Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I’ve just finished reading “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane. I’m now reading “Dirt Music” by Tim Winton. I’ve read nearly all of Terry Pratchett’s work.

Though vastly different in style, these writers have something in common. It can be one of the toughest skills to master.

It’s the ability to under-write. Or to rephrase it, to strengthen your writing by leaving out the details.

Like any human construction - a tower, a building, a bridge – the bigger a story gets, the less stable it becomes.

The temptation as a writer is to let the reader know every single detail, even every single thought you had as you wrote a scene. This can especially be true with erotica, since you usually have at least four arms and legs to deal with at any one time. Where are they? What are they doing?

It’s very easy to get bogged down with these details. It’s usually why first drafts are so bloated and, in my case, embarrassing to read. Early on I found I had a tendency to waffle. This can sometimes work, but it’s tangential to the kind of erotic fiction I strive to create.

In my book “The Three-Day Hump”, I had a scene which threatened to become utterly unwieldy. My male characters, Luther and Opal, had come very close to bonking but had stopped just short. After all, he’s a married man. The scene in question took place when Luther realised he couldn’t resist Opal’s allure, and turned up at the bar where she worked. I needed to get him into the bar, to make it clear that they both felt the attraction, and to get them together (in every sense). Trouble is, I needed their urgency to be reflected in the voice of the work.

I achieved this by hinting, and by leaving out a buttload of detail. I’ve included an excerpt below:

She surprised him by creeping up from behind and slapping his arm.

“I got a ten minute break. You got a smoke?”

“Yeah,” he lied.

“Come on,” she ordered, and he followed her to the back room.

She locked the door behind them then pounced on him, her tongue in his mouth, her ass in his hands, her legs coiled around him. They fell to the floor and pulled at each other. In seconds their crotches were breathing fresh air.

Because erotica is such an evocative genre, I always try to focus on the “why” far more than the “how”. In the above excerpt it wasn’t important who removed what clothing, nor how it was done. The only thing that mattered was “why”.

So what do you guys use to strip out the dross?

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