Saturday, December 26, 2009

Three sides to every story

by P S Haven

First off, Happy Holidays to everyone! And thank you to Ashley for so kindly giving me the honor and opportunity to guest blog on Oh Get a Grip. Thanks, Ashley!

There’s an old saying, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth. And as a writer I sometimes view my target audience in a similar three-way fashion: me, you, and everyone else.

In a recent interview I did with Ashley over at erwa.com, I confessed that a lot of the stories I’ve written over the years were intended to serve as a sort of propaganda. I told Ashley, “I started writing as a way to put into words the dirty things I wanted to do with my partner. Things I maybe didn’t have the balls to say out loud. I could present them as the desires of fictional characters, and then gauge the reaction from my significant other. If I wanted to try anal sex, for example, then I’d write a story where the characters try it and it was the greatest experience of their lives.” I’ve been thinking a lot about that idea since the interview and I’ve come to realize that when I write, it’s almost always for one of three distinct audiences: me, you, and everyone else.

I first started writing dirty stories when I was around 14-years old, give or take. My clich├ęd origin story is that I found a tattered paperback among my aunt’s old books in the attic at my grandmother’s house. I wish I could remember the title, but it’s gone from my memory. But I remember the story. (I would later channel this first experience with erotica into my story “Rock of Ages”.) It was about a young woman who inherited her recently-deceased aunt’s condo in Miami. Our heroine promptly relocates to the Sunshine State, where she discovers a stash of videotapes in the condo, all featuring her aunt and a varying cast of supporting players engaged in acts so lewd and obscene they could barely believed by the protagonist, as well as this young reader. On those brittle, yellowed, dog-earred pages, my sex education began in earnest. I read about things I had never even heard the older kids talking about in the back of the school bus. See, when I was in middle school (7th and 8th grades), we had to ride the bus with a bunch of high school kids whose campus was right across the street from ours. So by the time I was in my early teens I had heard stories about “sucking dick” and “eating pussy” and “ass-fucking”, all inflated with adolescent redneck bravado and overcompensation. But in my aunt’s trashy novel, there was so much more. I read about threesomes and bondage and swallowing and double-penetrations. If the 10th graders on the bus had been my unwitting Ben Kenobi, ushering my first steps into a larger world, then that paperback was my smutty Yoda, showing me the true ways of the Force. I read and reread that book until it literally fell apart, circling my favorite parts with a ballpoint pen, masturbating furiously as our heroine, inspired by her late aunt, began to create a video library of her own.

It didn’t take long before I began to re-imagine the scenes in my head, tailoring the story to better suit my masturbatory needs. If I wanted the jock to get blown a little longer before coming, then I would read the description of the blowjob twice, or three times, before allowing myself to move on. Eventually I began to rewrite the scenes for myself, copying the story by hand onto sheets of notebook paper and then adding an extra simile here, a dirtier adjective there. Instead of the money shot being succinctly handled with one sentence, in my version the guys would come for entire paragraphs, pumping out quarts of semen with Atlas-like endurance, nearly drowning our poor heroine. (Some would say that is a trait that persists in my writing to this day…)

Evolving from my early plagiarisms, I eventually began to craft scenes from whole cloth, using ideas lifted from the book, or from the stories I’d heard on the school bus, or from the porno movies I would sneak and watch on American XXXtacy on the satellite. Whatever turned me on the most, whatever got me off the quickest, was what I would write about. We’ve all heard the expression “one-handed reading”, well this was one-handed writing. More often than not I couldn’t make it through a scene in one go. And since I was writing strictly for my own entertainment, I was allowed to let my teenaged male mind run rampant. The overwhelming majority of those stories featured harems of beautiful, servile women who were starved for semen, liked it rough and loved anal sex at the drop of a hat (sometimes literally). They were there only for the pleasure of the narrator/main character/author. I’m sure if I could read those stories now I would be appalled, not only at the total lack of skill but at the mortifying immaturity, sexual and otherwise. But the point remains, I was writing for an audience of one. Myself. There was no other concern at the time. If it got me off, then it was a good story. The idea of writing for someone else never entered my mind. And the idea of writing for lots of people was inconceivable.

It wasn’t until a few years later, when I got a real live girlfriend, that the concept of someone else reading my stories came to mind. I had never stopped writing the occasional story for my own enjoyment, so it was only a matter of time before I got the idea to write a story for my girlfriend. And before I ever set pen to paper (this was way back before Word…) I was keenly aware of the vastly different approach I would need to take for this new audience. Quick stories about cum-guzzling whores probably wouldn’t go over to well, I figured. Not initially anyhow. There needed to be an emotional element now. Not romance, necessarily. But something other than simple fucking. The characters needed to have a reason to fuck, at the very least. No longer would being in the same place at the same time with anatomically opposing equipment suffice.

So now, for the first time, I was writing for someone other than me. And my first few attempts at it dealt strictly with one woman and one man, who were in love, and who had very steamy, very explicit, but very normal sex. Sometimes they did it in the backseat of the guy’s car, sometimes they’d sneak and do it after the girl’s parents had fallen asleep, both recurring themes in my real life at the time. The feedback I got from my girlfriend was positive, both on style and subject matter, which gave me the confidence to write more. Initially, my goal was simply to get in her pants, I won’t lie. I would write a sexy story and she would read it, and the next thing you know we were scouting darkened dead-ends and cul-de-sacs in which to reenact what I’d written for her. And it became quickly apparent that I was able to not only arouse my girlfriend with my stories, but that I also could influence the type of sex we had. For example, if I gave her a story in which the characters had a sixty-nine, there was a pretty good chance we were going to have a sixty-nine later that night. It usually went something like this:

“I really liked that story.”

“Yeah? What was your favorite part?”

Then there would be the requisite demureness before finally, “I liked it when they did that one thing.”

“Which thing? Say it.”

“The sixty-nine.” And the rest would be history. It didn’t take me long to realize I held some sway over my girlfriend’s dirty thoughts. Likewise, I quickly picked up on the fact that she seemed particularly fascinated by the idea of sex in public places. So, of course, my characters were soon getting it on in glass elevators and hotel swimming pools, all of which aroused my girlfriend even further. Instantly she began to fantasize about doing the things my adventuresome characters did. While we never found just the right elevator, we were certainly emboldened to try other daylight, out-in-the-open spots. Just beyond the breakers in the ocean; parking decks, the parking lot of school, in the bed of a friend’s truck. And the power of my stores to inspire and influence others hit me like a ton of bricks. If my stories could incite my girlfriend to fuck me in the back of pick-up truck while my buddy drove us down the highway, what else could they do?

Soon I was back to writing stories like the ones I’d read in that trashy paperback. Stories of threesomes, stories of bondage and spanking, stories of perfect strangers succumbing to base instincts, powerless to resist their urges. Now granted, the vast majority of these stories would never get acted out in our real life, and I knew they wouldn’t. What they did do, though, was to open up our minds to the world of fantasy. Those stories provided us with a venue to voice our deepest secrets with the safety net of “make believe”. I was free to tell her, through fiction, how badly I wanted to have anal sex with her. With my fictional voice, I could show her just how naughty and kinky and amazing it would be. She could tell me how much she loved the story where the girl sucked off two guys at the same time. I could explain to her the importance and symbolism of swallowing without having it sound like a lecture. My characters did it for me. And did it much more eloquently than I ever could. They provided examples and how-to’s and what-if’s. And more often than not, it worked.

Our favorite fantasy was a MMF threesome, and in more than one story, I explored how a couple would go about making such a thing come true. Would it be by chance? Would it be planned out in advance? Would it be with a spur-of-the-moment stranger or with a close friend and confidant? And most importantly, what would the emotional toll of such a thing be? My characters acted it all out for me. Sometimes it strengthened their relationship. Sometimes it was the most exhilarating sexual experience they’d ever had and they couldn’t wait to do it again. But other times, it tore them apart in fits of jealousy and doubt and paranoia. And in this way, my stories became trial runs for our fantasies. Would this be something we would really want to try for real one day? Could we handle it? Would it be worth the risk? Let’s see how it plays out on the page first.

Eventually, through the reinforcement and encouragement of my two audiences (me and her), I became conscious of the idea that maybe, possibly, I could put these stories out there for other people to read. Now I had no idea whatsoever how to do that. No clue. But I knew that there were people who wrote stories I liked, and there were publishers that compiled them. I even knew there were mainstream bookstores that sold those compilations. On many occasions I had stood, eyes nervously darting all around, flipping through the latest anthology from Susie Bright or Alison Tyler, scanning for the types of stories that got me off, wondering what it would take to one day be in those pages myself. And as it had before when I expanded my target audience from one to two, I slowly became aware of the requirements of writing to someone you didn’t know intimately.

I didn’t want to compromise or sell out. I knew that much. But I also knew that if I wanted a shot at getting published I would need to hone what meager skills I had. The stories in those books were written by real authors. I could tell. They weren’t simple porn, like so much of my work was. If my stories were typically the written equivalent of the pizza delivery guy showing up with a large sausage special, these tales were more like prose versions of Michael Ninn films. Still hot as hell, still utterly explicit and erotic, but of decidedly high literary quality. These people could write. Not just write sex, but write anything. I however, could not. And I would need to learn how. And I would probably also need to not scribble my stories down in ball-point pen in cheap journals.

So I practiced. I practiced writing about things other than Tab A and Slot B. I tried to get in my character’s heads to discover how they felt about things other than the sex they were having or wanted to have. I tried to tap into the things that excited me beyond anatomy. (I’m still trying. With varying levels of success.) I quickly, and sometimes painfully, became cognizant of things like word count, something I had never needed to concern myself with. I became keenly aware of what certain editors liked, or more often, what they did not. I found out there were rules. Some could be broken, some could not. Not if you wanted to get published anyhow. And while I hope I stayed true to my inner voice, I realized that if I wanted to ever see my name in one of those books, I needed to play the game to a certain extent. This new third audience was much harder to please than my previous audience of me and her. Much more focused in what they wanted. Much less forgiving. But yet, in way I didn’t expect, even more rewarding.

Still, through it all, my favorite audience to write for is that first one I discovered. Me. Because if I’m not pleasing that crucial audience first and foremost, I don’t stand a chance of pleasing anyone else. If there’s one thing I’ve learned (the hard way), it’s that your heart (or other body part) has to be in it. Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.” Which I agree with 100%. But I think an equally suitable variation for us smut-peddlers would be, “Write what makes you hard and/or wet.” If you’re doing that, then you’re on the track to finding the truth, whether it be yours, mine or someone else’s entirely.


11 comments:

  1. One of the reasons I had difficulty writing my blog this week was because I'd read PS Haven's thoughts in advance, and I couldn't think of any way to top what was said here.

    PS: thanks for joining us here at the Grip and for sharing such honest and intelligent motives.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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  2. Hello, PS,

    Welcome to the Grip, and thanks for a great post!

    It's kind of awe-inspiring, isn't it, the power of what we write? I mean, think about it. Our words, our imaginary scenarios, can have a real world effect.

    Liking getting your girlfriends into the sack, for instance...

    I'll tell you, any guy who wrote a story for _me_ (and there have been one or two) would have a big advantage in the seduction arena!

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  3. Hi Ps Haven

    Welcome to the blog!

    Damn, I hope you married that girl.

    This was a very insightful post. I loved it. Come back again.

    Garce

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  4. Hey! Happy Boxing Day!
    Thanks again for the invite, Ash! I'm honored. And thanks for the kind words. Much obliged.
    Thanks, Lisabet! And yes, it really is amazing how influential our words can be. On many levels. The pen truly is mightier... ("the penis mightier, Alex...") Sometimes words and stories are like depth charges that don't explode until they've sunk in just enough.
    Thanks, Garce! Happy to be here. And yes, I did marry that girl. 12 years and counting!
    Thanks, Molly!
    Happy Holidays, y'all!

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  5. well, congrats to you and that girl. i always love a peek into your dirty head. it is one of my favorite dirty heads. and i think you'r right on the money, for a good story, the writer always has to be the first audience or it's usually just...crap.

    Great choice of guests, Ashley and crew. You have wonderful taste.

    And I hope that just made sense to folks who are not me. I've been a little under the weather. Still clearing the cobwebs. (o_O)

    Now as for recommended reading~ I recommend that anyone who has not read Haven's "Charles Sykes' Spirit of Ecstacy" run right out and do so. set fire to your carpet if you must...

    :) Great blog!
    XOXO
    Sommer

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  6. P S,

    I had a similar experience to yours with a book. : ) My grandmother read all of the original old Harlequins, and would buy them by the boxful from the used bookstore. When I would visit, she would let me have full access to her bookshelves, hoping to keep encouraging me to read. One of the books I came across, I know gradma would never have approved of; I don't remember the title, but I do remember it was a very graphic lesbian erotica novel, with one scene involving the creative use of a unlit candle. To my 13-14 year old sensibilities, I was shocked. And intrigued. : )

    When I was 16, with my second boyfriend, I started my own letter writing, detailed fantasies of what I wanted to do to and with him. We lived three hours apart and he was a friend before we started long-distance dating. I still have a few of those letters, and they make me blush with how awful they were. But it jumpstarted my passion for writing, and led to my eventual comfort with writing erotica and erotic romance.

    Wonderful post!

    Michelle

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  7. This was fascinating! I've rarely seen such an in-depth account of a writer's genesis. And because you manage to remain so in touch with your motivations and experience while looking back from a perspective of vastly increased understanding, we get an especially complete picture. Thanks for the journey!

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  8. Hey, again!
    Thanks for checking in, Sommer! Hope you're feeling better.
    Wow, what a great story, Michelle! I can imagine how excited that boyfriend was to receive those letters. Hot!
    Thanks, Secretia! I think so, too. ;)
    Hey, hey, J! Glad you were here. As always, thanks for the kindness and support!

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  9. I found this such a fascinating account. Thank you so much for sharing it!

    "Now granted, the vast majority of these stories would never get acted out in our real life, and I knew they wouldn’t. What they did do, though, was to open up our minds to the world of fantasy."

    I love this. So well put, and, it seems to me, an important insight.

    "And yes, I did marry that girl. 12 years and counting!"

    How delightful!! Congrats indeed.

    Thank you again, and thanks as well to OGAG for inviting this post!

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