Let’s write about…SEX!

Hiya, peeps!

I’ve been working on a scene in my latest romance that’s been really difficult for me to write. Why?


Now, before you freak out and think I’m all kinda prudey or something, chill, friends. Not the case. The sitch is, writing sex scenes is difficult. Let me amend that. Writing GOOD sex scenes is difficult. Or perhaps I might even mean EFFECTIVE sex scenes.

And this scene has been a pain to work on because it involves a lot more than just a “do me now” kind of scenario. These characters have a history, and it’s a hell of a lot more than just sex that’s involved in this scene. There’s a lot of emotional stuff going on, and some unpacking of baggage. Not all sex, obviously, is like that in romance or erotica. Which got me thinking about the different types of sex scenes and how to approach them as a writer.


So I came up with some questions to ask yourself when you’re writing a sex scene or thinking about writing one (and no offense to M/F or M/M writers; some of this is a little more F/F specific).

(Heh. Read on to see the questions)

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People and places

Hi, all —

I’ve been thinking more about characters, and how to inject authentic regionalisms into yours. That is, how to make a character sound and act like he or she is a product of a specific place and culture.

To that end, I read journalist/writer/speaker/all around awesome woman Caitlin Kelly’s blog today, and it seemed to resonate with what I’ve been mulling. Her latest blog is about defining “New York-ism.” That is, what defines someone as a New Yorker? And then she lists several things that New Yorkers might say and do, and the reasons behind them. Go have a look. See what you think.

And keep reading, if you want to see where the hell I’m going with this. 😀

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Writing builds character.

Hi, peeps!

If you’re headed to the Left Coast Lesfic Conference, I’ll see you there!

I’m slated to do a workshop on character. That is, developing them. Making them groovy for sexy-time reading. Making readers WANT to follow your characters and find out where they go, whether they grow, or even if they fall.

So I’ve spent some time thinking about how to create and convey character, how to capture it, and how to hold on to it and make it arc logically and effectively. And we’ll talk about that in the workshop. But for those of you who can’t make it, here are some things to think about when you’re embarking on a writing journey.

I’m one of those writers who thinks that setting is absolutely key to your story. For me, characters and story can emerge from a setting. Characters are products of a setting, its history, its culture, and regional flavor. Alternatively, a character from somewhere else entering a new setting will be bringing his or her own background and context into that new place. You’ll need to think about how that plays out in the story arc and the character arc.

If you’ve decided on a setting for your story, and you’ve got a rough idea of a plot and some rough ideas about characters, then start fleshing out your main character. You’ll need to figure out what makes this person tick in order to make your readers care about his/her trip through your pages. So if you choose to read on, you’ll find 10 tips from Auntie Andi to help you think about characters, and how to flesh ’em out.

The big, existential question is always: Who is this person?


So let’s dissect that.

1) Name? Some writers don’t care about names, and they’ll take the first one that comes along and slap it onto a character. Or they’ll name a character something unconventional, thinking it’s oh, so cool that their main character, a corporate lawyer, is named Talyn Tigerfoot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if you can actually make that work for the character. But if you can’t, it ends up being jarring for a reader. At any rate, I’m not that writer. I spend some time thinking about names and what the sound of it conveys to a reader and whether it “matches” a character. If you’re not quite sure what I’m getting at, try the tips HERE.

2) Where does your character live and is that going to be the main setting of your story? If so, think about regional quirks — how certain communities do things, what sorts of things they do, and how those are going to find expression in your character.

3) Place of origin? (if, say, he or she is a stranger in your setting or grew up somewhere else). Where a person is from determines a few things like expressions he or she might use in speaking, and things like recreation and hobbies. Growing up on a coast is very different than growing up in a mountain community, for example.

4) Age? Yeah, obvious, right? But think about that. A character’s age is going to determine a lot of personality quirks. Older people might not be all into the smartphone thing, might prefer books to ereaders, and are definitely going to speak differently than younger. And they’ll have a lot of pop culture references that younger characters don’t, and vice versa.

5) Background? That is, did your character struggle in rural poverty for her formative years, for example? Or has she always struggled? Would you classify her as working class or middle? Or is she from a wealthy family? These determine how your character might react in different situations. If your character is from a rural agricultural community, she might be extremely uncomfortable in cities. If she’s from a poor family, she might have some issues around people who come from money. Likewise if your character was unable to go to college but ends up in a situation where she has to deal with other characters who did go to college, and who move in very different circles.

6) Occupation? This depends on age, too. If you’re writing young adult fiction and your main character is a young adult, then ask yourself about the school your character attends and what his or her favorite subjects are and what their activities are.

7) Personality traits? Think about 3-5 of these. For example, is your character easygoing or uptight? What sorts of things push his or her buttons and what are those buttons? What is something that’s been bugging her since childhood that she’s still working through? What’s that chip on his shoulder? How does your character deal with change or crisis? Things like this can also drive the arcs for your characters, and will be an integral part of the story.

8 ) Who else is in your character’s life? No one lives in a vacuum, after all. Even if your character is currently alone, shipwrecked on an island, she’ll be thinking about her friends and relatives. And a character can also have relationships with memories and people who are no longer alive. People who have died in your character’s life will have an effect on how that character reacts to things, and might trigger memories that will enrich or add tension to your story. So yes, dead people in a person’s past do count as being in your character’s life.

9) What does your character look like? Sex, age, ethnic background, race? These all play a role in how your character perceives herself and how the world and other characters are going to perceive him or her. A character’s sexual orientation and gender identity will play a role, too, especially if your character is a sexual minority. All of these will help determine what your character looks like, how she dresses, and how she presents herself to the world. I tend to know what my characters look like physically, but I generally don’t try to convey that exactly in my work, because I’d like readers to develop their own sense of how that character appears and how he or she negotiates the world. I’d much rather a reader come to know the character through his or her way of speaking, their friends and relatives, some of the things they like to wear, what they like to drink or eat, and what they think about, as well as how other characters react to him or her. But it depends on a writer’s personal style as to how he or she approaches this. All that said, it’s a good idea to have in your own mind an idea of what your character looks like, because physical appearance can and does play a role in fictional life as well as in real life.

10) Habits/quirks? Does your character smoke? Does she drink to excess? Or is she a little uptight about booze because she grew up in an alcoholic household? Does she like dogs or cats? Both? Does she have any kind of animal in her life? Does she like camping? Or maybe she’s into bowling. Be careful, though, and don’t go overboard with habits/quirks, because that might get in the way of your character arc. But it helps me develop a better sense of my characters if there’s something they do or say that makes them stand out from other characters. It doesn’t have to be flashy and it doesn’t even have to be something that’s intrinsic to that character. It can be something a character does habitually in relation to somebody else. For example, in my short story “Dinner Party,” when Shay goes to her neighbor Brisa’s dinners, Shay generally helps clean up. It’s an unspoken sort of agreement the two characters have. But it’s a habit, and it tells a reader something about these two characters and the level of intimacy they may or may not have.

Final thought on that? Balance. Don’t make your character one big quirk with nothing beyond that. So be careful with your quirks. If your character is eccentric and has a lot of quirks, don’t forget there’s a person underneath all that. Get to know that person and then layer the quirks in as you get more familiar with your character.

With that in mind, it might prove helpful for you to use a questionnaire to get your characters’ backgrounds sketched out. Gotham City workshops have a pretty extensive one. Check it out.

A few other links to help you think about writing characters:

Writing Room
Sophie Novak at The Write Practice
Darci Patterson has bunches of writing character tips. Start here.
Brian Klems at Writers Digest with a nice character arc/character discussion.

Go forth and write! And read! And have fun doing it!
Happy Wednesday.

What’s in a name?

Greetings, peeperas y peeperos —

Hope you’re having a groovy day. I got to thinking about names and characters after the Royal Baby’s was announced. His name is still garnering some discussion on social media. “George” has a long history in the British monarchy, so that wasn’t too surprising. And most of the comments about it were along the lines of “good name,” “strong,” “masculine.” That sort of thing. The prince’s next two names are “Alexander” and “Louis,” which also got approval from the peasant peanut gallery around the world. Same reasons. When he takes the throne, he’ll be another “King George” (though I rather like “King Alex” myself).

Anyway, point being, lots of people got into the name game with the Royal Baby hoop-dee-doo. People were probably betting in Vegas on which names William and Kate would decide on, and I saw lots of discussion on social media about naming the baby and what names would be good and which ones would kind of suck. That is, not sound “royal” or “kingly” enough.

Which just goes to show you, names are important. Remember that Johnny Cash song? “A Boy Named Sue“? A lot of baggage came with that name. The kid spent his time seeking revenge on a father who abandoned him but managed to name him “Sue.” And in a society as gendered as ours, we all know what happens when a dude gets what’s considered a girl’s name. He’s considered “less than” a man, somehow “feminized” (as if that’s such a bad thing) whereas a woman with what’s considered a guy’s name doesn’t have to deal with the same issues. But gender hierarchies and social structures aren’t really the gist of my conversation here.

Rather, I’d like to talk about how names are indeed important in fiction.

So come on. Join me.

source: mumsnet


Recycled writing tip: “As you know, Bob”

Hi, all–

On occasion, I re-post writing tips that I’ve gone over in the past. This one is from Women and Words (where I blog and co-admin). It’s the “As you know, Bob” syndrome or, in other parlance, a version of telling and not showing. Remember, you want to SHOW and not TELL. And you want to avoid info-dumps.

Here’s the link.

Happy reading, happy writing!

Writing tips, redux

Hey, peeps–

Thought I’d re-post some of the writing tips I’ve done in the past (since I am, ostensibly, a writer of sorts). And I’ve needed to re-focus on that after the crazy and tragic week. So here you go:

Tips for writing (hopefully good) dialogue.

Tips on point-of-view, and how it can affect your narrative.

Tips on why headhopping might not be a good idea (not to suggest it never is, just why you might want to focus on not doing it, at least at first).

Why you should try to avoid participial phrases.

And here’s a bonus blog from writer Sacchi Green, about some of her writing pet peeves.

There. Have at.

Happy writing!

RE: your author website

Hi, peeps–

Hope the new year is treating you well thus far. I know, I know. It’s just begun, but regardless. I hope it rocks for you.

I was thinking today (I do that sometimes) about websites. Specifically, sites that authors put up to provide info about themselves and their work.

Now, I do not pretend to be an expert on what the hell you’re supposed to have on your website or how it’s supposed to look. Please do not think that I’m sitting here all high n’ mighty with my fan-freaking-tastic website sipping wine with my pinkie out looking down my nose at all the rest of you. I do not pretend to have the end-all be-all awesomest website ever in the writing biz. What I have tried to do is make it relatively easy to find things on my site. Like, say, information about what I write and how to get in touch with me.

I say this because I was recently on a couple of author websites and both of them ended up frustrating me to the point that I actually had to go find images of their book covers on other sites. That is, these authors’ sites had no designated pages that clearly said: BOOKS or PUBLISHED WORKS or something that would indicate that if I clicked the link, I’d be treated to another page that would display the author’s fine wares.

So here’s what I’ve learned in my journeys through publishing and book land about author websites.

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What the X-Files taught me about series

Hey, Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who engage in this American holiday.

I’m not really big on the holidays (as in Thanksgiving-Christmas), as some of you know, but I do enjoy the bit of time off I can take to catch up on my chillaxin’.

So I took yesterday off and basically freebased over half of Season 1 of the X-Files. I’m up to episode 15 (there are 24). It’s been years since I’ve watched the series, and though the costumes, hairstyles (and shut up, but I’m trying to bring back Mulder’s look), cars, and technology are dated (season 1 premiered in 1993), the writing and characters remain strong. Not every episode, mind you. There were some episodes that just didn’t work (like this one; sorry Chris Carter. Just. . .no.), but for the most part, it remains a strong show with episodes that still creep me out.

source (re-sized here)

Basically, if you want to write a series — any series — and keep it going for a long time, use the X-Files as a potential model. Not in terms of what actually the show is about, but rather how its infrastructure is put together.

Continue on for my ode to the X-Files. . .

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Quickie writing tips

Hiya, peeps–

Something cool that you still have a little time to follow is the Thursday Tweet-o-rama session with Sara Megibow, an agent with Nelson Literary Agency out of Denver (yay!). She does this thing on Twitter called 10 Queries in 10 Tweets. She Tweets 10 times about projects from the slushpile, letting followers know if it’s a yes or a no. She states the genre of the project, and a very brief reason as to why she’s rejecting it or accepting it. No identities are revealed in the making of these Tweets. Sara’s Twitter handle is @SaraMegibow and the hashtag is #10queriesin10tweets. Sadly, I think she’s discontinuing it at the end of the December, but you can check out the hashtag regardless and see what it was about. And follow her anyway on Twitter. She’s got lots of cool tips and info.

Otherwise, you might consider signing up for the Nelson Lit Agency newsletter. It’s monthly, and provides info about what projects they’ve acquired and why, and updates you on other projects they successfully placed at publishing houses. They’ll also tell you about some of the super-cool webinars they do for writers.

AND. Here are some examples of successful query letters to agents. I think you can use these as examples, too, of successful queries to publishing houses that don’t require agents. Seeing examples of what works, I think, can be pretty helpful to get your groove for your own queries. Seriously. Go check those out. I guarantee you’ll be wanting to read the full project after reading the query. 😉

Just some tips from the ether from me to you. Happy Saturday, and happy writing!

If at first you don’t secede: world-building

Hi, peeps–

A friend of mine sent me a link recently from a…ah…shall we say, more “conservative” website in which there was talk about certain southern states seceding from the U.S. I won’t mention the site or the states. Suffice it to say that if you play on TEH GOOGLE for any amount of time with the word “secession,” you’ll no doubt run across many sites whose visitors spend lots of time grumbling about such.

I don’t want to talk about the historical or political origins of such an argument, nor do I want to get into the larger anti-everything that isn’t conservative context in which such an argument percolates. Instead, let’s look at it through sort of a post-apocalyptic lens. Like, say, The Walking Dead. Also, when I bump into talk of secession, I invariably think of world-building in, say speculative fiction.


WTF do I mean? Read on…

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