Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How much smut is too much? Or too little?

When I first started writing, around five years ago now, all my stories dripped with dirtiness. They were filthy, and deliciously so. The sensuality was an integral part of my character development, BDSM was as often as not central to the plot. It flowed, along with plenty of bodily fluids, as you might expect.
These days I’m not always so sure. I’m a firm believer in character and plot driven writing. Sex has to augment the relationship between my characters. The smutty bits have to have meaning, add to the narrative not just sit there waving for the sake of it.
I always write erotic romance and I doubt I would want to clean up my act entirely, but more and more I find myself reading a WIP and realizing there are only a couple of sex scenes and those are fairly tame. So I go back through the story, find a place to slip in a bit of anal play (so to speak) or conjure up an excuse for a spot of nipple clamping. Maybe on a good day a spanking or two can be contrived. Readers expect, after all.
A while ago I was invited to submit a novella to a new (to me) publisher. They wanted erotic lite, the sex to be hinted at but not explicitly described. So I wrote that, and it was okay. Not quite my usual, but fine and I appreciated the opportunity to just concentrate on the story without needing to develop the sexual tension. For various reasons I didn’t, after all, proceed with that publisher so I had to decide what to do with the novella. Lo and behold, I went back into it, added a few sultry sex scenes, and self-published it. Was Rough Diamonds any stronger for the additional smut? I’m not convinced it was though it has sold well enough and attracted good reviews.
I suppose it’s a matter of opinion, but for me the dirties stories of mine are either the MM ones, or the ménages. Those seem to call for a more explicit turn of phrase, more accurate and detailed descriptions of the choreography. And always there’s a lot more kink. Whose dick, exactly, is where? Whose fingers are in her arse and whose are in her cunt? Who is squeezing who’s balls? And a spanking is always spicier when two Doms are involved.
I find those a lot of fun to write and a real turn-on to read back. That’s my quality control measure – if what I’ve written creates a butt-clenching moment for me, there’s a decent chance it will have a similar effect on my readers. Happy days.
Here’s a snippet from Rough Diamonds. Needless to say, a BDSM club did not feature in the original version…

“If you could stand against the cross, with your back to it, I will get you safely fastened in place. Then, we shall begin.” 
She was breathing heavily as she raised her hands to allow him to buckle the soft leather cuffs around her wrists. He adjusted the tension for her height, then crouched at her feet to secure her ankles. He remained where he was, looking up at her. 
“Before we start, I think...” He pulled the delicate satin of her thong to one side then used his thumbs to part her pussy lips. 
“Johan,” she protested, but whatever she might have said next was lost in a strangled moan as he licked the entire length of her slit. 
“Mmm, so nervous, so tense, but still wet. You taste of sweetness, chérie. You are scared, but aroused, anticipating, yes?” 
“Yes,” she ground out. “Johan, please...” 
He pulled her thong back into place and stood. “This is good. I wish you to gain the full benefit of what I have in mind for you.” 
She whimpered as he stepped back, watching him bend to open the large holdall by his feet. It appeared to belong to him, though she knew he hadn’t brought it with him. 
As though reading her mind, he grinned up at her. “I like to keep a collection of my personal favourites here. Items I know well... I had one of the staff bring it up for me from the locker room.” He withdrew an item which resembled the cat-o-nine-tails often featured in the pirate stories she remembered from when she was a child. This one looked more forgiving, though. The handle was made of purple leather, many strands plaited together to create a solid shape. The fronds were of a pale lavender suede; soft, floaty and they looked quite light. Johan drew the tails through the loose grip of his fist, then shook them out. 
Christa relaxed. This was Johan, after all, and even in a seriously mean mood – which she had yet to witness – he couldn’t really hurt her with such an innocuous-looking toy. 
Could he? 
She decided her fears were probably unfounded after the first few strokes. 
Johan just used his wrist to flick the flogger, and the soft strands slapped against her stomach and the front of her thighs. The sensation was pleasant enough, but the real turn-on for Christa was the wicked sense of freedom she experienced from being secured in place, almost naked, in a room full of strangers. This was unexpected, not how she had thought she would feel, at all. But it was happening. 
A slight movement over to her left caught her attention. She glanced across to see that a small audience had gathered. People were stopping to watch. Christa was the centre of their attention, and she was loving it. She closed her eyes, arched her back, and closed her mind to all but the rhythmic slap of the flogger as it made contact with her flesh. 
Johan moved around her, applying the instrument first to her legs, her thighs. They were warm and tingling by the time he worked his way a little higher. He concentrated for a while on her abdomen and stomach, before moving higher still. When he caught the underside of her breast, Christa gasped. He flogged her again in the same place, harder now. 
She had been mistaken; the flogger did hurt, especially if he caught her nipples with it.  
“Aah,” she gasped. “It hurts. Not there.” 
He paused. “Do you recall the safe words I told you?” 
“What? Yes, but—“ 
“Yellow? Red? Do you wish to say this?” 
She shook her head. “Not red. I’m fine, it’s just ... My breasts are tender.” 
“Tender? Yes, and sensitive. That is why I am striking them. It is intended to hurt, of course, but not too much.”  
“I’m not sure I like it.” 
“I am quite sure that you do not. Not yet. May I continue?” 
This was it. The moment, the point where she could either call a halt, or stumble on into the unknown. He was hurting her, deliberately. He was using his skills, knowledge and experience to inflict pain, and she could choose to allow it, or not. 
Her choice, her decision. 




4 comments:

  1. Good stuff. I'm not surprised that the book has sold well and attracted reviews, and I'm in awe of someone who can self-publish and get much of any attention. Even with a fairly well-known publisher it's getting hard to get reviews, but I guess the niche for the lesbian erotica anthologies I edit is getting smaller and smaller.

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  2. I think it's really interesting to experiment with writing more or less sex than one is used to. It can be a very refreshing activity, and it's cool to hear here about how that went for you!

    I agree that it's good to ask oneself how much a sex scene is really doing for a story.

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  3. I can see how this sex scene would draw readers in, since your female character is trying something new and not sure how far she should go, but willing to take a risk with a man she trusts. This seems like a good way to include a sex scene in a romance without changing the tone or losing readers.

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  4. Hi, Ashe!

    You are a real professional. Personally I find it quite hard to go back and insert sex scenes if they were not there in the first place. I can ramp up or dial down the explicitness based on editorial commentary, but the scenes themselves either belong in the story arc, or they don't.

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