Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Romancing The Words

Words are powerful tools and when used methodically, can give an image of whatever it is you want to portray.

On the same hand, the wrong choice of words can give a reader an image that can turn them off.

One that comes to mind is 'bubble butt' -- ew! I recently read this description in a romance novel, this morning in fact, and wondered what possessed the author to even think describing a guys bottom this way remotely sexy. I've heard the term used so much in real life and never as a compliment, and never in reference to a man.

I'm on a butt kick this week and it started at work Monday. A story for another time. Some guys need a better fit of jeans.

I'm an erotic author, so why would anything bother me, you might be thinking. Just because I write sex doesn't mean I don't have limitations. There's a place and time for any given word. Some don't like the f-word, c-word, etc. Some don't like purple prose, some want you to come right out and say what you mean, don't white-wash it.

Every word you use needs to fit the characters, the scene, the time period and most of all portray what you mean it to.

I once read a story where the author had the heroine describing the hero - aside from the fact the description was too massive of a built for a soccer player, she turned me off because the description had me immeditately flipping my mind to an old Flintstone espisode where a man put on a blow-up suit to give him broad muscular shoulders, huge biceps and well defined chest, wonderfully muscular thighs and a narrow waist. The use of 'narrow waist' was the trigger.

Earlier, I was reading the desires of new publisher. They don't accept erotic of any kind and really was beating anyone who cared to read over the head with it. So much so, it's really all you can come away with. I had to read it again to find out what it was they really did want. They're all about the sensuality, the sexual tension, the touches, the glances - the build up of the romance. Isn't that what we all want and expect in romance no matter the sub-genre. To watch it happen, feel it happen and feel all gooey when we finish the last page.

Happily Ever After stories come in many forms and the authors of have their own unique, one would hope, way of sharing us their story. Choosing the right words makes all the difference in an individuals acceptance of an author's work. I was thinking about this earlier when I was browsing review sites while I was waiting for my son get ready for school. I noticed a review site had completely revamped their site -- it's quite awful in fact. However, as I tried to figure it out, I was reminded of their review of my second book, which you won't find posted there -- I thought it was amazing how what they found utterly distasteful about my work is what the majority loved. While they are in the minority, the first thing I wondered about the was wording. However, it wasn't the wording that triggered their distaste -- their trigger was the drinking my characters did.

I can second guess my writing until I destroy it. I don't want anyone to ever do that with their work. I don't want to hear anyone writing to please a reviewer, a publisher, or even an editor -- not completely - you know what I mean. First and foremost, you have to be happy with your work and second your target is the reader - those are the people you write for. So what if it's not everyone's cup of tea.

On the other hand, maybe you can hang onto a couple of those 'trigger losses' if when you're going back through it to polish it, take the time to consider some of your word choices. You want the reader to fall in love with your characters, your style and reach the end of the story where they can feel that intenal 'aw' that makes them sigh.


By the way -- the new publisher is Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc - debut release March 29th. Check them out.


Lindsay Townsend said...

Choice of words, Bekki - you are so right. With romance in particular, how something is said is vital. Atmosphere is crucial.

In my case, I love the romances and erotic romances that I read to be lush, aptly described, well-characterised, compelling stories. I like the words to be appropriate to the story. A series of words that 'feel' wrong to me will pull me out of a story very quickly.

A writer's 'voice' is a very special thing and the romance of words a vital part of that.

Thanks for a very thoughtful, thought-provoking blog.

Bekki Lynn said...

Thanks Lindsay --

I had no idea what I was going to write -- it just came out.

My muse amazes me at times -- always rescuing me, too.

Savanna Kougar said...

Well, I can't top Lindsay's comment.
I'll just say words are crucial. Crucial to the mood, to what you want to evoke... how the story needs to be told for the character's love story to unfold.

I will say I have heard 'bubble butt' used in a good way... however, I think that might be cultural. So far, that description hasn't fit any of my characters as way they would describe that part of the anatomy. Although, my heroine always have very round derriers.

MarthaE said...

Interesting blog! As a reader I have to agree - it is all in the words. I love the sensual tension, touches and build up. And some love scenes are good too... but I personally do not need foul or harsh language to make it sexy! So I try to avoid that when I see it but I have read some erotica that is just hot and steamy wonderful! And I've had this discussion at one of my chat groups cause I am still not clear on what qualifies as erotica and how I can easily distinquish (without reading an excerpt) whether it will have language I don't like. True of movies too by the way... my DH and I love action but if the "f" word is used repeatedly in the first 10 minutes chances are we'll be turning it off!

Savanna Kougar said...

Martha, I'm totally with you on that kind of language. For some reason there are certain words which supposedly make the romance an erotic romance ~ well, ain't so for me. If I don't find it sexy or arousing in real life, why would I find it that way in a story?
F*** does not equal sexy in my book. I guess sorta pun intended.
Yes, depending on the story and the characters I will sprinkle in a few curse words... but, only on the context of the story itself, not because I'm trying to make it a sexier or more erotic read.
In fact, it chaps my hide that so many seem to think the use of those words automatically makes a story erotic.

Bekki Lynn said...

Hi Savanna --

I guess it can be a cultural difference, but the first person to say that about mine is most likely going to find themselves on the ground in some serious pain.

I love little rounded, perky bottoms. Sometimes I have to control the urge to reach out for a squeeze.

I swear, I can see it. They are going to have to tie my hands down when I get to the point where I simply no longer care and start pinching bottoms as I walk by them. Maybe getting old won't be so bad after all. lol

Bekki Lynn said...

I agree, Martha and Savanna.

Some words work and some don't, some are more appropriate for certain types characters.

My current series - not using the f-word would cause some series doubts on my ability as a writer. It's the difference between knowing what I write and writing what I know. It's one of the most common words used in the food service business, espeically when most of the staff is under 30.

However, after all the editing and proofing was done. They made me go back through and remove over half of them. This caused some major head-shaking when people I work with read them. Called it white-washing and that hurt. I won't do it again.

It's a fine line between erotic and erotica and I think even different publishers don't really know. You're not going to have the same classifications at all of them. Some even call it romantica.

Some publishers in the book info do list the genre and content, some have a content warning. Some also list an explanation of their rating system.

I personally think erotic is simply romance with the bedroom door open to give the reader another insight into the progress of the relationship of the characters. For me, it rounds them out as people.

I was recently going through a story that was my first full-fledged erotic story I'd ever written and I was amazed how tame the language was compared to Last Glass of Wine that I wrote less than a year later. Some parts, I even tamed it down further - the graphic language isn't always required and should never be used for the sake of the genre or trying to make a sale. It could backfire big time.

I'm more interested in the emotions and feelings the characters are going through than I am the words used. If the language hits me in the face rather than takes me along with the characters, I'm gone. I can't enjoy the intimacy between a couple when the wording is purely for a reactionary effect. The author just isn't going to get the reaction they hoped for.

Unfortunately, many don't stop to think about word choice other than, what's an alternative for this because I just used it six times -- 'sex sells' is the motto, so they think they're sexin' it up when in fact they are sexin' it down.

I want to see that motto changed. I want to see authors care enough about the quality of their work instead of hurry up, write it, let the editor do their magic and people will buy because it's sex.

Maybe it's because I'm a frustrated perfectionist.

Off my soapbox.

Savanna Kougar said...

Bekki, I promise I won't refer to your postier using that particular expression. Not that I ever planned to... lol.
I wish mine was youthfully perky again, and deserved some appreciative pinches. Actually, I do appreciate a cute butt. And my doggies have very cute little butts, which get soundly patted every so often.

I agree. There's a difference between faithfully representing how people actually talk and communicate, as you did in Last Glass of Wine, which I applaude, than the gratuitous use of swear words for affect. To be honest, that's one reason (not the only reason) I'm drawn to writing paranormal/fantasy/otherworld stories. If I want I can create an elegance of language. Although, that book might not sell, either. Actually, it probably won't, if I take it too far.
There is a generational difference in the use of swear words. I never grew up thinking or dreaming of some man saying, "F-me, baby." ` for example.
I won't go deep into the discussion of how things can change in what a person finds arousing, however, which does change over time.

What I find, also, is that since we are all unique people, we don't all respond the same way. What one person thinks is a turn on, another might find is the quintessential turn off. Thus, all our characters are unique in their response to 'turn ons' or 'turn offs'. Personally, I wish this difference, this uniqueness of sexual preference and passion, would be more respected.

I enjoy erotic romance because it does leave the bedroom, or whatever door open. I want to know all aspects of what my heroines and heroes feel for each other, who they are... why they are... why they feel passion and love for each other.
Sex is a vital component in the love dynamics between a woman and a man. And I don't want to leave that out. Ever.

Bekki Lynn said...

Well, put, Savanna.

If I could put half the words together that you do in your stories -- well, there's no real hope there. I'm a hopeless contemporary writer.

I'm just thankful there is such variety of readers that allow us to be the writers we are.

Savanna Kougar said...

Bekki, amen.

Linda Banche said...

Word choice works for historical, too. You can't have Regency ladies named Blythe and Kimberly, as I saw in one Regency novel.

And the words have to fit the character. If the character is the type to use the 'f' word, not using it doesn't work.

But I go with Martha. That language throws me right out of the mood.

Bekki Lynn said...

You're so right, Linda.

Thanks for pointing out the name issue. While I prefer names that roll off my tongue, I realize in some time periods and settings it can't be avoided.

In cases where I simply can't pronouce the names, I change them -it makes the read smoother for me.