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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power


The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense


Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?


Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...


The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?


Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words


The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies


2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy


Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother
Sluts


Editorials

Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown



Elegant Smut



What is elegance? I’ve read several definitions—graceful, refined, tasteful—but my favorite came from my sister, a designer and all-around fabric genius:

Elegance is doing the most with the least.

The more I think about it, the more true that phrase becomes. Anything can be elegant, from a table to a play, providing the design uses no more parts than it absolutely needs. When a short story is pared down to its cleanest, most refined form, it’s elegant—even if it’s about the rawest sex imaginable.

But wait a minute. We’re writers. We love words Why should we pare down the part we like best? Because words are the servants of the story, not the other way around. And when you pull away the clutter, the empty phrases and shopping-list descriptions, what’s left leaps out in sharp relief. Less is truly more.

WHEN TO CUT

Don’t worry about elegant prose or structure in your first draft, especially if you lean toward wordiness. Let yourself go in that first run-through. Slather on the adjectives, explain things to your heart’s content. But once the basic story is complete, put on your editor’s hat and pull out the blade. Ask yourself: Is this scene, image or word absolutely necessary?

WHAT TO CUT

Each of us has writing erogenous zones, areas we love to stroke and stroke on the page. Some writers over-internalize their characters’ thoughts, others layer on meaningless dialogue. If you re-read your work often enough, you’ll notice your own penchant and can shave it down with a critical eye. Below are a few suggestions for areas most of us clutter up.

Description

There are types of novels that wallow in lush description of characters and setting, and the people who read them do so for that experience. They want to count the candles on the dinner table, smell every flower in the garden. Fine. But the short story is a different gem, a glittering marvel of condensation. Each word has to justify its presence.

In my writing workshops, one assignment I give students is to create a ‘visual snapshot’ of a character, using no more than three sentences. It instantly forces them to focus on what’s most important and vivid about a person’s appearance. No one wastes words on things like ‘average height’ or ‘middle-aged.’ One young woman used her three sentences to describe the character’s manicure—and the result was terrific! Those synthetic, over-painted talons not only created a strong mental image, but gave us a glimpse of personality as well.

This doesn’t mean you have to limit your portrayal to three sentences, but it’s a good dose for a single moment. You can add more detail later on in the story.

In describing a room or other setting, I find that a single item can speak volumes. A gentleman’s study might be richly and tastefully furnished, but you don’t have to create a shopping list of the contents for the reader to see it. What’s the one thing that catches your mental eye? The crystal decanter filled with claret? The low-backed, leather cigar chair? Sketch the scene with quick strokes and then use one distinctive item to ‘nail’ it.

Transitions

You can also cut the small steps of people in motion, when nothing important happens. Example:

"Let’s go to the bar," Julie said. We went back to our apartment and showered. Then we got changed. I chose my new leather skirt to wear. We drove downtown, parked the car and went inside.

The only part of the above journey that might have any significance is the leather skirt. A cleaner, quicker transition would be:

Let’s go to the bar," Julie said. In half an hour I led her onto the throbbing, flashing dance floor of Le Club, my new leather skirt hugging my hips.

As readers, our minds will make the leap from the suggestion to the place. We understand that showering and driving are probably involved but we don’t need to hear about it.

Explain-itis

You already know that action is louder than words, but ‘showing’ is not only more powerful than ‘telling,’ it’s more economical.

I recently read a short story where the current action depended heavily on old family dynamics. That was fine, but what frustrated me were the paragraphs and paragraphs used to explain the sibling rivalry and parental preferences. So much could have been done with a single example:

At Christmas, Maria got the bike and I got the bell. "Sisters should learn to share," Dad said.

As writers, we fear our readers won’t ‘get’ it. But with a powerful demonstration, no explanation is required. Trust yourself and trust your reader.

Staccato Scenes

One of my weaknesses, especially in my wretched first drafts, is to write too many short, single-note scenes, each conveying one piece of information. The result is jarring, staccato—definitely un-elegant! My challenge is to reconstruct and blend these little episodes into larger, more revealing events. Or I try to distill the lesser scene into a single sentence: "Our afternoon tryst lasted until dawn."

Sometimes a scene must be abandoned simply because it doesn’t have enough impact on the final outcome of the story. I might love the narrator’s dialogue with the nutty newspaper seller, but if it’s not critical to character development or story action, it has to go. Ouch. Yet I’ve found that re-reading a story later, I don’t mourn those missing moments. And I do feel a pang over the self-indulgent ‘pet’ scenes I left in, which aren’t nearly so clever in the cold light of morning.

Maybe that’s the essence of elegant smut: letting go. Giving up clever phrases and over-stacked images in favor of clean, simple lines that serve the story. Because ultimately I don’t think we want readers to stop and admire our words. We want them to read breathlessly, conscious only of the vivid story taking place in their minds. It’s the difference between "What a fancy dress," and "What a beautiful woman."

_______ 
"Beyond the Basics" © 2005 Tulsa Brown. All rights reserved.


About the Author:  Tulsa Brown is an award-winning novelist who has also written for film and media, and has led many writing workshops for adults and young people.



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