Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jada, Will and The Holiday Inn – Part Two

Last time I blogged, I used Jada Pinkett Smith’s tell-all tendencies as an example of life imitating art. But the incident lent itself to so many interpretations that I decided to re-visit it under the category of TMI.

Too much information.

The writers of the article I read on Jada’s, um, sharing, seemed to feel she tends to say too much about topics that ought not be talked about. In other words, we all know you’re married to Big Willie and that the man is fine as all get out. Talented, too. But we don’t need to know the details of your daily showers or what you did on the way to the show.

At least, that’s how I interpreted their reaction. But what about yours? What’s TMI for you? I know a heap of readers who wouldn’t bat an eye at Jada’s blabbering. What’s written in a lot of popular books is far more graphic than what she said (and maybe than what they actually did. . .).

I’m a romance writer and as such, love, intimacy and sex are integral components of my work. But within the romance genre there are degrees of, shall we say, expression, that cater to varied reader preferences. There are those who don’t want to read “all that” in their story. For them, sweet romances – where the loving takes place off page – are probably best.

The scale escalates from there, topping off with Romantica, a hybrid of romance and erotica; graphic sex scenes wrapped in a happily-ever-after story. Some people do like to read “all that.” To each his own.

For me, I never set out to be a romance writer. However, I sold my paranormal story of a relationship to a romance publisher (Where Souls Collide to Dorchester) and I had to catch on to the rules pretty quick. I remember my edits from Monica on that first book and they were few. Namely, move a break up forward several chapters and spice up the relationship.

That took a whole lot of Eric Benet, Maxwell, Luther and an RWA craft class on the twelve steps to intimacy in writing. Simply throwing in sex scenes would have made the relationship feel fake or forced. Dropping them in outside an intimate context might also give the scenes that TMI feel. Like, where did this come from? And then pages later, the reader would wonder how the scenes fit into the overall story, would there be more, or why was the sex there to begin with.

Crafting love scenes in a story takes a lot of work for me. Some of my scenes are off-the-page and with others I elaborate a little more. Most of them get penned after I finish the story. Building the fictional relationship that sustains my stories’ sex scenes requires careful plotting, placement of nuances, and an escalating level of tension. I don’t take this aspect of my characters’ development any less seriously than I do the overall paranormal element. I want people to believe not only in the supernatural I present, but in the twisty happily-ever-after, too.

One of the compliments I received on Where Souls Collide was that Navena and Maxwell’s moments felt well-timed. I appreciated that comment. I worked very hard to make that event seem spontaneous and authentic. Not only were the characters ready, but the reader was ready as well.

Maybe that’s why reading about Jada and Will somewhere in a backseat feels awkward; because it hits you between news of Tiger Woods’ latest win, North Korea’s threats and the best summer hairstyles. Such intimacy so out of context can quickly become too much information.



Pagan Topologist said...

I will say categorically that I am almost always disappointed by the low level of detail in sex, love, and passion scenes in novels. But I always suspected that the reason that they left so much out was that good explicit sex is very hard to write.

Liane Spicer said...

It all depends on each individual story, and the mores of the genre or sub-genre. I have no problem with graphic once it seems natural and logical in the context of the whole story.

Read a novel recently by a well known romance author where the lead was raped or ravished every few pages. Got old fast.

Jewel Amethyst said...

That's an issue I struggle with myself, how much is too much. First story I wrote (still unpublished) my sister, an avid romance reader read it and said it lacked passion (meaning sex scenes). She gave me a bunch of romance novels to read and they seemed to me like soft porn. I had to find a middle ground somewhere.

Phyllis Bourne said...

I found myself holding back on the sex scene for my Holiday Inn novella. At the last minute, I deleted the oral sex. My h/h were grandparents in their 50s, and I wasn't sure folks wanted to read about Granny going down... whoops, TMI!

Liane Spicer said...

Phyllis, LOL! The younguns better get used to it. Haven't you seen some of those smokin' grannies around? ;)