June 5th, 2010
image created at www.wordle.net

When I wrote the nine short stories that make up Transported, I (naturally) wrote them one at a time. I’d get an idea, turn it over in my mind for a while, write the story down, and then go back and fix it up. Sometimes I’d get opinions from other readers. However, once a story seemed done, I’d move it into my “finished” folder and then work on the next one. When all of the stories were in that folder, I sent them off to the publisher for editing.

When I had the stories back from the typesetter for final checking was the first time I read them all in one sitting. At one point, I noticed that I’d used the phrase hoarse with desire to describe someone’s voice; and it seemed to me I had used that same phrase in an earlier story. I searched and found it, so I changed it in one of the stories. Can’t have two instances of hoarse with desire!

And then… I began to feel a bit hesitant over having even one instance of hoarse with desire. I mean, isn’t that a total cliché? And… aren’t clichés bad? According to the Cambridge Dictionary Online, a cliché is something that people have said or done so much that it has become boring or has no real meaning. Uh-oh. That doesn’t sound too good! I certainly remember being asked in my English classes at school to avoid or remove clichés in my own writing and to criticize them in others’ writing.

Yet I wonder if this holds as true for erotica. One purpose of erotica, frankly, is to turn the reader on; and much of what turns us on is in fact the familiar. The perfume worn by a former lover; fishnet stockings and a garter belt; “our song.” Isn’t it the same with words, sometimes? The words and phrases that move us are ones we’ve heard or read before, for which we have strong feelings and positive associations. That’s why I feel a certain thrill at reading He took her in his arms that I simply don’t feel if I read He grasped her with his limbs. It’s why I feel impatient with erotic stories where too many new ways of referring to the familiar body parts are employed: I’d rather read ten cocks than one meat pestle, one beaver basher, one one-eyed wonder weasel (I wish I were making that up!), one trouser snake, and so on.

Of course, one can’t read (or write) the same story over and over again. I find that I prefer more variation in setting and plot, though. The sex itself, whether between spouses or strangers, two or three (or more!) people, gay or straight partners, is going to involve familiar body parts and familiar actions and yes, familiar descriptions, those keys to remembered desires. But how the people get there, and why? Ah, there is infinite variety to explore.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, June 5th, 2010 at 5:11 pm and is filed under • Hoarse with Desire: Erotic Clichés. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Responses to “Hoarse with Desire: Erotic Clichés”

Trainer41 Says:

Your writing is engaging for sure. Curious how much your worldwide traveling influenced your desire to write this? I realize you’ve woven in places and tidbits of fantasy in to your stories, but did these story lines pop up in the moment for you?

Jeff Says:

Your writing “knocks my socks off”! I’m impressed by how well you weave humor into all of your stories. I never thought about the cliche issue, but certainly writers of popular fiction get into trouble when trying to be too inventive. A metaphor can be totally original and yet completely off-putting, whereas a well-placed cliche can do the trick every time.

Shar Says:

@Trainer41: Travel influences my writing in several ways. Certainly the settings, but more than that, I think it’s the mood–you’re taken out of your ordinary routine; you’re outside of settings where certain behavior is expected of you by work colleagues or friends; you’re meeting or at least crossing paths with a lot of new people. There’s the exotic appeal of foreign locales and the excitement just of moving about. On a more practical level, travel gives me time to write–one of my favorite activities for long plane rides.

@Jeff: It’s a balancing act, isn’t it? Between being fresh and original and yet not violating expectations. Do you know, I held a strong grudge against John Steinbeck for years because as a child, I picked up his The Red Pony , thinking it would be another version of The Black Stallion . The latter is a typical horse story–boy/girl wants horse, boy/girl gets horse. But Steinbeck wrote boy gets horse, horse dies graphically in Chapter 1! And then a buzzard pecks its eyes out! Not what I had wanted at all. Even as an adult, when I had to teach a Steinbeck novel, I found it a struggle to fully forgive that man. And yet, had I picked up the book as an adult, I would have been disappointed had it been the same as every other horse story.

This is why we should try to make it possible for readers to judge a book by its cover–so they know what they’re getting.

Jeremy Edwards Says:

Self-Wordling is so much fun! I have a few of those on my blog, too.

I loved your witty, insightful remarks in your Rude Words interview, and I was pleased to see that you have a blog here where you offer more of the same. (And thanks for the nod to my hat! You probably saw the gray fedora, on my blog. There’s also a blue fedora, on my website.)

Shar Says:

@Jeremy: Yes, I saw the wordle you did from titles of your stories–that was great! I’m not sure I can do the same thing yet till I write more (which is great incentive). For this one, I put in words and phrases both that I like to write and that I like to hear. Personal turn-ons, I guess you’d call them.

I didn’t realize you had a Web site as well as a blog, so thanks for the heads up… and that is another great hat, indeed! I was also intrigued by the description of the “Rock My Socks Off” book as being both erotic and funny–sounds like just my cup of tea. Are print editions available in the US? Or will they be?

Jeremy Edwards Says:

Thanks for asking! The print release of RMSO will officially extend to North America in the fall. (Meanwhile, N. Amer. readers can mail-order it from a few places–e.g., Xcite Books, Book Depository, Amazon Marketplace.)

I must get my hands on Transported, as well!

Shar Says:

Do you know, I wasn’t aware that bookdepository.co.uk, as I used to know them, now is bookdepository.com! And you are right, it is indeed there, and 19% off, too, and with their customary free shipping. How could I resist? Reader, I couldn’t. I heard from my editor today that Transported should be listed on Amazon in the UK, France, and Germany, but I just checked and didn’t see it. Surely in a day or two, though. (That’s if you want a print version and not an e-book.)

Jeremy Edwards Says:

“Reader, I couldn’t.”

Ha! I love that. And thank you so much for the purchase!

Actually, I live in the U.S. too, and so I can get Transported from our Amazon. I usually get 2-3 books at a time, to avoid the shipping charges… I’ll place an order soon!

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