A woman sits alone at a bar in a strange city as night falls. She catches the eye of a man she's attracted to. They meet, they talk,they flirt, they fuck. This is the basis for so many erotic stories,it is worth using as a framework for examining character dynamics.
First, I freely admit that I'm a lousy hatcher of plots. All my writing is character-driven and my plots, such as they are, grow out of the classic narrative conflict possibilities inherent in character dynamics.
There are only really three types: man against himself, man against his environment or circumstances and man against man. Ultimately, for me, it will be the flaws and strengths in each character that will determine how she or he acts in any given situation. In order for a
story to be good, even plot-driven stories need the characters to act believably.
Perhaps the truth is, I'm evil: I find there is nothing so satisfying as reading about a character in the midst of a great moral dilemma. It can be something universal or personal, but taking a character to the place where their circumstances or another character challenges
their basic moral principles is always a great delight for me. Especially in erotica.
This might seem odd. On the surface, moral discomfort doesn't seem like the best setting for hanky panky. Wouldn't it all go smoother if the couple at the bar I opened this post with just dug each other? Just wanted to get it on? Had no inhibitions or reservations? Well, if it were porn, this would be perfect. They're all sexy as hell and no one is vulnerable.
However, what if I told you that the woman is married to a fabulously rich industrialist and the man at the bar is a spy for another company? Now we have a plot and a clear sense of risk. Betrayal is afoot. I figure the sex is going to be a little spicier because no one is what they are pretending to be.
What if all those things are true but we add another layer: the woman is not a bored trophy wife. In fact, she loves her husband deeply. But he has a mistress who he's with at this very moment. In her hurt, the wife has decided to pick up this cute piece of ass as an act of revenge. And, for his part, the cute piece of ass, an industrial spy, has also been keeping a quiet eye on our girl for a while. He knows all about her. He has, through the weeks of his surveillance begun to admire her. If he's an immoral bastard, the seduction might just be the icing on the cake, but if he isn't - if he has a conscience - it's going to eat away at him.
Now she's reluctant, feeling deeply guilty but hideously attracted. Her panties are wet and her heart is breaking. He can't keep his hands off her and knows he shouldn't try, but he realizes that his success is her moral destruction.
This is going to be delicious. She wants his cock so bad she can hardly hold her wineglass. Even as she passes over her spare hotel key card, a sick guilty feeling is brewing in her gut.
Now she wants it to happen fast. She wants to be overwhelmed by the act of lust. If she hesitates, she might balk and feel weak and pathetic. That would make her hate herself even more.
He is torn between achieving his goals and hoping against all hope that she'll turn out to be the honourable wife he has come to think she is. Visions of fucking her into the deep pile carpet compete in his mind with the fragile hope that she'll change her mind at the last minute.
You know this is going to be deeply uncomfortable. And you know the sex, when it happens, is going to be incendiary: her, with her guilt and her lust and her anger, he, enraged at his own self-delusion, triumphant at his success, intoxicated at finally possessing the woman he's wanted for so long. When they finally fuck, it's all going to come out in a long, delicious series of psycho-dramatic spurts.
There are many readers who would prefer the simple, easy version. However, I believe that breaking your characters open and having them ooze all over the bed is hotter. I have come to find that there are plenty of twisted readers just like me who feel that bringing all that angst and complexity to the sex takes it out of the realm of common experience and into the earthquake zone. I guess I write for them, and for me.
It's good to have you back at the Grip again. Great post and I was particularly struck by your phrase: "moral discomfort doesn't seem like the best setting for hanky panky."
That's a wonderful truism - and breaking away from that mindset is what makes a good story great.
What a wonderful post! You make it seem so easy.
Now the interesting question for me is how one can reveal all these layers of complexity, gracefully, gradually, without doing a dump.
I would say, however, that you've managed to hatch a plot without any difficulty at all.
RG - great post! "However, I believe that breaking your characters open and having them ooze all over the bed is hotter." What a quote! One of the reasons I enjoy reading your stories is that they are so complex, and there are never easy answers.ReplyDelete
Welcome back to the blog! I've always liked your approach to characters, so i knew you;d be good for this. I love the way you give thought to what is going on the characters heads when something is a bout to happen.
You have these two characters, and you know the sex is going to be hot. What if it wasn't? What if they both came to that big event and after she says - "Is that it? Is that all you've got? I thought you;d be better at this." You could go all kinds of places from there.
This is why I think my characters hate me.
Yes! Your characters and their complexities and richness are brilliant!ReplyDelete
I have always admired your style and love your views!
Thanks for sharing more of what directs some of your character driven pieces.
I know that when I read your work I am always emotionally and tangibly touched... so it works on deeper levels than just your characters - but on your readers as well!!
Thanks for sharing where your stories come from.ReplyDelete
Fun essay! It's so useful when a writer I admire unpacks part of her process for us. And you've got to love a hot writing process behind a hot story...ReplyDelete