Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding the Erotic in Fiction




by Lisa Hughey

Literature or art dealing with sexual love is the general definition of erotica. Nowadays, erotic fiction encompasses a fairly large market and frequently is very explicit in nature. There’s body parts and A into B and sometimes C, bouncing breasts, and throbbing erections, multiple partners, dom/sub, BDSM, M/M, M/F/M, M/M/F (there’s a difference but I’m not really sure what it is!) there is a contemporary mainstream market for the masses who are buying erotic fiction.

But I agree with Juliet that the truly erotic stems from the forbidden.

In The Piano, (thank you Adrienne for abdicating on writing about this topic!) for the most erotic scene in the movie, the characters have all their clothes on. The movie was somewhat shocking in that Harvey did the full frontal nudity thing. But the image of Harvey Keitel crouched under the piano, exploring that tiny hole in Holly Hunter’s stocking with a single finger, as if he could plumb the mystery of woman by stroking her skin? Hot, hot, hot.




The most erotic movie I’ve ever seen was The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. The sex in the scene was not really the erotic part. The set up is the wife and the lover are in the restaurant with the thief and if he finds out that they are lovers he will kill them both brutally. This is visually emphasized by the dead body on the banquet table adorned with other food and fruit. (It’s very dark) The lovers have sex anyway (in the bathroom). That scene is erotic. But because the threat of discovery is taken to an extreme level. It won’t just be embarrassing. The forbidden means death.



Because we are exposed to so much more explicit visual images and written language, writing the erotic scene (whether it’s erotic fiction or just plain fiction with a love scene) the trick is to find the forbidden in the relationship between the two and exploit it. Just as Sophie said, most of the time the tension in a sex scene is going to be the emotion between the two. The second the author sets up a reason why these two characters shouldn’t be together, the scene is ripe for the sexual tension to be exploited.

In my opinion, that’s what sets erotic romance apart from straight erotic fiction. The focus isn’t on the position or the place, it’s on the emotional impact the act will have on each character. As for the mechanics, the advice I was given years ago and still seems to hold is that if the scene makes you squirm in your chair, you’re on the right track.

And while writing sex isn’t my favorite element of writing, the truth is that sex or love is a natural and organic component of any love story. The physical expression of commitment and trust in a very vulnerable situation is always gut wrenching, if it is done right.

Lisa





ps. Who chose this topic? :)

pps. And I haven’t seen The Cook...in years so if I’m a little off on the details, sorry!

8 comments:

Rachael Herron said...

Well, you write it well. And um... I can't remember who thought of this topic....
:)

Sophie Littlefield said...

well said! So funny, I remember seeing the piano and thinking "Wow, Harvey Kietel sure is hot for an old guy." Now...uh...he's just hot.

Lisa Hughey said...

um wow that Cook trailer is huge! must be a way to re-size :) (next time)

R-wonder if anyone will fess up to it?

S- re Harvey Keitel - my thoughts exactly when I rewatched the trailer :) i love the other guy too but Keitel was smoking

Juliet Blackwell said...

Funny, I had exactly that thought with Harvey in The Piano! Great minds thinking alike, eh? And okay, okay. I think *I* was the one who suggested Erotica as a topic. Are we really surprised by this? Though Rach and Soph backed me up right away, if I recall correctly...or maybe one of them said it, and I seconded it...

Sophie Littlefield said...

I think we should do "Erotica" once a year until we get all the shy little pens out of their comfort zones and talking trash with us. :)

Gigi Pandian said...

I have to admit I really never *got* The Piano. But maybe because I was a teenager when it came out? But Adrienne was too. Hmm...

L.G.C. Smith said...

Gigi, I not only didn't get "The Piano," I nearly ran screaming from the theater. (Yeah, I'm old. I saw it when it was new.) I didn't think it was erotic. I thought the characters were pathetic. In the hand-chopping scene, I was so furious, I was shaking. The sexism of that galled me.

But here's the thing. We've been talking about how the erotic is, for most of us, most satisfying when it's emotional. Whatever else it is, "The Piano" is powerfully emotional. I remember it vividly for different reasons than Lisa and Adrienne, but I remember it far better than most movies because of that. My own personal issues muted the eroticism for me.

I think that what we find erotic is so often a complicated mix of hard-wiring (which includes emotion) and individual experience run through cultural filters. There are general trends, but nothing works for everyone. It's easy to make judgments about other people's tastes largely because it is so emotional for so many of us.

So here's my judgment on our feelings about "The Piano." Gigi is too well adjusted to find it erotic, and I have too many issues with silence and violence. The rest of you are just garden-variety pervs. ;)

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