Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Double Dog Dare


Welcome to today's edition of "When Blogfests Collide!"

Today we have Arlee Bird's A to Z Challenge joining up with Alex J. Cavanaugh's brainchild the Insecure Writers Support Group. It's like a Perfect Storm of blogfests. I imagine most people like me, who are participating in both blogfests, will attempt to combine the two into one super blogfest post. Or maybe you came up with a much smarter approach. But I didn't. Which means my topic today needs to be writing related but will also be brought to us by the letter D.

And right now you might be looking at the title of this post and asking yourself what in the world a schoolyard dare has with writing. Well, I'll tell you...

The very first drafts of most of my stories are rather... PG-13, I guess, for a lack of anything better to call it— because I never used to be brave enough to write what actually needed to be written. I tend to write dark stories where bad things (both emotional and physical) happen to my main characters. And sometimes I need to ease into the darkness, work into it, peel it back a layer at a time— like it's an onion or something— in order to get to the real substance of a scene.

One of the most classic examples of this are sex scenes. Not that my sex scenes are particularly dark (all the time anyway. Just some of the time...). But my first pass at a sex scene used to be very tame. If it were a movie, the scene would play out with the two who are the two giving each other a meaningful glance or maybe a kiss on the lips before the camera pulls away and focuses instead on the lacy gently wafting curtains. The biggest reason for this is that I used to be a big fat chicken. I didn't want to write racy scenes because I was afraid of what people would think of me. People like my mother or my friends or my mother's friends. The people I work with (well, some of the people I work with. I don't care what most of them think of me). The people my significant other works with. And so on and so forth.

Sometimes you end up thinking something like "I don't want so-and-so (insert appropriate figure here) knowing that I think that way!"

So I always took the coward's way out until I was given the book Wild Mind: Living The Writers' Life by Natalie Goldberg. I can't find the exact page now (and I have spent entirely too much time thumbing through my copy looking for it) but within that book was a section that spoke to this problem. It urges the reader to write the scenes that need to be written. It urges the reader to forget about what judgments all those pesky people out there could make because if you're writing a book based on what people could think, you're doing yourself— and your story— a major disservice.

That's a poor paraphrase and I hope it makes sense to you but how ever Ms. Goldberg worded it, it made perfect sense to me and ever since then, I have always endeavored to write the book as it needs to be written. I have always endeavored to be brave. To be daring. To let the story be as dark (or as racy) as it needs to be.

So, if you've ever experienced this dilemma (desperately hoping I'm not alone here...), head on into the breach and write the scary stuff.

Go ahead. Do it.

I double dog dare you.

30 comments:

  1. This! MJ, I've done/do the same thing. My first draft or telling is never pushed far enough. And I'm coming to the realization that I'm writing that way out of fear. (Something that is NOTHING like me in my regular non-writer life.)

    I'm learning, slowly albeit, to cut loose and not care about how it's going to sound, or who it's going to offend. As I said, I'm nothing like that in person. I say any old thing that crosses my mind, pretty much to anyone. Why that has been so hard to do with my writing, I can't say.

    But I am getting better. Great post!

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  2. This is a great post. Whenever I get to sex scenes, I always, always think of my Grandfather reading it, but I've learned to push that out o my head in difference to the couple hundred other people I hope will read it.

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  3. Ah, when I first started out, I kept myself very, very controlled. Now, I just let what needs to be said, be said. But it's still not that easy. You have to temper it. You just can't run willy nilly down the fields of sexual exploration with the genre I'm writing. Maybe in some books, but in mine, it would just be out of place. So temper the heat baby. Pull back on too much detail and let the characters tell you how much to include. They're usually right.
    By the way, anytime you need a crit partner, drop me a line! : )

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  4. I live for a double dog dare. Go to YouTube type in 'Die Vampire Die' from Title of Show. a bit profane, but I think you can relate. Double Dog Dare Ya!

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  5. Awesome post! So true too. As writers we need to write the scene the way it needs to be written. :)

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  6. i write sex scenes to get them out of my head, but i'm still not brave enough to put them in my novels.

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  7. I used to shy away from sex scenes for the same reasons! I am not crazy about writing them, just because it's hard to write a really good sex scene, but if it makes sense for the story, I am now brave enough to add one in! :D

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  8. You are very brave, MJ. I had a totally hot scene in my MS, then went back and toned it way down. So yeah - chaste, sweet and innocent with meaningful looks, lol! Great post and I'll have to look up the book, too.

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  9. Hey, I was just breaking out of my comfort zone inserting a female character and one kiss in my second book!
    Thanks for remembering the IWSG - great job combining the two.

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  10. Aw, thank you... this is just what I needed to hear today!

    Jo
    In Which We Start Anew

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  11. I'm that way too, not with sex scenes but I'm writing a YA horror right now and it gets a little gory in one part, and I'm so worried that people will judge me for how dark it is! I avoid writing sex scenes altogether actually, but that's more based on my personal beliefs than anything else. :)

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  12. I might have to check out that book!

    Thanks for sharing!
    Happy Hump Day!
    My D

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  13. A dare? Nooooo - I'll do it. You know, I tend to shy away from sex scenes because I always think I'll end up on that annual award list for the "worst sex scenes". There's only just so many ways, aren't there? Aren't there? LOL. I wasn't planning any sex scenes in my WIP...but now....

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  14. LOL. As a reader, and not a writer, I have never, ever thought that what a novelist wrote in a story had any reflection on their own lives. So you can rest easy. Although now that you've mentioned it, I'll probably start judging them. ;)

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  15. I think writers are usually better off pushing the limit than playing it safe.

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  16. I have the exact same problem! I think you are brave to write what needs to be written. I am terrified of letting my family find out just how sexy my imagination can get. But like you said, I need to stop being a chicken and just let loose. Thank you for this great post.

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  17. My mum wrapped my first published sex scene in cling film.

    Nope - I'm not going to explain :-)

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  18. Yep, write it first. You can always cut it back later.

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  19. I can't help but write a sensitive or dark or racy scene with a bit of humor b/c I,too, have a tendency to write dark stuff.

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  20. Well, I write light hearted, humorous middle grades that are often anthropomorphic and the issue hasn't come up. But... who knows, maybe someday it will.

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  21. I had this problem with my manuscript at first, too! My MC has a pretty racy sexual encounter, and it needed to be graphic to fit the tone/story/character arc. So, I sucked it up and wrote it the way it needed to be written. Haven't heard of this book, but I'll look into it. Thanks!

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  22. I have the same problem. I'm doing better I suppose. Still not quite there on sex yet. I just keep envisioning my grandmother having a heart attack when reading something I've written.

    I shudder at the thought.

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  23. Excellent post. I certainly have some writing to retackle now :)

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  24. "Lacy gently wafting curtains"

    Captain Hammer, I believe in you :)


    Jamie Gibbs
    Fellow A-Z Buddy
    Mithril Wisdom

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  25. I used to worry I'd never get the sex scenes right. Not enough heat. Too much heat. Then, like you, I realized having the different levels of heat in the story based on where the characters were in the relationship (or non-relationship) actually made it read better.

    Stopping by as part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge:)

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  26. Yep, you just have to go with it. That's what makes books so special, when they are just honest and true and not censored.

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  27. Oh, M.J., how I love thee. First with the Dr. Horrible reference: Oh, so subtle - but most definitely there. Yes, I caught it :D

    But most importantly, it's like you can read my mind. This is something I've been struggling with in my book because I have a couple sex scenes in my book that were perfectly fine right where they were... Until my parents said they wanted to read it.

    I considered cutting them, but now that you double dog dared me... I guess I'll have to keep them. :)

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  28. Oh, M.J., how I love thee. First with the Dr. Horrible reference: Oh, so subtle - but most definitely there. Yes, I caught it :D

    But most importantly, it's like you can read my mind. This is something I've been struggling with in my book because I have a couple sex scenes in my book that were perfectly fine right where they were... Until my parents said they wanted to read it.

    I considered cutting them, but now that you double dog dared me... I guess I'll have to keep them. :)

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  29. Yep yep... forget about who -might- read it and just write it, because if you don't write it, no one will read it.

    And for E:
    You didn't include Mega-Mind! Mega-Mind is awesome!
    (I don't consider Brain a villain. He had the best interest of the world at heart.)

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  30. Skeletor was awesome! Thank you for reminding of that long forgotten villain. Now I have to see if I can unearth the He-Man Christmas special. My favorite under-appreciated villains were StarScream and SoundWave from the original Transformers. (I'm a visiting A-Z blogger and new follower).

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