Saturday, June 25, 2016

Welcome to the Magical Town of EroticaVille, Where No One Showers or Shits by Suz deMello

Welcome to EroticaVille, a magical town where our characters don’t shit, piss or bathe...except when there’s some kinky goings-on involving in-shower BJs, scat play or golden showers.

When I first started writing romance back in the Dark Ages, I read many stories in which the characters enjoyed frenzied fucking but never seemed to get slimy, smelly or sweaty. They never showered, bathed, pooped or peed. Normal bodily functions were ignored except for eating—mealtimes were prime time for characters to relate to each other.

I hated that. Not that I’m squeamish about bodily functions, but ordinarily, the first thing I do post-afterglow is drag myself out of bed to a bathroom for a quick cleanse, even if that’s only a damp washcloth over my crotch. I can skip that if we’ve used a condom, which is always nice as well as safe, as we all know.  Being uninterested, even repelled by bukkake, I firmly believe that come belongs in my mouth or a condom, not in my hair or on my face. Either of those destinations would call for a shower. Immediately. Others may feel differently—more power to them. And I hate to sleep on the wet spot.

Back to my main point—in many novels, characters behave uncharacteristically. Normal body functions are a part of life, and while I believe that a nod should be given to normalcy, the fact is that our characters are not humans, and the world we’ve created is not our world, not even in the grittiest contemporary.

So I was the out-of-step reader. I’d read a lovemaking scene and then think, “Don’t these people ever wash? Disgusting.” Now I understand the reason writers don’t include every little thing that characters do.

Every scene in every story should perform one of these four functions:

·         Advance plot
·         Reveal or develop character
·         Complicate or resolve conflict
·         Express setting, mood, theme

Nothing belongs in your book that doesn’t do one or more of the above four, not even the tiniest comma.

And that’s the reason most writers don’t show their characters brushing their hair, tying their shoelaces or taking a dump (unless their Dom tells them to, which is quite another matter).

Here’s a snippet from my writing manual, ABOUT WRITING:

Everything in your manuscript should have a function, even every comma or em-dash. And this is the reason the special world we create in our stories is so different from our ordinary world. Much happens in our day-to-day existence isn’t particularly relevant to the story of our lives, that is, the accomplishment of our dreams and goals.

Let’s say that we’re thinking of having our protagonist, who has as his goal great wealth, stop at a Chipotle restaurant for a burrito. Eating that burrito doesn’t help accomplish that goal. But it’s a common act, one that occurs often. Lunch is a part of our lives, but we wouldn’t put it in a book about a protagonist on a quest to amass loads of money unless something occurred at that Chipotle that fulfills one or two of the above purposes.

Perhaps the protagonist meets someone there who is a mentor, ally or adversary; he could eat lunch with his hippie mom, who vehemently expresses her dismay over his life choices.

Maybe he heroically stops an armed robbery from taking place, garnering publicity that helps him on his way—even though he gives up the chance to close the biggest deal of his life, a sacrifice that would make his eventual triumph all the more poignant. And the event shows character, that this guy is more than a soulless money-making machine.

If he’s just eating lunch, his burrito probably doesn’t belong in your book. The scene might show a tiny bit about your character, but that’s not enough to justify an entire scene. A short phrase (He devoured a burrito at Chipotle before heading back to the stock exchange—where he hoped to complete the biggest deal of his life) is all that’s necessary.

But when I first started reading romance, which was long after I’d started having sex, I found it odd that no heroine got out of bed to tidy herself up. She didn’t even reach over for a tissue to grab that glop before it fell out of her and created the (shudder) dreaded wet spot.

Perhaps this was because of my own peculiar emotional conformation. While in the bathroom, I’d ruminate about what had just happened and how the lovemaking affected my feelings about my partner. In a calmer relationship, as during most of my marriage, I might get up but maybe not, and I wouldn’t think about anything. Scenes of that nature shouldn’t appear in books because they don’t fulfill any of the legitimate purposes of a scene.

People bathe in my medieval!
But in a romance, post-coitus is a prime time for the characters to indulge in a little introspection, or if they’re feeling chatty, it’s a great opportunity for your characters to relate to each other.  The sex itself should certainly advance the plot—if not, why’s it there? After, a little sweet talk is a nice sequel to the sex scene—or maybe the conversation goes awry and conflict is revealed or advanced.

I love to write historicals, and part of the reason is that I love to learn about how people used to live. The clothes they wore. The foods they ate. And yes, how they disposed of their feces. Most people think that a garderobe was some kind of medieval wardrobe. Nope—it was the castle’s shitter, usually just a bench with a hole. It most often led to the moat which, as you can imagine, was not the most charming spot in our hero’s demesne.
My passion for realism often leads me to write scenes in which the formerly virginal heroine washes off the brownish streaks that her first lovemaking left on her thighs while (you guessed it!) thinking about what just happened and how it affected her and the relationship. I also write characters who wake up with morning breath, children who have to use the garderobe and yes, my characters shower often.

After all, the shower is a great place to fuck.


Tina Donahue said...

LOL - love the title on this post.

To me, writing bodily functions (unless it's someone bleeding out in a police procedural) is like being in public and imagining even the grossest person as nude. Not gonna happen. Have to put a filter on your thoughts at some point.

In a review once for an historical (not mine) the reviewer hated the book because the characters couldn't have had a good time with each other or even gotten close because people way-back-when didn't bathe and they most likely smelled to high heaven and had rotten teeth, etc. etc.

Actually, the teeth thing is false. Sugar is what causes the most decay and way-back-when people didn't consume it on a regular basis, so their teeth were pretty sound. My guess is, they probably washed under their arms and their groins to keep from being too disgusting (smell wise). Also, doctors are now rethinking the shower every day (for some, several times a day). All that scrubbing washes away good bacteria on the skin. Unless you're sweating profusely, you really don't need to shower so much.

In any event, I don't want anything to be that realistic. It's fiction. Fantasy. More importantly, it's a romance. That's what I want writers to concentrate on, myself included.

jean hart stewart said...

Too much realism is just too much!

Suz said...

Eh, everyone's a critic ;)

Fiona McGier said...

Too funny! I try to put little tidbits of realism in my romances. I have characters "using the bathroom" before and/or after sex, and upon waking up. I know shower scenes are hot, but not sexy to me, since I've always found they wash away too much lubrication and make things painful. So I put that into scenes also.

As for Tina's saying people back then used to wash? Perish the thought! My dad was from Glasgow, born in the 20s, and grew up in a slum where there wasn't any running water, except in the communal bathroom shared by all apts. on that floor. He believed it was only necessary to bath once a week or so, and he never used deodorant of any kind. He said that people were meant to smell like people, and he referred to men who washed regularly or used deodorants/after shaves as "Pantywaists." Mom got used to it, I guess. But he said that the only reason we find body odors of any kind offensive today is that the Madison Ave. execs. have made it universal...in order to sell us crap that makes us not smell like ourselves. Kind of funny, when you think about it...evolution spent generations developing pheromones that turn us on to each other...and now we spend time washing them all off, and perfuming ourselves so no one ever smells the "real us." Counter-intuitive, no?

Queen Victoria used to bathe once a year, "whether she needed it or not." Cleanliness was regarded as "weird" in many times past. And still is, in many "undeveloped" countries, where they haven't yet been brainwashed into thinking their bodies are disgusting, as we in the western world have.

Very interesting post! Thanks!