Rose City Romance Writers Spring Fling: Cecilia Tan by Linda Mercury
Cecilia Tan, founder of Circlet Press and pioneer of alternative erotica, was one of the featured presenters at the RCRW Spring Fling in early April, 2017. I was thrilled to attend her workshop, Mastering Sensuality & Seducing the Reader.
Ms. Tan stressed the most important reason to write fiction: it is the one of the few tools we humans have to create empathy. To get us ready to find our way to empathy, she played a writing game with us.
We had to write down something that drives us nuts about either reading or writing sex scenes (mine was how much I hate “traitorous” body parts. Own your desire!). Then we wrote down a single sentence sex scene or start to a sex scene. The funniest example was, “He closed the door behind them.”
Now we were all warmed up and ready to talk about writing (not having) sex. Most participants said their trouble was mainly with what other people would think. Cecilia told us we had to block out the expectations of other people – not an easy task, but a necessary one. She suggested beginning with accepting your conditioning and programming about what is appropriate and what is not. Our own inner conflicts about sex are the magnifying glasses that allow us to discover our character’s own demons.
Next, we got down to the nuts and bolts of the craft of seducing the reader. She discussed setting the reader’s expectations. After all, if you go to a restaurant called Giuseppe’s with red checked tablecloths, candles stuck in empty Chianti bottles, and ropes of garlic from the ceiling, you’d be pretty surprised that they served sushi. Know your audience and know yourself.
Feelings and emotions are the most important part of any love scene. You evoke emotion by choosing the words your character might use. Does this person use clinical language (pudenda, clitoris, etc.) or gutter words (cunt)? Slang (vajayjay) or something flowery (garden of desire)?
From there, think about your point of view (POV). Sex scenes are almost always in an internal first or third POV. Occasionally, second person is used in choose your own erotica or in short stories.
The POV leads to how you use dialogue and monologue. Characters are rarely silent. What do their inner and outer conversations reveal during sex? Love scenes are about being cut open and vulnerable emotionally. The through line of confession emotions pushes and draws the plot along. This is how you integrate the emotions into sex.
Emotions lead to the body language and blocking. Action will logically follow how they feel. If she is feeling shy, she will look away and blush. If he is uncertain, he will rub the back of his neck. The blocking leads you who will take the lead and what the subtext is. Also, the emotions will lead to variation in your writing – not just sexual variations like in a chair or on a horse (!) – but how long your sentences will be and how the language gets used (will he start off prim and then get more raunchy?). She pointed out, though, that feelings are more important than the action. When you write, ask the important questions: Did he make her feel good? Does she like him? Why did he lick his partner – because he wanted to? Or because of some internal quid pro quo?
The sex scene, like any scene in a story, is about change. What are the emotional changes in the characters?
All of these tools answer the most important question of a love scene: is hope sparked or crushed by the lovemaking?
See Jane Publish would like to thank Linda Mercury for her guest blog.
Linda Mercury left behind varied careers as a librarian, art model, and professional clown to pursue writing.
Writing is by far my favorite! Librarians never get to read the books they manage, art models get cold, and clowns wear funny shoes.
My other passions include Middle Eastern History, reading, organizing, cooking, hand-made silk Turkish rugs, and the Nike of Samothrace.