Thursday, October 20, 2011

The sensory side of writing

I was grateful to be asked to do a phone-in radio show yesterday --it was VERY fun. Not just because I got to share about my work, but because I got to listen to someone else's impressions of my work. I'm always surprised (and mostly pleasantly surprised) at the things people take away from my work. I'm always surprised by what people love and what people hate and what resonates deeply with people. It's not always the same things that resonate with me! That's why I love when readers write to me or chat with me online about my work.

ANYWAY, on the radio show the host was saying how "real" certain sections of my upcoming book Odalisque felt to her, in a sensory sense. In the book, the protagonist, Kai Chandler, visits "Maison Odalisque" in order to pick out a pleasure slave for himself. When I wrote the scenes at the Maison, I definitely had a feeling about what it looked like, how it would feel to an outsider, and even how it would feel to the odalisques--or sex slaves--living there. I was glad to hear that my ideas were communicated on the page.

I suppose as writers--and especially erotic writers--we have a real responsibility to make it easy for our readers to "feel" the best parts of the story. Not just to read the plot, but to really feel the atmosphere, drink in the sensations, to smell the smells, to see the sights. For me though, it's never really an exercise in laboriously entering in those details. No. I just really don't start writing until I feel everything in that particular environment and scene. Then it's just easier to get it down on the page.

In Odalisque, the whole sensory issue became even more acute because my heroine, Constance, is deaf. When I was in her point of view, I had to be careful not to have her hear things she wouldn't have been able to hear. I also had to remember that the world is different to a deaf person. Constance, for instance, was much more focused on lips and faces than your average heroine might have been. Going back to edit, I had to be sure I was putting myself in her shoes to view the world from her vantage point.

Which, of course, is super fun and a great part of what writing is all about.

Right now I'm buckling down on my next story. It's partially written, but only in an outline sense, because I still haven't decided who my characters will be. I know broadly who they'll be, but I need to think about the specifics, like hair color, eye color, height and build. How they talk, how they walk, personal tics or habits they might have. What their laughs sound like, and how they look when they cry. I have to KNOW all this before I write their story. If I don't know, I feel like I'm writing blind, and that's never good.

Do you have a favorite author who is particularly good at setting a mood or scene for you? An author who really seems to bring characters to life? Share with us.

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