* Perfect, Bernita.

Really, Charles? And Laughingwolf? I'd agree maybe it's a guy thing but we know Bernard is all man and he didn't notice it. I guess it's one of those things it either bothers you or doesn't. The funny thing is, most of my switches start off with the characters's name, as a stronger indication of the switch. I just didn't do it that time.

Haven't read that one, Gabriele, but yeah, I'd much rather have a switch than have to re-read the same events again and again.

laughingwolf said...

the name switch would help, for sure... huge difference then