Friday, August 5, 2011

Sex from the Start

The Pens are thrilled to have Kristin Miller visiting us today!

Kristin Miller has had a passion for language and literature her whole life. Born and raised in Small Town USA, she often made up stories about faraway places and edge-of-your-seat adventures.

After graduating from Humboldt State University with a degree in psychology, Kristin realized there is no scarier place than the warped human psyche. Wanting to combine her love of writing with her desire to paint twisted villains, Kristin wound up in the unlikeliest of places—the classroom. She taught high school and middle school English before giving in to the desire to create her own world, where villains can be sympathetic and heroes can be devilishly good.

When I first wrote the beginning of Intervamption, my paranormal romance novel with Avon Impulse, I started at the moment I thought would best capture readers’ interest—the moment when Dylan, a vampire rehabilitation specialist, witnesses a young vampire’s suicide. From there, Dylan’s world and the beliefs of those in it, spiral out of control. The novel turned out dark and gritty and perfect…or so I thought.

I sent out queries. One agent emailed right away, stating he was interested in representing my work, but only if I could vamp up the beginning. “Your strengths are steamy scenes and action,” he wrote. “Start with a combination of those from page one, paragraph one, line one…if you can.

The last part was a dig. A challenge. If you can? Didn’t he know he was talking to the most competitive girl on the planet? It was the best thing he could’ve said at the time. Had I been told to write a steamy scene from the get-go, I probably would’ve turned down the suggestion. But in the face of possible representation, there was no way I could not make it happen.

The more I thought about the angles from which I should write, the more I doubted if I could really make a sex scene work in the beginning of my novel. My hero, a dangerously sexy shapeshifting assassin, is charged with shifting into a vampire to make his final, and most critical mark. My heroine is a work-a-holic and CEO of her own rehabilitation center, ReVamp. The two leads don’t even meet until the Newborn Vampire Induction meeting in Chapter Four.

How the hell could I start Intervamption with a sex scene? There was only one answer: my hero would have to sleep with another woman. Yikes, right?

This first section is what came out:

Slade didn’t think twice about slamming the blonde against his closed apartment door. She gasped as her head snapped back, hitting the wood with a resounding thud.

“You son of a bitch,” she seethed, meeting his stare head on. “You think you can just push me around like I’m a fuckin’ doll?”

“Yeah, I do.” He pressed against her, the wide span of his chest dwarfing her petite frame. His mouth hovered so close to hers, he could taste the cranberry from the Cosmopolitan on her breath. “Tonight you’ll do what I want, when I want, how I want.”

It flew off my fingers, practically writing itself. The challenge was not writing the sex. In fact, that was the easy (and super fun!) part. The challenge was making the sex smoking hot, without letting the reader care about the woman in my hero’s arms. Yet, if I swung the writing too much that direction, making the woman cheap and easy, I risked my hero looking like a womanizing asshole. I wanted my readers salivating over Slade, not thinking he was a player. When he met his heroine, readers needed to feel that their chemistry was genuine. They needed to trust Slade’s feelings. How could readers do that, I wondered, if he slept with another woman not fifty pages before?

I walked a really fine line…

Once the writing was massaged into shape, that one scene ended up showing more about my shapeshifting world and my hero’s character than I could’ve imagined. It showed how much Slade despised what he’d become. How trapped he felt. How ready he was for something new—for Dylan, his one true love.

The opening worked because sex scenes are more than sex. They’re glimpses into the internal conflict of the characters involved. They break down walls and maybe build new ones up. They reveal insecurities and deepest, darkest desires.

What better way to start a book than by exposing the most vulnerable part of your hero or heroine? I can’t think of one. I challenge you to give it a shot. Rewrite the first scene of your novel using a sex scene to propel the story forward…if you can.

And if, after all this build up, you’re interested in reading Intervamption’s steamy first chapter, Amazon is offering it for free.


Toni in Florida said...

Holy hell, that's hot! What a terrific scene and thought-provoking post about using sex as a way to reveal character, while leaving the reader panting for more.

I'd write more here, but I'm off to buy your book. Much continued success to you!

Unknown said...

Cannot wait to read this! :) Thanks for visiting the Pens.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Hello Kristin, and welcome to the Pens! H-O-T hot! Love this thoughtful post, and yes, it does serve to whet my appetite for me :-) Can't wait to read it...

Rachael Herron said...

Smart, smart, smart. That is SO smart. And hot. :)

Sophie Littlefield said...

now, this is a great glimpse into the proper preparation for a sex scene. motivation has to be flawless, as you demonstrate here. you should submit a workshop idea to national, just sayin'

Anonymous said...

Aww, thanks ladies!

Toni--Thanks for the well wishes! I can only dream of having *half* as much success as the rest of the Pens.

Lisa, Juliet, Rachael--Thanks for having me and I can't wait to hear what y'all think. :)

Sophie--I have enough jitters speaking at SFARWA! I'd probably shake apart in a workshop. I think I'll leave that to you. ;)

~Kristin Miller

Caryn said...

yes I loved the way this book opened. I totally caught my full attention and I was hooked. I think I read for an uninterrupted hour straight until I realized the kids were talking to me! Awesome!!

Kristin Miller said...

Thanks so much, Caryn! Glad you enjoyed it!

KC said...

Wow, Kristen what a teaser. I love the first few lines of your book, and you're right, they do catch the readers attention. I can't wait to read this...just gotta find the time. :)

Kristin Miller said...

Thanks KC! Can't wait to read yours too. From the buzz I've heard, it's great!

And I didn't mention it in the post, but there are three books in the Vampires of Crimson Bay series and all three begin with steamy scenes. :shrug:

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