Yesterday I spent eight hours working frantically on a short story for an anthology with a deadline next week. A character driven tale about second chances, "Late Show" was moving along well. I'd been building sexual tension, as the heroine awaited the arrival of her old flame, whom she'd learned was back in town at the start of the story. Her frantic mix of fear and desire felt real and compelling, at least to me.
Then something weird happened. I got to the point where I needed to begin the main sex scene, and I simply froze.
I'd written about 2500 words at that point. Suddenly I was exhausted. I thought about putting the story aside until I felt fresher and more inspired. However, I knew I wouldn't have another chance to finish it for days, and I really wanted a chance to send it off to a beta reader or two before I submitted the darn thing.
So I sat back to analyze my problem. I'm an author of erotica. Why was I resisting plunging (no pun intended) into the carnal heart of the story? I'm not shy about sex, as anyone who has read my work will testify. I had a fairly clear idea of the choreography for the scene. My characters were raring to go. What was wrong with me?
After a while I understood. I didn't want to start the scene because it just seemed too difficult to write it well. I've penned almost innumerable sexual encounters in my fourteen years of publishing. And the longer I write erotica, the more challenging it becomes to convey the essence of sexual experience in mere words.
I want to make the sensations palpable. I want my readers to taste the sweat, to feel the heat, to writhe and groan right along with my protagonists. However, words are always inadequate to convey physical experience. One is forced to resort to metaphor, and after a while, all the usual ones feel tired and overused. How many times can I compare an orgasm to a storm, an explosion, a runaway train, a fall from a precipice? I find myself reduced to abstractions when what I really seek is the ultimate in concreteness, the telling details that make one fuck different from another.
Maybe I'm getting too old for this game. I hit menopause half a dozen years ago. My husband's more than a decade older than I am. Our formerly riotous sex life has become subdued, to say the least. It becomes more and more of a challenge to recapture the freshness and intensity of overwhelming lust.
In any case, I managed to reason my way past the block, telling myself that given my schedule, I really had no choice. I had to do the best I could manage. I turned down the volume on the inner critic and finished the story (4500 words). It's by no means the best thing I've written, but these characters have been bugging me for a long time. I had to get them out of my notebook and onto the page.
Perhaps my brother is right, though. Maybe I really should switch over to writing mysteries!