Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Um, What's It Called Again?

Um, before I begin, this entry is kind of R-rated. In other words, if you are under 18 or if you have delicate sensibilities, please don’t read any further. There is a point to it, but that doesn’t matter if you are under-aged or don’t handle anything over PG13 very well.

Okay, disclaimer out of the way. Onward.

Smart Bitches had one of their hugely entertaining and thought-provoking discussions about the use of certain language in sex-scenes. People seem to range from the far clinical (a la, penises and clitorises) all the way to the more flowery equals more better (of the dreaded manroot, private grotto, and dewy love canal variety) .

I tend to fall in the camp of using verbiage that the characters themselves would use. If I’m in the POV of a Navy SEAL, well, I doubt anything dewy will apply. But if I’m in the mind of a sixteenth century virgin raised in a convent, even throbbing manhood might be a bit of a stretch more sophisticated than what she’s probably viewing as his “thing”. Actually, the day I use throbbing manhood is the day I need to have my laptop revoked.

Regardless of how I’d do it, though, I realized via the comments section on the Smart Bitches column that, as a writer, you have to go with what works for you. Because you simply cannot please all of the people even close to all of the time. You are bound and determined to annoy some, induce massive eye-rolling in others, and cause even more to run shrieking away in scandal.

Whatever a writer does, I’ve found one thing that doesn’t work for me. I’m reading a book – which I will not name because I have no desire to hurt the author – in which the writer has decided to use correct terminology for body parts. Thus, the heroine’s breasts are called breasts. No problem there. Except, breasts is the only word this writer uses for breasts. She’s decided to skip the globes and mounds and creamy handfuls of bountiful flesh for something less intelligence-insulting. But in doing so, in using breasts and only breasts, her sex scenes come off as more than just repetitive.

I’m not going to quote a passage directly (again, want to protect the innocent), but this is how a scene reads for me (and I wrote this, so don’t try to find it on Google to identify who I’m picking on):

Dirk lowered the strap of her chemise, eyeing her breast with unconcealed admiration. “You have lovely breasts.”

Cynthia fought her smile. She’d known he was a breast man. Heck, all men were breast men.

Reaching out a hand, he cupped the underside of her breast gently. He tested its weight, his eyes darkening with desire. When he flicked his thumb over its tip, she released a soft groan. Leaning forward, she pressed herself into his hand so that her breast filled his palm completely.

He needed no further encouragement. He bent down, his lips and tongue running over the top of her breast on a lazy journey to its crest. She moaned again, longer and deeper, as her fingers threaded into his thick hair and pulled his head closer.

Now, this was getting interesting.

So, yeah, I’m not being nauseated with globes or pebbled tips or any of that other clichéd junk. Nor am I assaulted with tits or hooters or jugs. Dirk is touching Cynthia’s breast. We’re calling a banana a banana rather than an elongated yellow fruit.

But I’m kind of bored. I mean, I know the writer (in this case, me) could have replaced some of the breasts with its and there’d be perfect clarity about what body part was where. But even that fix would have left me...bored.

I guess my point is, you can work real hard to be politically correct, as defined by what the current readers express as what they prefer at any given point in time. But if you do that, you run the risk of whitewashing the life out of your story. If you remove all euphemisms, preferring to use the real words for the real parts, you run the risk of writing a fictional sex manual rather than an erotic love scene. I mean, if I see the word penis more than once or twice on a page, I start to get the giggles. I’m not proposing the dreaded manhood, but I do think it’s okay to think out of the box a little bit just to keep things interesting.

Cause the way it’s going now, I’m skimming a lot of the sex scenes in my current read. I get the point. The heroine has breasts. The hero likes the heroine’s breasts. Together, they explore the thrill that both can find in the heroine’s breasts.

And I’m actually kind of longing for a hooter or a globe to show up.

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