The third thing I try to do, with my writing

The third thing is: clarity. 

Sex can be rough and tumble, with one person on top then the other, with their arms and legs entangled. That’s good when that happens, and sometimes you’re too busy feeling and doing to really keep track.

But as a writer, keeping track is your job. You have to know where your people are, and write it realistically and clearly. For example, if your characters are having rear-entry sex, the man cannot kiss his lover’s eyes. At best he can kiss one of her eyes, but you should mention, first, that she has turned her head. He will have to lean right down to manage it. 

If either of them has a tool in their hand, whether it’s a vibrator or a cane, it should be where it must be. If it’s in his hand, and the writer hasn’t mentioned him putting it down, then it’s still in his hand. If he has put it down to stroke his lover, then he has to pick it up again before he can use it. 

And the writer has to record that. And so on. 

I once read a book in which the hero has sex with the heroine at last. In the morning, the writer told me, he woke up naked, his withered hand resting on his thigh. So I leafed all the way back to the beginning, to see if he had a disfigurement to his hand. It turned out that the writer meant that his cock and balls, resting on his thigh, looked a little like a withered hand. Well, I thought, if you say so.

People often get metaphorical when writing about sex: waves crash, fires light, and trains even go into tunnels. Most of the best known metaphors are dead, really. Overuse has killed them, and they communicate a writer’s lazy boredom rather than sexual intensity. 

My preference is for saying what’s happening, in direct language that tells about the state and the action of penises, vulvas and mouths.

A note on metaphors and similes

Only after I’ve done that will I try to think of a good metaphor. Part of a metaphor being a good one is that it shouldn’t have been worked to death by other writers. The other part is that it should make sense, and communicate something specific to the reader.

For example, I once said a masturbating woman’s orgasm noise seemed “high and lonely, like a seagull’s cry.” Almost everyone knows what a seagull cry sounds like, so the simile communicates something about how it sounded, and also something about her emotional state.

Another kind of orgasm could be said to be like the sound a cat makes if someone rides a bike over its tail. That is arguably an accurate simile, for some orgasm sounds, but it’s a bad one because its too outlandish, too far removed from a sexual context.

Metaphorts and similes should be accurate, appropriate to the emotion of the situation, and not too outlandish, or too commonly used.

 

The fourth thing I try to achieve is… humanity.

 

The second thing Jerusalem Mortimer likes in his writing

The second thing I like when I achieve it in my writing, and try to achieve is: “no inflatable darlings”.

2. No inflatable darlings

An inflatable darling is a character who doesn’t have needs and drives and desires, except perhaps for the desire to please the protagonist. She – it’s usually “she”, though some people write male characters in the same hollow vein – has nothing inside. No doubts, no worries, no insecurities, only lust. So the hero, Tex Turisedmeattube, says to his lover, “We’re going to have a threesome with Mona next door.” 

“Goody,” she cries, clapping her little hands in glee, “I love threesomes.”

So, as it happens, does Mona, who has been sitting at home, crocheting sleeping bags for mice, and waiting to be asked. For ages.

When the threesome happens they are jolly and jovial throughout.

In fact, they’re more committed to Tex’s pleasure than their own. Despite that, they both come noisily and often. Out of the blue, really. 

But I’m going to come back to one of my stories soon. I broke it off just as the threesome was about to happen. And at the time I just found it too hard to write.

There’s a man and two women, each of whom have their own desires and fantasies, and their own fears. He’s afraid of hurting his regular partner, or their guest. He’s afraid he won’t be able to keep them entertained. He’s worried about seeming selfish, or bossy in the wrong way.

One woman is worried about her body, and worries that the man will prefer the other woman. She’s worried about the other woman, and just how far she’s supposed to go with her, because she’s a little bi-curious but she’s basically straight.

The other woman is worried that she’ll cause trouble between the principal couple.

Perhaps she actually prefers the other woman, and is putting up with her mixed feelings about the man because the encounter will only happen if he’s present. 

And so on. There are three agenda. They’re all trying their best to please the other two, and to be decent, and to give pleasure and receive it.

But it’s complicated, because they’re real people. Erotic writing is still a kind of literature, and it should capture some of that complexity. In fact the more it does the realer it is, and the realer it is, the more more sexually powerful it is. 

Even when one of the characters is submitting, and dedicating themselves to serving the other’s pleasure, that person is still a person, and there are reasons why he or she chose their submission, and there’s usually a history to the pleasures they take from it. 

 

So, when I’m writing, I try to make sure I know what each character is wanting and thinking. Even if I don’t say all of it, there should be enough to make it clear to the reader than these people are real, feeling, wanting and alive. 

 

The third thing I aim for, and like when I get it, is clarity. So I’ll talk about that next week.

 

Wicked Wednesday: The Yellow Room and changes in porn styles

Recently, because I was too busy to write, I posted some Victorian whipping porn, here and hereAnd I discussed the style differences between erotic writing from 100 years ago and the present here.

But there are some specific differences between the bdsm porn of 100 years ago and now, and it’s worth taking a moment to consider them.

This is where she cries Uncle.

First, incest was a very popular theme in Victorian porn, and it seems to have been especially popular in bdsm contexts. In The Yellow Room it’s all about an uncle and his two nieces, but in other novels – First Training, for example – it may be mother-son and father-daughter. Lesbian whipping and post-whipping scenes between sisters, in particular, are common.

But someone writing a scenario like The Yellow Room today would probably have the dominant male be a friend of their father’s, and not a blood relative.

Second, consent is not a serious issue in Victorian porn. The young lady isn’t asked if she’s feeling submissive. Instead, she’s stripped and punished, and then forced to obey orders to avoid further punishment.

In a modern storyline the writer would have to make it clear that the submissive enrolled in a special school, or met the friend of her father at some social function, and was intrigued by his promises of strict treatment that she went to meet him privately.

I’ve got mixed feelings about that. Mostly I think it’s an improvement. On the other hand, there are many people who enjoy the fantasy of being overwhelmed, not of their own free will. It’s not “real”, any more than the female rape fantasy is anything like real rape. But in fantasy anything goes, so long as it’s hot. So our care not to send inappropriate messages erases one quite popular fantasy.

This lighter birching, with suspension, looks more fun

I guess overall that our current care is an improvement. But I know submissives who really do want to feel they have no choice, at least sometimes. As a fantasy, it should be allowable. Anyway, those are my mixed feelings, and they’re not the hill I shall die on.

The third thing that seems noticeable to me is blood. In the section of The Yellow Room I quoted, it’s mentioned quite early in the proceedings that the lovely Alice’s bottom is bleeding, under the birch. 

I took out the bits where the blood sprays round the room, and trickles down to the floor.

Actually, Alice’s bottom spend many lines bleeding, in some volume, and felt I had to edit most of the blood-flow out, because I think for most people – certainly including me – it would be a turn-off rather than a turn-on. 

I once wrote about how hard you have to birch someone to cut their skin, because I did that, once.  To draw even a spot of blood you have to whip like a maniac, and though I can be strict, that’s a level of discipline I’m just not comfortable with. 

However, the Victorians loved it, both first-person submissive accounts, and from the flogger’s point of view.

By comparison, we moderns are a bunch of softies.  

 

 

 

Wicked Wednesday: The Yellow Room and Victorian porn 1

This isn’t an ideal Valentine’s Day post, but it’s a sort of Valentine to Porn of Yore.

Porn usually loses its sexiness over the years, and becomes amusing kitsch. There are people alive today who were shocked by Debbie Does Dallas and Behind the Red Door, two very scandalous films of the 1970s.

You can leave your hat on…

That isn’t even a lifetime away: it’s just less than fifty. But I doubt if anyone could get off on either film now. Body styles have changed, and the actors in those films now seem pudgy, puffy, not toned. Their haircuts now seem quaint, and there’s no getting away from the unintentional absurdity of the dialogue. (That’s probably the part of the porn movie that’s changed the least. Porn people on film still talk tosh.)

But a similar effect also happens in prose porn. People must have gotten off on this, reading one-handed: 

Here’s an extract from Pleasure Bound:

 

“Mr. Silverwood blinked. Little Miss J was very, very pretty, and the ankles which had made him feverish in the twilight on deck, were now supplemented by deliciously-proportioned calves, which swelled up in graceful curves to delicately moulded knees, not quite covered by the lace frills of the pantalons garnis des rubans ecarlates. There was a little bare, pink flesh above each garter which made the Chicago multimillionaire delirious.

Miss J had a very dainty china-shepherdess skin tint, obviously her own, blue and very bright eyes, naturally her own, and a mass of bronze hair which was open to doubt-at least, so Mr. S decided as he noted the gap in the little darling’s drawers which disclosed a forest on her Mount of Venus which was quite a different tint.

She caught his eye, and, with a cheeky grin, put her two bejewelled hands between her thighs.

‘Hullo, hullo,’ she giggled, ‘I know what you’re thinking.’

‘Well?’

‘You’re thinking, either my head, or my-what ma’s got-is dyed.”

But Mr. Silverwood didn’t care whether Miss Jepps’s hair was dyed or not. His whole body flamed with desire; he seemed to swell all over, and the buttons on his trousers strained at their cables. He sank on the floor by the side of Miss Jepps and flung one arm round her knees and the other round her waist, pulling her down on to the soft carpet.

Miss Jepps made no protest. She opened her mouth to let his tongue run in between her ivory teeth and laid her pretty bejewelled hand on the throbbing swelling between his legs. Mr. S nearly went mad.”

 

Somehow, the sexiness up and flew away…

So the prose style is a sort of wordy jocularity, like a lot of not very good Victorian humorous writing. As a result I defy anyone to be aroused by the saucy situation in that extract.

Though it’s nice to remember that drawers were once quite like to reveal pubic hair if the lady sat facing you.

Next week we’ll look at some of the oddities in that slice of Victorian Bdsm porn I used, from the anonymous classic, The Yellow Room.

It’s much better written, and it retains its hotness better, than Pleasure Bound. But it’s still an extremely interesting interesting source on Victorian kinks. 

 

 

Thoughts about writing rules

At the moment I’m mostly not writing erotica. I’m writing a mainstream historical novel. It’s meant as a literary novel, but it probably leans close to the thriller genre in places. It’s probably the best-paced thing I’ve written so far. To me that’s not the most important virtue a piece of writing can have – I’d rather read writing that told me something new, that I never knew I wanted to know – but it’s still a virtue. It’s a sign I’m getting better. 

So, for what it’s worth, this is advice on writing rules from a writer who thinks he’s getting better. 

The first thing to know is that every one of these commonly cited writing rules is bullshit. 

1. Write what you know

Generally, this means ‘write from your own experience’.

Actually, you can write what you know, but you can also can make stuff up. Last year I was writing about London in 1893. I’ve been to London, but not in 1893. No one now alive has.

But when you’re making stuff up, you should do your research, and – when you know things like what children are likely to be doing on the streets, and what the place is likely to have smelled like – then you’re ready to write. 

Even if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, you should have have the feeling that your world is lived in before you start writing. But that’s not knowledge. It’s research plus thought and imagination. 

I’ve never seen an oil lamp through pea soup smog. But I got a pretty good idea about what one looks like, and I wrote it in. 

2 The important thing is to express yourself.

You especially get this with people who write poetry. Especially the flabby, adolescent sort that talks about how lonely/sincere/in love the author is, and you know it’s a poem because it’s in short lines going down the page. But people also say it about prose. 

No. The important thing is to communicate.

To communicate you have to make sure what you write is clear (if you’re writing erotica you should be able to draw a diagram showing how the bodies are aligned, and it should be possible for the reader to do that, too).

And you have to make sure people want to read it, if you want to communicate. So don’t bore them.

3 Be in love with words.

No. Words are tools to express meaning. Be in love with your meaning.

Then use the right tools. I like a high information-to-word-count ratio, so I try to use words sparingly. 

Charles Dickens, who got paid by the word, has probably the lowest information-to-word count ratio of any writer I know, and is the writer I hate above all others.The man is always wittering on, and I simply can’t be reading him.

Similarly, some words are nicer than others. “Glabrous” is a terrific word, in its place. It means “hairless”. But if you want to say that your heroine has shaved closely or depilated, and you write, “her glabrous cunt”, most readers will have nothing conveyed by that word, and those who do, like me, will want to throw your book, or Kindle page, across the room. “Glabrous” is not an emotionally warm word, to put it mildly.

Dylan Thomas thought the most beautiful word in the English language is “aerodrome”. Not for its meaning but for its sound. I suggest that you only use words for their sound, or to prove that you know them, if you’re an acknowledged great poet. 

4 Use plain Anglo-Saxon origin words over Latinate words any day: “see”, not “perceive”. 

This is one of George Orwell’s rules. He’s got a point, about writing that should be simple but sounds like a bureaucratic report. “I was perambulating politely when 
I perceived a pugnaciously patriotic politician, and he provoked me incandescently,” could be better said as, ” When I was out walking I saw a right-wing nutcase and he pissed me off.” 

Other times, you can’t beat a bit of Latinate diction. “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” is a terrific phrase. (It’s also true, but that’s another issue.) Part of its power is that every noun and adjective is Latinate in origin until the last word: “world”.

Use the right tools. Don’t try to show off: just serve the meaning. 

Rules that try to force you into only using certain kinds of tools are stupid. Ignore them.

5 Avoid using adverbs.

“Oh, fuck off,” he said tiredly.

Research: A history of BDSM literature

This is the first of a longish series, based on my Eroticon 2019 presentation. 

 

It is a history of BDSM literature, taking in nearly 50,000 years of human art and history. One of my key points is that BDSM didn’t come down with Sade (who I don’t rate highly), and nor did it arrive with 50 Shades of Grey.

BDSM has been a part of human culture across an enormous time span, and our traces can be found amongst other strands, in an enormous range of cultures. 

These posts are going to be coming on Fridays, so stay tuned!

Introducing my Eroticon “History of BDSM Literature” talk

Come to my “A History if BDSM Literature” talk at Eroticon 2019 and you will learn many things!

Here are three:

  •  The earliest surviving bdsm literature pre-dates the book of Genesis!
  • “Pauline Reage/Anne Desclos had no bdsm experience when she wrote “Story of O” (and it shows)
  • Ginger Spice, back when she was Geri Halliwell, was the cover girl for the bdsm novel “A Man With a Maid 2”, wearing Victorian underwear and wielding a cane
  • CS “Aslan in Bondage” Lewis was into bdsm (and it shows)
  • Some people will write “there are three” when they really mean five!

I’m afraid I’m pretty extremely exhausted right now, so that will have to be my best  advertisement.

But in reality my talk with be incredibly enlightening, interesting, funny and occasionally wise!

See you there!

 

UK law removes anti-bdsm rules, recognises “full and free consent”

There’s been a major break-through in the UK’s frankly insane and stupid censorship laws. 

Books, films and sites – such as this one – that depict bdsm in a consensual context can now freely discuss bdsm, and depict it in text or images.  

These marks were, technically, unlawful in the UK. Not inflicting or enjoying them, but showing them. Shades of “hide your shame, woman”

One of the oddities of the UK law was its bigotry. Acts like face-sitting or sexual spanking between adults are perfectly legal, but they couldn’t be depicted in erotic media. The purpose of law is supposed to be to protect people from harm. It’s not supposed to protect people who don’t like the idea of some sexual activities from thinking, “yuck”. 

For example, if Theresa May and Jacob Rees-Mog, say, were to film themselves having consensual sex and release the footage to the internet, I’d think that was yucky. I’d find it repellent if I saw it. However, I don’t need the law to fix my problem. That’s easily solved by not seeking out images that I don’t want in my brain. I’d avoid seeing the May-Rees-Mog tapes, which is easy to do. 

So, what are the changes?

Certain types of “violent” porn are now permitted so long as the sex acts are consensual (the wording is ‘full and freely exercised consent’,) do not cause serious harm to participants, are not ‘inextricably linked with other criminality’ and are not likely to be viewed by anyone under the age of 18.

Obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman, who has campaigned for these changes for a number of years, said that the change had wider implications for the law. He said: “It is a very impressive that they’ve introduced the idea of full and freely exercised consent in the law. Even for people with no interest in pornography this is very important for consent and bodily autonomy.”

Media superhero Pandora Blake, in her civvies

Activist and queer porn filmmaker Pandora Blake, who also campaigned to have the ban on the depiction of certain sex acts overturned, called the news a ‘welcome improvement’. 

“This is a happy day for queer, feminist and fetish porn.”

It means, incidentally, that one of my own books, that had been legally problematic – because I described a consensual caning that left welts that lasted a few days – can now be published in the UK. So, even though I don’t live in the UK, I am significantly better off as a result of these reforms. I’m not the only one.

Acts that were banned that can now be depicted include:

  • Spanking
  • BDSM
  • Female ejaculation
  • Urinating (also known as watersports)
  • Strangling
  • Face-sitting
  • Fisting
  • Humiliation

Thanks to…

Myles Jackman, legal superhero

Myles Jackman and Pandora Blake both worked hard, sometimes under huge stress, to get this change through. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude, and admiration beyond all measure, for sticking to this cause and ultimately winning it for all of us. 

I dare say non-kinky civil libertarians are pleased too. Because government control of public speech always – always – begins with speech about sex. But, unless the censorious forces are stopped in their tracks, it never ends with sexual content. 

And every country affects every other country, so this has world-wide significance. I’m living in Australia, also Antarctica, and this victory in the UK means that similar, chilling, legislation is less likely here. 

So thank you, with respect and admiration, to Pandora Blake and Myles Jackman!

Sinful Sunday: The dreaming of Mrs Willy Nilly

      SECOND VOICE

Willy Nilly, postman, asleep up street, walks fourteen 
miles to deliver the post as he does every day of the 
night, and rat-a-tats hard and sharp on Mrs Willy Nilly.

        MRS WILLY NILLY

Don't spank me, please, teacher,

        SECOND VOICE

whimpers his wife at his side, but every night of her 
married life she has been late for school.

Dylan Thomas, Under Milkwood