Last night was the fifth of six classes I'm teaching on Writing about Sex. The group is small and highly skilled, so it's an intensive environment where a lot of good learning is happening, often by me as well as the student group! Last night was no exception.
One of the invaluable experiences that emerges from being an editor and slush reader as well as a writer, is the salutory shock of discovering how one's own pet conceits and 'novel' literary tricks are replicated across the writing community in a hundred other writers. Another is the sad discovery that bad habits proliferate and predominate.
Because I've been slushing for money, I've been reading a lot of erotica lately - ranging from the downright pornographic through to high literary erotica. Apart from the appalling inability of many writers to navigate basic anatomy, I have become bored to the back teeth with the transitions used to get characters from horizontal to vertical or vice versa.
Probably 80% of people who write erotica rely on a change in the weather to get their characters to put their clothes on after sex, eg, 'the chill breeze made her reach out for her panties', 'he felt the first raindrops strike his bare flesh and grabbed his shirt' etc. The same 80% allow their characters to drowse and wake in a different mood, eg, 'she woke feeling dirty and sore', 'when his eyes opened the first thing he smelt was her cheap perfume, which fuelled his thumping headache'.
It's an okay way to tackle sex and relationships in writing, but it delivers pedestrian fiction. Last night's group came up with sixteen devices that could be used to create an interesting transition from sex to another narrative theme or from a different strand of a story into sexual activity. If they can produce so many ideas in a fifteen minute brainstorming, oh writer of sexual fiction, you can too. There's no excuse for boring the reader, especially with a subject as highly charged, conflict filled and exciting as sex.