Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Under the Influence, Part II

The next group of writers who influenced me could seem a little odd, since none of them are traditional "genre" writers, as if that makes any difference.

The first that I noticed was Diana Gabaldon, who wrote the terrific Outlander series of novels, about a woman from 1940s Britain who somehow (it's never plausibly explained, and doesn't matter) ends up in 1740s Scotland in the middle of the Jacobite Rising, and falls in love with a Scotsman. What's fascinating about the bit that influenced me wasn't her writing style, or her prose, or the inspiration to write a sweeping historical romance. It was in the first book of the series where she wrote, more or less, a 20 page love scene.

It was hardly 20 pages of grunting and sweating; it was the characters in bed, being in love, talking, advancing the plot...and yes, having some pretty great sex. I'd written a few sex scenes previously, but they were all either afterthoughts or very self-conscious. Her scene just blew me away, because it was wonderfully sexy, necessary to the plot, and basically dared the reader to disapprove. And how could I?

At the time (and yes, I know exactly when: December of 2001) I was more or less sputtering through the last vestiges of effort that had allowed me to re-write the entire first book of the magnum opus, The Dark Side of the Sun. Near the end of the book was a love scene between my heroine Amelia and the man who was guiding her to her destiny. I had never been satisfied with it, and finally after reading Outlander I was inspired to do what, at this point, remains the last meaningful thing I've added to the book.

It's even possible I went a little overboard, as since I should probably also include the banquet scene thrown for the two of them in the village they've arrived in -- which serves as a long seduction scene -- my "love scene" encompasses more then 13,000 words. Or, it could just mean I'm quite accomplished at foreplay.

I took Gabaldon's idea of a meaningful, important love scene, and made it more earthy and explicit. I wasn't quite at the point where I was writing porn, but I was definitely enjoying skirting the edges. And now -- except for the current projects, which are all YA novels, where it would be fantastically inappropriate -- I'm thinking this is how it's going to be for my characters. If it should come to pass that they're going to have a little fun, I'm going to describe it, and they're for damn sure going to enjoy it. This excerpt from Dark Side should speak for itself:
“Was it-- I mean, was it well for you too?” he asked hesitantly.

She peeked up at him. “Well? Yes. I mean-- Um. Well?”

He laughed shortly. “God, Amy, I feel like I’m fifteen again. Did you enjoy it?”

“Well…yes,” she admitted, not sure what he was asking. “How-- I mean, how else should I have felt?”

“Like I did?” he suggested.

“Like you? No, but--” She was shaking her head. “I don’t understand.”

A surprised and concerned look passed over his face. “You don’t? But-- Well, haven’t you ever-- I mean, with your own hand? And that girl--you must have felt something.”

Now she understood. “Oh. Well, of course. I mean, yes, of course I’ve-- Well. Pleased myself,” she admitted, blushing. “And Prith-- Well, she knew. I mean, what to do for me. Of course she would.” And then a thought struck her, and she really understood. “You mean--? I mean, I could? With you?”

“Of course,” he said. “You didn’t know it?”

“No,” she marveled, shaking her head. “I mean, there were only those men, and I don’t think they were too concerned with my pleasure.”

“No, I’m sure they weren’t,” he agreed. He leaned down and kissed her again, and Amy could feel her lips growing red and sore--a wonderful soreness. “But I am,” he went on after a long while.

“Are what?” she whispered.

“Concerned with your pleasure,” he explained. She felt his manhood stirring against her hip. “Very concerned.”

Before she could think, he had pushed himself on top of her again. “No,” she mumbled against his mouth. “Wait, I--” But he wasn’t listening. He was being a little more firm with her this time, taking her wrists in hand and pinning them to the mattress above her head. My body knew exactly what to do, she remembered Esmera saying the day of their picnic. Well, so did Amy’s, apparently, and it had stopped listening to her brain. Her legs parted all on their own, and she heard a low moan coming from her throat as Durnell put his other hand between her thighs and began caressing her. She longed to lean up and kiss him, but his weight on her arms kept her away, and his body leaning against her belly kept her from doing anything more than squirming in the most amazingly wonderful torture she’d ever known.
It goes on from there, but this is a family blog and I might risk getting flagged or something.

Like I said, that was pretty much the last gasp of the MO, and after that scene and chapter (chapter 16 of 18; so near and yet so far!) I was pretty much tapped out. But early in 2002 I read a pretty good horror YA novel called Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, that while not influencing the way I wrote, did inspire me to write the Wee Vampire Novel, which at this point doesn't have a title.

The next, no doubt odd, influence was Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplays for A Few Good Men and The American President, and created the TV series Sports Night and The West Wing. His walk and talk dialogue just blew me away when I first started watching Sports Night in 1998; but because at the time I wasn't writing anything that could use that style, it wasn't until I began the WVS almost 4 years later that I found an avenue for trying something like that myself:
When [Fred] had left Helen turned to me. “I’m going outside for a smoke. Come with?”

“Sure.” I followed her up the stairs and outside, and when we were far enough away she pulled a pack out of her oversized army surplus coat. She lit it and took a drag.

“I hear cancer rates are up,” I mentioned.

“It’s a national tragedy,” she agreed.

“Thinking of maybe quitting one of these days?”

“Actually I was sort of counting on you stopping bugging me first.”

“Well, that’s probably not going to happen.”

“So, I’m stuck with you being a pain in the ass forever?”

“Yeah, pretty much. You know, with me being your friend and all.”

“You know, it’s actually starting to grow on me. I’m thinking of taking drugs too, so you can nag me twice as much. I know how much you love it.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you.”
I like that, but I haven't done much of it since then. Partially because I haven't found the right place to do it, and partially because it's idealized dialogue, not actual dialogue. And like I said before, at the moment I'm all about natural dialogue.

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