Moira here welcoming you to another #SensualSunday on Naughty Quills. Heading into this post I had no clue what I wanted to write about this week, and then I thought – why not discuss the actual theme of my day here. Everyone has their own personal opinion on the subject, and I welcome everyone’s personal points of view, this is mine after all – so here we go.
Let’s start with the definition:
adjective | sen·su·al | \ˈsen(t)-sh(ə-)wəl, -shəl\
I believe that there are different levels of sensuality, everything from subtle to overt. As romance authors our task is to know the difference and how to use it effectively in our stories. I think that to make a scene truly sensual, and get your readers imaginations going wild you need to understand not only your characters limitations, but also those of your setting. Not always an easy task depending on what we’re writing, and I am by no means an expert. But here are some things I do know, some things I’ve learned, and a few I’ve come across in my last couple years as an author…
Less is more. This is most often the case, and you the author must know when enough is enough in a scene. Unless you are writing high heat romance, BDSM or erotica, keeping the level of sensuality to the subtle end of the spectrum is often the best. You need to provide enough details while not pounding at the nail for no reason, so to speak. Your goal should be to set the scene and allow the readers imaginations to fill in some of the blanks while they are reading along.
Setting the mood. Mood in a romance novel, especially when you are getting to your characters romancing one another is key. Descriptions need to be detailed enough that your readers can picture the room, space, or location but not so detailed that they begin rolling their eyes because the scene is dragging on. It’s a fine line between being clear and concise enough in your description to provide the reader with the right details, and being too wordy. While an editor will help refine your scenes, it still falls on the author to know when they’ve gone too far, or not far enough.
Explore the senses. As human beings we have our five senses – sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell. When writing your scenes you need to remember to utilize as many of the senses as you can. Not only does it provide a more detailed scene, but it helps your readers to better submerge themselves into the story you’ve created. Just remember one thing when you are working in all the senses, show – don’t tell.
Draw out your scene. Now I’m not saying you have to be the next Picasso, you’re an author after all, but a quick doodle to ensure you know where every piece of furniture is, where your characters are, and where they can and cannot move isn’t a bad idea. This also holds true in other aspects of your writing. Whenever I need to create a big scene with many characters coming and going from all directions I make myself an action plan. It usually ends up looking a little like the drawings a football coach has for the teams playbook, but keeps it clear as to who is next to who, and why they can’t suddenly be twenty feet away two seconds later. While this is fiction we’re writing, we need to keep things physically possible as well. It keeps our readers from having to stop with a niggling doubt and ruin the mood for everyone.
Human constraints. Oh good lord, I really wish more authors could remember this. While we do allow for some creative licencing in romance books, don’t go over the edge without your parachute either. We all live, breathe, and move through our human existence so we all know the rules that apply to us. Things like gravity, and the fact we can’t walk through walls. Now if you’re writing a sci-fi story you naturally have some exceptions to this, and you’ve laid it out ahead of time for your readers, but even then you need to remember that the human mind is trained a specific way and going too far will ruin the read you’re trying to provide.
Example: I once read a book that the main female character had an injury to her leg and corresponding hip, this injury basically restricted her movements on that side due to scarring, pins, and the like. The hero during their first sex scene, somehow, manages to get her leg up to a point that was almost over her head. This, this right here, is not physically possible in this case. It yanked me right out from the otherwise great scene and had me re-reading in an attempt to figure out how the ever loving fuck she could have handled it. I mean, without screaming in absolute agony and ruining the mood. Yet there she was, letting him twist her up like a pretzel and was totally in the moment. The author in question would have likely benefited from having some form of cheat sheet to remember her main females injury, and the inherent constraints. And while the rest of the book prior, and after that point was amazing, that one scene completely ruined it all for me.
Keep it consensual. My personal preferences are to write, and read about characters that are all on the same page. Yes a few surprises in the bedroom are perfectly acceptable, and even fun, but when it comes down to the main “act” every damn one of the characters better be okay with what’s about to happen. I want both the characters I write and the ones I read to be aware, safe, and on board. Hesitancy at trying something new is not the same as an outright no. Nothing is worse than an author that doesn’t seem to realize this distinction.
Basically what all the above comes down to is this – the better you’ve prepared your scene, and the more realistic it is the more enjoyable your readers will find it. So unless you are writing sci-fi, keep it down to earth folks.
XO Moira Callahan